Love the Coopers is the only the most recent movie to focus on families coming together for the holidays
Credit: MGM/Courtesy Everett Collection

In theaters now, Love the Coopers gives you a chance to partake in an annual holiday tradition: celebrating with family members by going to the movies to watch fictional characters celebrate the holidays with their family members.

The cast includes Amanda Seyfried, Diane Keaton, Ed Helms, Anthony Mackie, Marisa Tomei, Olivia Wilde, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, and even Steve Martin, if only as the voice of the family’s omniscient narrator dog.

However, it’s only the most recent example of a holiday movie released around the holidays about a family coming together to celebrate the holidays, and we’re taking the occasion to look at some previous examples – and what each tried to teach us about life, love and maximum holiday enjoyment.

1. The Family Stone (2005)

The plot: The oldest son (Mulroney) brings home his girlfriend (Parker) for a family Christmas and things don’t initially go so well.

Life lessons: You’ll get a lot more out of a family holiday, no matter how stressful, if you remember that it may be the last you get to spend with a given family member.

2. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

The plot: The head of the Griswold clan attempts a perfect family Christmas and fails on almost every conceivable level.

Life lessons: You’ll feel better in the long run if you just accept that despite your best planning efforts, the actual holiday will never work out as well as you’d like. Oh, also always check the tree for squirrels.

3. A Christmas Story (1983)

Who’s invited: Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin, Ian Petrella, Zack Ward and Jean Shepherd

The plot: Little Ralphie (Billingsley) wants nothing more than a BB gun in the midst of assorted other holiday-related hijinx.

Life lessons: You may not actually put your eye out in the end, but just having the BB gun may be more fulfilling than actually firing the BB gun. Yes, that’s a metaphor.

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4. Home for the Holidays (1995)

Who’s invited: Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., Claire Danes, Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, Dylan McDermott, Steve Guttenberg and Cynthia Stevenson

The plot: Claudia (Hunter) returns to her parents’ home for Thanksgiving after losing her job and consequently feeling depressed.

Life lessons: There may be one big, blow-out fight, and it may feature a lot of deeply felt, long-repressed things being said loudly, but this all may make you feel better in the end. Awkwardness and all, you may end up glad that it happened.

5. Home Alone (1990)

Who’s invited: Mostly just Macaulay Culkin, but kinda-sorta Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, and for the most important scene in the movie, Catherine O’Hara

The plot: You probably remember this as the movie where a kid whomps bad guys in the head with paint cans, and it totally is that, but it also has one of the best holiday family reunion moments ever when Kevin (Culkin) and his mom (O’Hara) finally catch up to each other.

Life lessons: Home invasions make for hilarious physical comedy, but also a prolonged separation from your family can make reunion feel all the sweeter.

6. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

The plot: Over the course of three Thanksgivings, the loves and assorted tribulations of sisters Hannah (Farrow), Lee (Hershey) and Holly (Wiest) play out. Yes, there are many neuroses.

Life lessons: Family endures, either in spite of or because of what your various relatives don’t tell each other.

7. Christmas with the Kranks (2004)

Who’s invited: Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Aykroyd, Julie Gonzalo, M. Emmet Walsh, Erik Per Sullivan and Cheech Marin

The plot: The Kranks (Allen and Curtis) attempt to forgo Christmas festivities after their daughter leaves home, but skipping Christmas proves far more difficult than they anticipate.

Life lessons: The holiday spirit will catch up to you, whether you want it to or not and despite your best efforts to avoid it.

8. Four Christmases (2008)

The plot: Kate and Brad (Witherspoon and Vaughn) are prevented from leaving town on Christmas and consequently are forced to spend Christmas with each of their divorced parents – separately.

Life lessons: Don’t fly out on Christmas last minute from SFO. Fog, you know?

9. Pieces of April (2003)

Who’s invited: Katie Holmes, Patricia Clarkson, Derek Luke, Oliver Platt, Alison Pill and Sisqé (no, really Sisqé)

The plot: Black sheep daughter April (Holmes) hosts her estranged family for Thanksgiving because her mom (Clarkson) is struggling with cancer.

Life lessons: Always check to make sure your oven works before you cook the turkey, just in case you don’t live in an apartment building full of loving neighbors willing to help you out last-minute.

10. This Christmas (2007)

Who’s invited: Idris Elba, Loretta Devine, Delroy Lindo, Regina King, Sharon Leal, Columbus Short, Lauren London, Chris Brown, Jessica Stroup and Lupe Ontiveros

The plot: Whitfield family matriarch Shirley Ann (Devine) oversees the first family Christmas in four years with all six of her children attending, including the long-absent Quentin (Elba).

Life lessons: Making a surprise appearance at a family holiday might seem like a fun idea, but maybe call first.

11. Dutch (2007)

Who’s invited: Ed O’Neill, Ethan Embry, JoBeth Williams and Christopher McDonald

The plot: Dutch (O’Neill) attempts to bring his girlfriend’s son (Embry) home for Thanksgiving – and in the process win him over and get him on better terms with his mother.

Life lessons: Making an effort around the holidays can bring people together. Also, a good family holiday can end with someone getting shot in the butt with a BB gun.

12. I’ll Be Home for Christmas (1998)

Who’s invited: Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Jessica Biel, Gary Cole and Eve Gordon

The plot: High school student Jake (Thomas) has until 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve to trek across the country and arrive at his father’s house to attend a family Christmas.

Life lessons: If your son doesn’t want to come home for Christmas, promise him a 1957 Porsche. That’s doable for most families, right?

13. What’s Cooking? (2000)

Who’s invited: Julianna Marguiles, Alfre Woodard, Mercedes Ruehl, Kyra Sedgwick, Joan Chen, Lainie Kazan and Maury Chaykin

The plot: The film follows four interrelated Thanksgiving celebrations: one Latino, one African-American, one Vietnamese and one Jewish.

Life lessons: Everyone does the big holidays differently, but no one does it wrong so long as everyone gets together in the end.