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The 15 Most Dysfunctional Families in Scifi, Fantasy, and Horror Movies

Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron as glamorous rival sister queens in The Huntsman: Winter’s War. Image: Giles Keyte
Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron as glamorous rival sister queens in The Huntsman: Winter’s War. Image: Giles Keyte

This Thanksgiving, differing opinions over the recent election will likely elevate many turkey feasts from merely awkward to utterly agonizing. But instead of crawling under the table, commiserate with these cinematic families, whose dysfunctional drama might even be worse than yours.


15) The Skywalkers, Star Wars

Let’s just get the most obvious one out of the way first. Mom’s dead, Dad’s an evil masked villain, and the kids share a weird flirtation before they realize they are actually twins. Eventually, the only grandkid in the family (that we know of) proves to be a bratty and murderous piece of work, too.


14) The Queens, The Huntsman: Winter’s War

This is not a great movie, but it had a spectacularly poisonous sister relationship, as well as some of the best outfits ever. If you were invited to dinner at their castle (provided they were actually living under the same roof and not trying to chew the scenery out from under each other), what on earth would you even wear?

13) Ofelia’s family, Pan’s Labyrinth

Just after the Spanish Civil War, a little girl encounters dark and magical creatures while her mother suffers a difficult pregnancy and her cruel stepfather (a literal fascist) commits torture and murder on a regular basis. The fact that a human character is scarier than director Guillermo del Toro’s monsters in this film is not insignificant.

This is the greatest family portrait that anyone has ever taken.
This is the greatest family portrait that anyone has ever taken.

12) The Sawyers, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

Forget “Winter is Coming.” The best house motto of all time is “Saw Is Family.” Unfortunately, despite their collective commitment to terrorizing rural Texas and producing the state’s most suspiciously delicious barbecue, the Sawyers end up falling apart in the end. Surprisingly, it’s the gruesome Leatherface who breaks ranks by showing compassion for the family’s would-be next victim—but not before she’s made the guest of honor at one of their famous dinner parties.

11) The Deetzes, Beetlejuice

Charles Deetz drags his family from New York City to a very recently unoccupied, quaint house in the country, looking for a little peace and quiet. His awesomely goth daughter, Lydia, is delighted to learn that the house contains ghosts. His hilariously obnoxious wife, Delia, is way more interested in remodeling the place so she can impress her artsy frenemies.


Eventually Delia mellows out a little bit, thanks to a much bigger crisis involving a pesky bio-exorcist. And the Deetz family even becomes way more functional (and expands to include a pair of ghosts, too) by the end.

10) House of Abrasax, Jupiter Ascending

Inheritance brawls among siblings are nothing new—but what if those siblings happen to be elite members of the alien race that’s targeted Earth as the next source for its prized “youth serum”? The end result might resemble this gorgeous but confusing epic from the Wachowskis, who presumably enjoy a lot more harmony in their own family life.


9) The Whites, Carrie

No wonder poor misfit Carrie manifested malevolent telekinetic powers, after a lifetime of enduring her Jesus-freak mother shrieking “They’re all gonna laugh at you!” all day, every day.

8) The Evils, Austin Powers

It’s out of fashion to like these movies, but this is still one hell of a dysfunctional family, with a huge chasm between father and son that could hold one million mini-clones. These communication-breakdown scenes are the ultimate.


7) The Prestons, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Time travel is very cool, but there’s no escaping the fact that when your dad marries the hot girl that was just a few years ahead of you in high school, it’s never not gonna be weird. And you’re never not gonna slip up and say “Missy... I mean Mom” several times a day. Bogus.


6) The Torrances, The Shining

This family had plenty of major issues even before they decided to winter at the ghost-infested Overlook Hotel. But that one time Jack “accidentally” broke Danny’s arm seemed like nothing once all the axe-wielding mania started going down.

Illustration for article titled The 15 Most Dysfunctional Families in Scifi, Fantasy, and Horror Movies

5) The Sharpes, Crimson Peak

Another fucked-up family from Guillermo del Toro. Also a cautionary tale about not marrying a guy whose sister is oddly overprotective, and who dwells in a creepy old mansion that appears to bleed called Crimson Peak—especially when you’ve been visited by scary spirits that specifically warn you to “beware of Crimson Peak.”

4) The Stokers, Stoker

Park Chan-wook’s psychological horror movie owes a lot to Hitchcock, but it turns the screws in violent ways that even the Master of Suspense wouldn’t have dreamed of doing. Trust no one, especially if you’re related to them.


3) Lord Denethor’s family, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

Distraught over the death of his favorite son, the Steward of Gondor acts like a righteous dick to his remaining son. Then, Denethor spirals even deeper into madness and very nearly burns his wounded-in-battle son on a pyre, despite the fact that he’s not actually dead yet. In the end, he realizes what he’s done, and...

Hey, why let a perfectly good bonfire go to waste?

2) Papa Jupiter’s Clan, The Hills Have Eyes

Something to consider while planning your family’s RV trip across the country: will the route take you past any cannibal mutants who simply adore preying on naive outsiders? In Wes Craven’s chilling 1977 classic, the fresh-faced Carters encounter Papa Jupiter and his inbred posse of ne’er-do-wells (plus one daughter who isn’t actually that bad), who terrorize the family with great gusto, only to see their victims fight back nearly as brutally. The Hills Have Eyes is one of those movies where you kind of can’t tell who the monsters are after awhile—although only one side actually threatens to eat an infant.


1) The Lions, The Lion King

Illustration for article titled The 15 Most Dysfunctional Families in Scifi, Fantasy, and Horror Movies

A young cub flees his home believing he’s responsible for his father’s death—a dastardly deed that was, in fact, his scheming uncle’s fault. At stake is the entire kingdom, which is now under the rule of a ruthless tyrant rather than a benevolent and beloved leader. This would be an amazingly dysfunctional family tale even if it wasn’t contained within an animated Disney musical fond of fart jokes.

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