Give thanks this holiday season for movies that remind us of what we love most about Thanskgiving: the coming together of families; how our own dysfunctional clan pales in comparison to the strangeness of others; and of course, turkey.
The following holiday-themed films offer something for all ages and tastes. So cut a slice of pumpkin pie, give thanks, and grab the remote.
"Planes, Trains and Automobiles" (1987)
Del (John Candy) turns to Neal (Steve Martin) and says, "There's no way on earth we're going to get out of here tonight. We'd have more luck playing pickup sticks with our butt-cheeks than we will getting a flight out of here before daybreak." And so it goes in this epic comedy of errors from director/writer John Hughes about an impromptu duo's quest to return from a business trip in time for Thanksgiving dinner. A beloved classic with enough laugh-out-loud gags to temper the holiday schmaltz, "P,T and A" is a reminder to be thankful for the genius collaboration of Candy, Martin and Hughes, and that you already made it home to be on the couch watching a movie with family. (Available on Netflix, On Demand)
"The Ice Storm" (1997)
Set during Thanksgiving 1973 as a dangerous storm approaches New Canaan, Connecticut, this drama from Oscar-winning director Ang Lee features a stellar ensemble cast that includes Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Joan Allen, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci and Elijah Wood as two families struggling to come to terms with the changing political and social climates of the 1970s. Sexual experimentation, drugs and familial responsibilities are major themes in this insightful look at a period guaranteed to make you thankful for the current enlightened, if still sometimes confusing, state of modern society. (Netflix, Amazon Prime, On Demand)
"Free Birds" (2013)
For the younger members of the clan gathering for turkey day this bird's tale follows Reggie, a gobbler who goes from outcast to hero when he receives a presidential pardon and embarks on a time-traveling mission to try and turn Thanksgiving into a turkey-free holiday. Featuring the voices of Owen Wilson, Amy Poehler, George Takai and Woody Harrelson, this movie will have you giving thanks you decided to wait and watch it after the big meal. (Netflix, On Demand)
"Home for the Holidays" (1995)
Jodie Foster directs this darkly comic look at that fine line between loving and liking your family. Claudia (Holly Hunter) is apprehensive about her decision to return to her parents house for Thanksgiving. With good reason: she's just lost her job; her teenage daughter (who is not making the journey with her) has announced she plans to spend the holiday losing her virginity; her homosexual brother arrives with a new friend in tow; her brother also barely tolerates their prim younger sister and openly antagonizes their brother-in-law; and eccentric and boozy Aunt Gladys is also on the guest list. Also starring Robert Downey Jr., Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, Geraldine Chaplin, Dylan McDermott, Cynthia Stevenson and Steve Guttenberg, "Home for the Holidays" will leave you thankful for your own dysfunctionally normal family. (DVD)
Disney's first animated film to be based on actual events and people retells the story of Pocahontas, the daughter of an Algonquin chief who is betrothed to a member of her tribe but becomes enamored of European settler John Smith. Featuring the voices of Irene Bedard, Mel Gibson, David Ogden Stiers, Christian Bale, Linda Hunt and Billy Connelly, this fictionalized account has been given the Disney spin, but younger viewers will enjoy the Oscar-winning melodies, sweeping drama and give thanks for Grandmother Willow, the wise old talking tree. (Netflix, On Demand)