Best Thanksgiving Films
Thanksgiving is just around the corner. For some it’s a great day to celebrate and be with friends and family in a way that makes you wish everyday was Thanksgiving. For others it’s that time of year that brings family and friends together in a way that reminds us of allthe reasons why we only do this once a year. All the same, many of us will gather together around the warm glow of our flat screen television and watch a Thanksgiving movie or two that reminds us the holiday spirit is alive and well. So put on your cleanest pair of stretch pants and let’s all give thanks for some of the best Thanksgiving films of all time.
Home Sweet Home – 1981
Slasher movies typically have pretty thin plots and they don’t come much thinner than Home Sweet Home. An escaped mental patient is on the loose. He coincidentally likes PCP and killing people on Thanksgiving. The end.
There are some pretty great kills in this film and plenty of laugh out loud absurdities that one can never bother to ask an explanation of. The movie is filled with stock and not-so-stock horror characters. For example, there’s the character in full KISS makeup who plays guitar and does magic tricks, an attractive busty woman who only speaks Spanish, an attractive busty woman who unbuttons her blouse at any sign of trouble or tenderness, her attractive busty friend and then there’s some guys in it too.
Most importantly, however, is that our killer is played by Jake Steinfeld. Never heard of him? Perhaps you know him better as 1980’s fitness guru and exercise equipment peddler, “Jake” as in “Body by Jake.” Still don’t know who he is? Doesn’t matter. Just know that he was really, really buff and predates Tony Little.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving – 1973
There are a surprising amount of Charlie Brown specials but it’s the holiday ones that seem to stay and resonate with audiences the most. Perhaps this is due to the rich autumnal colors or Vince Guaraldi soundtrack that we all recognize in a fraction of a second. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, like its Halloween and Christmas counterparts, is sophisticated, soulful and surprisingly honest. Young or old, when Charlie Brown solemnly says, “We’ve got another holiday to worry about. It seems Thanksgiving Day is upon us.” We all sigh a collective sigh with our boy.
With Charlie Brown’s family planning to go to his grandmother’s house for dinner, Peppermint Patty invites herself and the rest of the gang to an earlier dinner at Charlie Brown’s. Because they’re children and can’t cook, Snoopy makes a dinner of popcorn, toast, jellybeans and pretzel sticks. The cooking montage is playful and incredibly kind. Then Peppermint Patty has to go and ruin it all by being a horrible ingrate and rotten kid. She bounces back, but it’s too little too late for me to find her redeeming by the end. Luckily, I’ve usually forgotten all about it by the time A Charlie Brown Christmas rolls around.
The Ice Storm – 1997
Set in New Cannan, Connecticut, on Thanksgiving weekend, The Ice Storm follows two families on the verge of collapse amidst the ever changing social and political climate of 1973. Deep Throat, wife-swapping and Watergate were just a few above the fold news items that presented themselves at the time. There are quite a few characters to follow in this film, so stay with me (note: prepare to have your mind blown by the casting). Ben Hood (Kevin Kline) is married to Elena (Joan Allen). Ben, unsatisfied with his career and sexually repressed wife, is having an affair with friend, vixen and neighbor, Janey Carver, (Sigourney Weaver). Janey is married to absentee father and husband, Jim Carver (Jamey Sheridan). Ben and Elena have two kids, Wendy (Christina Ricci) and Paul (Tobey Maguire). Janey and Jim also have two kids, Mikey (Elijah Wood) and Sandy (Adam Hann-Byrd). All of whom are experimenting with sex, drugs and alcohol.
The dysfunction of the two families is as palpable as the bitter cold of a Connecticut winter but it’s Christina Ricci’s Wendy that grounds this film. A product of a withholding household and the heightened culture shift of the early 1970’s, Ricci brings a real sense of self, humor and sexuality to Wendy. A truly fantastic performance.
Heartbreaking, funny and directed by Ang Lee, The Ice Storm is worth the watch no matter the time of year.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles – 1987
One would be hard pressed to find a comedy as good as Planes, Trains & Automobiles anywhere. Directed by the late, great John Hughes, the movie stars Steve Martin and John Candy as an unlikely pair, who can’t seem to catch a break traveling from New York to Chicago due to a blizzard in Chicago.
Steve Martin plays uptight advertising executive, Neal Page who is trying to get home to his family on Thanksgiving. Rigid and wound tighter than a two dollar watch, Neal is a perfect foil for our chum, our pal, our curtain rings salesman, Del Griffith (John Candy). Leaving from La Guardia on what should have been a two-hour flight, Neal and Del find themselves on a three-day, non-stop barrage of bad decisions, worse consequences, and some of the best dialogue ever scripted.
Every performance in this film is unbelievably good. However, this is John Candy’s movie. Candy plays Del Griffith with such care, you’d go anywhere with him just on the off chance of adventure and friendship.
Home for the Holidays – 1995
Directed by Jodie Foster, Home for the Holidays is a fantastic and funny film in which Claudia Larson (Holly Hunter) gets fired from her job in Chicago, then makes out with her boss (remember, he just moments ago told her she was fired), goes to the airport to fly home to Baltimore for Thanksgiving, only to have her daughter tells her she’ll be losing her virginity over the holiday break.
One of the most amazing ensemble casts, Anne Bancroft and Charles Durning are exquisite as Claudia’s parents, Adele and Henry Larson, her gadabout gay brother Tommy played by Robert Downey Jr. and Cynthia Stevenson as Joanne her conservative sister. This incredibly touching and heartfelt film may have the best Thanksgiving dinner scene of the bunch (there’s crying!). Although, it’s a conversation between sisters Claudia and Joanne, who in the same moment realize they’re complete strangers that truly encompasses the sensibility of this movie. Claudia says, “Well, we don’t have to like each other, Jo. We’re family.”
Hannah and Her Sisters – 1986
I don’t know what I can say about this film other than it’s one of Woody Allen’s best and I love it. There are so many amazing actors in this film it’ll melt your face right off. Mia Farrow, Michael Caine, Carrie Fisher, Daniel Stern, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Sam Waterston and John Turturro just to name a few. Do yourself a favor and see this movie if you haven’t already. If you hate it after you’ve viewed it, seek help.
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