10 Movies to Prepare You for Family Gatherings This Holiday Season


With the holidays just around the corner, that means it’s time to prepare for large family gatherings, seeing people you haven’t seen maybe all year, and visiting with the ones you wish you didn’t have to. Movies have a long history of depicting the ideal family and the ideal family holiday; however, it’s not always snowflakes and apple pie. Not all family reunions are the same, whether it’s a death in the family or coming together for the holidays.


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Difficult in-laws? There’s a film for that. Over-the-top Christmas planning? There’s a film about that. Whatever gathering you’re planning on attending, these films will give you a crash course on how to deal with the chaos. Available across streaming platforms like Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix, have a sit down with these sit-downs and see how your holiday schedule compares.

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‘Knives Out’ (2019)

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Not centered around a particular holiday, Knives Out is still a whodunit movie that demonstrates the difficulties of dealing with eccentric and combative family members. Convening after the untimely, suspicious death of the Thrombey Family patriarch, Harlan (Christopher Plummer), the collection of Thrombey heirs undergo a thorough examination by Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) to determine who’s responsible for Harlan’s death.

A spectacular cast including Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, Michael Shannon, and Ana de Armas, the Thrombey Family emulates types of people that we’ve all known a few in our lifetimes at the family dinner table. If Knives Out was a mirror of a holiday gathering, we’re all Detective Blanc, trying to sift through the madness.

‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’ (1989)

Chevy Chase in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Image via Warner Bros.

Determined to have a fun, old-fashioned family Christmas, Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) gets more than he bargained for when his family arrives all under one roof. The third installment in the National Lampoon’s archive, Christmas Vacation is a wintry season favorite when dealing with difficult family members.

From demanding in-laws to disgruntled neighbors, nothing goes as planned in Clark’s desire to revive the traditional family Christmas. Clark remains unabashedly optimistic until the tension bursts, and he goes off on his iconic rant (it’s worth the Netflix stream just for this moment). The Griswold Christmas reminds you not to overcook the turkey or set unachievable high standards this holiday season.

‘The Proposal’ (2009)

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Image Via Disney

As if visiting family after years apart wasn’t enough, let’s add a fake engagement to the mix. A rom-com classic, The Proposal features Andrew (Ryan Reynolds) as he’s forced into a fake engagement with his powerful boss Margaret (Sandra Bullock), to avoid her deportation back to Canada. The “lovebirds” make their way to Alaska to break the news during a family birthday.

The Proposal is the perfect example of family gatherings filled with contempt and palpable tension, making your next trip home seem like a walk in the park. Reynolds and Bullock’s onscreen chemistry powers the film, allowing it to be an audience favorite from the 2000s.

‘Happiest Season’ (2020)

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Image via Hulu

Has your partner kept you a secret all the way up until the family gathering? This one’s for you. Meeting Harper’s (Mackenzie Davis) family for the first time, Abby (Kristen Stewart) doesn’t realize that Harper has yet to come out to her family, forcing the pair to hide their relationship throughout their holiday stay. From the high achievers to the ones that never left home, Happiest Season also acknowledges the struggle of sibling rivalry at family gatherings.

As if navigating a deepening relationship wasn’t enough, this Hulu original depicts the struggles of coming to terms with yourself when your family has other ideas and expectations. During the upcoming holiday schedule, Happiest Season serves as a comedic guidebook to how to be your authentic self.

‘This is Where I Leave You’ (2014)

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Image via IMDb

Holiday gatherings are one beast; funerals are another. With the death of their father calling them back home, four siblings (Jason Bateman, Adam Driver, Tina Fey, and Corey Stoll) must confront their past and present as they sit for one week with their grieving mother (Jane Fonda). This is Where I Leave You is an excellent choice to represent the bumps and bruises of estranged family relationships.

Mending strained relationships is never easy; this film is a solid family drama for a night where you need to be reminded that maybe there’s a family out there that takes the cake for most problems. This is Where I Leave You still maintains its heart and dignity despite its issues (like the film’s Altman family).

‘Home Alone’ (1990)

Describing some viewers’ ideal holiday season, Home Alone never ceases to remind us of how tense family relations can get during the season. Following a heated argument with his entire family and mother, Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) wishes his family would disappear. Kevin gets his wish by being left behind as his family makes a mad dash to the airport. An iconic ’90s holiday film, we all wondered what Kevin’s dad Peter (John Heard), did for a living to pay for 15 people for a holiday vacation to Paris.

While most of the movie is told from Kevin’s home-alone perspective, it does promote the value of family even in the most difficult moments (and how to plan a holiday vacation properly). From the siblings that pick on us to aunts and uncles that think we’re just troublemakers, Home Alone accurately portrays the chaos of a holiday household with a dozen strong personalities all under one roof.

‘Christmas with the Kranks’ (2004)

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Thinking of skipping your big holiday gathering this year? Based on the John Grisham novel Skipping Christmas, Christmas with the Kranks follows Nora (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Luther Krank (Tim Allen) their first holiday season without their daughter Blair (Julie Gonzalo). Instead of hosting their annual Christmas party, the Kranks decide to take a Christmas cruise despite backlash and criticism from their neighbors and coworkers.

Without spoiling too much, this holiday favorite is a strong proponent for keeping traditions no matter how extravagant they may be. For the empty nesters, the independents, or the anti-holiday-ers, Christmas with the Kranks is a solid lesson in remembering that holiday gatherings nurture an element of selflessness in everyone.

‘Holidate’ (2020)

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Tired of always showing up single to every family or holiday gathering? Holidate may inspire you to find a seasonal friend to attend all these gatherings with. Strangers Sloane (Emma Roberts) and Jackson (Luke Bracey) agree to be a platonic plus-one for each other’s holidays throughout the year. From Valentine’s Day to July Fourth, the pair arrive at each function together only to discover that maybe something more is happening between them.

Predictable, maybe? Entertaining, yes. This Netflix original plays to our holiday and romantic fears of showing up perpetually single and answering questions about where our love lives are going. Holidate is the perfect rom-com to help you through family gatherings and cuffing season.

‘Hannah and Her Sisters’ (1986)

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An Oscar-winning Thanksgiving-themed movie, Hannah and Her Sisters is the perfect example of how our lives change from holiday season to season. Spanning multiple Thanksgiving gatherings, Hannah (Mia Farrow), Lee (Barbara Hershey), and Holly (Dianne Wiest) maneuver around life’s changes and disappointments. From dying and blossoming romances to career fulfillment, Hannah, Lee, and Holly become entangled in an intricate web together.

Winning three of its seven Oscar nominations, Hannah and Her Sisters is an iconic film depicting the journey of self-discovery against the backdrop of the holiday season. It’s an oldie but a goodie to give you a break from the Hallmark staples and a new perspective on what to bring to the family table.

‘Love the Coopers’ (2015)

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Life is about to change for the Cooper Family. Four generations of the Coopers navigate major life transitions in the days leading up to the annual Christmas Eve gathering. With a star-studded cast including John Goodman, Diane Keaton, Alan Arkin, Olivia Wilde, and Ed Helms, Love the Coopers is a prime example of not knowing what our relatives are going through before they sit down at the holiday table.

While it may not be the best holiday movie out there, this Christmas dramedy certainly spotlights acceptance and support during times of transition. Eleanor’s (Wilde) perfect line, “Doesn’t it suck how we can wanna run from our families, but want to impress them at the same time?” sums up why Love the Coopers will get you through the next holiday meeting.

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