Top Dysfunctional Family Movies

Thursday, February 4, 2010 at 11:03 am

In these top dysfunctional family movies, the nuclear family seems more like a nuclear bomb. From cannibalistic hillbillies to unfit mothers obsessed with their own fading stardom, the parents on this list are just begging for a visit from Child Protective Services. And their bratty, deranged children often aren’t much better.

But while their family values may have eroded past the point of no return, the films about them remain works of genius (or near-genius, at the very least). In fact, I’d recommend any of these if you’re thinking about taking advantage of the free trial offer from Netflix.

Step Brothers (2008) – Will Farrell and John C. Reilly play a couple of childish, middle-aged guys who still live at home (Farrell with mom Mary Steenburgen, and Reilly with dad Richard Jenkins). When the two parents hook up and later marry, the new step-brothers find themselves thrown together. Tempers flare, tantrums ensue, and the step-siblings are soon forced to start growing up. Adam Scott does a fine job playing Farrell’s dickish brother.

The Hamiltons (2006) – When their parents are killed in an accident, the teenage Hamilton kids relocate to a California suburb and start attending school. But it quickly becomes evident that something isn’t right with these twisted Party of Five clones. Maybe it’s all the blood and the dead teen bodies that start piling up. Hey, it’s directed by guys who call themselves The Butcher Brothers, so what did you expect?

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – With their furniture made of human bones and their love of raw human meat, the Sawyers are the most twisted family in Texas. Between the ancient-looking “Grandpa” (who used to work at a slaughterhouse), the deranged Hitchhiker and the massive, chainsaw-wielding Leatherface, the family set a new standard for horror film families. And just in case you’re wondering, the mask on Leatherface is made from human skin. Yikes!

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) – All Clark W. Griswold (Chevy Chase) wants is to string up his lights and have a peaceful Christmas. Yeah, right. Enter a collection of eccentric family members, including E.G. Marshall, Diane Ladd, Doris Roberts and William Hickey. But the arrival of Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) is what really takes the cake. Unemployed for the last seven years, the loutish but good-hearted Eddie parks his rusted RV out front and makes a nasty habit out of emptying his vehicle’s toilet into the local storm drain (while loudly exclaiming, “The shitter’s full.”)

Chinatown (1974) – Directed by Roman Polanski (insert your own jokes here), this noirish classic stars Jack Nicholson as Jake Gittes, a private investigator who gets caught up in a struggle for land and water rights in 1930’s California. Not much is known about Jake’s family life, but we do learn plenty about that of Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway). More than we’re comfortable knowing, in fact. That includes her incestuous relationship with her father, the greedy and murderous Noah Cross (John Huston).

The Addams Family (1991) – While they appear all kinds of dysfunctional (including the continual murder attempts by Wednesday on her chubby brother, Pugsley), the Addams family is actually far more loving than anyone gives them credit for. This is especially true of Gomez (Raul Julia) and Morticia (Anjelica Huston), the hot-blooded heads of the clan.

Mommie Dearest (1981) – Based on the tell-all book, Mommie Dearest details the nightmarish relationship between past-her-prime actress Joan Crawford (Faye Dunaway) and her adopted child, Christina (Mara Hobel). The best-loved scene involves a deranged Crawford, her face covered in cold cream, storming into her daughter’s bedroom and flying into a rage when she notices a cheaply-made wire coat hanger in the closet. This leads to plenty of screaming and the crazed hurling of scouring powder. And just wait until you see what happens at Crawford’s will reading during the film’s final moments.

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) – It’s a Wes Anderson film, so it’s no surprise that the central characters are eccentric and dysfunctional. The father, Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman), takes his young son to dog fights and intentionally shoots another of his children with a BB Gun. Chas Tenenbaum (Ben Stiller) is a financial genius who had his father disbarred for stealing from him. Margot Helen Tenenbaum (Gwyneth Paltrow) is a secretive playwright who bristles when Royal insists on introducing her as his adopted daughter. Richie Tenenbaum (Luke Wilson) is a tennis prodigy who leaves the game after suffering an on-court breakdown and retires to living on an ocean liner.

Precious (2009) – The film drew raves from critics, but the family depicted within is deeply dysfunctional. Only child Claireece Precious Jones has been molested since she was in her crib, and she has a handicapped child of her own named Mongo (short for mongoloid), a product of incest. When her father isn’t dropping by to rape her, her mother (Mo’nique in a powerfully unlikable performance) is physically and emotionally abusing her. Of all the dysfunctional families on this list, this group is easily the most disturbing.

Near Dark (1987) – Helmed by the director of The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow, Near Dark tells the story of a lonely Oklahoma cowboy (Adrian Pasdar) who meets a beautiful stranger and gets turned into a vampire. The dysfunctional part comes into play when he meets her undead “family,” consisting of Civil War veteran Jesse Hooker (Lance Henriksen), the sociopathic Severen (Bill Paxton), the lovely-but-lethal Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein), and the perpetually child-like Homer (Joshua Miller).

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I hope you enjoyed our look at some of the top dysfunctional family movies. Stay tuned for similar topics, as we here at OGM are always looking for new ways to inform and entertain you. And while you’re waiting for us to come up with something new, you might want to look at the following:

This entry was posted on Thursday, February 4th, 2010 at 11:03 am and is filed under Good Movies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 Responses to “Top Dysfunctional Family Movies”

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February 5, 2010


Nice list. I would also add the dysfunctional relationships between Bessie and Lee, as well as Lee and Hank in “Marvin’s Room” as one of the better movies to take on the troubled family scenario.

February 6, 2010


Can you just write the list and when we click on the words, the detail will come out, that way, I will not be so confused

February 6, 2010


Sorry, but I revel in the confusion of my readers.


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