Spoiler alert – All families are dysfunctional. Even the happiest, most normal, most loving families you know are all dysfunctional. My family is dysfunctional. I’d share the dysfunction with you, but I’m not particularly interested in mine or my husband’s phones blowing up with calls from the offended (read: dysfunctional) members.
And honestly, even we are dysfunctional in our own way, though our own dysfunction doesn’t bother us because we are happy, thriving, and living our best lives (our children’s best lives is more accurate at this school/sports/clubs/social lives but none of them is old enough to drive stage).
One of our favorite (dysfunctional?) things to do as a family is ignore everyone else and have a quiet night at home watching a movie together. We are so busy. Our schedules are full, and we sometimes need a break.
It means telling family members they cannot stop by to drop something off (because ‘stop by to drop something off’ always means ‘stay for hours and interrupt your entire evening/day).
It means no friends, no plans, and no activities. Down time is few and far between around here, and watching movies about other dysfunctional families is always a good time.
That said – here are a few of our favorite dysfunctional family movies. I’ve taken the liberty to break them down into groups so you know which ones are appropriate for the entire family or only the older kids.
Dysfunctional Family Movies For the Entire Family – Little Ones Included
Listen, I already mentioned that all families are dysfunctional, and there is not a standard definition for this. If ever there is a movie about a dysfunctional family, it’s a Disney movie. They’re the worst for that kind of stuff, but they always have a happy ending.
The Little Mermaid
Dysfunction comes in all shapes and sizes, and it comes in the shape of a mermaid here. This is a movie about a family of mermaids whose father won’t let them grow up in any capacity, and he clearly favors his youngest above all.
Is there a more dysfunctional family than one in which two sisters won’t speak to one another because one is so afraid of her own power than she won’t go near the other? Rather than simply telling her why she’s shut her out following the death of their parents, Elsa simply breaks her sister’s heart even more.
When you are a princess and your father won’t entertain anything you have to say, but he will listen to a man who is clearly evil based solely on looks, it doesn’t get more dysfunctional.
The Lion King
My mom is one of eight kids and my dad is one of four, and I have multiple uncles. Last time I checked, they weren’t plotting my takedown so they could rule the family. Actually, last time I checked, they weren’t trying to kill me and no one was interested in taking over the family. Simba’s uncle? Yeah, he’s the opposite. It’s pretty dysfunctional.
A princess, kidnapped at birth, and raised by a ‘mother’ who won’t let her out of the tower she lives in simply because her magic hair keeps her ‘mother’ youthful? Yet the mother is also all alone and not out there in the dating scene, but that’s beside the point. It’s all kinds of weird in terms of the family dynamics in this one.
Family Movies for Kids Over the Age of Five
I will tell you that the following five movies are beloved by all of our children, and we’ve been watching them for years with them.
Harry Potter Series
A classic example of the gift of choosing your own family, am I right? Harry definitely wouldn’t have chosen his Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia, and Cousin Dudley if he’d had a choice in the matter. They locked him under the stairs until he was 11, after all.
If we go out on a limb, we might say this family isn’t quite as dysfunctional as the rest even though they are clearly the family who left their small son home alone not once, but twice.
It’s the uncle who is really odd in this one, but all the children they birthed and the fact that it’s the Christmas holiday, they’re planning a major vacation, and the entire extended family is staying in your home? I mean…sure, it’s dysfunctional, but also kind of understandable that Mrs. McCallister accidentally overlooked her own son. It’s a lot – and I personally understand that.
Daddy Day Care
Pairing Eddie Murphy, Steve Zahn, and Jeff Garlin as three unemployed dads who have to start their own at-home daycare for kids is the comedic relief you did not know you needed. These families are all delightful but regularly dysfunctional – like all of ours. But the laughs keep us coming back for more.
Cheaper By the Dozen
Twelve kids, two parents, and a partridge in a pear tree. This is family dysfunction at the greatest level, and it is also one of our own children’s favorite movies to watch. They laugh, and it reminds all of us that we are all just doing what we can to raise happy, healthy, thriving kids no matter what’s going on in life.
The Parent Trap
Twin girls separated after birth by selfish parents who are so caught up in their own drama and distaste for one another that they cannot even share custody and keep their twin girls together?
Talk about dysfunction. This is a family that needs therapy, but when you ignore the fact that two adults were perfectly fine not ever seeing their other twin daughter for the rest of their lives – or allowing their girls to ever know one another – because they put their own feelings first, this is one of the cutest movies around. The kids love it. We love it. It’s funny, entertaining, and the love story is sweet (if you ignore the rest).
Family Movies for Families With Tweens
Tweens are hard to please on family movie night. They are too old – in their own minds – to watch Frozen, but they’re not old enough to laugh at Clueless with you. So what do you do?
The Addams Family
The recent success of Netflix’s Wednesday has everyone on board with this amazingly dysfunctional family. Your kids will enjoy this one.
A mom and a daughter who cannot get along to save their lives? Where have we heard this one before? These two have some sort of, well, Freaky Friday, that causes them to switch bodies, and the rest is history. It’s good fun for the entire family.
It’s your classic unpopular girl gets a blowout and some contacts and becomes a popular princess story, but it’s cute. First and foremost, we all love Anne Hathaway. But more than that, we adore Julie Andrews more than anyone else in the world. She’s marvelous, and you can watch both movies for a delightful extra few hours of these two.
50 First Dates
When Adam Sandler meets Drew Barrymore, their love story is darling. But then you meet her family who goes through the motions of pretending every single day is the same day because of her short-term memory. Dad is doing the best he knows how, brother is a juiced on the ‘roids and infatuated with himself, and dysfunction runs rampant.
First, the book is far better than the movie. The books are always better than the movie. But Wonder is the story of Auggie’s family and everything they do to make his life as easy as possible while also trying to make it as normal as possible. It’s a great story for the entire family, and it just goes to show that even the most amazing families are as dysfunctional as the rest.
Dysfunctional Family Movies for Families with Teens
Teens can handle a bit more, and that’s what makes these movies the best for everyone. They are delightfully hilarious, and they also bring a little bit of maturity. Again, every family is dysfunctional, and these families prove you don’t have to be a trainwreck to be dysfunctional.
When your dad lets you drive without a license and you are a 16-year-old girl dating her stepbrother who is old enough to buy alcohol, you know you have some family dysfunction. But that doesn’t stop every mom born in the 80s from reciting this one word for word when it’s on.
Forget what I said about the fact that you don’t have to be a trainwreck to be dysfunctional. Amy Poehler’s “I’m not a regular mom, I’m a cool mom,” persona is about as dysfunctional as they come, but this is still a great movie.
Fun fact – we took all four of our kids to see this one when it was released in theaters, and I’m glad we did. It was phenomenal. The fact that Emma Stone wasn’t nominated for an Oscar for this one blows my mind. However, this is the story of absolute family dysfunction, and a great example of what the bad kind of dysfunction can do to a child. Also, the costumes are stellar.
This movie is old enough to be your father. Well, it was released in 1989 and I was only six at the time, so it’s pretty old. However, it’s the story of straight up family dysfunction, and it works. Your teens will enjoy this one, and you’ll be glad you took the time to watch together as a family.
Father of the Bride
You won’t convince me this is not one of the greatest movies of all time, but also that this is not every dad ever when his little girl is getting married. Everything in Steve Martin’s happy life is falling apart with the idea of his daughter getting married and he’s not doing well with it. It’s the classic story of a mom and daughter who spend a lot of time overlooking dad and his opinions so that they can do what they want to do for her wedding.
Honorable Mentions for Some of the Most Dysfunctional Families in the Movies
If we don’t mention the adorably hilarious Meet the Fockers, are we even talking about dysfunctional families? What about Four Christmases? Can we even begin to talk about the family in National Lampoon? The moral of the story is that you can go through the list of just about every single movie out there about families and find a reason to notice the dysfunction in all of them.
If you perform a quick internet search about dysfunctional families, you’ll even find that movies such as the Texas Chainsaw Massacre are named, but in no way, shape, or form is that a movie for any family with kids who aren’t at the very least old enough to drive…which is why we used this format and these movies.
It’s Up To You What You Allow Your Children to Watch
Every family is different. Our kids, for example, are 14, 11, 8, & 8, and they’ve all four watched every movie on this list except Parenthood, Father of the Bride, Clueless, and Mean Girls. On the flip side, I know a family who won’t allow their middle schooler to watch any Disney movies because they don’t care for any hint of adult humor (I have no clue what they do watch, just for the record…I’m guessing paint dry?).
Additional Resources for Family Fun
- Family bonding activities
Backyard fun for families
Family reunion activities for all
- 20 Great Gifts for Homeschool Moms