Now that it’s November, Thanksgiving is fast approaching everywhere. In Cinema, however films for the holiday season are rather rare in comparison to the far more popular Christmas-themed films. Despite this disparity in movie output, there’s a niche group of films that do, at the very least, briefly mention the special day of thanks. Noticeably, a lot of them are serious family dramas. This starkly contrasts the happy, cheery, and even cheesy vibe of other holiday films on Christmas or Halloween. Because of that, this list will try to rate the films offered from least to most serious, rather than lowest to highest rated.
Ranging from silly, light-hearted buddy comedies to somber dramas involving death, infidelity, and even incest, this holiday offers a full range of topics for your viewing material. Now you can choose between spending your Thanksgiving laughing your heart out, or having your real-life, dysfunctional family view a similarly broken one on the big screen. Either way, you will definitely be entertained by the options listed in this article.
#1 Paul Blart: Mall Cop
Though definitely one of the cheaper movie choices of this list, Paul Blart: Mall Cop is a comedy that some people remember fondly for it’s easy and immature humor – particularly if they like Adam Sandler flicks. Though the movie doesn’t happen exactly on Thanksgiving, it’s primarily set on Black Friday – which happens right after the holiday and is just as much a hassle to deal with. Centering on the well-meaning, if somewhat overly serious, Paul Blart (Kevin James), we witness this obese mall security guard for a New Jersey strip mall haphazardly save his beloved workplace from a group of thugs who hope to commit a bank robbery.
Easy to watch and a good choice if there are kids in attendance, Paul Blart: Mall Cop is an excellent film for anyone looking for some simple fun.
#2 Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Neal (Steve Martin), a micromanaging and impatient advertising account executive, is desperate to get back home to Chicago after a business trip. Wanting to arrive in time for Thanksgiving, he ends up having a series of misadventures alongside the well-meaning, but overly talkative, shower ring salesman Del Griffith (John Candy) as they both try to reach their individual destinations. The various setbacks on their arduous journey include burglary, train failure, car accidents, and even fire, all of which is expertly carried by the chemistry between Martin and Candy.
An iconic comedy that’s humorous and full of heart, this movie that is sure to give you plenty of warm, fuzzy feelings while also treating moviegoers to the true meaning of the Thanksgiving spirit.
#3 The House of Yes
The House of Yes is a dark comedy that not everyone might enjoy due to its unconventional plotline. Even if the film doesn’t have the typical cozy, moral nature of most other holiday films, it’s still a quirky, albeit very weird film that happens to take place on Thanksgiving Day.
The story centers on Marty Pascal (Josh Hamilton) who brings his fiancée (Tori Spelling) to visit his twin sister, “Jackie-O” (Parker Posey). Recently discharged from psychiatric care, obsessed with first lady Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis, and cursed with sudden mood swings, Jackie-O is a larger-than-life and surprisingly endearing character. She wrecks entertaining havoc on the holiday with her striking personality and exceedingly concerning obsession with her brother. The film also includes an appearance from Freddie Prinze Jr., who plays Jackie-O’s younger, protective brother.
#4 Pieces of April
This was career-defining film for Katie Holmes as the titular character, April Burns: a punk wild child who is estranged from her dysfunctional family. Because her mother (Patricia Clarkson) is dying from breast cancer and probably won’t have another Thanksgiving, April decides to host for the family. The film follows her hectic attempts to cook up a full-course dinner, her interactions with her kooky apartment neighbors, and the chaotic relationships between her family.
Authentic, sweet, and surprisingly emotional, Pieces of April is a very enjoyable watch that I’d highly recommend for your next Thanksgiving Day viewing.
#5 The Ice Storm
The most serious entry on this list, The Ice Storm focuses on not just one broken family, but two: the Hoods and the Carvers. The separate households are connected by extramarital affairs the parents have with each other and the flirtatious, but turbulent, relationships between their kids. The film provides a stellar cast that includes Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Christina Ricci, Elijah Wood, Tobey Maguire, and Katie Holmes (again!). Not only does it center on the familial drama of the characters, but also gives a compelling depiction of the societal and political changes that arrived in 1973.
Though The Ice Storm is certainly a downer, it’s one of the more ambitious films that seeks to not just speak about relatable family troubles, but society as a whole.