really love Thanksgiving. Sadly, it often gets lost between Halloween and Christmas. Everyone’s all leaves and pumpkins and costumes one minute, then shopping and peppermint bark the next. Poor Thanksgiving gets lost in the shuffle and becomes a speed bump to Black Friday. But it shouldn’t be. It’s a holiday about family and eating (and genocide, which is important to remember) and while it doesn’t quite get the Christmas treatment when it comes to movies and TV, there are tons of really great Thanksgiving-themed films and episodes too good to miss. Get in the spirit by diving into some of these.
The House of Yes
No matter how messed up you think your family is, it is not as messed up as Pascals. This very, very dark comedy takes place during a Thanksgiving hurricane. There’s Kennedy cosplay, family drama and a love triangle that becomes a love square when twins turn out to be closer than a normal person would hope.
ieces of April
Post-Dawson’s, pre-Cruise Katie Holmes plays April, a Lower East Side dwelling twenty-something hosting her first Thanksgiving. Her suburban family makes the trek into the city as April realizes her oven doesn’t work. While things could take a turn for slapstick hijinks, they don’t. Instead this is an intelligent look at a dysfunctional family facing mortality.
Mad About You
The best episode of Mad About You is in fact a Thanksgiving episode. Jamie and Paul are hosting and Murray the dog helps himself to the turkey. They then have to sneak in a new one and it takes multiple tries, and multiple turkeys. I love this imaginary version New York where there are fully cooked turkeys available at the deli. Last year there was not a single walnut available for purchase on all of Manhattan by noon on Tuesday, but in imaginary New York there are no lines at Trader Joe’s and your cornershop has twenty pound cooked and garnished turkeys just waiting for you at 4pm on Thanksgiving day.
The Ice Storm
Things get weird in 1970s Connecticut! Paul comes home from boarding school for Thanksgiving. His parents’ marriage is falling apart and they end up at a key party on the night of a huge ice storm. His sister Wendy plays strange games with the neighbor boys. It’s bleak and beautiful and depressing.
Addams Family Values
This one isn’t Thanksgiving centric, but it does feature a fantastic camp musical about Thanksgiving. Wednesday takes it upon herself to tell the truth about Pilgrim and Native American relations, and then exacts her revenge on the most annoying girl at camp.
Hannah and Her Sisters
If you haven’t boycotted Woody Allen’s movies, this is a great one to revisit. Hannah, Lee and Holly have intertwining lives and intertwining stories. Over the course of two years (beginning and ending on Thanksgiving), their worlds get flipped around because life isn’t always neat and tidy. While a reminder that years can go by quickly and that things in life can change drastically might sound ominous, the opposite is true of this movie. It leaves you feeling hopeful about change.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Neal is on his way home for Thanksgiving but his flight gets rerouted. Desperate to get back in time, he teams up with Del and a slapstick odyssey commences. Steve Martin and John Candy star in this John Hughes film, and that sentence alone is an excellent sales pitch.
So much greatness happens in Seinfeld’s Thanksgiving episode. George buys Jon Voight’s car. Elaine wins a spot under a float for Mr. Pitt, then goes deaf. Jon Voight bites Kramer. Jerry schemes his way into Tim Whatley’s party then ruins a parade float. How much more could you pack into a half hour?
See there is so much good stuff to dig into! And there’s nothing more American that plopping yourself in front of the TV after eating too much. Happy Thanksgiving!
James J. Sexton