List Film

Cinema’s most unconventional families

The ties that bind

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The Darjeeling Ltd

Wes Anderson has made much of the dynamism of the dysfunctional family in his films. Mark Robertson presents some of cinema’s other most unconventional families

The Griswolds from National Lampoon’s Vacation
The farcical events of the National Lampoon films are less about the whole family than the hapless man of the house (Chevy Chase) who manages to unravel when faced with even the most piecemeal of challenges like packing a car, reading a map or explaining why he’s in a swimming pool at night with a naked woman.

The Bakers from Sixteen Candles
Being 15 is never easy but it’s a helluva lot more difficult when you’re Samantha and your family has forgotten your birthday because of your sister’s wedding. Throw in a dazed exchange student, embarrassing grandparents and a lovelorn geek’s clumsy advances and you have a recipe for familial disaster.

The Burnhams from American Beauty

A three-way tag team of heartbreak and suburban desperation, this trio of misunderstood, misunderstanding myopics – the ambitious, undervalued wife, the browbeaten, zombified husband and the alienated, daughter – are so close but really so far away. It’s sad as hell but this makes for great cinema.

The Corleones from The Godfather
The overbearing father, the stresses on the family ‘business’, the questions of legacy, sibling rivalry, and the pesky problem of being shot at by other trigger happy mob types can get a bit grating.

The Skywalkers from Star Wars
They could have been quite the homely bunch in that galaxy far, far away. Obviously mum, Padme, dying in childbirth, and siblings Luke and Leia almost copping off with each other wasn’t great for family bonding, though finding out your dad is Darth Vader, the embodiment of evil in the universe, is enough to screw up anyone’s reunion plans.

The family from The Cement Garden
So dad dies, mum follows swiftly after and the teenage kids bury her in the house before indulging in a spot of incest. Not exactly mainstream is it? Add to that a baby brother who isn’t sure if he’s Janet or John and you’ve got a potent recipe for familial chaos.

The Sawyers in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Three generations of psychotic mass murderers indulge in the family trade, chasing people, catching them and hacking them up into untidy pieces with industrial agricultural equipment. Grandpa did it, daddy did it, even young Leatherface’s doing it too.

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