There are few films that make no reference to family but for some films the family itself is of central importance. There are names of fictional film families like The Corleones or McFlys that are as well known as the films that are about them, here are some of the best in different genres:
Spoiler Warning – massive spoilers ahead for The Addams Family and Addams Family Values, Parasite, all of Star Wars & Home Alone.
Comedy – The Addams Family – The Addams Family
The Addams Family was originally a comic and then a TV show but I’m focusing on the two films made in the 90s. This is a family that loves each other. As opposed to many portrayals of married couples Gomez and Morticia are madly in love, endlessly romantic, and very public in their feelings. Their children are incredibly important to them – in Addams Family Values they send their children to a bright, cheery summer camp despite their hatred of such a place as they think the children want to go. Gomez’s relationship with his brother Fester is of huge significance; their falling out a constant wound and their reconciliation wonderful. Grandmama lives in the family home, the hirsute Cousin It is in regular attendance and their butler Lurch is seen as family, as is Thing, whose relationship I’ve never understood.
Drama – The Kim Family – Parasite
The Kim family are struggling to make ends meet in South Korea, each family member has various marketable skills but seemingly demand for jobs is overwhelming. The son, Ki-Woo gets a job as a tutor for the rich Park family under false pretences and then slowly brings in each of his family members to various jobs in the household. The family goes so far as to plot against existing employees to get them fired – making it seem the housekeeper has an infectious disease for example. Neither family come off terribly well – the Park family are entitled and patronising, the Kims have lied their way into someone’s house and had other people fired, the story is told from the point of view of the Kims so we have more sympathy for them but told from the Park perspective they would be monsters.
Sci-Fi – The Skywalkers – Star Wars Saga
The Skywalkers are a family of drama like no other. A quick rundown of their various tragedies
- Schmi Skywalker – a slave on Tatooine who has a quasi-mystical pregnancy leading to the birth of Anakin Skywalker. Schmi is later captured and killed by Tusken Raiders.
- Anakin Skywalker – Born a slave and leaves Tatooine to become a Jedi. Becomes involved in the Clone Wars eventually destroying the Republic and killing many, many Jedi (even the younglings). After spectacularly losing a duel with his former best-friend he becomes Darth Vader. Anakin’s lover Padme dies in childbirth although this is put down to a broken heart because of Anakin but the twins – Luke and Leia – survive. Darth Vader spends a lot of time trying to kill or kidnap his son Luke, only to die after getting in a duel with Luke.
- Luke Skywalker – raised on Tatooine by relatives until they are brutally murdered by the Empire. Luke trains to be a Jedi eventually confronting Darth Vader only to lose his hand and find out Vader is his father. Their second confrontation leads to Vader’s death, though not at Luke’s hand.
- Leia Organa – raised on Alderaan by Bail Organa Leia is unaware of her Skywalker heritage until Luke tells her, realising not only her biological father destroyed her planet and tortured her, she had kissed her brother. Leia marries Han Solo and has a son Ben…and neither of those relationships go very smoothly. Leia dies in a successful attempt to influence her son in turning away from evil.
- Ben Solo – trained to be a Jedi by his uncle Luke until that uncle contemplated killing Ben because of the darkness he sensed in his nephew. Ben escapes and not surprisingly goes full evil, becoming Kylo Ren, following in his grandfather’s footsteps. Ren kills his father, tries to kill his mother, and also tries to kill his uncle. After some measure of redemption he dies.
- Luke Skywalker continued – after going into self-imposed exile for years Luke agrees to train Rey to be a Jedi but Rey leaves before completing her training. Later as Kylo Ren is about to destroy the Resistance Luke sacrifices himself to slow Ren down.
- Rey Skywalker – with all of the Skywalkers dead, Rey, student of both Luke and Leia Skywalker takes up the Skywalker name.
So four generations of the Skywalkers full of familicide, galaxy-wide political turmoil and occasionally blowing up planets. That is a lot of tragedy and in my opinion, Hamlet doesn’t even come close.
Horror – The McCallisters – Home Alone
I was looking for a horror film with an interesting family when it occurred to me that with only the slightest change in tone Home Alone is a horror film. The McCallisters are an exceptionally affluent family and have gathered to go on holiday to Paris. And apparently, accidentally go on holiday leaving young Kevin at home. They are a family of sociopaths, bullies and dangerously indifferent caregivers. Kevin is tormented by older siblings, his feelings ignored by cruel parents, and treated with outright hostility by extended family members. As for Kevin…he may have issues. First, he seems to think he made his family magically disappear and he is happy about this. Then when confronted with burglars he seems to relish the opportunity to torture them – bear in mind, he sets one of them on fire. Perhaps most galling of all, the McCallister children spend their time telling spooky stories about an elderly neighbour who they have the audacity to judge.