20 Great Thanksgiving Movies To Watch on Turkey Day With Family

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20 Great Thanksgiving Movies To Watch on Turkey Day With Family

Thanksgiving is a day for turkey, pumpkin pie, football, getting stuck on the interstate, dreading awkward conversations with family–at least that’s what we’ve learned from the movies, which have long used the autumn festivities as the setting for comedies and dramas about stuffing one’s face while trying not to strangle one’s relatives. No doubt many will again reunite with loved ones (and not-so-loved-ones) this November 22 and hope for the best.

If you need a break from fighting over politics with your distant cousins or just need to pass the time as the tryptophan takes hold, you can always turn to these films—some classics and modern offerings—to put a brighter (or more uproarious) spin on American’s beloved holiday. (Or hell, maybe you need a reminder that it could be a lot worse.) So raise a glass–or a remote–and celebrate with our top Thanksgiving films.

Paramount Pictures

Home for the Holidays

Amazon iTunes

Jodie Foster’s finest directorial effort remains this 1995 comedy about the Thanksgiving get-together of Holly Hunter’s thoroughly dysfunctional clan, which includes her mother (Anne Bancroft) and father (Charles Durning), and her brother (Robert Downey Jr.), and his friend (Dylan McDermott). What ensues is the gold-standard for family-gathering holiday films, full of absurdity, pathos, and, ultimately, a rousing sense of the ups and downs of dealing with relatives.

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Paramount Pictures

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Amazon iTunes

Steve Martin’s marketing executive just wants to get home to New York for Thanksgiving in John Hughes’s 1987 comedy Planes, Trains and Automobiles, but fate constantly stymies those plans–well, fate and John Candy’s shower-ring salesman, a chipper and clumsy clown who becomes his unlikely traveling partner during this rollicking three-day odyssey. The pillow scene remains an all-time classic gag.

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CBS

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

Amazon

Maybe it’s not as iconic as A Charlie Brown Christmas or It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, but this Peanuts holiday special is a good holdover between Halloween and Christmas. This Emmy-winning classic sees Peppermint Patty infiltrating Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving holiday, which he naturally scrambles to put together with his trademark anxiety. (Where the hell are these kids’ parents, btw?)

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Fox Searchlight Pictures

The Ice Storm

Amazon iTunes

Thanksgiving is anything but jovial in Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm, which is set around the holiday in 1973 Connecticut, where two well-off families struggle with all manner of the-times-they-are-a’-changin’ upheaval. Adultery and alcohol inevitably play a big factor in their problems, which are dramatized by director Lee–and handled by his cast, including Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, and Elijah Wood–with chilling incisiveness.

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United Artists

Pieces of April

Amazon iTunes

In her finest performance, Katie Holmes plays the titular April, who bravely invites her dysfunctional family from suburban Pennsylvania to her tiny apartment on the Lower East Side. Disaster strikes early when her stove breaks and she is forced to find a working oven in her building. Meanwhile, her cancer-stricken mother (Oscar nominee Patricia Clarkson) slowly dreads the trek into the city to see her somewhat estranged daughter.

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Miramax

The House of Yes

Amazon iTunes

On Thanksgiving 1983, Marty brings his fiancée Lesly home to meet his family—his dimwitted and horny brother, Anthony; his cold and nosey mother, Mrs. Pascal; and his mentally unhinged and Kennedy-obsessed sister, Jackie-O. All hell breaks loose, naturally, as kitchen knives are hidden, sexual boundaries are tested, and Parker Posey delivers one of the most hilariously intense performances of her career.

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Universal Pictures

Funny People

Amazon iTunes

Judd Apatow’s dramatic comedy stars Adam Sandler as George Simmons, a wealthy movie star who seeks to get back to his stand-up comedy roots after being diagnosed with leukemia. He meets a young aspiring comic (Seth Rogen) in search of a mentor, and the two tour the country as George performs his new material and reconnects with his ex-fiancée. It’s a film about the comedy world and how friendships evolve into familial relationships, highlighted by a Thanksgiving toast George delivers in honor of his chosen family.

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Miramax

Tadpole

Oscar Grubman (Aaron Stanford) is wise beyond his years, and he’s certainly attractive to all of his fellow 15-year-olds at his boarding school. But he doesn’t seem to interested in girls his age, instead setting his sights on his step-mother, Eve (Sigourney Weaver), who is oblivious to his affections for her. Over Thanksgiving break, however, Oscar comes up with a scheme: He plans to seduce Eve’s best friend in order to make his stepmother jealous.

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Relativity Media

Free Birds

Amazon iTunes

Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler, and George Takei lend their voices to this animated comedy. Reggie is a turkey who was lucky enough to be pardoned on Thanksgiving by the President of the United States. Jake, on the other hand, is a wild turkey with a political agenda: he kidnaps Jake in an effort to promote the Turkey Freedom Front, a guerrilla group set to end Thanksgiving for good. Together, they maneuver a time machine, going back to the very first Thanksgiving to rid turkeys from the menu for good.

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A24

Krisha

Amazon iTunes

Trey Edward Shults made his directorial debut with this indie drama, which stars members of his real-life family—including his aunt Krisha Fairchild in the titular role. Krisha arrives at her sister’s house for a Thanksgiving celebration after years of estrangement from her family. Overwhelmed by her return to this seemingly normal life, Krisha starts drinking and popping pills in secret—and all hell breaks loose as emotions fly and family secrets are exposed.

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Buena Vista Pictures

Son in Law

Believe it or not, Pauly Shore was once a cinematic staple. As the essential ’90s slack dimwit, the actor and comedian was every parent’s worst nightmare—never more so in the fish-out-of-water comedy which features Shore as a dude named Crawl, the unlikely boyfriend to small-town-girl Becca (Carla Gugino). Becca brings Crawl back home for Thanksgiving, much to the shock and horror of her conservative farmer father. Tensions only rise when Crawl expresses his intent to propose to Becca over the holiday weekend.

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Paramount Pictures

Addams Family Values

Amazon iTunes

This sequel to the big-screen adaptation of the classic TV sitcom finds the spooky-ooky Addams family once again up to their weird, gothic ways. But their family is thrown into turmoil when a new nanny, Debbie (a pitch-perfect Joan Cusack), has her sights on Uncle Fester—and plans on marrying him for his riches before killing him off. Wednesday and Pugsley know something’s up, but Debbie convinces Gomez and Morticia to send them to summer camp—where they are forced to participate in a completely bonkers musical rendition of the first Thanksgiving.

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Columbia Pictures

The Daytrippers

Greg Mottola’s low-budget indie comedy stars Hope Davis as Eliza, a New York woman who’s happily married to Louis (Stanely Tucci)—or so she thinks. While at her parents’ home for Thanksgiving, Eliza finds a lover letter from Louis to an unknown woman. When she confides in her family, the whole lot stuff themselves into the family station wagon and make their way from Long Island into Manhattan in search for answers.

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United Artists

Alice’s Restaurant

Folk-rocker Arlo Guthrie (son of Woody) plays himself in this offbeat comedy film inspired by his song of the same name. Guthrie, a long-haired draft-dodger visiting some friends in an uptight Massachusetts town for Thanksgiving, thinks he’s doing a his hosts a favor by filling his Volkswagen minibus with their garbage and taking it to the dump. A mix-up ensues, Guthrie’s busted for littering, and seeks to prove himself unfit for combat when the draft comes calling.

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Paramount Pictures

Nobody’s Fool

Amazon iTunes

Nobody’s Fool is one of the last great headlining vehicles for Paul Newman, who here stars as an upstate New York construction-worker hustler in constant conflict with a contractor (Bruce Willis) whose wife (Melanie Griffith) he fancies. His routine is upended by the arrival of his estranged son (Dylan Walsh) around Thanksgiving, leading to an amusing (and disarming) holiday-set character study about loneliness, reconciliation, and the unexpected ways people achieve contentment.

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20th Century Fox

Dutch

Ed O’Neill’s great unsung big-screen performance is in this 1991 comedy, which (like Planes, Trains and Automobiles) involves a road-trip home for Thanksgiving by two combative men. In this case, they’re O’Neill’s boorish slob and Ethan Embry’s snobby prep-school kid–the son of O’Neill’s girlfriend (JoBeth Williams)–who, through a series of misadventures, forge a lasting friendship.

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Orion Pictures

Hannah and Her Sisters

Amazon iTunes

Opening and closing with scenes of its characters at Thanksgiving dinner, Woody Allen’s 1986 comedic drama–which won him an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor and Actress statuettes for Michael Caine and Diane Wiest, respectively–tells a raft of interconnected stories, all in some way related to Mia Farrow’s Hannah and her two siblings. Equal parts hilarious and touching, it remains one of the writer-director’s crowning achievements.

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Universal Pictures

Scent of a Woman

Amazon iTunes

Over the course of a Thanksgiving weekend, Chris O’Donnell’s prep school student comes of age while caring for a blind retired army lieutenant (Al Pacino) in Martin Brest’s acclaimed Scent of a Woman, which finally earned Pacino his first-ever Academy Award (for Best Actor). Amidst all of its star’s blustery hoo-ahing, it’s a surprisingly tender tale of an unlikely friendship between two strangers.

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Warner Bros.

Grumpy Old Men

Amazon iTunes

Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau are two bitter lifelong rivals who engage in ludicrous warfare over the affections of their new Wabasha, Minnesota neighborhood resident (Ann-Margret). That conflict includes an amusing Thanksgiving dinner, in which the two do their best to act like feuding immature children.

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New Line Cinema

The New World

Amazon iTunes

No, it doesn’t feature a storybook pilgrims-and-Native Americans feast. Nonetheless, Terrence Malick’s 2005 drama–about the founding of Virginia’s Jamestown settlement, and the mythical romance that blossoms between British Captain John Smith (Colin Farrell) and Native American Pocahontas (Q’orianka Kilcher)–is the lyrical, haunting story of America’s birth, and thus the ideal masterpiece to experience on Thanksgiving.

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