12 (Almost) Heartwarming Dysfunctional Family Holiday Movies

Netflix is cheaper than therapy

We’ve hit the time of year where TV commercials make me cry. Not the happy cry. Not the hormonal cry. The, “Everyone has a perfect family and has perfect holidays except me,” cry.

I blame this on the fact that I grew up without a TV, and hence never became immune to the power of the TV commercial. So around this time of year, when my TV starts filling up with perfect extended families in perfect outfits in their perfectly decorated (kinda wealthy) homes, eating their Thanksgiving Turkeys (that honestly don’t look that good because they’re made with cream of mushroom soup or jello or some product I’m supposed to buy), or around their perfect trees, all laughing and joking with each other… I start feeling badly about myself. I polled the some of the APW staff, and apparently those commercials make them feel bad about their lives too.

Because nobody in those commercials seems to have gotten so angry with a present that they started yelling at someone sitting under the tree, who is now crying. Nobody is getting disowned because their mother didn’t like their choice of post-dinner movie (South Park, if you were wondering). Nobody’s relatives are ripping their “joke of a career” to shreds while pretending to compliment it. Nobody’s having a screaming match with a parent who “just called to say Merry Christmas” (but really just wanted to yell at you). Nobody is lying on the ground in the backyard, pretending to look at the sky, just so nobody can see the tears pooling in their eyes and running down their cheeks. Nobody is making bets behind your back about to whether or not you’re pregnant based on the fact that you haven’t had anything to drink at 9AM. Nobody is getting flashed by their grandma. Nobody is making thinly veiled racist remarks and one time called Oprah Winfrey “Opal Winthrop.” Nobody has a family member in jail.

You know, just the average run of the mill holiday family stories, as polled from your APW staff.

So every year, when holiday commercials start making me ugly cry, I pull out my worn copy of The Family Stone. And every year, it’s exactly what I need. I need a nice, festive, kick in the ass reminder that plenty of families are bat-shit crazy, but still love each other. I want an excuse to get in the mood, with a reminder that if someone doesn’t insult someone else, and there isn’t someone locked in the bathroom crying… well… it’s not the holidays, is it? Plus, I want to listen to a little “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.”

I’ve mentioned my dysfunctional family holiday movie binge in the comments before on APW, only to find out that I’m far from the only person with an imperfect family and a love for the less-picture-perfect holiday family movie. So this year, I polled the APW staff (home of the imperfect family). We came up with a list of holiday movies so dysfunctional, and so fun, that I want to light a fire in the fireplace, mull some cider, bake some cookies, and settle in to remind myself, “Hey! Other people totally have it worse! Happy Holidays!”

1. The Family Stone

The San Francisco Chronicle says, “As if we needed a demonstration, Bezucha has made a movie that shows that even awful people celebrate Christmas.” It’s a little bit of an over simplification (are they awful, or normal?), but it’s my favorite. Oddly uplifting, and a tearjerker.

2. Home For The Holidays

Claire Danes is a teenager and Robert Downey, Jr. is gay. So, basically like your family, but prettier.

3. Home Alone

Did you have the kind of parents who accidentally forgot to pick you up from summer camp that one time? And the kind of siblings who would intentionally forget you at summer camp if they had the chance? Have things more or less… not changed since then? Do you love them anyway? Yeah, we get that.

4. Hannah And Her Sisters

For the artists in the house, Hannah and Her Sisters did what every other dysfunctional holiday film tries to do, and got three Oscars out of the deal.

5. This Christmas

Regina King delivers the most true-to-life line from any holiday movie ever, when she replies to, “This isn’t funny,” with, “No, but I’m going to keep drinking until it is.” Truth.

6. Pieces Of April

This is for that time you tried to act like an adult and were all “I’m going to cook dinner this year!” And then forgot to make sure your oven worked. Bonus: Katie Holmes doing the angsty thing.

7. The Santa Clause

Once upon a time, Tim Allen was funny and warmed your heart by making you feel better about your divorced parents and absentee father. Bonus: Judge Reinhold in Cosby sweaters.

8. Unaccompanied Minors

Do you have children? Did you ever leave them alone for five minutes? This is that, but for ninety minutes. As the New York Times says, “Not for the faint of heart, the movie is unsettling and startlingly true to life.”

9. Four Christmases

This movie is for when your family makes you feel like you might be a bad person, so you want to watch actual horrible people and feel better about yourself. Warning: this was the movie that proved it’s possible to hate Reese Witherspoon.

10. Perfect Holiday

Just hold onto hope that Morris Chestnut is going to come and make all your holiday dreams come true. If you close your eyes, it could be real.

11. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Did you want a holiday movie that hits a little too close to home? With more pratfalls? Then you’re welcome.

12. A Christmas Story

Because if you didn’t end up shooting your eye out (intentionally or otherwise), the holidays were a win.

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