"We should just be thankful for being together. I think that's what they mean by 'Thanksgiving.'" So proffered Charlie Brown in the seminal holiday special, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. And indeed, the holiday is a time to come together and celebrate with family and friends, a time to be thankful, to enjoy a delicious meal, and perhaps to tune into a Thanksgiving classic.
The holiday weekend offers plenty of movie options in theaters — if you're looking to have a night out — if the tryptophan takes ahold of you and your plan is to stay home and tune into something from the comfort of your own couch, you will not be lacking for options. And sure, you could skip ahead and put on Elf or The Grinch, but why not give one of the more under-looked onscreen holidays a chance?
Whether you want a heartfelt comedy or a tense drama there is something for everyone. Below, A.frame has a selection of movies to watch with your family or chosen family, your loved ones or a solo viewing this Thanksgiving.
Jodie Foster directs an all-star cast, including fellow Oscar winners Holly Hunter and Anne Bancroft, and Oscar-nominee Robert Downey Jr. in this holiday dramedy about a single mom (Hunter) returning home to her family for Thanksgiving. Tensions rise and secrets come out as the weekend progresses, but the family bonds stay strong – a true testament to a successful holiday.
Chris O’Donnell plays prep school student Charlie, who takes on the task of caretaker over the Thanksgiving weekend to Al Pacino’s blind former Army officer Frank Slade. The odd couple enjoy New York City adventures, and even a road trip to Slade’s family for the holiday, as each imparts wisdom on the other. Pacino won the Oscar for Best Actor for this iconic performance.
Perhaps the movie most synonymous with Thanksgiving, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles stars Steve Martin as a harried businessman and father trying to get home to his family for Thanksgiving, accompanied (unwillingly) by John Candy’s annoying but kind salesman. The journey is filled with classic shenanigans, relatable to anyone who’s run into travel woes for the holidays, all punctuated by a heartfelt bond between the two men.
A hidden gem from the 2000s, What’s Cooking? highlights Thanksgiving for four Los Angeles families from different backgrounds – Jewish, Latino, Vietnamese, and Black – in Los Angeles. Each family has its own unique traditions and dishes, but what unites them all is the love (and headaches) that come with being together for the holiday. Directed by Gurinder Chadha, the film stars Julianna Margulies, Kyra Sedgwick, Mercedes Ruehl, Alfre Woodard, and Dennis Haysbert.
This comedy-drama stars Mia Farrow as Hannah, Dianne Wiest and Barbara Hershey as her sisters, with a supporting cast that includes Michael Caine. The three sisters' bonds are tested as they struggle with cheating partners, money woes, and finding fulfillment in life. Yet, despite the drama, they come together each year at Thanksgiving, as is tradition in many families.
Thanksgiving and football go hand-in-hand this time of year, and The Blind Side is a perfect encapsulation of that tradition. Based on the real life story of NFL star Michael Oher (played by Quinton Aaron), Sandra Bullock stars as Leigh Anne Tuohy, Oher’s adoptive mother who welcomes him into the family early on, particularly in a scene set at Thanksgiving. Bullock won an Oscar for Best Actress for the role, and the movie has remained a holiday staple since its release.
In this heavy drama, Krisha (Krisha Fairchild) is an older woman struggling with addiction. After being away 10 years, she's determined to do right by her family by cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Sadly, the day goes from bad to worse as Krisha struggles with her familial estrangement, especially from her son Trey, who was left to be raised by her sister. Writer-director Trey Edward Shults made the film a familiar affair, with his aunt in the titular role, and his mom, grandmother, and other relatives making appearances in the movie.
Hosting Thanksgiving is stressful enough, let alone when you’re the family outcast. That’s the struggle April (Katie Holmes) is facing in Pieces of April, hoping to host her dysfunctional family and make amends with her mom (Patricia Clarkson), in a role that earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, before it’s too late.
Arlo Guthrie stars in this adaptation of his song of the same name, a 1967 folk tune which runs nearly 20 minutes in length and is loosely based on true events. The film takes even more liberties with that story, which involves littering, the draft for the Vietnam war, and bikers, but embraces the communal spirit of coming together with friends for the holiday.
Addams Family Values may seem a more typical Halloween movie choice, but the movie manages to be one for all seasons. Part of the plot sees Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) at a summer camp that is also (for reasons unknown) putting on a Thanksgiving play. Wednesday, in all her grim, goth glory, gleefully derails the play, calling out the holiday's thornier issues and getting revenge on the campers and counselors who made her life hell over the summer.