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Home Holiday 'Tis the Season 5 Holiday Movies About Dysfunctional Families

5 Holiday Movies About Dysfunctional Families

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Kick off your holiday cheer with these hilarious movies about crazy families celebrating Christmas.

Trapped at a holiday dinner with your nutty family? Need a laugh after a stressful day of holiday shopping? Escape the seasonal madness with these hilarious holiday movies about dysfunctional families.

Does the thought of Christmas dinner with the family fill you with anxiety, instead of festive joy? You're not alone if your Christmas dinner involves crazy relatives, battling siblings or parents who ask you mortifying questions in front of your entire extended family. Whether your extended family dinners are the stuff of reality shows, or you're just seeking a fun break from the stress of holiday preparations, you're sure to enjoy these comedic holiday movies about dysfunctional families.

1. Christmas Vacation

This classic comedy from 1989 about a dysfunctional family at Christmas time is a must-watch this season. The countdown to Christmas is on, and Clark Griswald (Chevy Chase) is planning an old fashioned family holiday celebration for his family. However nothing ever goes according to plan for Clark, whose wife Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo) and two teenage kids (Juliette Lewis and Johnny Galecki) are used to suffering through his badly-planned holidays. As the extended relatives descend on the house, the disasters begin to mount including an array of thousands of outdoor lights that threaten to shut down the neighborhood power grid, an exploding turkey dinner, and a Christmas tree that goes up in smoke. Chase is hilariously manic as a family man trying to create a perfect holiday for his family, even as things literally fall apart around him.

2. The Ref

If you like your holiday cheer spiked with something bitter, you'll enjoy this archly funny 1994 movie about a dysfunctional family taken hostage at Christmas, featuring acid wit, petty bickering, robbery and blackmail. A cat burglar named Gus (a gleefully sarcastic Denis Leary) breaks into a Connecticut home and, having botched the robbery, ends up taking the homeowners hostage. We soon learn his captives Caroline and Lloyd (the brilliant Judy Davis and Kevin Spacy) are profoundly irritating and can't stop their petty bickering, even at gunpoint. With relatives due to arrive at the house any hour, Gus soon shifts from the couple's captor to their marriage therapist. He tries to resolve their differences and work out an escape plan before he's captured by the cops. Davis and Spacey are tons of fun to watch here as a long-married couple who treats conversation like a blood sport. Leary is also great as the increasingly exasperated robber who is in over his head.

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3. The Family Stone

It's Christmas time and Everett (Dermot Mulroney) is bringing his girlfriend home to meet the family. Everett is the favorite son of the Stones, a close-knit, free-spirited Connecticut clan who take an instant dislike to his uptight city girlfriend Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker). As Meredith struggles to fit in, she is met with barely concealed hostility by Everett's judgemental mom (Diane Keaton) and coolly mean sister (Rachel McAdams). The rest of the family treat her with tense politeness, but it's obvious to Meredith that she's not wanted. The only person who does like Meredith is Everett, who plans to marry her much to his mother's horror. Feeling lonely and desperate, Meredith invites her sister Julie (Claire Danes) to join the family for the holidays, introducing an entirely new set of complications. If you've ever been brought home by a boyfriend and had a less than stellar reception, you'll empathize with Parker's cringe-worthy (in a good way) performance as a newbie who just wants to be accepted, but is incredibly annoying in the process.

4. Home for the Holidays

A talented ensemble cast stars in this holiday movie about a dysfunctional family, directed by Jodie Foster. Claudia (Holly Hunter) is a bit of a train wreck as she heads to her family's Thanksgiving dinner. Having just made out with her boss, lost her job, and learned her teenage daughter plans to lose her virginity that weekend, Claudia is in a black mood by the time she arrives at her parents' Baltimore home. Surrounded by her crazy family, including her overbearing parents (Anne Bancroft and Charles Durning), gay brother (Robert Downey Jr.), humorless sister (Cynthia Stevenson) and other relatives and family friends, Claudia wonders if she's going to survive the weekend. As the family dynamics in this comedy-drama are so realistic, it's hard not to believe these people haven't been annoying each other for years. There are plenty of laughs and heart-warming moments here, especially from Robert Downey Jr. as the brother whose great sense of humor is clearly a well-developed defense system for dealing with a cruel world.

5. Four Christmases

What if you had to celebrate Christmas with your friend-with-benefits' family and vice versa? That's the comic situation in this holiday movie from 2008 about a casual couple forced to spend Christmas with each other's divorced dysfunctional families. Kate (Reese Witherspoon) and Brad (Vince Vaughn), both adult children of divorce, have been dating for a few years with no intention of ever getting married. On Christmas morning, they're on their way to an exotic vacation resort when events conspire against them. They end up with no choice but to pay a separate Christmas visit to each of their four eccentric parents (Sissy Spacek, Robert Duvall, Mary Steenburgen and Jon Voight). Over the course of one hectic day, secrets are revealed, humiliations endured, and the couple's relationship is tested in a way they couldn't have imagined. 

For more Movie Therapy, read the rest of my blog.