20 Best Comedy Movies About Dysfunctional Families
Family is the cornerstone of society, a group of people who share common ancestry, values, and traditions. But sometimes, family can be a source of great chaos, confusion, and dysfunction. Dysfunctional families are often depicted in movies as a way to explore the many complexities of human relationships. And when it comes to dysfunctional families, there’s nothing like a good comedy to help us laugh at the absurdity of it all.
Comedy movies have been a staple of cinema since the beginning, offering audiences a much-needed escape from the stresses of everyday life. From slapstick to satire, there’s a comedy for every taste. But perhaps one of the most popular sub-genres of comedy is the family drama. These films delve into the dynamics of families, examining the ways in which they work, or don’t work, together.
At their core, comedy movies about dysfunctional families are about the universality of human experience. We all have family members we love, and we all have family members who drive us crazy. These movies offer a chance to laugh at ourselves, our families, and the many absurd situations that arise when we’re all thrown together.
The depiction of dysfunctional families in comedy movies can take many forms. Sometimes it’s a dysfunctional nuclear family, like in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, where the Griswold family’s attempt at a perfect holiday goes hilariously wrong. Other times, it’s a dysfunctional extended family, like in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, where a young woman navigates the complexities of her Greek-American family as she falls in love with a non-Greek man.
These movies can be a cathartic experience for audiences, offering a chance to laugh at the dysfunction that exists in our own families. They also offer a way to examine the ways in which families can be both sources of comfort and sources of frustration.
So, whether you’re looking for a way to escape your own dysfunctional family, or just looking for a good laugh, comedy movies about dysfunctional families are sure to deliver. In this list, we’ll explore some of the best movies in this sub-genre, examining the ways in which they capture the hilarity and heartache of family life.
21 Captain Fantastic (2016)
Captain Fantastic is an offbeat indie movie that follows the eccentric and idealistic Cash family as they live off the grid in the Pacific Northwest. Viggo Mortensen stars as the patriarch of the family, who is determined to raise his six children to be self-sufficient and intellectually curious. But when a family tragedy forces them to venture into the “real world,” the Cash family must confront the realities of modern society. With sharp writing and a standout performance from Mortensen, Captain Fantastic is both heartwarming and thought-provoking. The family’s dysfunction is rooted in their extreme lifestyle and unconventional approach to parenting, making for plenty of laughs and touching moments along the way.
20 The Quiet Family (1998)
This South Korean black comedy follows a family who runs a failing bed and breakfast in the countryside. When their guests start dying in bizarre and unexpected ways, the family decides to bury the bodies on the property to avoid bad publicity. But as more and more bodies pile up, the family’s dysfunction is exposed, as each member tries to cover up their own secrets and mistakes. The humor is dark and the violence is over-the-top, but the movie’s exploration of family dynamics is surprisingly poignant. The Quiet Family is a twisted and entertaining look at the lengths people will go to protect their own.
19 Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Little Miss Sunshine is an indie gem that tells the story of the dysfunctional Hoover family as they embark on a cross-country road trip to get their daughter Olive to a beauty pageant. The family includes a suicidal uncle, a foul-mouthed grandfather, and a father who’s obsessed with motivational speaking. The humor in Little Miss Sunshine is quirky and charming, with standout performances from Steve Carell, Toni Collette, and Alan Arkin. The family dysfunction is depicted through each member’s personal struggles, making for a relatable and ultimately heartwarming story.
18 The Kids Are All Right (2010)
This dramedy explores the complexities of modern family life, as a lesbian couple’s two teenage children seek out their sperm donor father. The film tackles issues of identity, sexuality, and fidelity, while also delivering plenty of laughs along the way. Julianne Moore and Annette Bening give powerhouse performances as the couple, and Mark Ruffalo shines as the charming but flawed sperm donor. The family’s dysfunction is in their struggles to balance individual desires with the needs of the family unit, making for a relatable and emotionally resonant story. The humor is smart and incisive, making The Kids Are All Right a standout in the family drama genre.
17 Ordinary People (1980)
In Ordinary People, we meet the Jarrett family, a seemingly perfect suburban family dealing with the aftermath of a tragedy. Conrad Jarrett, the teenage son, is struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts after the death of his older brother. Meanwhile, his mother Beth is unable to cope with her grief and withdraws from her family, leaving her husband Calvin to try to hold everything together.
The dysfunction in this family lies in the fact that they are all trying so hard to appear normal, to put on a facade of happiness and togetherness. But as we delve deeper into their lives, we see that they are all struggling to come to terms with their own grief and guilt. The humor is subtle, but it’s there, in the awkward interactions and tense conversations between family members. But ultimately, this is a movie about the complexities of human emotion and the ways in which we can all struggle to connect with one another.
16 The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
The Tenenbaum family is one of the most dysfunctional families in movie history. In The Royal Tenenbaums, we meet a family of former child prodigies who are all struggling to find their place in the world as adults. Chas, the youngest son, is a widower who is obsessed with protecting his two young sons from harm. Margot, the adopted daughter, is a secretive playwright who is unhappy in her marriage. And Richie, the eldest son, is a former tennis star who has never been able to move past his feelings for Margot.
The movie is dark and quirky, with a distinct Wes Anderson style. But it’s the dysfunction of this family that really makes this movie shine. Each character is flawed in their own unique way, and their interactions with one another are fraught with tension and awkwardness. But as the movie progresses, we see that there is still love and loyalty between them, despite all of their flaws.
15 Death At A Funeral (2001)
Death At A Funeral is a British black comedy about a family coming together to mourn the passing of their patriarch. But as the day unfolds, we see that this family is anything but normal. The deceased’s son, Daniel, is struggling with his own personal problems, while his brother Robert is bitter about being left out of their father’s will. Meanwhile, the arrival of a mysterious guest threatens to reveal a family secret that could tear them all apart.
The humor is over-the-top and absurd, with some truly hilarious set pieces involving a hallucinogenic drug and a case of mistaken identity. But underneath all the humor, there’s a sense of sadness and frustration in the family. Each member is so wrapped up in their own problems that they can’t see how their actions are affecting those around them.
14 Knives Out (2019)
Knives Out is a modern twist on the classic whodunit murder mystery, with a large and dysfunctional family at its center. The movie revolves around the death of renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey, and the investigation that ensues to uncover the truth behind his demise. But as the detectives interview each member of the Thrombey family, it becomes clear that everyone has a motive for wanting Harlan dead.
The movie is undeniably sharp and witty, with a great ensemble cast delivering hilarious performances. But what really sets this movie apart is the way it subverts expectations about the dysfunctional family at its center. Each member of the Thrombey family is flawed in their own way, but they’re also incredibly entertaining to watch. And as the movie unfolds, we see that there’s more to this family than meets the eye, with secrets and betrayals lurking around every corner.
13 Happiest Season (2016)
Happiest Season is a hilarious comedy-drama about a young lesbian couple who plan to spend Christmas with one of their families. However, things take a wild turn when the girlfriend realizes that her partner hasn’t yet come out to her conservative parents. What follows is a hilarious journey filled with twists and turns, as the couple tries to keep their relationship a secret while navigating the challenges of a dysfunctional family.
The film features some outstanding performances from its lead cast, including Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, and Dan Levy. The humor is witty and light, and the story explores themes of acceptance, family, and identity. With its heartfelt storyline and relatable characters, Happiest Season is a must-watch comedy that’s perfect for any occasion.
12 The Squid And The Whale (2005)
The Squid and the Whale is a dark comedy-drama that revolves around a dysfunctional family going through a divorce in 1980s Brooklyn. The story follows the lives of two young brothers who are forced to navigate the changing dynamics of their family while dealing with their own personal struggles. The movie is a raw and honest portrayal of a family falling apart, and it offers some genuine moments of laughter amidst the pain. The story is subtle, and is driven by some excellent performances from Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, and Jesse Eisenberg. The Squid and the Whale is a poignant and thought-provoking comedy that explores the complexities of family relationships in a unique and compelling way.
11 This Is Where I Leave You (2014)
This Is Where I Leave You is a hilarious comedy-drama about a dysfunctional family forced to come together after the death of their father. The story follows the lives of four siblings who must spend seven days together in their childhood home, where they confront their past, present, and future. The movie features a star-studded cast, including Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, and Jane Fonda. Ihe story explores themes of love, loss, and family. With its outstanding cast and heartfelt storyline, This Is Where I Leave You is a touching and entertaining comedy that’s perfect for any family gathering.
10 The Family Stone (2005)
The Family Stone is a heartwarming comedy-drama about a free-spirited family who come together for the holidays. The story follows the lives of two young lovers who are trying to impress their partner’s family while dealing with their own personal struggles. The humor is warm and relatable, and the story explores themes of family, love, and acceptance. With its charming characters and witty script, The Family Stone is a delightful and entertaining comedy that’s perfect for any holiday gathering.
9 Tokyo Sonata (2008)
In Tokyo Sonata, we meet the Sasaki family, a seemingly normal Japanese family with a dark secret. The father, Ryuhei, loses his job but hides it from his family, leading him to embark on a series of strange and ultimately futile adventures. Meanwhile, his wife and two sons are each dealing with their own issues. The eldest son is contemplating joining the US military, while the younger son is skipping school and learning to play the piano in secret. As the family’s dysfunction slowly comes to light, we’re left wondering whether they’ll be able to come together and overcome their problems.
The humor in Tokyo Sonata is subtle and understated, but it’s there. The movie explores the absurdity of everyday life, highlighting the ways in which we all struggle to find our place in the world. The characters are complex and well-drawn, with each member of the family grappling with their own demons. Ultimately, the film is a moving exploration of the human condition, and the ways in which we’re all connected.
8 American Beauty (1999)
American Beauty tells the story of Lester Burnham, a middle-aged man who’s unhappy with his life. He’s stuck in a dead-end job, his wife is unhappy, and his teenage daughter is going through her own problems. But when he meets his daughter’s friend, Angela, he becomes obsessed with her, setting off a series of events that will change the family forever.
At its heart, American Beauty is dark and satirical, poking fun at the ways in which we all try to maintain the illusion of happiness. The characters are complex and flawed, with each member of the Burnham family struggling to find their place in the world. The movie is a commentary on suburban life, and the ways in which it can stifle us all.
7 Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
In Silver Linings Playbook, we meet Pat Solitano, a man who’s just been released from a mental institution. He’s determined to get his life back on track, but he quickly realizes that it won’t be easy. His father, played by Robert De Niro, is a die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fan who’s obsessed with his son’s success. Meanwhile, Pat falls in love with Tiffany, a young woman who’s dealing with her own issues.
The movie is quirky and endearing, with each character bringing their own unique brand of dysfunction to the table. The movie is ultimately a celebration of the human spirit, and the ways in which we can all find happiness, even in the midst of chaos.
6 The Way Way Back (2013)
The Way Way Back tells the story of 14-year-old Duncan, who’s forced to spend the summer with his mother and her overbearing boyfriend at their beach house. Feeling like an outsider, he finds refuge at a nearby water park, where he befriends the park’s manager, Owen. Meanwhile, his mother is dealing with her own issues, as she struggles to balance her own desires with those of her boyfriend.
The humor is lighthearted and charming, with each character bringing their own unique brand of dysfunction to the table. The movie is a coming-of-age story, exploring the ways in which we all struggle to find our place in the world. The characters are relatable and endearing, with each member of the family grappling with their own demons.
5 We’re The Millers (2013)
When small-time drug dealer David Clark is robbed, he’s left owing his supplier a huge debt. To pay it off, he concocts a plan to smuggle marijuana across the Mexican border with a fake family in tow. He recruits stripper Rose, runaway Casey, and awkward neighbor Kenny to pose as his wife and kids. As they embark on their road trip, they encounter a series of mishaps, including a run-in with a family of swingers, a dangerous drug lord, and a runaway RV. We’re The Millers is raunchy and irreverent, with plenty of laughs at the expense of the dysfunctional family dynamic. David’s fake family is a motley crew of misfits, each with their own quirks and secrets, and their interactions are both hilarious and heartwarming.
4 Meet The Parents (2000)
When Greg Focker meets his girlfriend’s parents for the first time, he’s determined to make a good impression. But everything goes wrong when he accidentally flushes their beloved cat down the toilet and tries to cover it up. As the weekend goes on, Greg’s attempts to ingratiate himself with his girlfriend’s overbearing father become increasingly disastrous, leading to a series of hilarious misunderstandings and mishaps.
Meet The Parents is a classic example of the dysfunctional family comedy, with the humor coming from the clash of personalities and values between Greg and his girlfriend’s family. Robert De Niro’s performance as the intimidating father-in-law is particularly memorable, and the movie’s many quotable lines have become part of pop culture.
3 The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
After the death of their father, three estranged brothers reunite for a spiritual journey through India. But their trip is plagued by miscommunication, resentment, and secrets from their past. The humor in The Darjeeling Limited is subtle and quirky, with plenty of deadpan one-liners and awkward silences. The dysfunctional family dynamic is at the heart of the movie, with each brother struggling to come to terms with their relationship to each other and their late father. Director Wes Anderson’s distinctive visual style and offbeat sense of humor add to the movie’s charm.
2 Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
When New Yorker Rachel Chu accompanies her boyfriend Nick Young to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore, she discovers that Nick’s family is one of the wealthiest and most influential in the country. As she navigates the dizzying world of high society, Rachel is faced with disapproval and sabotage from Nick’s mother and jealous ex-girlfriend. Crazy Rich Asians features a humor that is both lavish and tongue-in-cheek, poking fun at the opulence and absurdity of the super-rich lifestyle. The dysfunction in the movie comes from the clash of cultures and values between Rachel and Nick’s family, and the tension between tradition and modernity.