Thanksgiving Films to Watch this Holiday Season

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Big family and their dog enjoy in moment of togetherness in bed.

If you’re suffering from the post-Halloween blues and are already putting up Christmas decorations, take a halt because there’s some turkey to carve first. Thanksgiving has become an essential part of American culture over the last 400 years. There’s no denying that eating turkey, spending time with family, watching football, and waiting in line for Black Friday deals encompass current perceptions of celebrating this holiday, but these aren’t the only important holiday traditions. With such a major American holiday comes a selection of Thanksgiving films to watch. Unfortunately, Thanksgiving doesn’t often get the same representation in Hollywood as Halloween and Christmas do. However, if you dig deep into that cornucopia of holiday classics, you’ll be able to find something refreshing and entertaining to watch on Turkey Day. So here are some viewing choices for Thanksgiving 2018.

Thanksgiving Specials to Add to Your Watchlist

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

No matter who you are or where you come from, you’ve gotta love Planes, Trains and Automobiles. The classic comedy written and directed by the legendary voice-of-a-generation John Hughes tells the simple but hilarious story of two unlikely strangers, played by Steve Martin and the late John Candy, being forced to travel together to get home in time for Thanksgiving. This was a huge departure from Hughes’s previous films, but it still has a heart of gold and an abundance of hilarious moments. From the chemistry between Martin and Candy to the hilarious situations all stemming from the idea that anything that can go wrong will go wrong, Planes, Trains and Automobiles has pretty much become THE quintessential Thanksgiving film.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)

Peanuts specials in general have become a part of many people’s holiday traditions, and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is no exception. The Emmy-winning special that aired in 1973 is a classic that people continue to watch every year on Thanksgiving. The simple animation, relaxing tone, and memorable characters are what we like to return to every year. All your favorite characters like Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Sally, Peppermint Patty, and of course Snoopy and Woodstock, come together for two different Thanksgiving dinners as well as a pageant. Much like all Peanuts specials, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is short, but sweet.

Pieces of April (2003)

Released in 2003, Pieces of April is a comedy-drama starring Katie Holmes as a woman who decides to prepare a Thanksgiving dinner for her estranged family, including her mother (Patricia Clarkson), who has breast cancer. Writer and director Peter Hedges shot the film in just 16 days with a $300,000 budget. It was loosely inspired by his own mother’s battle with cancer and how one year on Thanksgiving, like in the film, his oven broke and he and his friends had to go door-to-door to find one that could cook their turkey. This film is often forgotten, but it is worth checking out. Because what’s Thanksgiving without your dysfunctional family?

Home for the Holidays (1995)

Speaking of dysfunctional families, how could anyone forget Home for the Holidays? The 1995 film directed by Jodie Foster stars Holly Hunter as Claudia Lawson, a woman who loses her job due to an affair with her boss and faces having to spend Thanksgiving with her family because her daughter (Claire Danes) has other plans. Unlike Pieces of April, the film has a high budget, bigger-name actors, and is a studio picture. But it has also fallen under the radar over the years when it comes to holiday classics. Maybe if it were a Christmas film, it would be better remembered. Regardless, why not try going Home for the Holidays this year?

Addams Family Values (1993)

Halloween may have ended recently, but the exploits of the famously macabre family can be enjoyed any time of the year. The arguably more successful sequel to the original 1991 film, Addams Family Values features one of the more famous and funny scenes in the Addams pantheon where daughter Wednesday Addams (Christina Ricci) is forced to take part in a Thanksgiving Day pageant at camp. In doing so, she, her brother Pugsley (Jimmy Workman), and a group of outcast campers trick everybody by setting fire to the entire pageant. So while Addams Family Values is not explicitly a Thanksgiving film, this deliciously evil moment is what makes the film worth viewing during the holiday.

Free Birds (2013)

Free Birds, the first fully-animated film released by Reel FX Creative Studios, is definitely the wackiest entry on this list. It tells the story of two turkeys with different personalities attempting to travel back in time to the first Thanksgiving in order to prevent turkeys from being on the Thanksgiving menu forever. Despite a creative premise and an all-star voice cast of Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler, and George TakeiFree Birds received a hugely negative reception upon its release for its lack of humor and generic storyline. But if you have little kids who are looking for something to watch on Thanksgiving this year, Free Birds may be an entertaining selection.

Hannah and her Sisters (1986)

Whether or not you like Woody Allen these days, there’s no denying how much Thanksgiving there is in the Oscar-winning Hannah and her Sisters. It takes place over the course of two years, centering around a group of close-knit sisters, played by Mia Farrow, Barbara Hershey, and Dianne Wiest in an Oscar-winning role. The film begins and ends with their family celebrating a traditional Thanksgiving meal. There are a lot of Woody Allen trademarks in the film: adultery, bickering, and neurotic characters. But the closeness of family is what people come back to in the true spirit of Thanksgiving.

The Oath (2018)

And now we end with the most recent Thanksgiving film, The Oath. Written, directed by, and starring Ike Barinholtz (MadTV, The Mindy Project), the dark comedy takes place in a dystopian United States where citizens are now forced to sign a declaration of allegiance to their country the day after Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, a couple (played by Barinholtz and Tiffany Haddish) try to survive Thanksgiving with their crazy families who all have differing opinions on the declaration. The film is meant to be a satirical take on today’s political climate and how people with certain views may clash with each other despite familial relationships and special occasions. It’s definitely one of the more interesting films to watch this year.

Did I miss any of your Thanksgiving favorites? Leave them in the comments below. Happy Thanksgiving, readers!

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