Today is Thanksgiving. Among the things you might be thankful for today are the fact we can be with friends and family more freely this year than last year. Or, maybe that’s not something you’re thankful for… Thanksgiving is a fun time, actually a holiday I enjoy more than Christmas since it’s usually solely about the three Fs—Family, Food and Football. But it can also be a stressful time because of the first of those Fs. The history of cinema regarding Thanksgiving bears that out.
As you’re spending time with family, or missing family, this year I thought I’d look at five films that intersect with Thanksgiving for this week’s Binge Watch. Enjoy, and have a little turkey for me!
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)
About: I love a good Charlie Brown special. While the Christmas special is iconic and the Halloween special is a fan favorite, the Thanksgiving installment often gets forgotten. It’s not bad, featuring an accidental dinner invitation, tons of toast and some popcorn. It’s not the best but it is a festive tradition.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
About: Many think of this as a Christmas film, likely because it’s the holidays and a snow storm derails travel for Neal (Steve Martin) and Del (John Candy). But they’re actually trying to get home for Thanksgiving. Martin and Candy are great as odd-couple travel companions and the action of this film, written and directed by John Hughes is some zany fun. Traveling at the holidays is a chore and this film captures that well.
Home for the Holidays (1995)
About: Claudia (Holly Hunter) is having a rough time of things. She gets laid off at work, her daughter (Claire Danes) makes a troubling pronouncement and she has to head home for Thanksgiving. This film, directed by Jodie Foster, has an all-star cast that includes Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning and Robert Downey, Jr., and captures the sometimes-difficult circumstances of gathering with the family for a holiday. It’s a weird film but Hunter makes it work.
Piece of April (2003)
About: This is a little film that was somewhat overlooked. Peter Hedges’ tale is mostly about the run up to a Thanksgiving dinner. April (Katie Holmes) is hosting her estranged family in her tiny New York Apartment. He boyfriend (Derek Luke) is out running errands and nothing goes right for April, who has to rely on her neighbors’ help while trying to create a great atmosphere. This is her chance to create a nice memory with her mother (Patricia Clarkson), who is dying of cancer. Her family (Clarkson, Oliver Platt, Alison Pill, Alice Drummond and John Gallagher, Jr.) are meanwhile traveling to New York, discussing their situation and the distant relationship with April. Will it all come together? This is a great showcase for Holmes and Clarkson. It’s a strange film in some ways but I thought it was beautifully told.
Miracle on 34th Street (1934)
About: I know what you’re thinking, this is certainly a Christmas film. You’re right, it is. The climax of the plot takes place on Christmas Eve and it’s all about Kris Kringle. BUT, it starts with an iconic Thanksgiving Day celebration—the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Thanksgiving not only brings families together, but it also officially kicks off the Christmas season. So, let this film do the same for you on this Thanksgiving Day!
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.