A Day to Give Thanks (for Good Thanksgiving Movies!)

by | November 24, 2005 | Comments

The Newsday column gets to take a few days off during the big holidays, but I couldn’t let today go by without offering our friends a handful of Turkey-day treats. If you’re looking for a holiday-appropriate movie to watch with the family while all your turkey and stuffing is digesting, feel free to pick one (or more) of these Thanksgiving-centric flicks.

Home for the Holidays — Written by "Buckaroo Banzai" scribe WD Richter and directed by the multi-talented Jodie Foster, "Home for the Holidays" is absolutely stuffed with great actors. Sort of a less slapsticky and more realistic version of "Christmas Vacation," it’s about a stressed-out woman (Holly Hunter) who returns to the roost to enjoy(?) a manic Thanksgiving dinner with her entire extended family. Even if the movie stunk (which it so absolutely does not) it would be worth seeing for a cast that includes Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, Robert Downey Jr., Dylan McDermott, Steve Guttenberg, Claire Danes, Austin Pendleton, David Strathairn, Cynthia Stevenson, and Amy Yasbeck. (Tell me that wouldn’t be a fun crew to eat turkey with.)

Pieces of April — This endearing 2003 indie from Peter Hedges ("About a Boy") stars Katie Holmes as an estranged daughter who invites her skeptical family for a Thanksgiving feast at her tiny little apartment. One half of the film sees April’s family struggling to make it in time for dinner, and the other half deals with poor frazzled April as she desperately tries to build an edible turkey dinner. In addition to some of Ms. Holmes’ very best work, "April" also features fantastic performances from Oliver Platt, Patricia Clarkson, Derek Luke, and Sean Hayes.

What’s Cooking? — From director Gurinder Chadha ("Bend It Like Beckham") comes this tale of four separate families, and the various preparations they make to have a solid Thanksgiving affair. Jewish, African-American, Vietnamese, and Latino families populate this holiday charmer, and the cast is another stellar ensemble: Dennis Haysbert, Alfre Woodard, Joan Chen, Mercedes Ruehl, Lainie Kazan, Maury Chaykin, Kyra Sedgwick, and Julianna Margulies keep the guest list colorful, and there’s plenty of wit, wisdom, and warmth (and even a few surprises) in this holiday treat.

Hannah and Her Sisters — Opening and closing with a pair of Thanksgiving dinners, the heavily-ensembled Woody Allen comedy is still considered one of the director’s very best films. Winner of three Oscars (for screenplay and the performances by Michael Caine and Dianne Wiest) and a nominee for four more, "Hannah and Her Sisters" is a razor-sharp and hilariously insightful story about one extended family and the non-stop stress the relatives cause one another. Also on board are Mia Farrow, Barbara Hershey, Carrie Fisher, Max von Sydow, Julie Kavner, Daniel Stern, Maureen O’Sullivan, Joanna Gleason, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Even the hardcore Woody-philes consider this one of his finest screenplays.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles — If it’s me you’re asking, PT&A is the #1 finest Thanksgiving movie ever made, mainly because it’s "about" nothing more than finding a way to make it home for the holidays. Steve Martin and the late, great John Candy star as a pair of astonishingly mismatched traveling partners who’ll stop at nothing to make it home in time for some turkey. (For my money, this is John Hughes‘ finest film, just barely ahead of the teenage trifecta of "Sixteen Candles," "The Breakfast Club," and "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.") Featuring tons of laughs, lots of great sights along the way, and a sweet-natured finale that always makes my eyeballs a little moist, "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" is a comedy classic for any season … but it really does work best in November. (If you’re watching this one with the family, please be sure to cover the kiddies’ ears when Mr. Martin arrives, unhappily, at a car rental kiosk. Trust me.) Also keep eyes peeled for hilarious little cameos by Kevin Bacon, Martin Ferrero, Dylan Baker, Michael McKean, Edie McClurg, and Ben Stein.

So there’s my Turkey Day quintet. Sorry for leaving "Son in Law" off the list, but I was doing "best Thanksgiving" movies and not "least awful Pauly Shore movies." (Maybe we can do that one on Pauly’s birthday.) Anyway, on behalf of everyone here at Rotten Tomatoes, I’d like to wish all our readers, and their friends & relatives & acquaintances & pets & non-annoying co-workers, a very safe & happy holiday. And if I left out any of your favorite Thanksgiving movies (there really aren’t all that many!), feel free to leave ’em in the comments section. We’ll need five more for next year!

Tag Cloud

screenings VH1 Year in Review comiccon satire biography A&E Freeform Martial Arts TV renewals A24 cooking razzies kaiju thriller canceled book adaptation Shondaland canceled TV shows The Witch toronto Watching Series Cartoon Network classics YA NYCC rotten movies we love MCU news Song of Ice and Fire FOX kong Adult Swim TCA Winter 2020 dogs indie scary movies Grammys Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt E! black harry potter Starz Arrowverse San Diego Comic-Con 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards DC Universe cancelled TV series Ellie Kemper popular science fiction justice league jamie lee curtis Character Guide Christmas Film ViacomCBS revenge Food Network Travel Channel serial killer Britbox Mindy Kaling PBS YouTube Premium Drama Fox News Writers Guild of America fast and furious godzilla golden globe awards VICE ABC Signature rt archives Ghostbusters Pirates The Arrangement Interview toy story Brie Larson Rock Warner Bros. disaster award winner Tumblr Trivia foreign Universal HBO Television Academy Set visit ESPN women zombie child's play Showtime die hard Kids & Family nature Chernobyl nbcuniversal series 2017 golden globes cars docuseries spain Crackle deadpool blockbuster best mockumentary Mudbound Pop halloween tv blockbusters hollywood casting book films natural history Thanksgiving Avengers Peacock Mary poppins Summer Legendary remakes anime ABC SXSW boxing USA Sneak Peek spider-man asian-american psycho Netflix space PlayStation Logo Women's History Month Certified Fresh screen actors guild Extras hispanic Paramount Plus vampires Academy Awards OWN New York Comic Con adventure Rom-Com directors superhero Holidays Marvel Studios Creative Arts Emmys transformers Marathons Mary Tyler Moore hidden camera TIFF Black Mirror Apple MTV El Rey sports football medical drama halloween NBC green book RT21 Music YouTube Red 2015 twilight Teen a nightmare on elm street Disney Channel Shudder Infographic Lifetime archives 99% Disney Plus Best and Worst BBC America Amazon Prime slashers IFC YouTube First Reviews TCA Awards supernatural stand-up comedy FX Horror Netflix Christmas movies 24 frames TV One BET cops zombies ITV trailers batman prank stoner TCM Hear Us Out Heroines Musicals all-time sequel Winter TV documentary Apple TV Plus Trophy Talk Spectrum Originals cults politics Funimation Broadway 71st Emmy Awards anthology comedies American Society of Cinematographers Red Carpet Action television worst video on demand Oscars crime Ovation Election 45 ABC Family new star wars movies concert APB IFC Films jurassic park Turner Classic Movies Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Lifetime Christmas movies Box Office TNT scorecard Holiday ghosts Star Trek Tomatazos police drama teaser Fox Searchlight Rocketman Spike cats dceu king kong OneApp E3 Paramount 72 Emmy Awards Syfy fresh SDCC Sci-Fi spinoff Fall TV BBC Exclusive Video doctor who worst movies movie Paramount Network movies WGN Disney+ Disney Plus 93rd Oscars nfl Super Bowl discovery Hulu critics CW Seed DC streaming service CNN Pop TV witnail joker crime thriller Valentine's Day boxoffice venice Disney sequels comic books Binge Guide Schedule Country festivals 2018 TCA 2017 007 Emmy Nominations Podcast BAFTA kids Reality Competition Columbia Pictures Calendar composers See It Skip It Elton John werewolf 2020 stop motion mission: impossible MSNBC Video Games psychological thriller Stephen King Family President TLC Nat Geo dc dragons Superheroes japanese strong female leads Apple TV+ obituary Sundance Now historical drama Tarantino WarnerMedia TCA GIFs Musical zero dark thirty reboot Awards Tour Sundance TV Reality cancelled james bond ID heist movie french CMT sag awards DGA RT History Epix versus Biopics 20th Century Fox based on movie social media DirecTV name the review cartoon The Academy game of thrones cinemax Television Critics Association quibi docudrama finale Comedy Central south america renewed TV shows HBO Max cancelled television TruTV Marvel Cosplay rom-coms Classic Film sitcom Fantasy Premiere Dates reviews crime drama independent Mary Poppins Returns pirates of the caribbean USA Network emmy awards Amazon Alien DC Comics mutant Film Festival diversity children's TV Black History Month Baby Yoda 21st Century Fox travel The Purge Western Pixar comic Spring TV australia TV Land binge rotten streaming BBC One documentaries free movies Lionsgate spy thriller facebook Discovery Channel Hallmark Christmas movies GLAAD First Look Pride Month Toys talk show Dark Horse Comics political drama CBS All Access Emmys indiana jones Comics on TV dramedy Mystery richard e. Grant Opinion Marvel Television singing competition FXX ratings Lucasfilm GoT blaxploitation CBS romance HBO Go cancelled TV shows 2016 4/20 Sony Pictures Anna Paquin Polls and Games Comedy theme song unscripted aliens Superheroe Acorn TV 2021 game show romantic comedy robots Walt Disney Pictures FX on Hulu Captain marvel BET Awards comics festival hist Photos Nominations Cannes Amazon Prime Video war Countdown History 2019 Star Wars animated miniseries breaking bad tv talk monster movies Amazon Studios Disney streaming service Comic Book Vudu The Walking Dead National Geographic Hallmark laika TV video PaleyFest superman parents Quiz spanish language criterion LGBTQ VOD The Walt Disney Company SundanceTV spanish Crunchyroll Sundance chucky Nickelodeon Masterpiece Trailer Pet Sematary elevated horror technology adaptation telelvision universal monsters Rocky TBS crossover LGBT latino period drama AMC X-Men italian Bravo Esquire true crime Endgame Tubi Awards franchise The CW Animation Winners what to watch dark Turner christmas movies