We're always thankful for the movies, but never more so than during the holidays when a trip to the theater can give your family a break from each other, even though you're sitting side by side in the dark. But there's a catch: You have agree on what to watch. Here's a guide to the right distraction for every sort of family drama.
Your family won't stop watching sports: Creed
When Stallone wrote Rocky, he wasn't a boxing fan. Original director John G. Avildsen hated the sport. Accordingly, Rocky was a boxing movie that was about everything but: opportunity, loserdom, loneliness. Creed is just a boxing movie. Adonis gets the same character beats—a romance with Medusa-haired siren (Tessa Thompson), an too-soon big fight, his own fading mentor, three work-out montages—but the film itself is just that, a drumroll for a young warrior who only wants to win.
Your family has too many screaming children: The Good Dinosaur
The Good Dinosaur is another episodic growing-up adventure story, here copy-pasted over with the one kid obsession yet to be given Pixar's feature-film treatment. Still, the vistas are gorgeous, and the setup is clever — and certain to upset creationist types. Underpinning the usual hero's-journey jazz is an alt-history what-if. Sixty-five million years ago, we're told, the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs got knocked slightly off course, whizzing close enough to Earth that it briefly dazzles some munching diplodocuses. The story kicks in millions of years later, The Land After The Land Before Time. Dinos have thrived: They've developed agriculture, language, home-building, chicken-rearing, and the techniques of lesson-oriented parenting. Apatosaurus runt Arlo is born with two siblings to kindly farmer parents — Mom and Dad till their cornfields by nosing their sauropod faces into the dirt and nudging forward. How these hand- and finger-free lizards erect a stone silo is a mystery that the momentum-minded Pixar can't be bothered with — instead, it's in a rush to subordinate this science fiction Earth to a standard-issue Disney plot in which a young’un gets separated from family and then comes of age by almost dying lots of times. Soon, young Arlo faces tragedy and is lost in the wild, eager to get back home to his mother — and to prove himself mighty and courageous like his father. You'll probably cry a little, but you might nod off, too. —Alan Scherstuhl
Your family needs to stop arguing about real-world politics: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2
The series is no longer primarily interested in just one girl's survival — and, thankfully, it's barely engaged with the love triangle that Collins had to flog to keep fans interested until she reached her real goal: Mockingjay's large, cynical questions about sacrifice and success. (Which, in book form, were almost too dense — the filmmakers were right to divide the last volume in two.) In the first Hunger Games film, we were simply meant to care whether Katniss won. Three movies later, as Katniss helps Coin defeat the Capitol and destroy Snow, the series has become about how horrible it can be to win. It sticks us in that brutal stretch of a war where everyone knows the imminent outcome, but half will have to die to accomplish it. In victory, Katniss's friends aren't much better than her foes. In her name, rebels cheer the Snow-ally District 2's civilian dead just as TV audiences cheered the Hunger Games arena. —Amy Nicholson
Your family refuses to move past the past: The Peanuts Movie
The feeling, at times, is of taking in several months' worth of strips in one go — not reading them, exactly, as no studio would dare the full contemplative sparseness of those panels where Linus and his pal discuss life at a stone wall. Instead, it's like seeing those comics adapted by devotees of the TV cartoons: Miss Othmar's voice is a muted trombone, the kids' are real kids', and Snoopy's is the upset-tummy growl of Melendez, director of the specials you grew up with. The kids dance. Franklin gets a lot of lines and even, at last, is revealed to have a trait: He's got his class's third best test score! The title card claims this Peanuts is “by Schulz,” but there are voices here besides his. What matters is that his is honored — and that this is as sincere a pumpkin patch as Hollywood can grow. —Alan Scherstuhl
Your family rages too hard: The Night Before
Here, [Seth Rogen] peaks in his go-for-broke bad-trip freakouts, first in a bar bathroom, where his character rages against his unborn son, and then in bookending scenes of blasphemy surrounding a midnight Mass. These are funny and courageous and probably caused Sony fits: Last year it was the North Koreans; this year it'll be Fox's not-much-more-reasonable War on Christmas squad. It's not the drugs and the peen and the public puking that's funny — it's what you do with them. —Alan Scherstuhl
Your family needs a reminder that things could be worse: The 33
How do you dramatize the unthinkable? On August 5, 2010, 33 Chilean miners were trapped when the 100-year-old gold and copper mine in which they were working collapsed around them. For weeks, no one knew if they were alive or dead. But 69 days later, after a team of international drilling experts had worked around the clock, every one was brought safely to the surface. The 33, directed by Patricia Riggen, makes a valiant effort to tell this harrowing story onscreen, and there are moments when every shifting plate clicks right into place. —Stephanie Zacharek
Your family is too obsessed with celebrity families: By the Sea
Maybe [Angelina] Jolie Pitt believes you have to be dumb to be happy. Regardless, the film doesn't demonstrate belief in much of anything except that audiences must be so desperate for a peek into these stars' private lives that we'll invest energy in their mopey fictional counterparts, who can't even invest in themselves. In lieu of tension or suspense, the script is simply structured around withholding the reason why Vanessa is miserable. The revelation turns out to be something most people could have predicted in the first reel, but yet still manages to feel like a slap to womankind. —Amy Nicholson
Your family has conversations it's avoided for too long: Carol
Carol gives the appearance of having been constructed without seams or joints; its plot doesn't so much move forward as drift. In a striking sequence, dreamlike to an almost David Lynchian degree, Carol drives Therese out to her lavish suburban home: Just as the lights of the tunnel around them are a filmy blur, their faces also become diaphanous and abstract. This, sometimes, is just what falling in love is like. In its melodramatic scope, Carol makes a fine companion piece to Haynes's superb 2002 Far From Heaven: Both movies are about Fifties marriages that are built on nothing so clean-cut as a lie; rather, they're about individuals who have strained to be something they're not, not just as a way of avoiding scorn or shame, but to keep families together and to avoid causing pain to people they love. —Stephanie Zacharek
Your family is awesome and deserves a reward: Singin' in the Rain
The classic Gene Kelly musical is playing at The New Beverly in a double-bill with Laurel and Hardy's Babes in Toyland spin-off March of the Wooden Soldiers. Go ahead, have a great night out—your family earned it.