Best Dysfunctional Family Movies

1. Shiva Baby (2020)

Utopia / Courtesy Everett Collection Anxiety can be found in many areas of life but there is a specific kind of anxiety that can only be found when you are around your parents. And Shiva Baby is a masterpiece of that very distinct brand of anxiety, so much so that, tonally, it feels like a horror movie that replaced a deranged serial killer with parents. As you watch the tension and dread grow as Danielle (Rachel Sennott) tries to get through a shiva observance with her parents, you may find yourself on the edge of your seat wondering how she will survive her mom’s passive-aggressive judgment and her dad’s clueless ability to deliver stream-of-conscious monologues about absolutely nothing in particular to no one in particular.  Watch it on HBO Max.


American Beauty (1999)

The Family: The Burnham family might not be perfect, but in comparison with the Fitts clan, they look like the Waltons! To recap, Colonel Fitts is abusive and unstable (not to mention his fondness for Nazi crockery), his wife is practically comatose and his son is a drug-dealing, starey-eyed oddball who records everything on his videocamera. And that’s before Colonel Fitts’ big secret comes to light! Most Dysfunctional Element: Poor old Colonel Fitts is harbouring secret homosexual urges, which would go some way towards explaining his behaviour. That in itself might be possible to overcome, if it weren’t combined with the legacy of his time in the military. The two don’t make for a very happy mix… How To Make Them Functional: Colonel Fitts should reveal his secret and head to therapy. What he shouldn’t do is make a move on his neighbour and then reach for his gun!

The Family Stone (2005)

If you’re ever feeling nervous about bringing a significant other home for the holidays, throw this movie into the DVD player to make yourself feel better. You’re not supposed to show up to a holiday weekend with one date and leave with another. It’s Christmas, not a key party.

7. Pride Prejudice (2005)

Focus Films / Courtesy Everett Collection Elizabeth Bennett (Keira Knightley) is one of five sisters and given that they are all growing up in Victorian England, their mother is fixated on one thing when it comes to her daughters: ensuring that they all marry wealthy and rise above their station. This obsession causes great stress on each of the daughters, especially Elizabeth, who has the absolutely ridiculous notion of marrying someone she actually likes. While some of the social conventions have changed, parents still insist on prying into our love lives and usually prove to be every bit as clueless as Mrs. Bennett when it comes to knowing what their kids really want. Watch it on HBO Max.

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

The Family: The Hoovers represent three generations of weirdos, from a young girl obsessed with beauty pageants to her smut obsessed grandfather, via a teenage boy who’s taken a vow of silence and his suicidally depressed uncle. Still, there’s rarely a dull moment when they all get together! Most Dysfunctional Element: He means well, but when a grandfather teaches his granddaughter a dance routine he picked up in a strip joint, alarm bells should be ringing. How To Make Them Functional: Send them off on a cross-country road-trip to take their youngest to compete in a beauty pageant. They seem more or less okay by the end!

August: Osage County (2013)

A suicidal husband (Sam Shepard), his drug-addict wife (Meryl Streep), and Julia Roberts walk onto a film set…. How they had time to introduce everyone’s dark backstory in just two hours, we’re still not sure. Imagine how things would proceed if you invited every single person you can’t stand to Thanksgiving dinner, and that’s how this family gathering goes.


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