Ah, Thanksgiving. A time to surround yourself with family you can barely stand and become a gluttonous mass of shame and regret after hours of ingesting the traditional holiday foods. It’s literally Christmas without the presents, so who the fuck cares? Skip to the candy canes, the spiced cider, and the delicious eggnog. Who needs a holiday where we maliciously mock our disingenuous partnership between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans they later almost completely wiped out? Who needs the headaches that come with preparing a meal that your family is just going to complain about anyway? Who needs the parades and decorations of autumn leave symbolically falling to the ground, piling onto one another until they’re raked and thrown in the trash just like your hopes and dreams? Not Hollywood, that’s for sure. There is a severe shortage of Thanksgiving-themed films. Why is that? For most people, the holiday is filled with drama and tension, yet films tend to pass on Thanksgiving for Halloween or Christmas. In honor of everyone’s least favorite holiday based around reflection and thankfulness, and before Thanksgiving gains the levels of backlash that Columbus Day has notably earned in recent years, here is Film Threat’s Top 10 Thanksgiving Films!
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
What can be said about this classic holiday film that hasn’t been said a billion times? Steve Martin and John Candy star in the quintessential Thanksgiving-themed film written and directed by the late John Hughes in 1987. Steve Martin plays Neal Page, a man intent on obsessed with traveling from New York to Chicago to be with his family for Thanksgiving weekend, and John Candy plays his lovably aloof comedic foil, Del Griffith, a curtain salesman. The duo gets into all kinds of shenanigans and in the end, they form an endearing bond of friendship that is sure to warm even the coldest of stone hearts. This is a holiday classic, and a rarity in that it revolves around Thanksgiving. The film features an ending that yanks at your heartstrings and epitomizes human kindness and understanding. This film deserves to be played on a 24 hours loop just like A Christmas Story is during Christmas. It’s hilarious, sweet, and it truly captures the essence of what the holiday is supposed to be about.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)
I’m sure a lot of you have very fond memories of this animated TV special. I know I certainly do. Some of my earliest memories involve me spending time in my Grandparent’s basement watching this film over and over again on VHS. The Peanuts Gang decides to throw a Thanksgiving for all the kids and it’s up to poor Charlie Brown to make everything perfect despite his prior plans of spending his holiday at his Grandmother’s house. What transpires are a series of vignettes that properly convey the hustle and bustle of the holiday. Peppermint Patty is ungrateful towards Charlie Brown’s attempt at playing host, despite the fact that Peppermint Patty put Charlie Brown in that situation, to begin with, and Charlie Brown’s poor party planning skills are used as a lesson for The Peanuts Gang to gracious and thankful for what they have, and the friendship that provided it for them. Oh, and Snoopy and Woodstock dress up as Pilgrims. This is a close to perfect holiday film for adults and children alike.
Son in Law (1993)
Look, we’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel here. There just aren’t enough Thanksgiving-centric films to make an entire Top 10 list out of. Also, Top 10 lists are stupid click bait. This film from 1993 features Pauley Shore being Pauley Shore in another Pauley Shore movie from the 90’s. You know what you’re getting here. Anyway, it revolves around Thanksgiving, so here it is on the list. Carla Gugino plays Rebecca Warner, a country raised, naive teenager who goes away to California for college and befriends Pauley Shore’s character, Crawl. Crawl worms his way Rebecca’s good graces and mentors her in the ways of being an early 90’s Valley Girl stereotype. Rebecca, feeling bad for Crawl’s lack of family and friends, invites Crawl to her family’s farm for Thanksgiving. Look, if you’re going to torture yourself with a Pauley Shore movie, this is definitely one of the least obnoxious ones. It doesn’t hold up, and it’s incredibly dated, but the supporting cast (including the underrated Lane Smith and Mason Adams) makes it, for the most part, watchable. This is the film that introduced me to the incredible Carla Gugino, so it gets some kudos for that too. Son in Law isn’t anywhere near being a good movie, but again…slim pickings when it comes to Thanksgiving films.
Pieces of April (2003)
This film is lower than Son in Law only because I haven’t actually seen it before, and I have little to say about it. It stars Katie Holmes and was written and directed by Peter Hedges. Google tells me that it revolves around Holmes’ character, April, trying to make a Thanksgiving dinner for her family after her Mother is diagnosed with fatal breast cancer. Sounds cheery. I’m sure it’s an uplifting film that really examines the ideas of being thankful and stuff.
A turkey shaped puppet kills a bunch of stupid teenagers. At one point, there’s a gravy-flavored condom joke, and our killer turkey fucks a girl in the ass. Thankskilling is absolute garbage and you shouldn’t watch it. Seriously, don’t do it. It sounds like a good time with a bad movie, but it’s not. Apparently, it has a sequel, so there’s that. If you’re going to ignore my advice and watch this, make sure you have a heavy supply of alcohol and a friend who will drive you to your therapy sessions.
That’s it. That’s our Top 10 list of the Best Thanksgiving Films… of all-time! And we barely made it to five. Hollywood should take a break from cranking out Christmas films and throw the Thanksgiving lovers a (wish)bone. Hell, there are two Christmas movies that recently came out IN NOVEMBER. Why couldn’t they be Thanksgiving-themed? Because Hollywood hates Thanksgiving, that’s why. The holiday just isn’t commercial enough. Anyway, here are some honorable mentions…
Not a Thanksgiving film, but there’s a scene that features Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) and Adrian (Talia Shire) eating a Thanksgiving dinner, so it’s worth a mention.
Adam’s Family Values (1993)
This underrated Barry Sonnenfeld sequel features a delightful sequence featuring a Thanksgiving origin play that goes incredibly (and hilariously) wrong. While this is also not a Thanksgiving movie, it’s still worth checking out. Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston are amazing, not to mention strong performances by Christopher Lloyd, Christina Ricci, and devilishly wonderful Joan Cusack as the film’s main antagonist.
Jack and Jill (2011)
Adam Sandler in drag gets sexually harassed by Al Pacino. Fuck this movie. Apparently, it has a Thanksgiving scene too or something.
This Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez double feature has a fake trailer for a film called Thanksgiving that was directed by Eli Roth. With its cheesy trailer narration and 70’s slasher aesthetic, this was an absolute highlight for me. Why this hasn’t been made into an actual film is beyond me. Instead, we got stuck with two lame ass Machete movies.
Were there any I missed? That’s cool. Go make your own damned Top 10 List. I’m done here. Happy Holidays, everyone. Enjoy your tryptophan comas!