The first bite of winter chill is in the air and that means the holidays are upon us. It’s a wonderful time filled with parties and presents and also a stressful season marked by long lines in the shopping mall and at the airport. But it’s all worth it because you get to spend some quality time with the family. That is, of course, if yours isn’t completely dysfunctional. So, in celebration of the upcoming holiday season, let’s take a look at some of the most awkward family gatherings from cinema history.
The Ref (1994)
Ditched by his partner in the middle of a robbery on Christmas Eve, Gus (Denis Leary) has to take a bickering affluent Connecticut couple (Kevin Spacey, Judy Davis) hostage all by himself. Along the way, Gus has to deal with a neighbor dressed as Santa Claus, the couple’s bratty son, and some bumbling police officers. The fun really begins when the couple’s extended family shows up for the holiday and Gus is forced to act as marriage counselor.
Christmas Vacation (1988)
Hardworking family man Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) just wants to have a happy Christmas at his suburban Chicago home. But his boss, yuppie neighbors, and a pesky squirrel just won’t let him have it. Not to mention his family, which includes his down-on-his-luck hillbilly cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) who mooches off him in every way possible and senile Uncle Lewis and Aunt Bethany. Christmas Vacation is an awkward family gathering from beginning to end. Will Clark get his wish and give his family a wonderful Christmas or will be be undermined once again?
The Nutty Professor (1996)
“Hercules, Hercules!” Eddie Murphy’s brilliant ability to play multiple characters mixed with some amazing special effects makes the dinner scene in The Nutty Professor one of Murphy’s greatest comedic achievements. Yes, the fart humor is a bit sophomoric, but Murphy shines as he plays his overweight father, mother, angry knife-wielding grandmother, ripped-sweatshirt-wearing brother, and the loveable Sherman Klump.
Wedding Crashers (2005)
After crashing a wedding, John Beckwith (Owen Wilson) and Jeremy Grey (Vince Vaughn) make their way to the opulent home of the U.S. Secretary of Treasury William Cleary (Christopher Walken) to get with his daughters, Claire and Gloria. While at dinner, John attempts to impress Cleary with is knowledge of foreign policy while Jeremy tries to slyly combat Gloria’s over-the-top sexual advances.
Home for the Holidays (1995)
Jodi Foster directed this story about a recently-unemployed woman (Holly Hunter) that has to spend another Thanksgiving with her dysfunctional family. The family’s crazy antics culminate in an argument-filled Thanksgiving dinner that creates a divisive rift between them. Although the film received mixed reviews, Hunter won raves for her performance from The New York Times. “Displaying a dizziness more mannered than the cool, crisp intelligence she shows in Copycat, Ms. Hunter still holds together Home for the Holidays with a sympathetic performance.”
Meet the Parents (2000)
Gaylord “Greg” Focker (Ben Stiller) is a nurse living in Chicago that travels to his fiancee’s parent’s house on Long Island where he hopes to propose after getting her father’s permission. But the intimidating, suspicious father, Jack (Robert DeNiro), is hell-bent on humiliating Greg at every opportunity. During a wildly awkward dinner scene, Greg talks about the time he milked a cat, Jack reads an uncomfortable poem about his deceased mother, and then a very nervous Greg accidentally spills the ashes of Jack’s mother in the dining room.
American Beauty (1999)
Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), his wife Carolyn (Annette Benning), and their daughter Jane (Thora Birch) sit down for a classy dinner but the seemingly calm situation is about to get explosive. The couple fights over Lester quitting his job and blackmailing his boss for $60,000 while Jane is caught in the middle. Throughout the argument Lester repeatedly asks for someone to please, “pass the asparagus,” but he’s forced to suffer the indignity of grabbing it off the opposite end of the table by himself.
After learning that his girlfriend (Charlotte Stewart) is pregnant, young Henry (Jack Nance) goes to her parents’ house to meet the family. What follows is one of the most surreal family dinners ever committed to film, complete with a chicken that oozes some blood-like fluid while shaking its legs. Finger lickin’ good!