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Three siblings stand in a hallway in this image from Michael London Productions.
The Stone siblings come home for a not-so-smooth holiday. (Image: Michael London Productions)

Everyone wants Christmas to go off without a hitch. After all, it’s the time of year for reuniting with family, giving gifts, decking the halls, and being merry. We all have an idealistic picture of how the holiday should be in our heads, but when we mix in all the quirky personalities of our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, things never go as planned. With my family during Christmas, we’re lucky if there isn’t a screaming match at the dinner table! The same can be said for most Christmas movies, especially ones centered on family gatherings during the holidays. I’ve identified the most dysfunctional families in these movies and ranked them by how much I would avoid them around the holidays. Unlike real families, you can watch the bickering and chaos unfold on your TV screens without taking part.

The McCallisters — ‘Home Alone’ (1990)

One kid fends for himself at a chaotic family dinner in this image from 20th Century Fox.
The McCallister family isn’t the worst, but child abandonment is a huge offense. (Image: 20th Century Fox)

Sure, the McCallister family is chaotic, but that doesn’t mean they’re horrible. “Home Alone” opens with Kevin (Macauley Culkin) and the entire McCallister family getting ready for a Christmas vacation in Paris. There’s zero organization and order, so much so that the family leaves Kevin, one of the youngest members of the brood, behind. Even though the McCallisters are negligent chaos agents, they remind me a lot of my family. A bunch of Irish kids wearing dumb Christmas sweaters screaming and demanding pizza? Sounds like a regular Tuesday night back in my childhood! That’s why out of all these families, I’d like to hang out with the McCallisters the most.

Stream “Home Alone” on Disney Plus.

The McClanes — ‘Die Hard’ (1988)

A man rescues his estranged wife from a terrorist attack in this image from 20th Century Studios.
John (Bruce Willis) wants a nice family Christmas but has to thwart a group of foreign terrorists instead. (Image: 20th Century Studios)

In the opening of “Die Hard,” the McClanes are a mess. NYPD detective John (Bruce Willis) is visiting his estranged wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia), and their kids in LA, hoping to woo her back and fix his broken family. Not a vibe I’d choose to be around — during the holidays or otherwise. Throughout the movie, John manages to single-handedly thwart a terrorist attack on Holly’s work building. He’s a poster child for toxic masculinity, but he puts his life on the line to save innocent lives. He’s also, without question, a family guy, and Holly is a boss-woman who didn’t pause her life or career for a man. There’s always going to be tension between these two strong characters, but it’s not the worst place to find yourself on Christmas. If something went down during the holidays, the McClane household is the safest place to be.

Join the McClanes by streaming “Die Hard” on Amazon Prime Video or Hulu.

The Parkers — ‘A Christmas Story’ (1983)

A family poses for a portrait together in this image from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
The Parkers look like the perfect family, but around Christmastime, the tension gets out of hand. (Image: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

A Christmas Story” takes place in the 1940s, so it makes sense that the Parker parents, especially Old Man Parker (Darren MacGavin), are pretty stern. The tension that takes hold of the entire family when Dad is angry is uncomfortable to witness. When Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) drops the F-bomb while buying a Christmas tree, his punishment is soap in the mouth. I wouldn’t thrive in this old-school environment; I need the freedom to curse, call out my dad when he’s being a grump, and torment my brother. I will say, the Parkers’ Christmas morning seems lovely, though!

Watch it now on Max.

The Griswolds — ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’ (1989)

A dysfunctional family gathers around the dinner table in this image from Warner Bros.
Clark (Chevy Chase) tries so hard to manufacture the perfect family Christmas and fails at every turn. (Image: Warner Bros.)

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” is all about Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) and his obsession with making Christmas absolutely perfect and failing at every turn. The journey is exhausting. From trekking to the middle of the woods for a perfect Christmas tree to spending money he doesn’t have on a family pool, his idealization sets him and his family up for failure. I don’t have patience like his wife, Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo), does. With all the other characters from their extended family piling into the Griswold home, from his judgmental in-laws to his manipulative brother, I don’t see the Griswolds ever pulling off a Christmas that lives up to Clark’s vision. I’ll pass on this invitation every time.

Stream it anytime on Hulu.

Harry and Karen — ‘Love Actually’ (2003)

A husband and wife Christmas shop in London in this image from Universal Pictures.
Karen (Emma Thompson) and Harry (Alan Rickman) seem to have the perfect marriage until she finds out he’s cheating. (Image: Universal Pictures)

Harry (Alan Rickman) and Karen (Emma Thompson) are the most interconnected characters in “Love Actually.” But I’m really not trying to spend Christmas at their flat. On Christmas Eve, Harry gets caught cheating (maybe physically but definitely emotionally) on poor Karen. She’s devastated but pulls herself together so that her kids have a lovely holiday. She can’t rely on her brother (Hugh Grant) for support because he’s the Prime Minister, so she’s alone in her mourning. Sorry, but I’d never forgive Harry for his stupidity, lack of loyalty, and ungratefulness for his wife and all she does. I don’t want to be anywhere near him on Christmas — or ever.

You can watch “Love Actually” now on Netflix.

The Calvins — ‘The Santa Clause’ (1994)

A man inadvertently becomes the new Santa Claus in this image from Walt Disney Pictures.
Scott (Tim Allen) accidentally becomes Santa, causing even more tension with his ex-wife. (Image: Walt Disney Pictures)

Like the family dynamics of “The Santa Clause,” this one is a little complicated for me. At the beginning of the movie, Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) is upset to learn that his ex-wife, Laura (Wendy Crewson), and her new partner, Neil (Judge Reinhold), tell their six-year-old son, Charlie (Eric Lloyd), that Santa isn’t real. Scott is a jerk in the beginning, too, but he becomes Santa and softens literally and figuratively. I would spend Christmas with Scott-Santa and join him on his sleigh. He uses the role to bond with his son, and I think that’s sweet. But Laura and Neil are buzzkills. They try to break Charlie’s spirit, keep him away from his dad, and unnecessarily involve law enforcement. I’d avoid spending holidays with them like the plague.

Check out “The Santa Clause” on Disney Plus.

The Stones — ‘The Family Stone’ (2005)

A woman meets her fiance’s family for the first time in this image from Michael London Productions.
Everett (Dermott Mulroney) brings home his new fiance (Sarah Jessica Parker), but she doesn’t get a warm holiday welcome from his family. (Image: Michael London Productions)

On paper, the Stones seem like the family I’d most want to hang with. They’re liberal, unconventional, and good-looking. But when son Everett (Dermot Mulroney) brings home his fiance, Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker), to meet his family for the holidays, most of the Stone family decides they don’t like her before she’s even walked in the door. She’s uptight, conservative, and the opposite of the family, but most of the Stones are so mean to her — especially Sybil (Diane Keaton) and Amy (Rachel McAdams), two of my favorite actresses! This behavior feels antithetical to who they claim they are: an inclusive clan.

I think a family should at least try to like someone’s significant other, and they should definitely be able to hide their true colors the first time they meet! I’d be intimidated by the Stones, so I’d skip their house. If I did attend, I’d only make things even more toxic by making out with Ben (Luke Wilson), the only chill one who gives Meredith a chance, or Everett, because they’re both very cute.

Bring the Stones into your home with Hulu.

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