What are the best Thanksgiving movies? Don't expect Hollywood to provide answers. Each year, the studios bank on Thanksgiving weekend for a major box-office boost. There's something about stuffing bread into a chicken's bum, stuffing family under one roof to engage in political discourse, and condensing the holiday cheer associated with December holidays into the final beats of November that sends the masses running to the nearest multiplex. Go figure.
While TV has Turkey Day more than covered, what doesn't get a boom each year is the output of Thanksgiving-themed movies. As if a few days of wailing grandmothers and spiked apple ciders don't translate to laid-back entertainment -- c'mon, suits, give the people what they want! Thankfully, a few daring directors have risen to the occasion of America's gluttonous holiday and delivered piping-hot feature films for you to take in. Here are the best Thanksgiving movies ever made, which basically just means most of the only Thanksgiving movies ever made (sorry, Dutch, you're not good).
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Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Steve Martin and John Candy's road movie, a pinnacle of Thanksgiving movie comedy, is so damn good we spent 4,000 words explaining why -- about as many miles as their bickering duo winds up traveling on their way home for the holidays.
Pieces of April
Novelist Peter Hedges' indie Thanksgiving movie might have been lost to the ages if it weren't for the ties to the holiday. Katie Holmes stars as the rebellious daughter of a well-off suburban family who tries to prepare the big holiday meal in her Lower East Side tenement apartment. As her family struggles to actually get to her place -- their road trip is thrown off course by everything from Krispy Kreme donuts to roadkill accidents -- April has her own meltdown over cooking turkey. We swear there are happy notes in here.
Brett Ratner's Thanksgiving caper movie, about a high-rise residence staff who plot a heist after learning their Trump-like boss duped them all in a Ponzi scheme, takes place in the days leading up to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade -- i.e., the most practical time to scale a 50-story gold building and remove a priceless car from inside the penthouse. Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Gabourey Sidibe, and more make this much funnier than you'd expect.
If you're surrounded by children this Thanksgiving, throw on Free Birds, the story of two turkeys who time-travel back to the 1600s to save their heads from the chopping block. Everyone will enjoy the B-grade Chicken Run antics. Then you'll spend the rest of the night debating time-travel logic with your nerdy-ass cousin. No need to get lives and gain self-respect -- it's Thanksgiving!
Plopped into the center of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse, the turducken of horror movies, this fake trailer by Eli Roth is the closest Turkey Day will come to getting its own Black Christmas. Watch it over and over as you displace any rage incurred from the a-hole who stole your drumstick.
Home for the Holidays
Jodie Foster directed this quaint, quirky Thanksgiving movie comedy about a family that gathers to feast, only to fight through every course. Politics, social norms, and who's-dating-whom sparks every type of argument at Foster's dinner table. Holly Hunter and Robert Downey Jr. make this one worth flying in for.
Like Home for the Holidays, Krisha is a Thanksgiving movie about what happens when a sprawling family assembles around a single table. Unlike Home for the Holidays, Krisha is a Thanksgiving movie about what Thanksgiving really is: a methodical, existential nightmare. The movie floats around a suburban Texas home like it's Terrence Malick filming the beaches of Peru. The title character, an alcoholic who hasn't seen her son or her sister who took him in years, returns sober, delicate, and ready to get her life in order. But since when has anyone recovered at Thanksgiving dinner? Hands down, one of the best movies of 2016.
On November 25th, 1976, The Band took the stage at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco and made musical history. Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Ringo Starr, Van Morrison, Neil Diamond, Muddy Waters, and Eric Clapton were all on hand for the epic concert event. Thankfully, celebrated director Martin Scorsese was too. When folk-obsessed old-timers call this one of the greatest concert films of all time, they are not wasted -- tipsy, because that red wine works, man -- but not wasted. It's legendary.
Right after the Goblin and Spider-Man fight for the second time in Sam Raimi's comic-book movie, their alter egos Norman Osborn and Peter Parker retreat to Aunt May's house for Thanksgiving dinner. So you can definitely watch Spider-Man on Thanksgiving.
Scent of a Woman
Interestingly enough, Al Pacino won an Oscar for a Thanksgiving weekend film. In the 1992 drama directed by Martin Brest, Pacino plays an irritable, blind former army officer named Frank paying a prep school student (Chris O’Donnell) on a scholarship to look after him over the holiday. Frank’s got a plan of his own, though, arranging for the two of them to travel to New York City for what he’s planning as a final hurrah before he plans to kill himself. It may be quite the holiday drama, but it’s laced with all the luxury you deserve over break and follows a heartwarming unlikely pair.
Hannah and Her Sisters
Mia Farrow, Barbara Hershey, and Dianne Wiest star as sisters in this drama about their relationships with each other and the romances in their lives in the time span of three Thanksgivings. While the holiday is really just a marking point for the cast’s relationships in the film, it’s no less a classic to view post-meal, as the film remains one of cinema’s most beloved screenplays for its dense material, which it won Best Screenplay for in 1987.
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