The Conversation: What are the Best Thanksgiving Movies?

The Conversation: What are the Best Thanksgiving Movies?

Nov 24, 2011

Are there any true Thanksgiving movies, let alone a best Thanksgiving movie? I've read many a site today that argued that there's no technical turkey day equivalent to films like A Christmas Story and It's a Wonderful Life or even Halloween. And I've seen too many tweets from people claiming they don't know any Thanksgiving movies. Well, I guess the more than 30 titles to be found in this here post are just figments of our imagination. No, they're actually Thanksgiving movies, the lot of them. Well, some more fitting than others. 

As deteremined by this poll and many, many lists around the Internet, everyone's favorite sad-com Planes, Trains and Automobiles is the clear majority favorite, but I was surprised at some of the runner-up, alternate and minority picks out there. A top choice of my own is The Ice Storm, mainly for Christina Ricci's dinner table protest, which reminds me of myself in my more idealistic preteen days. 

Other titles that feature low on lists include Mighty Joe YoungMiracle on 34th StreetFunny PeopleHoliday InnScent of a WomanPocahontasShe's Gotta Have ItThe War at HomeAvalonMouse on the Mayflower and Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving. Now on to the real Thanksgiving movies...



What are people naming as the best Thanksgiving movies? Here's The Conversation heard around the blogosphere and Twitter: 


The closest thing we have to a classic Thanksgiving film is the late John Hughes’ “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” his 1987 dramedy that, like the director himself, seems to grow in stature with each passing year. [...] It’s the emotional complexity of "PTA" that should give any parent pause. All the slapsticky stuff masks many of the movie’s darker themes like loneliness, unemployment, anxiety, and depression. This is a movie you grow to appreciate more the more life kicks you in the butt. - Drew Magory, Popcorn Biz

There's not a huge glut of Thanksgiving films out there. And that's just fine, because in my opinion, no Thanksgiving movie can best the hilarious "Planes, Trains and Automobiles." Few movies get at the horror that is holiday travel in this country like John Hughes' 1987 classic. John Candy and Steve Martin have never been better. - Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, MSNBC

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles — The reigning champ of Thanksgiving movies, and with good reason. Constantly hilarious, featuring great performances by the two leads whose balance of chemistry and antagonism fills makes every scene great, it turns out to also have a great deal more emotional depth than you expect. - Mark Hughes, Forbes

Nobody’s Fool — One of my favorite Paul Newman films, and the one that easily takes the #1 spot on my list. If you select just one film from this list, then I hope it’s this movie, because there’s so much to love about it and you won’t regret it! - Mark Hughes, Forbes (from a list of 'alternate' Thanksgiving movies)

A Charlie Brown Christmas: When Peppermint Patty ("C'mon, you can do it, Chuck!") and her friends finagle Charlie Brown into serving a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, it's up to Woodstock and Snoopy to make the day a success. Thanks to daring dishes like buttered toast and popcorn, and a memorable struggle with an uncooperative folding chair, Snoopy lends his own brand of wordless charm to the day's events. As the gang gathers around a ping-pong table for their unique meal, the true meaning of Thanksgiving shines through. A classic for parents and grandparents alike -- and sure to become a fast favorite of younger generations -- this 1973 animated Emmy-winner tops our list for sentimental fun. - Laurie L. Dove, TLC ("Planes, Trains..." is #2)

Home for the Holidays: If you think you've got family issues, then Home for the Holidays is exactly the sort of movie you should be able to relate to. Jodie Foster directs Holly Hunter in this biting comedy, which also stars Dylan McDermott, Robert Downey Jr., and Anne Bancroft. Gay marriage, sex with a much older boss, a teen daughter who may be losing her virginity over Thanksgiving, and a bizarre aunt who's in love with her sister's husband - Home for the Holidays has a little something for everyone. - Rebecca Murray, ("Planes, Trains..." is #3)

Personally, my favorite is the Jodie Foster directed Home for the Holidays, the one where a coked-out Robert Downey Jr. plays the gay brother. It’s fantastic. There’s also Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Naturally. - Neil Miller, Film School Rejects

Hannah and Her Sisters: Woody Allen's 1986 drama about three sisters is one of his very best. The film's set piece is Thanksgiving, where Hannah's (Mia Farrow) clan gathers together in a tremendous Central Park West apartment for the holiday celebration. The black maid polishes the silver, Mia's mother drinks too much and plays the piano, hearts are broken and mended in startling ways. Barbara Hershey, Michael Caine, Diane Wiest, Carrie Fisher, and Woody Allen also star. - Jurgen Fauth & Marcy Dermansky, ("Planes, Trains..." is #7)

The best Thanksgiving film is Woody Allen's "Hannah and Her Sisters," and the most entertaining are "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" and "What's Cooking?" The most depressing is "The Ice Storm," and the best single line is by Lou Jacobi in "Avalon": "You cut the turkey without me?" The spirit of the genre is summed up in "Home for the Holidays" when two family members are fighting on the lawn while the father hoses them down. Seeing the neighbors gawking across the street, the father snarls, "Go back to your own goddamn holidays!" - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times (from a review of "Pieces of April")

Beethoven: Big dog, Thanksgiving, family fun – perhaps not quite Oscar worthy, but this one is actually much better than it’s given credit for. Produced by Ivan Reitman (the man directed Ghostbusters) and written by none other than Mr. John Hughes (though he’s credited under the pseudonym Edmond Dantès) this movie highlights some pretty hilarious early performances from Oliver Platt, Stanley Tucci, and even Joesph Gorden Levitt as Student #1. It’s also worth noting that this film warranted five sequels, not sure where the story goes after 2, but some screenwriter found a way. - Brett Register, What's Trending (this is the #2 pick, after "Planes, Trains...")

Rocky: It’s on Thanksgiving that the struggling fighter Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) goes home for dinner with his friend Paulie (Burt Young) and finally convinces Paulie’s sister Adrian to go out on a date with him. Well, actually, it’s Paulie who forces the issue, by pulling the turkey that Adrian is baking from the oven, throwing it away and insisting that the two go out. What follows is Rocky and Adrian’s impromptu visit to an ice rink, and in one of the loveliest first-date scenes ever filmed, we witness two people, unsteady on their feet, awkwardly and inevitably slipping into love. In 35 years as a writer, director and actor, Stallone has hit his share of sour notes — but not this time. In all the Rocky films, right through his thoroughly satisfying coda in 2006′s Rocky Balboa, Stallone always got the chemistry between Rocky and Adrian sublimely right, and it all began on that Thanksgiving night when Paulie threw out the turkey. - Bill Newcott, AARP (from a list of eight, non-ranked)

The New World (2006): There’s no better place to start than the moment it all began. Thanksgiving’s very inception plays a pivotal role in The New World, Terrence Malick’s hazy, poetic, and sublime film about John Smith, Pocahontas, and America’s birth. The first Thanksgiving is anything but glamorous, as the British colonials at Jamestown face collective starvation, rotting sewage, disease, and death. Their extreme plight and helplessness is captured through hypnotic long tracking shots, making the appearance of the Tsenacommacah, an alliance of Algonquian-speaking Native Americans, all the more lyrical. While it might not be the most fun Thanksgiving movie, The New World is an immersive experience perfect for properly appreciating the holiday’s harsh beginnings. - Glenn Heath, Jr., (from a list of five non-ranked)

Son in Law (1993): Going home for Thanksgiving after the first semester of college is probably a shock to most, including Rebecca Warner, a farm-grown sweetheart who takes her new friend Crawl (Pauly Shore) home for the holiday. At first, no one knows what to think of the weird, long-haired, bandana-wearing dude who adds ‘age’ to every word, but they come to love him as he shows the boring farm town folk how to let loose. - Charlotte Eriksen, Wheaton Patch (from a list of five non-ranked)

Thankskilling: There aren't too many Thanksgiving horror movies, but this one gets mad props for actually having a killer turkey. This is a ridiculous B-movie, but the best of it's kind. It makes me all the more hopeful for an Easter movie about a killer rabbit. - Mark Artz, COED Magazine (from a list of five non-ranked)

Dutch: Ed O'Neil took break from his role as Al Bundy in "Married With Children" to play Dutch Dooley in "Dutch." Dutch underestimates the mischief caused by his girlfriend's son, Doyle Standish (Ethan Randall), whom he is determined to escort home for Thanksgiving. During the trip home, the two get into a lot of mishaps, butt heads and even get picked up by hookers. - Karen Lac, Screen Junkies (from a list of five non-ranked)

Grumpy Old Men: After 50 years of fighting, these two old geezers fall for the same woman around Thanksgiving. - Nick Cannon, (from a list of fifteen non-ranked)

The House of Yes — Tori Spelling is in this movie and really, really good. Who would’ve thunk it? The real star however is a mentally unbalanced Parker Posey eager to revisit her incestuous past with her brother while he is home for the holidays with his new gal. Family fun for all! - Chris Spargo, NewNowNext (from a list of five non-ranked)

Pieces of April: April Burns (Katie Holmes) lives in a tiny tenement apartment in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Hoping to re-connect with her estranged family, she invites them to join her for a Thanksgiving dinner. As they make the long trek from Pennsylvania (and reveal their own feelings about her), April discovers that her stove is broken and begins knocking on the doors of her (ethnically diverse) neighbors. - Wook Kim, Time Magazine (from a list of top Thanksgiving movie scenes)

KOFY's Dance Party: This isn't a movie, but somehow my family and I stumbled upon this Bay Area-produced Soul Train-inspired show a couple holidays ago and we were instantly hooked. We laughed so hard and for so long that it felt like we were watching a movie. That is why it's at the top of my list. If you ever appeared on Dance Party, I apologize in advance. - Martin Ricard, San Bruno Patch


@mousterpiecePlanes, Trains and Automobiles. Martin and Candy are irresistible.

@pulptonePlains, Trains, and Automobiles is the quintessential Thanksgiving movie. We watch it every year.

@MiScottDavis: Best Thanksgiving movie: Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Martin & Candy, nuff said.

@Cinderoni: Planes, Trains & Automobiles has got to be one of the best Thanksgiving movies ever.

@arcanegazebo: Best Thanksgiving movies: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Addams Family Values. Anything else?

@Ptree76Uncle Buck is the perfect Thanksgiving movie.

@hausofnicole: Of course Thanksgiving movies exist. My fave is 'Hannah & Her Sisters.' If you haven't seen it, there's a big black hole in your lives.

@thejokewriter: Best Thanksgiving Movie: "Broadway Danny Rose"

@brizzle88: Watching Home for the Holidays. It's the BEST Thanksgiving movie.

@rejectsHome for the Holidays. That's the ultimate thanksgiving movie.

@dmouritRudy is the best thanksgiving movie


Follow Christopher Campbell on Twitter (@thefilmcynic) to join The Conversation.

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