The Sea (2002)--Thordur, an Icelandic fishing boss, calls his loathsome offspring home to discuss money matters, in turn unleashing a wave of pent-up hatred, greed, lust and various other deadly sins. Wonderfully despicable characters include a rebellious son, a volatile daughter, a sleazy weak-kneed brother, a sexpot half-sister, a nasty granny, and, of course, the haunting but gorgeous glacial backdrop of Iceland. Compelling familial implosion at its best from director Baltasar Kormakur.
Shy People (1987)--Rich city mom trucks her teen-punk daughter down to the bayou to visit their distant Cajun relatives. What they find is pure madness. A sickly devoted matriarch (a brilliant Barbara Hershey) swings an iron fist over her brood of detached rednecks and bears a grisly torch for her long-lost husband who's "Somewhar out dare in da swamp." Toss in the city folk with their pop music, TV and top-o'-the-line cocaine, and this split-family brew sparks intense degeneration laced with profundity.
Ordinary People (1980)--When an affluent, ticky-tacky suburban family loses a son, brother Timothy Hutton slips into depression, daddy Donald Sutherland remains blissfully oblivious, and hawk-eyed mom Mary Tyler Moore, who loved the now-dead son best, is more interested in keeping up appearances than in dealing with her own family. The small cast works wonders as this Robert Redford-directed gem explores the duality of familial love and the deep feelings of pain and resentment that fester within a whitewashed home. Chilling, stirring and provocative.
Shine (1996)--The story follows piano prodigy David Helfgott (Geoffrey Rush) through a mental breakdown and an eventual comeback, but it's the striking presence of his controlling, abusive father (Armin Mueller-Stahl) that takes center stage. The first act is truly harrowing, as the evil papa spies on his kids through a wire fence and hounds young David (Noah Taylor) out of his mind, but an uplifting progression sees David in search of a new social unit from the most unlikely of sources.
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)--Shame on you if you haven't seen this John Frankenheimer masterpiece yet. Despite the Cold War espionage and conspiring assassins, this is a story of a bad, bad mommy (Angela Lansbury) who rears the ultimate schizophrenic military robot for a child. The less said, the better, but it'll warp your whole conception of reality.