Seriously Dysfunctional Families in the Movies

January 18, 2014
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These five celluloid studies of dysfunctional families are all must-see movies. Maybe you can relate to them or maybe they’ll make you glad that you’re you. Either way, their depth will stick with you and make you laugh at the same time. Well, except for Monster’s Ball. That one’s not funny at all.

1. American Beauty
OK, so there’s a father who wants to fuck his shy teenage daughter’s rebellious best friend; there’s an angry military dad who terrorizes his family into submission because he’s secretly gay; and there’s a sociopathic, workaholic narcissist who cheats on her husband while browbeating him to death. There’s also gunplay, low-grade stalking, and cheerleading.

2. Grey Gardens
In the original documentary, a beautiful debutante and her songstress mother, who happen to be cousins of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy, unravel in their decaying East Hampton mansion so oddly and spectacularly that they have become madly adored pop culture (and fashion) icons. Big Edie and Little Edie are the real deal.

3. Monster’s Ball
The layers of dysfunction in this movie know no bounds. Were it not such a masterful film, it’d be almost impossible to watch.

4. The Breakfast Club
This classic 80’s flick has not one dysfunctional family, but five. We only see the parents for a minute at the film’s opening, but we certainly get to hear all about them. Molly Ringwald’s rich parents expect her to be perfect, Emilio Estevez’s dad brings out the bully in him, Ally Sheedy’s parents ignore her, and I can’t remember what the hell the deal was with Anthony Michael’s parents. I think they just wanted him to get all A’s all the time. And as for Judd Nelson, here’s his “No Dad, What About You” scene. Every teenager in the ‘80s had it memorized.

5. Sixteen Candles
Two John Hughes movies in one list. It had to be done. First Samantha’s parents forget her Sweet Sixteen because her older sister is having her period on her wedding day. Then her own grandmother feels her up. Worse, she has to take the foreign exchange student, a “Chinaman” named Long Duck Dong, to the prom. It’s dysfunctional and it’s racist! It’s also still one of the funniest and most memorable teen movies ever made.

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