Every family has its quirks and demons, but some moreso than others—and some might have one demon in particular. The point is no family is perfect, and if they’re portrayed as such, we’re not interested. We’ll take our families as dysfunctional as possible, because not only does that make for more captivating storytelling, but it also makes us feel a little bit better about our own loved ones. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, we can’t choose our families—but we can at least choose one, or a few, to stream. Here are 14 of our very favorite series and films on Topic centered around family dynamics and dysfunctions. Who knows, they might even make you appreciate your family a little more.
This gripping drama starring Christopher Eccleston (The Leftovers) and Paula Malcomson (Ray Donovan) turns the societal notion of happily ever after completely upside down. Marie is married to her loving husband, Greg, and the couple have three beautiful kids. So why does she walk out on all of them? The story unfolds through each of their perspectives, revealing that there’s so much more than meets the eye. Whatever notions about Marie and Greg that you start out with will be challenged again and again until you’re left with nothing but deep empathy for them both.
Three siblings equally lost in life are suddenly ordered to reunite in their hometown by their mother. What could go wrong? What starts out as a family-wide task turns into a walk down memory lane that resurfaces painful pasts. Will it tear them apart or bring them closer together? Either way, expect family hijinks along the way. “F#*!king Adelaide” is for anyone who moved out of their home the first chance they got.
Led by a career-defining performance by Stephen Graham (Boardwalk Empire, Snatch), Shane Meadows’s four-part miniseries is a powerful story of family and redemption. When his son moves to Australia with his ex, Joseph is left alone with his old bad habits. With nothing to lose, he decides to go back to Ireland and confront the traumatic past that won’t stop haunting him. There he tracks down his estranged sister, whom he was separated from by the care system over 30 years ago. Though his time in Ireland is defined by a harrowing confrontation with an abuser from his childhood, Joseph comes away from the experience with a newfound family, and a love interest to boot.
This is literally every mother’s worst nightmare. Tilda Swinton plays a matriarch whose son shows signs of being evil from a very early age. As a young child, he tortures her with his petulance and rejects her affection. When the family has a second child, he starts turning on his younger sister and a shocking incident points to his increasing sadism. But that’s just the beginning. This haunting drama will make you question everything you knew about family.
Like a real-life “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” this true-crime documentary is a heartbreaking account of one mother’s attempt to cope with her son’s unthinkable act. Charity’s 13-year-old son, Paris, is charged with murdering her 4-year-old daughter, Ella. As she’s left to pick up the pieces, she’s riddled by regret, guilt, and moral confusion. Would getting Paris help be betraying Ella? Can she ever forgive Paris? Then the story takes a twist and Charity is left with even bigger, more daunting questions about her family.
After 6-year-old Frida loses both of her parents, she leaves her Barcelona apartment behind and moves to the countryside to live with her uncle and his family. There she finds her footing in a new life with new relatives who show her a different definition of family. The film tenderly shows Frida navigating her new world, holding on to her childhood after a life-changing event that would devastate most adults.
Imagine living a quaint life and then finding a portal into an eye-opening unknown world; now imagine if you were a teen. That’s the sense of excitement and wonder this beautifully lush film captures. Teenage daughter Gelsomina comes from a family of beekeepers in a small Italian village with Etruscan roots. When a reality TV crew comes into town to document the community’s traditional Etruscan way of life, Gelsomina is immediately intrigued, especially by the enigmatic TV host, played by the ever-stunning Monica Bellucci.
Val spends her life taking care of another family, but when her own daughter, Jessica, shows up one day, Val’s life is thrown into chaos. Unburdened by the social and class boundaries of the house, Jessica starts making herself at home, to her mother’s frustration. Jessica’s arrival makes Val evaluate where her loyalties lie—with the family she’s come to consider her own or with her biological daughter she barely knows.
Comedian Robin Cloud grew up hearing about the “Nebraska cousins,” a branch of her family tree that has been, unbeknownst to them, passing as white for decades. Cloud decides to track them down to tell them the truth and welcome them to the family. What ensues is a journey that examines heritage, racial identity, and family connection. As the bridge between her “white” relatives and the rest of her Southern family, Cloud will learn if blood truly is thicker than water.
Spanning sixteen years, Killing the Father fluidly blends time and intimacy to show how a family suffers from their patriarch’s shortcomings. Jacobo Vidal, the father in question, played by Gonzalo de Castro, is what most would call a control-freak. In Jacobo’s case, this extends to controlling the lives of his wife and their two children. Anyone who’s grown up with an overbearing parent can sympathize with the struggles his children go through. As the episodes move from the late nineties into the new millennium, we see how Jacobo’s tyrannical personality affects his children in the long haul of their adulthood.
In Tripoli, Lebanon, family ties are everything. Amidst this close-knit town, an adult man is living with his mother, until she leaves him—but she didn’t die, she was just sick of supporting her grown son. Now he has to figure out life on his own for the very first time. Son and Mother, played by Daniel Arzruni and Nadime Attieh, are an interesting take on the ‘failure to launch’ feature of modern society. Whether you identify with Son or his mother, you’ll certainly walk away from this film thinking about growing up in a whole new way.
Imagine investigating your own murder. You’d probably rather not, but that’s what Beau Sejour is all about. In Maurice’s case, which begins the second season of this anthology series, he wakes to find his own lifeless body hanging from the mast of his sailboat, the Beau Sejour. As the episodes go on, he realizes that some of his family who are still alive can communicate with him from the great beyond, and that each of these family members received a mysterious family photograph that connects to an intense secret. Though we hope our own families don't have this level of secrets, it’s a chilling reminder that we never know everything about the people who are closest to us.
Sean and Casey just want to have a normal love story. But that’s a pretty tall order when their small New Zealand town thinks that Sean is a murderer who killed his entire family. While Sean has always maintained his innocence, he got off the charges on a technicality and he still has a cop who quit in rage chasing him down. Amidst this suspicion, Sean (David White, who also wrote and directed the film,) joins the dating apps for the first time - hilariously navigating online dating from an outsider’s perspective. As Sean starts dating, we see his evolution from lovable loner to awkward boyfriend as he miraculously finds his person.
This French series follows Julien (Sébastien Chassange) and his abashed return to his hometown, where he finds out that he’s actually the father of a preteen by his childhood sweetheart. This irreverent comedy will widen your perspective about what constitutes a modern family. While 31-year-old Julien has no trouble relating to his son with playing video games, he struggles with understanding what being a father means. Watching him try to make the transition to adulthood later in life is a welcome source of humor for many millennials who struggle with similar issues.