When it comes to movies and TV specials, Thanksgiving is a little like Cinderella. Neglected by her stepsisters Halloween and Christmas, both of which get uglier and uglier each year with commercialization. Every horror movie ever made is perfect for watching on Halloween and goodness knows there seems to be no end to production of Christmas-related movies and TV shows.
I recently tried to come up with a great Thanksgiving movie or at least a great movie based around Thanksgiving, but frankly I drew a blank. Not for the first time, either, has that happened. The thing is, unless you’re a big fan of the Cowboys or Lions or the useless waste of time that the NFL has become, there is usually not a whole lot to watch while you sit there breathing heavily trying to digest twenty pounds of recently consumed food.
So I did some research and guess what I discovered. There actually exists a wealth of movies and specials that are at least tangentially related to Thanksgiving. Some more so than others, let me tell you. I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen most of what follows and so can’t give honest opinions, but when I can I will lead you toward those Thanksgiving-related movies that you might be able to rent at the local video store.
If you have happened to see some of the more obscure Thanksgiving movies on this list, by all means use the little box down there to make recommendations.
The House of Yes: Starring the inimitable Parker Posey as Jackie Bouvier, I must admit this is one I haven’t seen, though it sounds quite entertaining. Apparently, on Thanksgiving, Jackie is awaiting the return of her brother and some funny stuff happens. I don’t know what. I don’t even know how much of this movie has to do with Thanksgiving.
The Myth of Fingerprints: Well, this one stars Noah Wyle and even writing those words down sounds wrong to me. How can a movie star Noah Wyle? Oddly, it’s another movie about the return home of a brother on Thanksgiving and this one sounds more like Thanksgiving actually plays a big part.
Hannah and Her Sisters: Hey, I’ve seen this one! And it’s great, too, Woody at his near-best. And it features a couple of sequences that taking place on Thanksgiving, though I wouldn’t exactly call it a Thanksgiving movie. Still, you can’t go wrong renting this movie any day of the year.
Scent of a Woman: I’ve tried to watch this. I used to be a fan of Pacino. Now all he does is yell. And this is the movie that started all that yelling. I just can’t watch it. But apparently it does take place over Thanksgiving.
Playing the Part: Something about a guy with a gay girlfriend going home during the holidays to come out of the closet. I’m thinking maybe the synopsis was written by someone who didn’t sit through the whole movie. I tried to find it at Hollywood Video and came up an empty. It actually sounds pretty funny so if you have seen this let us know.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles: I love this movie, but hadn’t seen in years until recently when it was on AMC. I had forgotten it was about getting home for Thanksgiving, I kept remembering it as getting home for Christmas. That scene where John Candy is driving the wrong way still makes me laugh out.
Pieces of April: Now this sounds like a movie that is actually about Thanksgiving. Apparently, it’s about a girl living in a tiny New York apartment who is trying to fix Thanksgiving dinner for her family amid a comedy of errors. Sounds funny.
The War At Home: Vietnam vet goes psycho when his secret is revealed during Thanksgiving. I think I’ll pass on this one.
What’s Cooking: Another movie that really does seem to be about Thanksgiving. It’s all about ethnic groups colliding thanks to boyfriends and girlfriends involved in multicultural relationships. At least that’s what I get from the synopses I’ve read. Frankly, however, I can’t tell what it’s supposed to be a comedy or drama.
Nog: More of a holiday-related movie in general than Thanksgiving in particular. Another multi-character Robert Altmanesque movie I’m thinking.
Tadpole: A Thanksgiving coming-of-age story. Yeah, well, whatever.
The Facts of Life Reunion: Natalie is sad, Blair is having an affair, Jo is a cop and Tootie insists on being called by her real name. Muffy. Just kidding about that last part. I actually have watched part of this, it pains me to say. And it really is about Thanksgiving.
Convicted Woman: Well, if you’ve read any of my other movie-related articles, you know I couldn’t stay away from B&W movies. I haven’t actually seen this one, but it sounds pretty good. But then women behind bars almost always makes for great flicks, yes. In this one ten female cons get the chance to go home for Thanksgiving dinner provided they return back to the big house by 11:00.
Thanksgiving Day: Wow, wonder why I didn’t kick off with this one? I mean it’s got the perfect title and it stars Mary Tyler Moore, too. Supposedly a lighthearted spoof about a dysfunctional family. A family that can’t get along, what could be funnier than that? I mean in a lighthearted way.
Fourteen: About a fourteen year old girl who lives in a family of agnostics and takes a vow of silence on Thanksgiving. Has promise, I suppose, but could also be a real downer.
Home for the Holidays: Jodie Foster directed it and Holly Hunter stars in it. I know I saw it, but darned if I can remember anything about it. Seems like it was funny, though.
Turkey Day: Another great title, certainly apt for watching on Thanksgiving. Apparently, features a pretty good moral lesson, too. About a homeless guy who gets a turkey from a rich woman feeling the pangs of a guilty conscience. The good news: It’s supposed to be a comedy. This story as a drama would be death, I have a feeling.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving: Not my favorite, but better than…
Garfield’s Thanksgiving: Which almost certainly isn’t quite as good as…
A Thanksgiving Tale: I really wish I could get a chance to see this. A special done with puppets by the people who later brought us Alf. In fact, the voice of Alf is supposedly one of the voices. I hear this is really top quality stuff, making fun of pop culture in a Simpsons-like way. I don’t remember, though I’m almost sure I would have watched it when it first came on.
Hoboken Chicken Emergency: In which a man brings home a 266 pound chicken for Thanksgiving. I’m not making that synopsis up, though I wish I were. I also wish I could see this one.
A Day of Thanks on Walton’s Mountain AND A Walton’s Thanksgiving Reunion: I admit it, I think the Waltons was one of the best written dramas of the 70s. I’m a sucker for it. And I have watched both of these. Frankly, I was disappointed.
Thanksgiving Family Reunion: A National Lampoon movie. Need I say more? What, were the Griswolds busy?
The Thanksgiving Visitor: Based upon a Truman Capote story. Despite that, it sounds hopelessly sentimental and cloying.
The Ice Storm: Frodo on Ice! I don’t even remember Thanksgiving playing a part in this movie. Did it?
The Kids’ Table: Who doesn’t have memories of eating at the kids’ table on Thanksgiving? Well, besides those who didn’t have huge family deals for Thanksgiving. I’d like to see this one, too, about cousins who are torn apart by a secret during Thanksgiving. Sounds interesting.
The Thanksgiving Promise: Directed by Beau Bridges, starring Beau and Lloyd Bridges. Not featuring Jeff Bridges at all. What’s the point of that, I ask you!
A Day of Thanksgiving: A fifty-five year old movie, more or less, about how wonderful it would be to not have enough money for a turkey and instead have to celebrate the holiday by being thankful for all the things they do have. Thanks, but no thanks.
Family Tree: Another dysfunctional family getting together on Thanksgiving. Could the family tree be more than just metaphoric? Who knows. I sure don’t. Anybody reading this know?
Mrs. Wiggs of Cabbage Patch: 1934. Great title and it sounds like a great movie. Melodramatic and coincidental at any rate and those two get along like a house on fire.
A Taste of Us: A TV movie about segregated America in the south, featuring a-guess what-dysfunctional family getting it together at Thanksgiving. Soon to be remade into a major theatrical release. Not kidding about that.
I’m sure there are others out there, but I’m running out of patience. And besides, in my house we have our own tradition that no Thanksgiving movies are going to replace: Watching the original Thanksgiving episode of The Simpsons. You can’t beat the classics.