Every year, it seems stores roll out their Christmas decorations as early as September, and once Halloween is over, it seems everyone is ready for Santa. Meanwhile, poor Thanksgiving practically gets ignored. While there may be many who are already breaking out their favorite Christmas classics, let us not forget the great Thanksgiving movies.
Home For the Holidays
Jodie Foster directs this 1995 comedy about a truly bizarre family coming together on turkey day. Holly Hunter plays a single mom (to an Angela Chase era Claire Danes) and she has just lost her job, so of course a weekend home with her dysfunctional family is ideal. Robert Downy Jr. plays Hunter's brother and he has all the charm and lunacy of 90s Robert Downy Jr. The film feels uneven at times but the cast is game and the overall feeling is warm and perfect for the holiday.
Ed O'Neill plays a man who is about to marry a woman but has to win over the approval of her son first. Her son is a thirteen year-old boy who is away at boarding school and has no interest in getting to know the man who will become his stepdad. Ethan Embry (credited as Ethan Randall in Dutch) is Doyle and is adorable and fun as the boy who refuses fun. Ed O'Neill, at the height of Married...With Children's popularity is a perfect grump who is not taking Doyle's guff. The film takes place around Thanksgiving, and the entire plot revolves around the two trying to get from Atlanta to Chicago in one piece for Thanksgiving dinner. Available on Netflix and Amazon Prime
Son in Law
While most movies that star Pauly Shore may not be worth a recommendation, Son in Law is hard to deny. Carla Gugino plays a farm girl from South Dakota who goes off to college to Los Angeles. She doesn't fit in until she meets Pauly Shore's Crawl and the two become two wacky besties. Then she takes Crawl home for Thanksgiving where hilarity ensues as he poses as her fiance to avoid an alternative marriage proposal from her high school boyfriend. Crawl may be extreme for the traditional family, but it's hard not to find him or this film charming. Available on Netflix
Pieces of April
Katie Holmes may not be the most versatile actor as she tends to play a version of Joey Potter in everything she attempts, but it actually works for 2003's Pieces of April. Holmes plays April, a young woman who invites her family to Thanksgiving at her place in the lower east side of Manhattan. Patricia Clarkson plays her mother who has cancer, Oliver Platt is her dad who is trying to give April the benefit of the doubt about gathering the family. Allison Pill plays the sister who does not approve of the family gathering and thinks her sister is a failure who gets too much attention. The film has a great dysfunctional family at its core, which is what audiences expect at Thanksgiving.
The Ice Storm
For a more depressing take on the holiday, Ang Lee's The Ice Storm, is the best option. A stellar cast that includes Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Christina Ricci, and Tobey Maguire as a family who comes together after their teenage son (Maguire) returns to town from boarding school. The film's 1970s setting lends to additional stories of key parties, and a certain nostalgia. Sigourney Weaver plays a sexy neighbor and family friend who entices Kline's character and Elijah Wood plays one of her troubled sons. The film is filled with all of the awkward moments of being a teenager and an adult who should know better. It's definitely not a happy film, but it is so well done. Available on Starz Streaming.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Planes Trains and Automobiles is the Thanksgiving film that is also a classic road trip comedy. Steve Martin plays an ad-executive who is trying to get home to Chicago to his family for Thanksgiving. John Candy plays a loud and obnoxious shower curtain ring salesman who tags along on the journey. Since there seems to be one hurdle after another that keeps them from getting to Chicago, they decide to travel together in hopes that they will get home. The film is a classic John Hughes comedy with two of the funniest guys ever.
Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
There is not much to say about the perennial animated special with Charlie Brown, Lucy and the rest of the Peanuts gang celebrating the holiday. The television special first aired in 1973 and has been an annual presence on television screens since. Lucy causes Charlie Brown to fall flat on his face after he attempts to kick a football she pulls away, and thus begins poor Charlie Brown's day, but luckily everything turns out just fine for the often morose Charlie.