Lovable Dysfunctional Holiday Families

by IMDb-Editors | last updated - 6 months ago

Let's face it: Holidays can be stressful times — especially for families. When all the shopping, planning, and spending heighten tensions and aggravate already challenging situations, sometimes the best thing to do is just laugh. This list takes a look at some memorable, well-meaning on-screen clans learning to cope with the pressures of the season. These clans sometimes struggle mightily, but we wouldn't have it any other way. — Bret Federigan

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Drew Barrymore and Robert De Niro in Everybody's Fine (2009)

The Goodes in Everybody's Fine (2009)

Poor Frank Goode (Robert De Niro). He's a recent widower with heart trouble and children who don't want to spend time with him for the holidays. So, when the four of them bail on his plans for a winter reunion, Frank decides to pay each a surprise visit and see how they're all doing. When he finds out firsthand how his grown children are doing, he quickly realizes their lives aren't exactly how they've been portrayed to him. Turns out, they're not all fine.

Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Diane Ladd, Doris Roberts, E.G. Marshall, and John Randolph in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

The Griswolds in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

Ever since 1983, when the first movie in the National Lampoon's Vacation franchise launched, the Griswold family has put the fun in dysfunctional. Nothing ever goes smoothly for this perpetually snakebitten Chicago clan. In this holiday edition, Clark (Chevy Chase) decides to invite his wife Ellen's (Beverly D'Angelo) parents, his own parents, and his Aunt Bethany and Uncle Lewis, thinking that this will get everyone in the spirit. He's shocked, however, when his Ellen's cousin Catherine (Miriam Flynn) and her husband (Randy Quaid) show up announced with their two kids; they're broke and living in an RV. Needless to say, Christmas Eve dinner is a chaotic, contentious disaster.

Jamie Lee Curtis, Tim Allen, and Julie Gonzalo in Christmas with the Kranks (2004)

The Kranks in Christmas With the Kranks (2004)

Meet Luther (Tim Allen) and Nora Krank (Jamie Lee Curtis), a couple who are coming to terms with the fact that their daughter Blair (Julie Gonzalo) has finally left the house for a job with the Peace Corps. Since the thought of celebrating Christmas as new empty nesters depresses them, they decide to splurge on a Caribbean cruise and skip the holiday season altogether. The neighbors, keen on winning a local house decorations contest, aren't OK with this plan. And of course, there's Blair herself, who mucks things up when she places an 11th hour call to tell her parents that she is coming home after all.

James Caan, Will Ferrell, and Amy Sedaris in Elf (2003)

The Hobbses in Elf (2003)

Buddy (Will Ferrell) has got some daddy issues. After having been inadvertently taken from an orphanage as a baby, Buddy spends his formative years in the North Pole thinking he is an elf. Eventually, he learns that he was given up for adoption by Walter Hobbs (James Caan) and Susan Wells. And so, Buddy's off to meet his birth father, who is now an executive in New York City. Turns out his dad's a real jerk — he's on Santa's naughty list — and not entirely open to welcoming a son into his heart or busy schedule.

Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon in Four Christmases (2008)

The Extended McVie clan in Four Christmases (2008)

Brad (Vince Vaughn) and Kate (Reese Witherspoon) are a young couple who have been together for three years — with no intention ever of getting married and having kids. Both of them come from difficult backgrounds, each with a set of divorced parents. It's the big reason why they've plotted to avoid their families entirely for Christmas, choosing instead to jet away to Fiji for a vacation devoid of familial strife. But unluckily for them, their flight gets canceled on account of some thick fog, and they're forced to change plans and end up visiting all of their parents in one single day.

Kevin Spacey, Judy Davis, and Denis Leary in The Ref (1994)

The Chasseurs in The Ref (1994)

Lloyd (Kevin Spacey) and Caroline Chasseur (Judy Davis) are a married couple who can't stop bickering with each other, even despite ongoing couples therapy. The only person who seems capable of putting a halt to all the discord is Gus (Denis Leary), a cat burglar who finds himself unwittingly thrust into domestic hell when he's abandoned by his partner in the middle of a heist and runs into the oft-arguing pair. Even after Lloyd and Caroline are held at gunpoint, they persist in quarreling with each other. Gus quickly realizes he needs to offer up some makeshift marriage counseling in order to secure his safety and maintain his sanity.

Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone (1990)

The McCallisters on Home Alone (1990)

Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) is an 8-year-old boy who is accidentally left at home by the rest of his family in their rush to make the airport for their trip to Paris. Fact is, Kevin just can't earn the attention of his siblings and cousins, since they're often conspiring to gang up against him. In fact, it's his fight with older brother Buzz that gets him sent to his room on the third floor of the house, only to be forgotten the next morning. And amazingly, it's only after the McCallisters are already airborne on their way to Europe that they realize that something's amiss.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jake Lloyd in Jingle All the Way (1996)

The Langstons in Jingle All the Way (1996)

Oh, the lengths well-meaning people will go to in the name of Christmas shopping! Howard Langston (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a mattress salesman so consumed with his job that he has a hard time remembering to show up for his son Jamie's karate class. The way to make it up to Jamie? By buying a toy. To prove that he's not such a bad dad after all, Howard promises to buy Jamie a Turbo Man action figure, the one toy his son desperately wants. Only trouble is, Howard forgets to get it, it's Christmas Eve, and Turbo Man is sold out everywhere.

Diane Keaton, Dermot Mulroney, Sarah Jessica Parker, Meredith Morton, Rachel McAdams, and Everett Stone in The Family Stone (2005)

The Stones in The Family Stone (2005)

Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney) is eager to introduce his girlfriend Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) to his family for the holiday. But she happens to be a little self-centered and uptight while his family is an outspoken and liberal-leaning bunch. It's no surprise then that Meredith ultimately ends up feeling nonplused by the tight-knit Stones, summoning her sister Julie (Claire Danes) to come stay with her. After an eventful and dramatic Christmas Day, Everett can't help but rethink his plans to propose.

This Christmas (2007)

The Whitfields in This Christmas (2007)

There's nothing like the holidays to make you want to come home. In the case of the Whitfields, it's been four years since the whole has been reunited. And when they do finally all come together at the Los Angeles home of matriarch Ma'Dere (Loretta Devine), simmering tensions rise to the fore, causing conflict among siblings and partners. Chris Brown plays Michael, the baby of the family who's still figuring life out but who can sing the lights out of an Otis Redding tune.

Tim Allen and Eric Lloyd in The Santa Clause (1994)

The Calvins in The Santa Clause (1994)

Tim Allen plays Scott Calvin, a divorced, 38-year-old advertising executive who unintentionally kills Santa on Christmas Eve and finds himself compelled by his son Charlie to finish Santa's work. That decision, however, proves fateful: He has unwittingly agreed to take on the responsibility of being Santa. While Charlie loves this development, ex-wife Laurie and her new doctor husband think it's all craziness and decide that it's time for Scott to have his visitation rights revoked.

Ben Affleck and James Gandolfini in Surviving Christmas (2004)

The Valcos in Surviving Christmas (2004)

When holiday plans fall through for wealthy Chicago ad executive Drew Latham (Ben Affleck), he ends up at his childhood home. Desperate to avoid being alone, he offers money to the house's current residents, the Valcos, to spend Christmas with him. The financial arrangement includes roles for the family to play, conversations to be scripted, and even an actor to play the part of the grandfather. Eventually we find out that Drew's childhood was anything but normal, either.