10 Dysfunctional Film Families That'll Make You Feel Better About Your Own
Think of the Torrance family when you need to feel better about your own.
The holiday season is upon us which means that we, as a nation, must collectively endure time with our families.
For some lucky few, this is a joyful endeavor. For the rest of us however, it's an annual ritual we'd rather do without.
Instead of drinking your way through the next few months, we say it's time to gain a little perspective. Therapy? No way. Lucky for you, pop media culture is all you need to work out your psychological demons.
What follows is a list of cinematic families that are surely more fucked up than your own.
The Prince of Tides, 1991
Ok, so we all have problems. And most of these problems come from a real messed up family. But in this film, Nick Nolte takes the cake with his character Tom, who had a brutally abusive stepfather. But it doesn't stop there. The dark family secret stems from an incident in which convicts broke into the home and raped Mom, Sister and (guess who?) Tom. This memory is so damaging that it ultimately drives this desperate character to make love with Barbara Streisand. Yuck.
The Godfather, 1972
I don't know about you, but Dad's emotional unavailability and Mom's drinking problem doesn't seem to be that big of a deal when you consider the Corleone family dynamic. Where should one start? How about when daddy Don Vito orders a dead horse head delivery to someone's freakin' bed? Or when pregnant baby sister gets her face rearranged by her asshole husband? Of course, then adopted brother has to beat the tar out of the guy in front of all the neighborhood kids all while goody-two shoes biological son is forced to give up the straight life so he can murder his way to the top. And you think you've got family pressures.
Mommie Dearest, 1981
Here's the most mindfucker of a mother you'll ever see in cinema history. We all know (and love...in a sick way) the "No wire hangers!" scene. But the movie is filled with other awful mommy moments like when Joan Crawford (played by Faye Dunaway) maliciously gives her daughter's birthday presents to charity ... or when she locks the kid in the closet ... or when she hacks up the rose garden in a ball gown. If you've got mommy issues, be sure to watch this maternal nightmare to set you straight.
Grey Gardens, 1975
We're not talking about the HBO film, we're talking about the documentary where one can witness the true mother-daughter insanity unfold. Edith Bouvier Beale and daughter Edith Beale (Big Edie and Little Edie) live in a mansion in the Hamptons with 28 cats, a gaggle of raccoons and probably about five million fleas. While the living conditions alone scream family dysfunction, watching the two bicker, scream and sing (yes, sing) their way through their dreamy days of doing absolutely nothing is pretty sickening. And oddly reassuring.
Spanking the Monkey, 1994
The only thing you have to know about this movie is that a guy has sex ... with his mom.
Welcome to the Dollhouse, 1995
Another indie gem, this oddly hilarious movie follows a girl living out her unattractive awkward stage in a family that totally hates her. It's true. Little sister is adorable while older brother is smart and well-respected. The moral? If you want your family to love you, don't be ugly and stupid.
What's Eating Gilbert Grape, 1993
So the plot goes like this: dreamboat Johnny Depp has a dreamboat (albeit mentally handicapped) little brother played by a young Leonardo DiCaprio and they live in an impossibly small town. Little sister is a slutty teenager and Mom is ... well, she's enormous. So big, in fact, that she (spoiler alert) dies from walking up the stairs for the first time in decades. Instead of burying her, they just burn the whole house down. It's a fine thing to do as a family, it is.
Home for the Holidays, 1995
It's a delightful story about a single mom who heads to her parents' house for some quality family time with her adult siblings. Fights break out, secrets are revealed and the cat pukes on her (among other horrific moments). It's pretty freaking hilarious and will make your family's awfulness feel completely average.
The Shining, 1980
Things might be pretty effed up at your Thanksgiving table but come on, it can't possibly be worse than the Torrances. Mealy-mouthed mom is pathetically isolated as her spooky son talks to a clairvoyant imaginary friend. Dad is a miserable fuck who succumbs to the influence of a bunch of ghosts who convince him to try and hack up his own family. This all goes down after he makes out with a dead, rotting naked woman. We doubt your family horror story can top that.
Texas Chain Saw Massacre, 1974
Your grandpa may be a racist who farts at the dinner table but at least he doesn't try to kill you with a hammer.
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events happening in the Phoenix art and theater scene.