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 starters, 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 great 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 holiday. 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 madcap episodes that somehow bring the duo together. While the film mostly plays like a John Hughes Greatest Hits album, replete with BB Guns, kicks to the crotch, and an abundance of goofy pratfalls, Dutch nonetheless entertains in spades. Plop it on after the main course.
Home for the Holidays
Jodie Foster directed this forgotten holiday dramedy from 1995 starring Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr, Anne Bancroft, Dylan McDermott, Claire Danes, and the Guttenberg. Well-acted and directed, Home for the Holidays gets lost trying to stock both sides of the aisle, leaving us with a comedy lacking laughs and a drama missing the required emotional payoff. Still, there are enough terrific moments to make this low-key family drama worthwhile.
You know the pickings are slim when a forgettable Ben Stiller comedy from 2011 appears on the list. Alas, this star-studded affair co-starring Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Alan Alda, Michael Peña, and Téa Leoni has enough laughs and action to hold one’s attention for a few hours. Unfortunately, there’s not much in the way of Thanksgiving on display, but the picture is centered around the Thanksgiving Day Parade and ends on a hopeful, positive note. Murphy alone is worth the price of admission; don’t expect anything more than subpar entertainment, and you’ll have a good time.
Pieces of April
This early Aughties dramedy from director Peter Hedges features Katie Holmes (in her best role) as April, a poor girl who invites her estranged, dysfunctional family to 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 and reexplores past familial issues along the way. Sweet and funny, with a touching ending that will likely produce 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 feasts. Like most Allen projects, the film tackles several weighty issues — suicide, love affairs, regret, drug addiction — but also provides light-hearted humor and enough holiday cheer for those seeking positivity during the Thanksgiving weekend.
Michael Caine won a well-deserved Oscar for his efforts.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
While the above list offers a solid mix of comedy and drama, all of the entries pale compared to John Hughes’ classic Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Starring Steve Martin and John Candy, the film chronicles 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 ratchets up the hilarious mayhem but never loses sight of the intimate character relationship that raises the film to extraordinary heights. One of the best holiday films ever produced.
Other Thanksgiving Movie Recommendations:
Judd Apatow’s overlong, bloated dramedy isn’t necessarily about Thanksgiving but features a terrific scene set during the holiday in which 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 tiny blue planet.
The Ice Storm
Ang Lee’s powerful drama takes place over Thanksgiving weekend but is certainly not the type of flick to watch with the family. However, if you’re looking for an incredibly well-acted, dark, and moody drama, this one’s 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 gathering, the warm-hearted finale, all the food, or perhaps we just really like Steve Carrell, but we won’t judge if you pop this one in during your second slice of pumpkin pie.
Addams Family Values
Those seeking zany dark humor should enjoy Barry Sonnenfeld’s Addams Family Values, which features a sequence in which Wednesday Addams (Christina Ricci) recreates the first Thanksgiving at summer camp. That scene alone makes the film worthwhile.
You’ve Got Mail
Another not-really-Thanksgiving movie that feels like a Thanksgiving movie, You’ve Got Mail stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan as rival bookshop owners who unknowingly engage in an online relationship. The results are trite and simplistic but fun.