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Director: Billy Wilder Stars: Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe, George Raft, Joe E. Brown 120 mins., not rated Tony Curtis is a much prettier…
Credit: Everett Collection
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For many families, the most stressful part of Thanksgiving isn’t figuring out a way to keep turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, yams, and Parker House rolls hot all at the same time. Instead, it’s finding the perfect post-tryptophan-overdose, pre-nap viewing—something capable of entertaining your hyperactive-five-year-old, your too-cool teenage nephew, your weird aunt, and your 94-year-old Great-Grandma Dot… all at the same time. Just call it a quest for the White Whale of movies—or at least the cinematic equivalent of the traveling pants.

That’s where we come in. EW’s brain trust has come up with a few simple guidelines that should help you find the perfect family film. Obviously, all families are unique, and every idea might not work for every clan; EW.com news editor Ashley Fetters, for instance, swears she knows a family that makes a point of watching Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man over the holidays. Still, general consensus led us to these five basic rules. (Psst: If you need even more guidance, our list of 55 Movies Your Child Must See is another good starting point.)

1. Classics rule

There’s a reason they call ’em crowd-pleasers; tried and true tales like The Wizard of Oz, It’s a Wonderful Life, and The Philadelphia Storyare beloved to this day because they’re timeless stories, told exceedingly well. And don’t think you have to look back before the Eisenhower administration, either; modern-day classics like The Princess Bride and Field of Dreams will work equally well.

2. Everyone loves a screwball comedy

Go old-school with Some Like It Hot or It Happened One Night; go new-school with Who Framed Roger Rabbit or Clue (surprisingly tame for a murder mystery!); either way, you can’t go wrong with something light, frothy, and guaranteed not to stir up arguments. Or go a bit off the beaten path with this suggestion from EW.com editor Kyle Ryan: “Although it’s a little long, It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is great: Slapstick comedy works especially well with kids, and the parents/grandparents in attendance get a kick out the stacked cast and cameos from Hollywood titans of yesteryear. (Where else can you find blink-and-you’ll-miss-them appearances by Buster Keaton, the Three Stooges, and Jerry Lewis?) Nothing beats a good caper flick, especially one that gleefully goes off the rails at every opportunity. And at 205 minutes, it’ll eat up a good chunk of that holiday lounging-around time.”

3. Or try a musical

There’s a lot of intersection between this category and the first one mentioned, but: The Sound of Music, Carousel, Oklahoma, The Music Man, Singin’ in the Rain—you’ll too busy singing along to argue with your undermining sister or pigheaded brother. Bonus: All that toe-tapping’s got to count as exercise, right?

4. Pixar, Pixar, Pixar

It might be a good idea to steer clear of Up, just to ensure that nobody starts ugly-crying during that opening montage—but the rest of the Pixar stable is utterly fair game, especially everything released during the studio’s unimpeachable 1995-2010 run. (My number one: Wall-E.)

5. Actually, you know what? Just watch The Birdcage

It’s an utterly delightful comedy with a family-friendly message—”don’t be such a jerk to your mom, Dan Futterman”—that’ll also give everyone in attendance an opportunity to admire the late Robin Williams and Mike Nichols at their best. What more do you need?

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