In real-life America, Thanksgiving is a day of feasting, football and friends and/or family. In the movies, however, the holiday is often presented as a painful obligation, one where long-simmering tensions frequently boil over at the dinner table. It’s for that reason that Planes, Trains and Automobiles persists as the only Thanksgiving movie most families actually want to watch around Thanksgiving. Sure, for travelphobes, John Hughes’ road-comedy of errors is basically a feature-length panic attack, but it serves to present the holiday as something worth fighting to get home for – because, ultimately, we should all be grateful just to have a place to go home to.
In the American popular consciousness, Thanksgiving gets short shrift. It’s a speed bump on the road to Christmas – a high-stress dinner featuring those annoying relatives who typically get disinvited from the real holiday gathering. And so it is with the movies. ‘Christmas movies’ are bountiful. Thanksgiving movies? You’ve got to dig a bit deeper.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few Turkey Day classics out there worthy of annual viewings. And we don’t just mean movies that have a fleeting scene set around the dinner table in late November – sorry, The Godfather Part II. When we talk about the best Thanksgiving movies ever, we mean those that say something about the holiday itself, and what it means to share a meal with the people you love, begrudgingly or not. Some will make you cry, others make you cry from laughter. If you’re from America, they’ll certainly ring true to your own memories. And if you’ve never had the chance to gorge yourself on mashed potatoes while listening to Uncle Jimmy’s conspiracy theories, well, these’ll all you a little closer to the true experience.