The Addams Family has been America’s favorite goofy, ghoulish family since its inception in the 1930s. For over 50 years, Charles Addams featured the Addams Family in dozens of single-panel comic strips. The Addams Family was a satirical version of the ideal 20th century American nuclear family. Although very wealthy and aristocratic, the family delighted in all things macabre and cared very little for those who looked askance at them for their oddity.
By 1964, The Addams Family had been adapted into a television series and had reached a much wider audience. The series propelled The Addams Family to popularity, though it was a much lighter and more comedic take on the family. While the series only lasted two seasons, the franchise lived on and grew in popularity long after it ended. This led Paramount to release the first-ever live-action film adaptation, The Addams Family, in 1991, followed by a sequel in 1993, Addams Family Values. Both films are directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. A third live-action film, unrelated to the Sonnenfeld films, premiered in 1998 and was titled Addams Family Reunion.
After Addams Family Reunion, the Addams Family films went on hiatus for more than 20 years. Then, in 2019, the franchise was rebooted with a computer-animated film, The Addams Family. The film received a sequel, The Addams Family 2, in 2021. In total, there have been five film adaptations of The Addams Family, each with varying casts, stories, and comedic elements. Here are the five films ranked from best to worst.
1. Addams Family Values
Addams Family Values was the sequel to Sonnenfeld The Addams Family and premiered in 1993. The film sees Gomez (Raul Julia) and Morticia Addams (Anjelica Huston) welcome a new baby boy, Pubert (Kaitlyn & Kristen Hooper), to the family. However, Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) and Wednesday (Christina Ricci) don’t take the newcomer well and make several attempts to kill him. As a result, the family hires Debbie Jellinsky (Joan Cusack) as a nanny, but, unbeknownst to Gomez and Morticia, she is actually a serial killer.
This film did what many sequels fail to do and managed to surpass its predecessor, The Addams Family. While the cast remained the same, Addams Family Values took a different approach to content. While the first film, much like the TV series, strived to be more lighthearted, comedic and quirky, Addams Family Values capitalized more on the dark humor of the original comics. The script allowed the real Addams Family to shine this time around, and it turned out to be effective. It’s not a perfect movie, but it’s the best film adaptation of Addams’ original work.
2. The Addams Family (1991)
The Addams Family premiered in 1991 and marked the Addams Family’s very first live-action film. This film was directed by Sonnefenld and starred Julia, Huston, Workman, Ricci and Christopher Lloyd. In the film, the family’s life is interrupted when a man claiming to be Fester Addams (Lloyd), Gomez’s long-lost brother, shows up at their home. Over time, the family begins to grow suspicious that he is not who he claims to be. In fact, there is a scheme underlying Fester that will threaten the Addams’ entire fortune and dark way of life.
This film received largely mixed to positive reviews. It certainly wasn’t a flop and did well at the box office, but it failed to live up to the high expectations of audiences who had waited decades for an Addams Family movie. That being said, the performances were one of the highlights of the movie, especially Huston as Morticia. The film is fun, entertaining, and captures some of the dark humor of the Addams Family. However, it’s just a little too tame, which makes it miss its mark as a dark comedy.
3. The Addams Family (2019)
In 2019, the Addams Family franchise was relaunched with the animation The Addams Family. This film welcomed a new cast including Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Finn Wolfhard, Chloë Grace Moretz and Nick Kroll. In the film, the Addams found their perfect dark home in an abandoned asylum on a hill. Meanwhile, Morticia (Theron) and Gomez (Isaac), like any other family, are busy raising their children and finding their own identities. However, their peaceful life is shattered when a greedy TV host wants their property for his perfectly planned community and tries to demonize the Addams, hoping to drive them out of their home.
The film received largely mixed reviews. It has a star-studded cast, and Isaac and Theron are phenomenal as Gomez and Morticia. The visuals and graphics are appealing, and the storyline is intriguing as it explores the Addams Family embracing their quirkiness despite society’s rebuttal. However, the biggest downside is that the movie lacks the macabre undertones and dark humor of The Addams. It’s definitely a cute, sweet, and entertaining family movie, but it does very little to recapture the original Addams Family.
4. The Addams Family 2
The Addams Family 2 is the sequel to the animation The Addams Family and was released in 2021. Most of the original cast reprized their roles for the sequel, though Javon Walton replaced Finn Wolfhard as the voice of Pugsley. The Addams Family 2 sees the Addams leave their cozy dark mansion and go on a journey. Family vacations, tourist attractions and sunny beaches are not the typical Addams cup of tea. However, with the children growing and moving apart, Gomez (Isaac) is willing to do anything to reunite them.
The sequel hits on all the pitfalls of the original film, and then some. Again, the film is relatively enjoyable as a cute animated film for family movie night. However, it still lacks the elements of the classic Addams Family. Unfortunately, the sequel also suffered a huge downgrade in terms of plot and storyline. The film lacks reason and accomplishes very little in the time given to it. It’s filled with random pop culture references, corny jokes, and plenty of “events” that don’t seem to fully transition into an actual plot.
5. Addams Family Reunion
There was actually a third Addams Family movie made in the 1990s. This one had no relation to Sonnenfeld’s series and was a direct-to-video movie. Although not related to the Sonnenfeld series, Carel Struycken, who played Lurch in the Sonnenfeld series, also reprized his role for this film. The film follows what happens when the eccentric Addams Family go to a family reunion. However, a misspelling causes them to show up at the reunion of a totally independent and ultra-conservative clan – the Adams family.
The film’s only highlight was Tim Curry’s performance as Gomez Addams. Curry’s performance alone was praised and he was certainly a worthy successor to Julia. But sadly, the movie slaughtered the classic Addams Family even more than the animated movies. Addams Family Reunion completely removes any semblance of comedy or dark satire, instead making the film a children’s film entirely. He even replaced the iconic theme song with a doo-wop version (it was terrible). Also, the CGI was terrible, the production looked cheap, and the majority of the actors were poor. Curry alone couldn’t hold this movie, and he manages to be nothing but disrespectful to Addams’ legacy.
(featured image: Paramount)
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