Thanksgiving is all about turkeys, except at the movies, where only the finest works du cinema are feasted upon. Fortunately, there’s a whole slew of film classics that center on (or include significant references to) Thanksgiving, and I’m thankfully here to tell you the 10 best.
“Hannah and Her Sisters” (1986)
Woody Allen’s seriocomic epic spans the ups and downs of a New York family, beginning and ending with a Thanksgiving dinner that’s hosted by the uneasily married Hannah (Mia Farrow) and Elliot (Michael Caine). The movie has three arcs filled with adultery and reconciliation, along with Oscar-winning performances by Caine and Dianne Wiest. It’s engaging and artful every step of the way. Be thankful.
This Oscar-winning classic was written by and stars Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa, a Philly small-timer who gets a crack at some golden-gloving. In a memorable scene, he takes his lady love Adrian (Talia Shire) skating on Thanksgiving. Says Rocky: “Listen, I don’t want no turkey anyway, ya know.” Adrian: “But it was Thanksgiving.” Rocky: “It was what?” Adrian: “It was Thanksgiving.” Rocky: “Yeah, to you. But to me, it’s Thursday, right?” On any day, everyone loves this film, and while I’m not one of its cultists, I can’t pooh-pooh anything that prompts a Broadway musical.
“The Ice Storm” (1997)
Ang Lee directed this penetrating flick based on Rick Moody’s novel, and the public responded with a resounding, “Who cares?,” though the movie has developed a very high-class reputation as a world-class winner. It’s set during Thanksgiving 1973 and focuses on two Connecticut families who are scandalizing their way through a highly transitional time in the culture. Along the way, there’s lots of booze, adultery and even electrocution, making the Thanksgiving theme especially ironic. Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Tobey Maguire and Sigourney Weaver create a storm of sterling performances.
“Home for the Holidays” (1995)
I liked this Jodie Foster-directed film so much, I was sure Jodie would have a bright career behind the camera ahead. It’s a charming and quirky film in which Holly Hunter plays a single mom who gets fired and goes off to spend Thanksgiving with her folks, also sharing nibbles and quibbles with Robert Downey Jr. as her gay brother, Dylan McDermott as his new pal and Geraldine Chaplin, who’s hilarious as their wacky aunt. Check it out.
“She’s Gotta Have It” (1986)
Spike Lee’s first feature-length film was low budget but high on intentions and extremely engaging. It concerns Nola Darling (Tracy Camilla Johns), a young woman juggling three boyfriends (including one played by Spike Lee) and having a fine time of keeping them in limbo. One of the film’s high points is the “Thanksgiving with Nola’s men” scene, in which all three vie for her as she alternately giggles and rolls her eyes.
“Addams Family Values” (1993)
The rare successful sequel (in this case, to 1991’s “The Addams Family”), “AFV” has Wednesday and Pugsley horrified when a new baby brother, Pubert, enters their lives. The kids are sent to camp, where Wednesday bonds with the other outcasts against the place’s tyranny and refuses to play Pocahontas in a show about the first Thanksgiving. But she relents, only to lead the cast in a mutiny and move on to darker pastures. It’s basically nutty and funny, and I’m grateful they made it.
“Alice’s Restaurant” (1969)
Based on folk singer Arlo Guthrie’s song “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” this is a freewheeling pastiche that truly encapsulates the late ’70s with gutsy glee. Arlo plays himself, a draft dodger who’s thrown out of school, hitchhikes to Massachusetts and ends up with friends Alice and Ray. Says the description: “After Thanksgiving dinner, Arlo and his friends decide to do Alice and Ray a favor by taking several months worth of garbage from their house to the dump.” Ah, who cares? This is by far one of the best hippie-dippie flicks ever made, one that will go well with your cranberry sauce and gravy.
“Broadway Danny Rose” (1984)
Woody makes the cut again with his black-and-white film in which he’s a low-level talent agent who has to pretend to be Mia Farrow’s boyfriend because she’s having an affair with a low-level lounge singer who’s married and needs a break and … Anyway, at the end, Woody hosts a Thanksgiving Day party for all his freaky clients and brags about how great frozen turkey is. He makes up with Mia’s character, which I guess is something to be thankful for, even if it’s only fiction.
“For Your Consideration” (2006)
Christopher Guest directed this hilarious spoof of Oscar mania, and he featured his usual crew, including himself, Eugene Levy, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Coolidge and Catherine O’Hara (who’s so good she should have gotten a real Oscar nomination for this). The movie is about several actors who are getting Oscar buzz for “Home For Purim,” a heated drama about a Jewish family in the deep south in the 1940s, with Parker Posey as their lesbian daughter. When the studio wants to tone down the Semitism, they switch the title to “Home For Thanksgiving,” but the gratitude never ends up extending to many awards podiums. In fact, the three hopefuls have to give up hope and go back to their talent-free lives, traumatized. A riotous romp!
“The Facts of Life Reunion” (2001)
Let me bend the rules and include a TV movie, even one I haven’t seen — but I just know it’s gotta be amazing! After all, it updates you on all the gals — like Natalie, who’s now a CNN producer; Blair, who owns hotels; and Tootie, who’s a talk show host. (Nancy McKeon couldn’t make the movie because of scheduling conflicts, so who cares what happened to Jo?) The plot? “Natalie has talked all the girls and Mrs. Garrett into spending the Thanksgiving holiday together back in Peekskill, New York.” You take the good, you take the bad …
Michael Musto is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.