A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)
Pilgrims When Peppermint Patty invites herself and several others over to Charlie Brown’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, he must figure out how to feed his friends and get to his grandmother’s house in time for her dinner. Elsewhere, Snoopy and Woodstock fantasize and feast as usual.
Family secret ”Chuck” doesn’t know how to cook anything except cold cereal ”and maybe toast.”
Memorable line ”You’re holding my hand, Chuck, you sly dog.” —Peppermint Patty
Side dish Jazz musician Vince Guaraldi got the job as Charlie Brown’s composer when documentary producer Lee Mendelson heard a version of his 1965 tune ”Cast Your Fate to the Wind” in a San Francisco cab.
Reason to be thankful Marcie. As ever, the taciturn font of wisdom spekas up just in time to say, ”Thanksgiving is more than eating, Chuck. … Those early Pilgrims were thankful for what had happened to them, and we should be thankful, too. We should just be thankful for being together. I think that’s what they mean by ‘Thanksgiving,’ Charlie Brown.” —Lanford Beard
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
Pilgrims Trying every means available to get from New York to Chicago in time for the holiday, businessman Neal Page (Steve Martin, left) finds himself stuck with annoyingly chipper shower curtain ring salesman Del Griffith (John Candy, right) as a traveling companion.
Family secret Del talks often about his wife, but there’s a reason we never meet her.
Memorable line Neal finally blows up at Del: ”And by the way, you know, when you’re telling these little stories? Here’s a good idea: Have a point. It makes it so much more interesting for the listener!”
Side dish The film marked Martin’s turn from wild-and-crazy-guy roles into family-man fare, and he told EW that Neal was more like his offscreen self than any role he’d played before. ”It was one of the first real people I’d ever played,” he said.
Reason to be thankful Your own travels home couldn’t possibly be as nightmarish as Neal and Del’s — and, chances are, you won’t be on the other end of a tirade as hilariously profane as Neal’s meltdown before the car rental agent. —Gary Susman
Home for the Holidays (1995)
Pilgrims Recently fired Claudia (Holly Hunter, left) and gay brother Tommy (Robert Downey Jr.) come home to Baltimore for Thanksgiving with their parents Adele (Anne Bancroft, center) and Henry (Charles Durning, right), and their quirky extended family.
Family secret Addled Aunt Glady (Geraldine Chaplin) announces her decades-long crush on brother-in-law Henry.
Memorable line: Tommy says grace: ”That was absurd, let’s eat dead bird!”
Fun with food Uptight sister Joanne (Cynthia Stevenson) ends up with a turkey in her lap.
Side dish During filming, the props department served up 64 birds, 44 pies, 35 pounds of stuffing, 30 pounds of sweet potatoes, 20 pounds of mashed potatoes and 18 bags of mini-marshmallows. ”It was like working on a cruise ship,” said director Jodie Foster.
Reason to be thankful For anyone who’s visited the folks for Thanksgiving, Claudia’s bewilderment and frustration hit close to home — maybe a little too close. —Gary Susman
Scent of a Woman (1992)
Pilgrims To afford his flight home for Christmas, naïve prep school student Charlie Simms (Chris O’Donnell) accepts a job keeping blind former Army Ranger Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade (Al Pacino, above) company over Thanksgiving weekend. The ostensibly simple ”babysitting” job does not go as expected.
Family secret Frank is a fiery alcoholic who plans to end his life before Monday.
Memorable line ”If you make a mistake and get all tangled up, you just tango on.” —Frank
Side dish The film was an adaptation of a 1974 film, Profumo Di Donna. Come si dice, ”Hoo-ah!”?
Reason to be thankful As fun-to-watch as Pacino’s Oscar-winning turn was, it’s probably best not to spend Thanksgiving with a cantankerous stranger. —Lanford Beard
Pieces of April (2003)
Pilgrims Joy Burns (Patricia Clarkson), husband Jim (Oliver Platt), and two of their kids pile into the car and drive to New York City, where black-sheep daughter April (Katie Holmes) is preparing Thanksgiving dinner for them in her tiny apartment on the gritty Lower East Side.
Family secret April hasn’t told her family that her boyfriend Bobby (Derek Luke) is black.
Memorable line While singing during the car trip, April’s sister Beth (Alison Pill) asks for any requests. Her mom’s response: ”That you stop.”
Fun with food With her oven on the fritz, April searches frantically among her neighbors for a free oven in which to cook her turkey, which ends up being held hostage by finicky neighbor Wayne (Sean Hayes).
Side dish If mastectomy patient Joy seems like the most fully developed character, maybe that’s because director Peter Hedges wrote the film as a tribute to his mother, who died of cancer.
Reason to be thankful It’s a nice change to watch as someone else tries to please her parents during the holidays. —Gary Susman
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
Pilgrims Three consecutive Thanksgiving dinners mark milestones in the lives of Hannah (Mia Farrow, left), her sisters Holly (Dianne Wiest, right), and Lee (Barbara Hershey), and the rest of their extended family.
Family secret Hannah’s husband Elliot (Michael Caine) embarks on an affair with her sister, Lee.
Memorable line Hannah’s ex-husband Mickey (Woody Allen) notes that Nietzsche ”said that the life we lived we’re gonna live over again the exact same way for eternity. Great. That means I’ll have to sit through the Ice Capades again. ”
Fun with food At one holiday dinner, a relative serves Heineken to the kids.
Side dish Not only did Farrow’s mother, Maureen O’Sullivan, play Hannah’s mom, but several of her kids (including Soon-Yi Previn) play Hannah’s kids, and Farrow’s apartment overlooking New York’s Central Park was used as Hannah’s apartment. —Gary Susman
The Myth of Fingerprints (1997)
Pilgrims It’s a small-town New England holiday homecoming for glum Warren (Noah Wyle), reuniting with similarly dour siblings Mia (Julianne Moore), Jake (Michael Vartan), and Leigh (Laurel Holloman).
Family secret Dad Hal (Roy Scheider) once made a pass at Warren’s ex-girlfriend.
Memorable line Hal, on his returning children: ”Hmm, there are more of them than I remember.”
Fun with food Hal fires his rifle at a store-bought turkey and later claims he shot it in the wild.
Side dish Moore met her future husband, writer/director Bart Freundlich, on the set. ”We started to see each other about two weeks into it,” she told EW. ”It was casual. I don’t think either of us was thinking that we were going to have two children!”
Reason to be thankful For all this film’s finely wrought characterizations, it’s a relief not to be related to any of these sourpusses. —Gary Susman
Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
Pilgrims Danny Rose (Woody Allen, left), a hapless talent agent for a stable of ragtag performers no one wants to book, hosts a Thanksgiving dinner for his clients. This follows his escape from thugs who chased him through the warehouse where the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons are stored.
Family secret Danny spends much of the film on the lam with Tina Vitale (Mia Farrow, right), mistress of singer Lou Canova (Nick Apollo Forte), who wants Danny to keep her far away from his wife.
Memorable line Danny, to one of his acts: ”I don’t see you folding balloons in joints, you’re gonna be folding balloons in… colleges and universities!”
Fun with food Despite his fecklessness as an agent, Danny earns the ultimate showbiz accolade: getting a sandwich named after him at New York’s Carnegie Deli.
Side dish Why is Farrow’s face hidden behind giant sunglasses for much of the movie? Because Allen reportedly thought she needed them to pass for an Italian-American. —Gary Susman
Reason to be thankful The Turkey Day gathering of Danny’s lonely clients is a reminder that, at holiday time, everyone ought to be with family, even an ad hoc one.
What's Cooking? (2000)
Pilgrims Four Los Angeles families — one Latino, one African-American, one Vietnamese, and one Jewish — plan their own Thanksgiving celebrations, each with its own ethnic side dishes.
Family secrets Rachel (Kyra Sedgwick, right) and Carla (Julianna Margulies, left) are more than just roommates. But Rachel’s mother Ruth (Lainie Kazan, center) doesn’t want the rest of the family to know. And lots more.
Memorable line Trying to come to terms with Rachel’s sexual orientation, papa Herb (Maury Chaykin) says, ”Maybe it was that kibbutz we sent her to — all girls.”
Side dish Drooling over the dishes served up in the movie? The recipes are included as extras on the DVD.
Reason to be thankful Director/co-screenwriter Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham) certainly knows her way around squabbling-but-loving families of all ethnicities. Also, this movie can really make you hungry. —Gary Susman
The Ice Storm (1997)
Pilgrims In 1973, prep student Paul Hood (Tobey Maguire, right) returns to New Canaan, Conn., to spend Thanksgiving with his parents (Kevin Kline and Joan Allen) and his sister, Wendy (Christina Ricci, left), but also to escape to New York City for the weekend to visit his crush, classmate Libbets Casey (Katie Holmes).
Family secret Dad is having a joyless affair with next-door neighbor Janey Carver (Sigourney Weaver).
Memorable line Wendy says grace: ”Dear Lord, thank you for this Thanksgiving holiday. And for all the material possessions we have and enjoy. And for letting us white people kill all the Indians and steal their tribal lands. And stuff ourselves like pigs, even though children in Asia are being napalmed.”
Side dish Ricci, playing Wednesday in Addams Family Values, expanded on that same theme when she commandeered a Thanksgiving pageant so that it ended with Indians making war on the pilgrims.
Reason to be thankful The ’70s are long over, and today’s family gatherings are much more enlightened and less tense than this one — aren’t they? —Gary Susman