Thanksgiving. It’s not a day we usually associate with watching movies. Actually, it kind of is, but we never really think about it until the day arrives. After watching parades, football games, family squabbles and eat a cubic ton of food, many families settle in to watch a movie but find they can’t really think of anything.
Which is fair when you think about it. Despite the fact that Thanksgiving is one the largest holidays in America, there are very few movies made on the subject when compared to say: Christmas, Halloween, and New Years. Every year columnists and writers around the country scramble to come up with a list that can help you make your Thanksgiving movie selection easier and invariably come up with the same titles.
I decided to try a different tack. Instead of suggesting Thanksgiving themed movies, I decided to suggest movies that have some feeling that we might find in our experiences with turkey day, with a geek bent, of course. Despite that though, I will suggest my two favorite movies made about Thanksgiving at the bottom of this article – so if you’re looking for that specifically, scroll on down, but I encourage you to take a look at my alternatives. You may be surprised. Without further ado, let’s get this party started.
Addams Family Values
Ok, there’s one simple reason you need to watch this movie: The Thanksgiving Massacre. Addams Family Values is one of those movies that was never quite a cult flick nor a block buster. It’s known and people enjoy it, but for me, it will always be my favorite incarnation of the Addams Family. At this point, the characters have been well defined and we’re not dealing with origins or mysteries. This is the Addamses at their macabre best. They have adventures, get into all sorts of trouble and of course, send the kids to summer camp – where we get the aforementioned Thanksgiving Massacre. It truly is a delight to behold as the proper rich kids depicting the Pilgrims are overthrown by Wednesday Addams and her band of misfits representing the Indians. While we have romanticized the idea of Thanksgiving, Addams Family Values takes a moment to remind us that the Pilgrims were kind of jerks and we should really stop giving them a pass, and nothing says it better than burning down a rustic set full of thatched roof cottages like Trogdor the Burninator! Beyond all that though we see a recurring theme; “family is important” and it runs through and through this flick. In fact, many of the movies listed will touch upon that theme. Family is important, however you chose to classify it.
There’s actually a couple of reasons to pick Spider-Man as your go to movie for the holiday. First, it’s a pretty stellar flick. While it has flaws, this was our first foray into what I would call “Modern Comic Book Movies”. While the web head has been around forever, this was the first movie that depicted Spider-Man the way we always envisioned him: crawling from wall to wall, leaping off buildings, slinging webs and swinging through the New York skyline. Not to mention the fact that there are a couple of really cool Thanksgiving Day moments in the movie with Peter saving people on the way to find Aunt May some cranberries. There has also been a long standing rumor that the World Unity Fair was created because people were not comfortable with the idea of the Green Goblin attacking the Macy’s Day Parade. Regardless, we have giant floats getting destroyed in downtown Manhattan while Spider-Man tries to save the innocent. This move is chock full of epic battles, good versus evil and really starts off our list with a simple message: be thankful for those around you, honor them to the best of your ability and never take them for granted. Definitely worth your consideration when sitting around shaking off a food coma.
The Back to the Future Trilogy
Marty McFly bouncing around time trying to get back to November 5th 1985 may not seem like a Thanksgiving Day initially but go with me for a moment. The core conceit of this movie is an indulgence of one of mankind’s oldest fantasies: time travel. The result is a very family friendly ride about a kid who nearly loses his family because he accidentally changes the past. His siblings erased from time and facing his own demise, Marty has to put things right or risk winking out of existence. In the subsequent movies he risks life and limb to help his future family and even rescue his adoptive Uncle/Father figure Doc Brown. Every step of the way, we are treated to numerous period pieces: “the future”, the 1950s, the Old West, and even alternate realities. This movie series epitomizes a good time for the entire family and reinforces how grateful we should be for every moment we have.
Lord of the Rings Trilogy
I like listing trilogies or groups of movies because sometimes a day can just be long and getting something on the TV that will keep everyone calm and collected while you finish dinner or just survive holiday is pretty important. With that “long day” mentality in mind, I humbly submit the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. This suggestion comes from the fact that the Lord of the Rings is a series released around the Holidays; these movies want to be watched in the late fall/ early winter. The films themselves are astonishing pieces of movie making. Grand sets, fantastic adaptation of source material and beloved world wide, it’s a hard time to find someone who dislikes the series. Sitting down a bunch of kids to watch Hobbits run around with elves and dwarves fighting Uruks and the forces Sauron will surely buy you a few hours while that Pumpkin Pie is finishing. Not to mention, they’re pretty freaking awesome.
The Last Starfighter
The Last Starfighter gains a place on this list for a purely selfish reason: it’s one of my all-time favorite movies. This mid 80s cult classic tells the story of Alex Rogan as he becomes the last hope in the galaxy to stop Xur and his Kodan Armada. Armed only with an Engineer named Grig, a fast talking slime ball mentor named Centauri and a Gunstar, Alex takes on an entire fleet of warships single handedly. Basically imagine Star Wars, if all of the Rebels blew up on Yavin and left Luke to take down the Death Star on his own from the start. Yeah, now you get it. Starfighter gets so many things right: the humor, the action and the acting all are top notch; but my favorite moments are actually with Alex and his family. This is a kid stuck in a trailer park in the backwaters of California, hoping to get away and make something of himself. His brother and mother know he will go on to do great things and everyone in his dusty town see him moving on to do something amazing. The idea of community rallying behind someone because they believe in that person and want to see them succeed screams Thanksgiving to me. As Otis says in the flick: “Things change, they always do. You’ll get your chance. Important thing is, when it comes, you’ve got to grab on with both hands and hold on tight!” Also, Beta is hilarious. Trust me, I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t seen it. Just go watch it.
Well this brings me to my two movies that are actually about Thanksgiving. For my money, if you can’t indulge in a sci-fi/fantasy slant, these are by far, your two best choices. So let’s see what I picked
Scent of a Woman
Most people forget this movie takes place around Thanksgiving, which always surprises me considering how much the holiday is brought up in the story. Regardless, Al Pacino gives the performance of a lifetime as a former Lt. Colonel Frank Slade, a blind veteran who is on the brink of suicide. His companion on this journey is Charlie, played admirably by a young Chris O’Donnell who is hired by Frank’s family to watch over him for the holiday. This is, at it’s heart, a coming of age movie for both characters. Charlie is faced with making a decision that could be morally questionable and may destroy his future at a prestigious prep school while Frank wants to go on a last hurrah before deciding on ending his life. The story itself builds to a crescendo in the aforementioned prep school with Pacino giving a beautifully written 5 minute long speech about Charlie’s character and what it means to him. If you’ve never seen it, you need to. There’s a reason Pacino earned an Academy Award for Best Actor for this performance. There are a lot of twists and turns that show us how dysfunctional everybody can be given the proper circumstances. And in the end, I think we can all relate to that on a holiday where family can bring out the best and worst in us.
Which brings me to my all time favorite Thanksgiving Day Movie. The one movie I watch every year on Turkey Day without fail and that is, of course:
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
I’m pretty sure most of you out there are very familiar with John Hughes movies. If you grew up in the 80s or 90s, this man was your voice. The creator of such amazing coming of age movies like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club, went a completely different route depicting the odyssey of Steve Martin as Neal Page, trying to get home to Chicago for Thanksgiving when a freak blizzard blankets the country. His only companion is Del Griffith played by the incomparable John Candy. Over three days, these men are put through so many different levels of hell, it could only be described as something akin to Dante’s Inferno. This movie is a masterpiece of how everything can go wrong and still end up perfect in the end because, lets face it, most holidays are kind of like that. We build them up in our brains to be perfect and have meltdowns over the silliest things. We yell at each other, we get angry, some may even cry, and still when it’s all passed we sit down and share a wonderful moment washing away all the bad, which is really what Thanksgiving is all about – our ability to take all the bad in our lives and let it go to remember the good that remains. For this holiday, it’s not about presents or fireworks, its about remembering every single moment that brings us joy. This story literally embodies that spirit. If by some sick miracle, you haven’t seen this movie yet, go check it out and see for yourself. I challenge you to not get a little choked up at the end when Neal figures out what’s happening with Del and how all these horrible moments, are now something to smile about.
There you have it folks, a list worthy of Thanksgiving. Make sure to let us know what you think and leave suggestions in the comments below. Until next year, Happy Thanksgiving from Legion of Leia!