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The enduring (and cooky) appeal of The Addams Family movies of the '90s

Addams Family is the kind of family values we admire.

Addams Family
Image credit: Paramount Pictures

The ‘90s gave us so much in terms of great pop culture from the Beanie Baby craze to boy bands to Blockbusters, and nestled in between were a cascade of movies based on television shows that helped introduce America to the small screen. The Little Rascals, The Brady Bunch, and The Flintstones were all gems in their own rite but before them came a movie that set the bar. So much so, its sequel raised it. We are talking about none other than The Addams Family, for it truly perfected how to take a vintage TV show and turn it into big-screen gold.

America’s favorite creepy and kooky bunch, The Addams Family, got their start back in 1938 via single-panel cartoons in The New York Post. Bank that for your next Bar Trivia Night. Almost 30 years later, ABC decided to adapt it for television. While this family of misfits in black and white was only on the air for two seasons, something about them stood out to those who leaned more towards the macabre. Hanna-Barbera animated a season of an Addams Family cartoon in the mid '70s, but it would be 17 years before The Addams Family went from niche fan favorite to a full-blown phenomenon.

Both Christina Ricci and Christopher Lloyd - who played Wednesday Addams and Uncle Fester in the Addams Family movies - will be reuniting later this month at our Emerald City Comic Con 2024 event in Seattle. You can reserve times for Christina Ricci Photo Ops & Autographs, Christopher Lloyd Photo Ops & Autographs, or a Team-Up with those two and you now.

The heart of The Addams Family movies

Addams Family
Image credit: Paramount Pictures

Looking back, both The Addams Family and The Addams Family Values had similar plots. We saw faked identities and an interest in getting money out of the gothic family, but audiences ate them up. Together they raked in over $300 million at the box office. Today? Movies like this are more likely to premiere on a streaming platform with the hopes of going viral like Tiger King so that people tune in. That is because back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, we embraced simplistic movies, that also packed a punch when it came to silly comedic charm. It is not like today where heavy hitters at the box office come from the likes of Marvel and Star Wars, and Disney but they have and will likely always own the family and kids’ market.

Aside from Disney, it is hard to find those genuine comedies that anyone of any age can sit down and enjoy today and that is what both Addams Family movies provided, while also setting the standard for how to take a show from once upon a time and masterfully translate it into a movie. A formula many others have tried and done well with, and others…not so much. The Addams Family showed how to embrace the essence of the original content while still modernizing it, as well as the importance of casting. This was a show rooted in weirdness, and when it came time to make the movie the studio did not shy away from that aspect. None of the characters were given major personality changes. So the heart of the show and what made The Addams Family unique in the ‘60s was still very present in the ‘90s, but that casting?

The cast of the Addams Family movies

Addams Family
Image credit: Paramount Pictures

No disrespect to the cast of the original series, but the movie version of this family is like the Kleenex of the franchise. Let us explain. Kleenex is a brand of tissues. Not all tissues are Kleenex but we are all likely to say, 'Pass me a Kleenex,' no matter what brand is near. That’s the movie cast of The Addams Family. They were so great in their roles that when one thinks of this franchise, they are who most picture in their head. Which, shout out to casting director David Rubin. The Emmy-winner cast not only both Addams Family movies but also Matilda, Romeo + Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio, Men in Black, and most recently Big Little Lies. So yeah, that man knows what’s up with casting perfection.

Anjelica Huston and Raul Julia as Morticia and Gomez Addams, what more can one say? They worked seamlessly together and have gone on to be #RelationshipGoals for many around the world. Jimmy Workman was the perfect Pugsly, but many attached themselves to Christina Ricci as she embodied Wednesday Addams in every fiber of her being. Only 11 when the movie premiered, it helped make Ricci a favorite among every Tiger Beat reader at the time who felt inspired by the darker side of life, who would later go on to likely rent The Craft every weekend between watching reruns of Daria. Ricci’s Wednesday was an instant icon that remains high on a pop culture pedestal today. Then, of course, Grandmama was played by Judith Malina in the first, and replaced by comedy legend Carol Kane, who joined her former Taxi co-star, Christopher Lloyd, who killed it as Uncle Fester.

The small nuances each actor brought to their role highlighted to future TV to movie ventures how critical the cast is to audiences either loving or hating the movie. Just look at the aforementioned Little Rascals and Flintstones, the cast helped push each into fans’ hearts, while movies such as Inspector Gadget and The Dukes of Hazzard could have used the likes of David Rubin onboard.

The magic of the Addams Family

Addams Family
Image credit: Paramount Pictures

The Addams Family has been ingrained into the landscape of American pop culture since the tail end of The Great Depression. Since then the mysterious and spooky family has had television series, animated series, movie adaptations, and even got reanimated for a new movie franchise in 2019. Fans of this family, got even more with the hit series Wednesday on Netflix.

In the years since The Addams Family became a box office hit, we have had a plethora of TV to movies adaptations and the good ones have all taken a page from the family in black in regards to how to not lose the essence of the original material, as well as the importance of casting. The bad ones, well…not so much. What the movies also did in the early ‘90s was help solidify The Addams Family in the grand scheme of pop culture. So much so that Hollywood has been able to reintroduce them via new animated movies, as well as a fresh take on a beloved character on an Netflix series. Without the minds of writers Caroline Thompson and Larry Wilson who penned the first movie’s script, we may not have wanted to hold onto this family as much as we have, nor gotten other great TV to movie favorites.

Weird is relative, and the iconic comic-turned-tv-turned-movie franchise that is Addams Family is the perfect picture of that. Several of the cast of the '90s movie franchise are coming to Seattle's ECCC 2024, and you can get first dibs on photo ops and autographs and watch their panel for free here at Popverse. You can also get to know Charles Addams' iconic family with our Addams Family watch guide, and stories on how Wednesday's Jenna Ortega thinks her character is "a creepy little freak" and how the Addams family got their names.

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About the Author
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Kendra Beltran

Contributing writer