Ah, the holidays. A time for laughter. A time for togetherness. A time for family dysfunction and long-simmering resentments to come to the surface.
Hollywood has a long history of putting awkward family dinner scenes on the big screen in everything from comedy to drama. To celebrate Thanksgiving in the U.S. and uncomfortable family get-togethers all around the world, we’ve put together our list of favorite dysfunctional Thanksgiving dinner scenes.
1. Spider-Man (2002)
One of the most nerve-wracking things is meeting your boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s parents for the first time. Hopefully, it goes well. But occasionally, the parents in question are slowly unraveling as their mind is being taken over by a villainous alter-ego and they end up being shockingly cruel, as was the case with Norman Osborn in the Thanksgiving scene in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. Talk about awkward.
2. Addams Family Values (1993)
Okay, so it’s not technically a Thanksgiving dinner scene, but Thanksgiving celebrations have virtually never been as disastrous or dysfunctional as this scene from the Addams Family sequel. If you’ve ever seen the GIF of a young Christina Ricci in a Native American headband with the text “Chaos. Panic. Disorder. My work here is done,” this is the scene that comes from. Enough said.
3. Home For The Holidays (1995)
An extremely baby-faced pre-career comeback Robert Downey, Jr. presides over what is perhaps the worst turkey carving job ever in movie history in Home for the Holidays. In the pressure to create a perfect holiday memory, everyone just ends up getting way too stressed out. It’s simply not a Hollywood Thanksgiving scene unless someone ends up crying. Bless.
4. Across The Universe (2007)
Oh, boy. Is there anything like leaving the nest, finding yourself, feeling like an adult…and then coming home for Thanksgiving to immediately feel like you’re 15 years old again? Dad complaining about kids these days, mom criticizing your hair and how you dress, at least one rebellious child dropping a bomb on the family and one poor schmuck caught in the middle. What a time to be alive.
5. Who Made The Potatoe Salad? (2006)
You rarely see Thanksgiving family dinners come more R-rated than this one. Every woman in a family (and more than a few men) pride themselves on “their” dish, the one they think they make better than anybody. At least, that is, until a drunk uncle sets them straight and explains how much their cooking actually sucks. I was once at Thanksgiving dinner with the family of a friend and it almost came to blows for this reason. Rule #1 of Thanksgiving dishes, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
6. Scary Movie 2 (2001)
Thanks to this movie and this scene in particular, an entire generation of people questioned whether they’d ever eat turkey and mashed potatoes again. It’s that gross. And that’s it.
7. Instant Family (2018)
It’s a fact of human nature that no one can push your buttons faster or with greater precision than family. After decades of family get-togethers and holiday dinners, everyone knows everyone else’s triggers and soft spots. If a judgy family member doesn’t say something insensitive with a “What? We were all thinking it” attitude, is it even really Thanksgiving dinner?
8.The Gold Rush (1925)
Who says anyone has to talk to make a Thanksgiving dinner a memorably messed-up one? Charlie Chaplin accomplished that way back in the silent era of Hollywood thanks to his preternatural gift for physical comedy and pantomime as he boils and eats a leather shoe (which, by the way, was made of black licorice). Just think of that the next time you’re forced to eat your Aunt Helen’s dry turkey.
9. Literally All Of ‘ThanksKilling’ (2009)
There are dozens of Christmas horror films, but very few Thanksgiving horror film. And none as infamous as the ThanksKilling series, in which a murderous turkey, cleverly named Turkie, stalks and kills college students over Thanksgiving break. It’s not clear which is worse: Being killed by a turkey, or being killed by a low-budget turkey with lines as bad as his.