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Ten films not to watch with your parents over Christmas

Turkey scoffed, presents exchanged – time for a DVD. But not these. Anything but these

Written by
Kate Lloyd

There are some films we all know aren’t family friendly. ‘Hey Nan, want to watch “50 Shades of Grey” on Boxing Day?’ said no one ever. But many movies start off looking safe before diving into the kind of sex, drugs and horror that’ll leave your dad frantically rustling through the TV guide. Here are ten of them. 


Why it looks safe On the surface, ‘Atonement’ is a granny-approved period romance about the consequences of a crime committed in the 1930s. Plus, it stars your mum’s faves: Keira Knightley, James McAvoy and Vanessa Redgrave.

Why it absolutely isn’t Keep an eye on your dad’s face as the letters ‘c…u…n…’ start appearing in an XXL font on the screen.

What to watch instead All six series of ‘Downton Abbey’.


Why it looks safe It’s a sci-fi rom-com in which lonely guy Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with his super-brain operating system Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). What could go wrong?

Why it absolutely isn’t The verbal sex scene. For some reason, watching two people simulate physical sex is totes fine in the company of your family. But watching a man and an operating system tell each other how they’d like to get down-and-dirty is impossible. By the time Samantha’s moaning ‘I can feel you inside me’ you’ll be dashing out of the room to make a cup of tea.

What to watch instead ‘I, Robot’ has all the AI fun with less of the phone sex. 

Gone Girl

Why it looks safe You read the book. Your mum read the book. Your dad read half of the book then got a bit bored and gave up. You all know the murder-mystery-turned-thriller score.

Why it absolutely isn’t That scene when Amy (Rosamund Pike) fakes her own rape with a wine bottle.

What to watch instead ‘Shutter Island’ is just as dark without that particular scene. 

Bad Neighbours

Why it looks safe It’s a generation-clash romp about a fraternity moving in next door to some young parents. Sure, it stars Seth Rogen, so there’ll be some stoner references but hey – your parents grew up in the ’70s!

Why it absolutely isn’t You’ll find the jokes funny but your parents will remain terrifyingly stony-faced.Baby puts condom in mouth? Stony-faced. Frat makes dildos out of casts of their penises? Stony-faced. Couple leave baby to party with frat?  Stony-faced.

What to watch instead ‘Meet the Parents’ provides just as much culture clash with fewer condoms in babies’ mouths. 

Black Swan

Why it looks safe One guy in the Time Out office says he put ‘Black Swan’ on last Christmas because he thought it was ‘like the ballet version of “Rocky”.’

Why it absolutely isn’t It’s actually a gory, mind-bending thriller. And you’ll be cringing during the scene where Nina (Natalie Portman) masturbates then realises her mum is in the room.

What to watch instead ‘Ballet Shoes’ and ‘Billy Elliot’ are more ballet, less creepy thriller. 

Why it looks safe It’s a cute animal movie, right?Jenny (Jennifer Anniston) and Jon (Owen Wilson) adopt unruly dog Marley to see if they’re ready to start a family.

Why it absolutely isn’t Marley’s death. Don’t watch this unless you want to see your entire family bawling their eyes out about the day Bernie the Scottie dog got run over by that awful man next door. RIP Bernie.

What to watch instead ‘Beethoven’ or any dog movie that doesn’t involve death. 

Northern Soul

Why it looks safe Characters Matt and John ditch their dull lives as they become more and more involved in the Northern Soul clubbing scene. It’s a nostalgic jaunt through a musical era your parents actually lived through – and it won a Bafta. They’ll love it!

Why it absolutely isn’t The high levels of amphetamines consumed throughout this movie. Get ready for tutting.

What to watch instead ‘Pride’ has the same Brit film good vibes. 

American Beauty

Why it looks safe A dark satire about middle-class American life. It’s got teen drama, marriage drama and neighbour drama: something for all the family to enjoy, basically. 

Why it absolutely isn’t Lester’s midlife crisis might hit your dad a little too close to the bone. (And his fantasies about his teen daughter’s best mate make for very awkward viewing.)

What to watch instead ‘About A Boy’ and ‘Groundhog Day’ are lighter takes on midlife crises.

The Sweetest Thing

Why it looks safe Cameron Diaz stars as a fun-loving player who’s vowed never to fall in love… until she does. This should be classic rom-com schmaltz. 

Why it absolutely isn’t Mainly because of ‘The Penis Song’: a musical number featuring the lyric ‘you’re too big to fit in here’ and a lot of blow job simulation. It’s A* girls’ night fun, but very awkward to watch with your dad.

What to watch instead Literally any other rom-com. 

Most Sacha Baron Cohen movies

Why they look safe Baron Cohen dressing up as one of a variety of characters (Ali G, Brüno, Borat) and making fun of stupid Americans. What more could a non-American family want at Christmas?

Why it absolutely isn’t Pick any movie from Baron Cohen’s repertoire and get ready for an onslaught of sex jokes (Borat explaining: ‘Her vagine hang like a sleeve of wizard’) and edgy, sometimes questionable (Brüno pleasuring his ex with a dildo for laughs) humour. 

What to watch instead Baron Cohen has a small part in ‘Les Mis’ if that helps… 

More movies to avoid

The 20 worst movies of 2015

It’s been a fine year at the movies, and we at Time Out have already listed our 20 favourites, from the smash-and-grab insania of ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ to the flawless restraint of ‘Carol’. But 2015 threw up (pun intended) its fair share of utter stinkers too – perhaps even more than its fair share. From lumbering dinosaurs to human centipedes, moustachioed megastars to mirthless mall cops, here are 20 films we won’t be revisiting fondly in the years to come.

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