Movies to Watch on Thanksgiving

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Though this year might not be like prior years for many of us, that doesn’t mean you have to abandon the holiday spirit. Besides the turkey and the gravy, the mashed potatoes and yam, or whatever your family serves with a side of tryptophan and football drowsiness, what better way to celebrate the season than with a movie marathon of the best movies to watch on Thanksgiving.

For this list, I picked movies that either A) deal directly with the holiday in question, B) deal with family dynamics or C) deal with stuffing yourself with, uh, stuffing.

So, without further adieu, here are the best movies to watch on Turkey Day.

Addams Family Values

Not only does the sequel to the Barry Sonnefeld original capture everything that was special about the first film, but it also features perhaps one of the funniest scenes about Thanksgiving ever put to celluloid, when Pugsly and Wednesday take over their camp’s traditional Thanksgiving play and give a more…historically honest version.

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Knives Out

 Since this is a holiday that is at its modern core about family and is often the butt of many jokes about politics and family mixing, what better way to celebrate such a day than with a movie that genuinely delves into the most frightening parts of both of those things.

The Rian Johnson film is a send-up to classic Agatha Christie noirs but with a modern-day political spin that is quite pleasing.

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The Royal Tenenbaums

Speaking of family dysfunction, what better way to replace your own familial dysfunctions than with the pastel world of Wes Anderson’s “The Royal Tenenbaums.”

Filled with great songs, brilliant character acting, and a world that feels at times like some timeless world, and a book with oddball characters you were forced to read in grade school but ultimately ended up loving. It’s a touching, hilarious film about family dysfunction.

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Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Perhaps the only movie I could think of that is inexplicably about Thanksgiving, as Steve Martin’s character, a businessman, has to make it home to Chicago in time for Thanksgiving only to repeatedly run into the late great John Candy.

I’ll save the incredibly heartbreaking end of the film, but it is perhaps one of the funniest and sweetest movies made by famed 80s teen comedy connoisseur John Hughes.

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Little Miss Sunshine

One of the most painfully annoying parts of the holidays, in general, is the travel, especially with a carload of family members, many of whom can barely share a house together without wanting to pull each other’s hair out.

Little Miss Sunshine is a movie about not only the exhaustive, claustrophobic nature of family but also the reasons why, ultimately, we keep putting up with them in the first place. I’m not one for mushy gushy family stuff but this movie certainly explores it in a realistic, honest way.

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My Dinner With Andre

So, yeah. Honestly, this movie might be too heady or surreal for Thanksgiving with the family but it’s certainly about eating. Well, a little bit of it is about eating.

But mostly it’s about two people having a long, winding conversation about the world. I feel like, especially this year, this movie is appropriate.

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Clue

What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving, especially this year, than with a mystery dinner get-together!

Just kidding, don’t do that. Much like in the movie, it’s a bad idea. But you definitely should watch Clue which is a whodunnit send up based on the board game. Which, I know, sounds like a bad idea, especially if you’ve watched Peter Berg’s “Battleship” but Clue features a brilliant cast including Mel Brooks alum Madeline Khan, Christopher Lloyd of “Back to the Future,” Tim Curry from every movie from your childhood, and longtime Christopher Guest collaborator Michael McKean.

It’s funny, it’s spooky, it’s a good way to spend a Thanksgiving alone and remind yourself that inviting people over is a bad idea right now.

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The Darjeeling Limited

As already mentioned, one of the hardest parts and best parts about this time of year is being forced and having the opportunity to be around your family. Obviously, this year is different, but that doesn’t mean exploring what family means and why you should probably give your family members a bit of a break sometimes, is definitely worth doing, family or no family this year.

Wes Anderson’s second film on this list (man, he must really have some family problems) explores that through the lens of three brothers on a train ride through India. It’s sweet, it’s funny, it’s a Wes Anderson movie so be prepared for DIY-filmmaking.

(Source: Movieclips Classic Trailers/YouTube)

The Straight Story

Finally, what better way to end this list than with perhaps the greatest story since Homer’s epic about going home. Directed by David Lynch, director of “Elephant Man,” “Eraserhead,” “Blue Velvet” and a handful of other weird, surreal movies that aren’t exactly family-friendly.

“The Straight Story” is basically what it would be like if Lynch got to direct a Disney movie about family because, well, that’s exactly what it is. Telling the true story of widowed farmer Alvin Straight, who drove his lawnmower through Iowa and Wisconsin to go home to visit his brother who had suffered a stroke.

Perhaps it is one of the best movies written about weird familial bonds and the strength of them, despite everything that might get in the way.

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Richard Foltz
Associate Editor

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