20 Family Drama Movies To Hold You Over Until 'This Is Us' Season 4
There's no better way to take a break from your own family tension than spending an hour watching This Is Us and crying over someone else's drama. The multi-generational, time-traveling NBC series returns for its fourth season in September, and even the guarantee of two additional seasons following the upcoming one isn't enough to keep me entertained until reuniting with the Pearsons. Luckily, if you feel the same, there are plenty of family drama movies to hold you over until This Is Us Season 4 premieres.
Whether it is featuring a stirring fatherly speech or a heartfelt family car ride, This Is Us elevates everyday elements that most viewers probably see as dull and ordinary into uplifting, often heartbreaking content. Since its 2016 debut, the hit NBC series has caused fans' waterworks over Jack Pearson's (Milo Ventimiglia) premature death, his wife Rebecca (Mandy Moore) talking to her unborn babies, and their grown children delivering hefty monologues about the trials of adulthood. Guaranteed to release at least six seasons in total, the show is the TV equivalent of sharing a trusty warm blanket with a beloved family member.
Seeing as This Is Us expertly balances humor and heartache, any tears shed during episodes feel worth it. But in telling a singular story, movies exploring family drama often inspire a more complicated range of emotions. If you're on the lookout for a movie that amplifies the This Is Us effect, check out the picks below.
1. 'The Family Stone' (2005)
Carrie Bradshaw never did feel comfortable in the suburbs. Only a year after Sex and the City wrapped, Sarah Jessica Parker played the uptight girlfriend of a man who takes her home for the holidays. Despite her boyfriend's growing intention to propose to her, she struggles to fit in with his easygoing, free-thinking family and gravitates toward his teasing brother. What with all the Stone family's diverse idiosyncrasies, they're practically the cinematic Pearsons but with less tragedy involving fire.
2. 'Rachel Getting Married' (2008)
Anne Hathaway was nominated for an Oscar for her role as the titular character's sister in Rachel Getting Married. Coming home from drug rehab to celebrate her sister's wedding, Kym feels responsible for the tension within her family after she seemingly caused a tragic accident years before. This wedding doesn't exactly end with tear-stained smiles and resolved relationships, so if you need a particularly dark story to weep over, this is it.
3. 'The Farewell' (2019)
In The Farewell, Awkwafina ditches her comedic roots for the more dramatic role of a Chinese-American woman pulled into a family plot to avoid telling their ailing grandmother she's dying. To bring all of their relatives together before losing her, the family plans a wedding. Having to see extended family can already be tough, but with an impending death looming in the air, the stakes are definitely raised.
4. 'Stepmom' (1998)
Starring Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon, Stepmom explores the rift between a woman and her ex-husband's new love interest as the latter tries to develop a relationship with the former couple's children. The kids lash out at their dad for hurting their mother several years before, and Roberts and Sarandon's characters initially struggle to find common ground. An emotional twist then risks changing the family dynamic forever.
5. 'Moonlight' (2016)
Once you've watched that Best Picture Oscar gaffe for the hundredth time, grab the tissues for a viewing of Moonlight. Following an African-American man through his childhood and adulthood, the story focuses on Chiron's sexuality as he grows up in a tough neighborhood with a drug addict mother. Chiron finds a makeshift, surrogate family as he grows older, reminding viewers that not all family is tied through blood.
6. 'Juno' (2007)
Starring Ellen Page as the titular character, Juno covered teen pregnancy just before MTV made it an essential part of its brand. A pregnant Juno plans to put her baby up for adoption, selecting a perfect-seeming couple as she balances her feelings toward the baby's biological father and the soon-to-be adoptive dad who is experiencing doubts about parenthood.
7. 'Little Miss Sunshine' (2006)
When young oddball Olive (Abigail Breslin) unexpectedly qualifies as a beauty pageant contestant in Little Miss Sunshine, she and her eccentric family hit the road to reach the competition in time. Traveling in a worn-down yellow van, the family is also comprised of a mute teenage son, an abrasive grandfather, a suicidal uncle, and a pair of tired parents just trying to complete the trip in one piece.
8. 'Captain Fantastic' (2016)
In Captain Fantastic, Viggo Mortensen's Ben lives off the grid with his wife and six children, but their survivalist lifestyle is jeopardized when Ben's wife Leslie dies. As Ben begins to recognize the flaws of his parenting, Leslie's family threatens to fight for custody of the kids, who feel like fish out of water in their relatives' wealthy, suburban neighborhood. Complete with whimsical musical interludes and adorably precocious kids, the often upsetting story ends on a light note.
9. 'The Hollars' (2016)
Before exploring a family trapped in a post-apocalyptic world in A Quiet Place, John Krasinski directed and starred in a more grounded family drama. The Hollars follows his character's experience of caring for his sick mother as he and his girlfriend await the birth of their first child. Returning to his hometown also means seeing figures from his past with whom he might have unfinished business.
10. 'Big Fish' (2003)
Crossing through time like This Is Us, Big Fish introduces a grown son witnessing the physical decline of his father as the audience learns about the older man's adventurous past and whether it was all true. Played by Ewan McGregor in his younger days, Ed Bloom's life experiences are more fantastical than Jack Pearson's secretive past, but if Randall and Kevin's takes on their father always have you tearing up, this father-son story is must-see viewing.
11. 'Gifted' (2017)
Do you need any other info besides a scruffy-faced Chris Evans starring alongside a cute child to feel like watching this? In charge of his child prodigy niece, Evans' character in Gifted fights to keep her in his custody as her school and grandmother push for her to enter a gifted program. If you still feel weird about crushing on fictional dads (Jack Pearson doesn't do anything for you?), Evans as a single uncle might help you ease into embracing those kind of feelings.
12. 'Little Women' (1994)
Before she was Stranger Things' Joyce Byers, Winona Ryder brought one of literature's most beloved characters to life as Jo March in Little Women. Her Stranger Things co-star Maya Hawke played the role in a recent PBS adaptation and Saoirse Ronan will take on Jo in an upcoming film, but Ryder's Oscar-nominated performance is classic. As the most independent of four sisters living in Civil War-era Massachusetts, Jo struggles in balancing the urge to break norms with an intense love for her family and the way they live.
13. 'Tortilla Soup' (2001)
Mexican-American chef Martin (aka Joe from The Princess Diaries) has metaphorically lost his taste buds since his wife died, and his influence on his three grown daughters is fading as they explore new opportunities and relationships. The sisters' bond is also becoming more fraught as they each pursue situations the others may not agree with. In some cultures, living with your parents as adults is often the norm, and Tortilla Soup covers the pros and cons of this.
14. 'The Descendants' (2011)
With his wife comatose in the hospital, Matt struggles to keep his two daughters in line, leading to his realization that he may not have been as attentive to his family as he thought. Set against a Honolulu backdrop, The Descendants plops fiercely real issues into what most people view as paradise. The grass is never really greener on the other side, right?
15. 'Dan in Real Life' (2007)
Steve Carell was low-key starring in serious roles long before he started receiving major attention for them. While his single dad character in Dan in Real Life isn't as melancholy as his Little Miss Sunshine character Frank, Dan definitely doesn't feel great when he learns that the woman he connected with at a bookstore is his brother's new girlfriend. Stuck with her and the rest of his family on a weekend retreat, Dan has to decide if he can move past his tendency to put others' needs first and actually do something for himself.
16. 'Stuck in Love' (2013)
Remember how Meg Ryan's You've Got Mail character amicably broke up with Greg Kinnear's slightly snobbish literary aficionado? Stuck in Love is essentially what happened to that guy after he left the Upper West Side. Kinnear plays a divorced, struggling author who isn't over his ex-wife and whose teenage children are skeptical about love after witnessing their parents' relationship. Also starring Jennifer Connelly, Kristen Bell, Lily Collins, Nat Wolff, and Logan Lerman, the movie has such familiar actors and concepts that watching it feels like receiving an instant slice of home.
17. 'The Pursuit of Happyness' (2006)
The Pursuit of Happyness adapted the true story of entrepreneur Chris Gardner (Will Smith) experiencing a stint of homelessness alongside his young son (Jaden Smith). Having invested most of his savings in a new medical device, Chris is forced to scramble for steady working opportunities to support his son. The movie tackles what happens when you don't have a sprawling family to simultaneously support and nag you. What happens when you only have one person to count on?
18. 'Wonder' (2017)
Based on the bestselling book of the same name, Wonder tackles childhood bullying and tolerance from the perspective of the family whose child has Treacher Collins syndrome. Elementary school experiences can be incredibly formative, but accompanying those memories are recollections of how your family responded to any obstacles you faced. Helmed by Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, and Jacob Tremblay, the onscreen family might have you calling up your own ASAP.
19. 'Crazy Rich Asians' (2018)
Providing Asian representation, laughs, romance, and family drama, Crazy Rich Asians revitalized the big-screen romantic comedy. Rom-coms still seem to have more releases on Netflix than in theaters, but this film's portrayal of an expansive Chinese family and its disagreements about marriage and wealth helped prove that audiences are into taking a trip to movies for a relatable dose of love and life.
20. 'Cheaper By The Dozen' (2003)
While it's primarily a comedy, Cheaper by the Dozen turns a little sad and reflective toward its end. With 12 children between them, Tom and Kate Baker uproot their family so Tom can take a dream job coaching college football. But his job's demands and Kate promoting a new book weaken their parenting forces when their kids need them the most. A Pearson family conflict usually ends with a hug, and if that's all you need at the end of the day, the Baker family fits the bill.
Season 4 of This Is Us premieres at 9 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Sept. 24, on NBC.