10 Thanksgiving movies to get you in the holiday spirit
Ten flicks to give you something to be thankful for — even if it's just that these families aren't your own
This week, families and friends are gathering across the country to reunite, to give thanks, to eat turkey and potatoes and pie, to argue about politics, to drink too much wine, to ignore grim historical realities, to resurrect old grudges, to resent parents, to criticize children, to tolerate in-laws, to discover heretofore concealed flaws in significant others, to line up for hours to hunt bargains in the middle of the night, and — most importantly of all — to watch movies, of course.
Major national holiday though it may be, Thanksgiving lacks the endless narrative possibilities of Halloween, the romance of New Year’s Eve, and the built-in soundtrack, palette, and characters that come with the expertly branded Christmas. But that doesn’t mean that filmmakers haven’t been able to find something cinematic in the fourth Thursday in November. So whether you can’t be bothered to go all the way to see Ralph Breaks the Internetor you’re just trying to get excited for Thanksgiving, here are 10 seasonal movies to stream and be thankful for this Turkey Day.
What’s Cooking? (2000)
A pre-Bend It Like Beckham Gurinder Chadha split the annual feast four ways with her 2000 comedy, which follows four families — each with different ethnic backgrounds, different holiday traditions, and different emotional baggage among them — at their respective annual dinners.
Pieces of April (2003)
Katie Holmes plays April, the black sheep daughter of a dysfunctional family who wants to spend Thanksgiving with her sick mother. As April struggles to prepare Thanksgiving dinner, her parents and siblings — all skeptical she can pull it off — embark on a road trip to New York to spend the holiday with her.
Stream it on Hulu, Amazon, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Vudu, Google Play, iTunes
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
John Hughes’ buddy comedy-road movie might be the ultimate Thanksgiving classic. Steve Martin and John Candy play an uptight businessman and an obnoxious salesman, respectively, who find themselves stuck in each other’s company as they try to get home for the holiday.
Stream it on Amazon, Starz, YouTube, Vudu, Google Play, iTunes
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
Mia Farrow is Hannah and Barbara Hershey and Dianne Wiest her sisters in Woody Allen’s acclaimed comedy-drama, which covers a span of two years in the sisters’ lives and is bookended by eventful Thanksgiving dinners (with one in the middle).
Stream it on Cinemax, Amazon, iTunes
The House of Yes (1997)
Mark Waters’ dark comedy may not seem very seasonal, but it ought to at least make you thankful that you don’t have to spend Thanksgiving with these people. Parker Posey stars as Jacqueline, a troubled young woman who is obsessed with and models herself after Jacqueline Kennedy, and who really doesn’t take it well when her beloved brother brings his new fiancée home for Thanksgiving.
Home for the Holidays (1995)
Jodie Foster directed this family comedy-drama, which stars Holly Hunter as a woman who has lost her job and is at a bit of a crossroads when she heads home for Thanksgiving. Once back at her parents’, she tries to hide her unemployment from her mother and ignore her resentful sister with the help of her brother and confidant (Robert Downey, Jr.) and his handsome friend (Dylan McDermott).
Stream it on STARZ, Amazon, YouTube, Vudu, Google Play
Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s horror double feature includes a few fake movie trailers made by the directors’ filmmaker friends — among them, Eli Roth’s spot for the imaginary slasher Thanksgiving, which takes every element of the holiday as an opportunity for violent destruction. Watch the fake trailer above.
Stream Rodriguez’s Grindhouse: Planet Terror on Amazon, Vudu, iTunes, YouTube, Google Play
Stream Tarantino’s Grindhouse: Death Proof on Amazon, Vudu, iTunes, YouTube, Google Play
The Ice Storm (1997)
Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm, based on Rick Moody’s novel of the same name, is definitely a Thanksgiving movie in that the events of its plot are precipitated by observation of the holiday, however, if you’re hoping to get into a festive spirit, it might not be the best one to opt for this Turkey Day. The film follows two dysfunctional families living in a wealthy Connecticut suburb, the parents of which are cheating on each other (with each other), and the children of which are sexually experimenting (with each other). Drama ensues.
Filmmaker Trey Edward Shults made his feature debut with this drama starring his aunt, Krisha Fairchild, in the title role. A former addict who has been estranged from her family for years, a now-sober Krisha wants to spend Thanksgiving with her relatives and cook the annual feast. Between the stresses of preparing the meal and of the years of heartbreak she brought upon her family, tensions are high — and her redemption is far from guaranteed.
Stream it on Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, Vudu, Google Play, iTunes
Free Birds (2013)
This 3D-animated adventure stars Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson as turkeys who go back in time to the first Thanksgiving (where they team up with a turkey voiced by Amy Poehler, among other 17th-century fowl) to remove themselves from the traditional holiday menu from the start, thus preventing centuries of turkey deaths every November. Yes, you read that right.