Thanksgiving is one of the great American traditions. A perfect holiday consisting of food, family, football and movies. What’s not to like? Well, for one thing, the local grocery store always runs out of cranberry sauce, families spend more time arguing than eating, the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys are perennial losers, and good Thanksgiving movies are typically hard to come by.
We can’t help with the first three issues, but we did some digging and found a few flicks worth checking out over the holidays. Check out the list below!
Dutch, one of the lesser John Hughes productions, finds Ed O’Neil transporting Ethan Randall from Georgia to Chicago over the Thanksgiving holiday. Predictably, the trip goes awry, leading to a series of crazy episodes that somehow bring the duo together. While the film mostly plays like a John Hughes Greatest Hits album, filled with BB Guns, kicks to the crotch, and an abundance of goofy pratfalls, Dutch nevertheless entertaining in spades. Plop it on after the main course.
Home for vacation
Jodie Foster directed this forgotten 1995 holiday dramedy starring Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr, Anne Bancroft, Dylan McDermott, Claire Danes and the Guttenbergs. Well-acted and directed, Home for the Holidays gets lost in an attempt to fill both sides of the aisle, leaving us with a comedy that lacks laughs and a drama that lacks the necessary emotional payoff. Still, there are enough terrific moments to make this low-key family drama worthwhile.
You know the pickings are thin when a forgettable Ben Stiller comedy from 2011 appears on the list. Alas, this star-studded affair with Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Alan Alda, Michael Peña and Téa Leoni has enough laughs and action to keep one’s attention for a few hours. Unfortunately, there isn’t much in the way of Thanksgiving on screen, but the picture centers around the Thanksgiving Day Parade and ends on a hopeful, positive note. Murphy alone is worth the price of admission; Expect nothing but subpar entertainment and you’ll have a good time.
Pieces of April
This early eighties dramedy from director Peter Hedges stars Katie Holmes (at her best) as April, a poor girl who invites her estranged, dysfunctional family over for Thanksgiving. As April struggles to prepare the meal with the help of other tenants in her apartment building, her family makes the trip to New York City, re-exploring past family issues along the way. Sweet and funny with a touching ending that will probably leave a lump in your throat.
Hannah and her sisters
Woody Allen’s Hannah and her sisters chronicles the lives of several people – namely Hannah (Mia Farrow) and her sisters Holly (Dianne Wiest) and Lee (Barbara Hershey) – between three separate Thanksgiving celebrations. Like most Allen projects, the film deals with several weighty issues—suicide, love affairs, regret, substance abuse—but also provides light-hearted humor and enough Christmas cheer for those looking for positivity this Thanksgiving weekend.
Michael Caine won a well-deserved Oscar for his performance.
Planes, trains and cars
While the above list offers a solid mix of comedy and drama, all of the entries pale in comparison to John Hughes’ classic Planes, trains and cars. Starring Steve Martin and John Candy, the film tells the story of the tumultuous journey undertaken by uptight Neal Page (Martin) and big-hearted Del Griffith (Candy) to get home in time for Thanksgiving. Hughes, who wrote and directed, carefully sets up the amusing mayhem but never loses sight of the intimate character relationship that elevates the film to extraordinary heights. One of the best holiday movies ever produced.
Other Thanksgiving Movie Recommendations:
Judd Apatow’s overlong, bloated drama isn’t necessarily about Thanksgiving, but features a great scene set during the holiday where the entire cast — Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann and Jonah Hill, among them — gathers to discuss the importance of appreciating the time we have on this little blue planet.
The ice storm
Ang Lee’s powerful drama takes place over the Thanksgiving weekend, but it’s definitely not the kind of movie to watch with the family. But if you’re looking for an incredibly well-acted, dark and moody drama, this is for you!
Dan in real life
Dan in real life feels like a Thanksgiving movie despite not being a Thanksgiving movie. Maybe it’s the family reunion, the heartwarming finale, all the food, or maybe we just really like Steve Carrell, but we’re not going to judge if you get this one over your second slice of pumpkin pie.
Addams Family Values
Those looking for zany dark humor should enjoy Barry Sonnenfeld’s Addams Family Values, which features a sequence where Wednesday Addams (Christina Ricci) recreates the first Thanksgiving at summer camp. That scene alone makes the movie worth it.
You’ve got Mail
Another not-so-true Thanksgiving movie that feels like a Thanksgiving movie, You’ve got Mail stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan as rival booksellers who unwittingly enter into an online relationship. The results are banal and simplistic, but fun.