The best films about returning home

We bring you the best films about going home…

THE JUDGE is released in Irish cinemas this week, and stars Roebert Downey Jr as Hank, a man who returns to his hometown for his mother’s funeral. All is not well in Hank’s family, however, and his brief trip home turns into an extended stay when someone in the family is accused of murder.
Home is a powerful theme in all forms of art, and returning home as both positive and negative associations. With this in mind, gathered together some of the best movies about returning home, and the consequences of doing so…


A fairly obvious one to start us off; Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff) returns home to New Jersey when his mother dies. Andrew has been living in LA, trying to make it as an actor, but seems to have been hampered with emotional problems that stemmed from his family life. During his time in the Garden State, Andrew confronts his fears, his father, and his past, while simultaneously taking a step into his future.
GARDEN STATE is a film about the issues that grow up in families, and how, with the passing of time, we can learn to overcome or accept these. The film also deals with the idea of nostalgia for a place, with Andrew saying; ‘It’s like you feel homesick for a place that doesn’t even exist’.


Starring Kristen Wiig and Annette Bening, GIRL MOST LIKELY tells the story of Imogene (Wiig), a woman whose future seemed set when she won an award as a promising playwright. After a failed relationship and a struggle with writer’s block, however, Imogene is forced to return home and confront the lies that her mother has told her, including the fact that her father is not dead, as she was told.
GIRL MOST LIKELY is another film about an adult child returning to New Jersey, but unlike GARDEN STATE, the parental figure in this film is a whirlwind of chaos. Wiig’s character Imogene quickly sees that while the house may have changed, her family has really stayed the same and, if she is to be able to move on from her family and back to New York, she must accept them, and the impact they have had on her.


Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) is a divorced, 37 year old ghostwriter of a successful, but soon to be cancelled series of young adult novels. Having never truly been able to move on from her high school self, loves and boyfriend, Mavis returns to her hometown in Minnesota, when she receives an email from her ex boyfriend, announcing the birth of his daughter. Mavis is sure that she can reclaim the life she walked away from, and sets out to get her life back on track.
Written by Diablo Cody and directed by Jason Reitman, YOUNG ADULT shines a light on the people who peaked in high school and spend the rest of their lives trying to reclaim their glory days. Although it seems that Mavis may not learn much from her return home and the uncomfortable truths she faces, but as she drives away from her hometown at the end of the film, there is the hope that Mavis will grow from her experience because, after all, she is not a bad person, just one who is stuck in the past.


Melanie (Reese Witherspoon) has a successful career in New York City as a fashion designer. When she gets engaged, she returns to Alabama under the guise of telling her parents the good news. The truth is that she is still legally married to her childhood sweetheart Jake (Josh Lucas) and she goes home to secure a divorce.
Being that SWEET HOME ALABAMA is a romantic comedy, and not an examination of life through the eyes of a 30-something year old who is forced to return home, it is fairly obvious what is going to happen from the word go. That said, however, SWEET HOME ALABAMA is also a film about the people we leave behind when we go off to chase our dreams, and the idea that where we came from can sometimes be where we belong.


OK, bear with us on this one. Although this may seem like a rather strange addition to the list, HOOK is, essentially, a film about returning home and remembering who we are. After he leaves Neverland, Peter Pan (Robin Williams) does the unthinkable, and grows up, forgetting his childhood home and his sense of wonder in the process. When the evil Captain Hook kidnaps his children, however, Pan is forced to return to the land that made him who he is, and remember just what that means.
Of course, all of the films mentioned are about returning home and remembering what makes us unique, but adding the fantasy elements of Neverland, pirates and fairies makes HOOK’s tale an epic adventure about family, love and remembering what makes us special.

Do you have a favourite film about returning home? Perhaps a spin off, like VERONICA MARS? Or perhaps something more festive, like FOUR CHRISTMASES? Let us know in the comments below…

THE JUDGE is released in Irish cinemas on October 17th 2014

Words: Brogen Hayes