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List: Functional Families on Film

posted by Nell Minow

Sometimes it seems that every movie family is dysfunctional. That is because it is much easier to create drama — and comedy — from failures of communication and absence of support. But the movies have also given us some wonderfully functional families, and I was happy to see an excellent list at the always-reliable Cinematical, gathered by Jette Kernion. It was charmingly meta that she asked her own family for suggestions and led off with Meet Me In St. Louis, her mom’s choice. I love the opening scene in that film, with almost the entire family weighing in on the sauce cooking on the stove. One of the many pleasures of that fine film is the way the family members listen to one another so respectfully — most of the time. Well, without some conflict, it wouldn’t be very interesting to watch!
Other favorites of mine on Kernion’s list: The Incredibles and Little Women. And I would add Cheaper By the Dozen (the original only!), and National Velvet. As with real life, not all functional movie families fit the traditional structure. From Cher in Mask to the dotty but devoted uncles in Unstrung Heroes, the movies remind us that what makes a family work is kindness and love.
Oh, and Kernion has a list of favorite dysfunctional movie families, too.



  • jestrfyl

    My favorite FUNctional family is the Robinson’s of “Swiss Family Robinson”, the Disney version. Functional families have become so rare that they are now the novelty, almost a fantasy. I am curious about familieis that may seem dysFUNctional, but actually turn out to work quite well. To some degree “Parent Trap” might meet that criteria, though the saccarine ending is a bit much.

  • WillF

    I thought the family in the Kit Kittredge movie was a good example of a functional family that has to face being split up. I know this is an American Girl movie, but my 10 and 8 year-old boys enjoyed it, and I thought it was quite entertaining.

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks so much, Will! It is a wonderful film, and a great and very functional family. I love movies where the parents really listen to the children and believe in their children’s dreams.

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