Skip To Content

    15 Movies That Perfectly Capture How Weird Going Back Home Really Is

    Young Adult, The Royal Tenenbaums, and 13 other movies that get at how unsettling it can be to revisit your old stomping grounds.

    The holiday season is rapidly approaching, and for many of us, that means going home to see your family and friends. While that is an exciting prospect, it can also be a time filled with dread and anxiety. To prepare you for your trip back to your hometown (and down memory lane), here are 15 great movies that perfectly capture the weird experience of going back home.

    1. Young Adult (2011)

    Charlize Theron holding a pint of ice cream.
    Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Mavis (Charlize Theron) is a divorced, alcoholic ghost writer who decides to head back to her hometown when she gets an email from her old high school boyfriend and decides it's a sign he wants her back (despite the fact that it's a photo of his newborn child). Young Adult gives a hilariously frightening look at people who cling onto the past because of their disappointing present and no matter how much you are dreading going back to your hometown, you can watch this and take solace in the fact that there is no possible way it will go this poorly.

    Watch it on Amazon Prime via Showtime.

    2. It: Chapter Two (2019)

    saiah Mustafa, Bill Hader, James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, and Jay Ryan standing on the street.
    Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Sure, going home can be a stressful experience. Explaining to your parents why you're still single and awkwardly catching up with your high school friends who you've drifted apart from and realized you only really spent time together out of convenience but you can't avoid them because they never left town and saw you post about coming back for the holidays on Instagram is nobody's idea of a good time. But hey, it could be worse. Your trip back to your hometown could involve you and your friends having to team up in order to defeat an evil cosmic entity that already tried to murder all of you 27 years earlier. 

    Watch it on HBO Max.

    3. Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)

    Barbara Harris and Kathleen Turner sitting on a bed.
    TriStar Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Peggy Sue (Kathleen Turner) heads to her high school reunion with her life in shambles after she discovers her high school sweetheart-turned-husband Charles (Nicolas Cage) has cheated on her. When she is named the queen of the reunion, she faints and wakes up to find herself back in high school, giving her a chance to make different choices that could affect her future. Nostalgia is a hell of a drug and like Peggy Sue, people often look towards the past and wonder about what might have been. But even if you find yourself dwelling on the "good old days" as you head back home, you may find yourself in a similar position to Peggy Sue, realizing that you are looking back in time with rose-colored glasses rather than seeing your past for what it really was.

    Watch it on Amazon Prime via Starz.

    4. August: Osage County (2013)

    Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, and Julianne Nicholson talking during dinner.
    Weinstein Company / Courtesy Everett Collection

    After her husband leaves without any warning, Violet Weston (Meryl Streep) calls upon her sisters and daughters to come support her. If you think your family is dysfunctional, you haven't seen the Westons. Their primary communication style is hurling insults and passive aggressively attacking each other for any slight mistake they make. The more time they spend together, the nastier things get and the more secrets begin to slowly come out in the open. By the time they all part ways, basically nobody can stand each other and a few lives have even been ruined along the way. So, hopefully going home for the holidays is a little better than that.

    Watch it on Netflix.

    5. Away We Go (2009)

    John Kransinksi smiling at Maya Rudolph.
    Focus Features / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Away We Go starts out as a movie about branching out and finding a new home, as Verona (Maya Rudolph) and Burt (John Krasinski) travel around the country (along the way they encounter a murderer's row of character actors, including Allison Janney, Jim Gaffigan, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Josh Hamilton) in hopes of finding a place to permanently settle before the birth of their first child. But it slowly transforms into a homecoming story, as Verona feels drawn to her past, something she has long avoided due to the tragic deaths of her parents. It's a heartfelt reminder that no matter where you've been, you can always come home.

    Watch it on Peacock.

    6. Cinema Paradiso (1989)

    Marco Leonardi looking sad with Philippe Noiret standing behind him.
    Miramax / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Salvatore Di Vita (Jacques Perrin) has not returned to his hometown of Giancaldo for 30 years, having solely focused his life toward achieving great success as a filmmaker. But after the death of his mentor Alfredo (Philippe Noiret), he heads back to Sicily and begins reflecting on his life and the ways his relationship with Alfredo shaped him into the person he eventually became. Whether you love or loathe returning home, it can be important to think about how the place you came from and the people you spent time with ultimately shaped you.

    Watch it on Amazon Prime via Paramount Plus.

    7. Garden State (2004)

    Zach Braff standing in front of a wall.
    Fox Searchlight / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Andrew Largeman is a depressed, highly medicated, struggling actor living in Los Angeles who has to head back to New Jersey after the death of his mom. While back in the Garden State (hey, that's the name of the movie!), Andrew finds himself utterly detached from everyone around him and can't even bring himself to feel anything about his mom's death. Everyone remembers The Shins scene but the best part of Garden State is watching Andrew reconnect with his old school buddies. The movie gives one of the most depressing looks into the people who never really change or grow after high school, wallowing in a state of apathetic arrested development.

    Watch it on Amazon Prime.

    8. Lion (2016)

    Dev Patel looking around.
    Weinstein Company / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Saroo (Dev Patel) is separated from his family when he is only five years old, ending up in an orphanage before he is eventually adopted by an Australian couple. He grows up to become a successful and happy young man but he finds himself wondering about the family he never really knew and begins trying to locate them. Eventually, Saroo becomes determined to find his home and reconnect with whoever in his family is still there. Based on a true story, this emotional journey is a triumphant tribute to never giving up on discovering who you really are and that family is a bond that never really breaks.

    Watch it on Tubi for free.

    9. Other People (2016)

    Jesse Plemons and Molly Shannon laughing.
    Vertical Entertainment / Everett Collection

    David (Jesse Plemons) leaves his barely-existent comedy career in New York City to head back to Sacramento to help his mom Joanne (Molly Shannon), who has been diagnosed with cancer. As much as this is a movie about death and grieving, it's also a phenomenal look at the type of person who simply never feels fully comfortable being back where they grew up. David's discomfort partially comes from his father's inability to accept him coming out but it's deeper than that. Fundamentally, he simply cannot escape the feeling of being an outsider and that's a reality that makes going home such a difficult prospect for so many people.

    Watch it on Netflix.

    10. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

    Gwyneth Paltrow and Luke Wilson sitting in a tent.
    Buena Vista Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Chas (Ben Stiller), Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), and Richie (Luke Wilson) Tenenbaum all find themselves living back in their childhood home and quickly find themselves swirling the chaos that can only be found when you're with your family. The siblings have clearly drifted apart over the years and now find themselves all dissatisfied with their current lives in their own unique ways. It's the exact same energy most of us find ourselves experiencing when you're back under the same roof with your siblings for the holidays. Yes, siblings drive you crazy and in many ways, don't know you at all. But at the same time, they know you better than anyone ever will and that creates a strange bond that can never fully break.

    Rent it on Amazon Prime.

    11. Girl Most Likely (2013)

    Kristen Wiig and Annette Bening smiling.
    Roadside Attractions / Courtesy Everett Collection

    After she is discovered staging a suicide attempt to try and get her ex's attention, Imogene Duncan (Kristen Wiig) is placed in a hospital under involuntary psychiatric hold and can only be released into the care of her estranged mother Zelda (Annette Bening). At first, Imogene dreads being home and having to live with her mother but before long, she finds herself reconciling with her failure as a playwright and slowly building a new, healthier relationship with her mom. When you're at rock bottom, you sometimes need to admit defeat and go home to build yourself back up again, which is certainly the case with Imogen.

    Watch it on Tubi for free.

    12. Swan Song (2021)

    Jennifer Coolidge in a leopard print shirt.
    Magnolia Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Pat Pitsenbarger (Udo Kier) is a retired hairdresser who spends his days wasting away in boredom at a retirement community. But when one of his dead clients requested in her will for him to cut her hair for her funeral for $25,000, he's forced to go back out into the world. Along the way, he revisits several spots in his small Ohioan town that hold special meaning to him, both good and bad, along with running into several eccentric characters. It's basically like the movie version of when you go for a drive to get away from your family and end up running into everyone you ever knew growing up while you're walking around your local shopping center.

    Rent it on Amazon Prime.

    13. Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)

    John Cusack's face being held by Minnie Driver.
    Buena Vista Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

    After botching a hit, assassin Martin Blank (John Cusack) is forced to do another job near his hometown, coinciding with his 10-year high school reunion. While he reconnects with Debi (Minnie Driver), his old high school flame, he must also try to avoid being killed by another hitman on his tail and has two NSA agents trailing him after being tipped off of his nefarious task. Things get even more complicated when he discovers that his target is none other than Debi's dad. This dark comedy is guaranteed to make you feel significantly better about running into an ex or old classmates when you're back in town for the week.

    Watch it on Tubi for free.

    14. Sweet Home Alabama (2002)

    Reese Witherspoon showing her hand to Mary Kay Place and Fred Ward.
    Buena Vista Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

    After she gets engaged to her super wealthy and handsome fiancee, Melanie (Reese Witherspoon) is forced to head back to her hometown of Pigeon Creek, Alabama to get her ex-husband to sign their divorce papers once and for all. Melanie had totally turned her back on her home, rarely talking to her parents and even changing her last name to disassociate herself from her roots. But while she is reluctant to be back at first, over time, she sees the good things about where she grew up and eventually, comes to appreciate the place that shaped her.

    Watch it on Hulu.

    15. Home for the Holidays (1995)

    Holly Hunter, Charles Denning, and Anne Bancroft in a car.
    Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

    There might not be a movie that better depicts the nonstop stress of going home for the holidays than the aptly-titled Home for the Holidays. Claudia (Holly Hunter) has just been fired from her job as she travels back to Baltimore to stay with her family for thanksgiving and, of course, this trip back home almost immediately turns into an absolute shitshow. Family members fight, secrets are revealed, and Claudia spends half the time wondering why she even bothered coming at all. But of course, while family can push your buttons like nobody else can, they also love you in a way nobody else does and Claudia learns to appreciate that (while also appreciating she does not live near any of them).

    Watch it on Pluto TV for free.