What to Watch this Thanksgiving

Need a family movie for Thanksgiving? We got you covered.

With Thanksgiving comes the sudden need for a variety of activities to keep the whole family together and entertained. In my house at least, this often comes in the form of a family watch-together movie. Now, for anyone who has done this at least a few times, the trial of ages is attempting to find something that makes everyone happy, or else you spend the entire running time seeing what it is like for someone to try very very hard to seem like they are having a bad time just to prove a point. We get it, you wanted to watch Star Trek (2009) and we picked Mississippi Grind (2015). So, in the spirit of making a few lives easier, I present to you a list of ten great movies to pop in this Thanksgiving.


For the family that lives to scheme. ….

Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

With the news that the final season of Game of Thrones (2011-) will not be released until April 2019, and House of Cards (2013-2018) now finished, anyone who lives for the conniving citizens of Westeros or Underwood’s might need a substitute for the holiday. Look no further than the Ealing Studios classic Kind Hearts and Coronets. Starring a perfectly cast Dennis Price, the movie tells the story of Louis (Price), a man that is a distant heir of the Dukeship of Chalfont, and decides that he rather wants the title and castle. So, like any pragmatic person would do, he sets out to murder each of the family members in line preceding him, most of them played by the incomparable Alec Guinness. It is a fabulous dark comedy that offers no shortage of laughs, and as a bonus, if you happen to suddenly be in line for a royal title, a decent playbook for how to get to the top. Jaime Lannister and Claire Underwood take note.


For the family who does everything together….

The Godfather (1972)

Lemme make you this suggestion that you can’t refuse, but don’t worry, if you decide Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece isn’t quite the one for you and yours it won’t need to be your brains or your signature on the keyboard. Maybe it’s because I grew up on one too many AMC “Thanksgiving with The Godfather” marathons, but you can’t do much better for a movie about the importance of sticking by family, unless of course that family has stepped over the line (sorry Fredo). The epic tale of the Corleone clan saw its cinematic start in this movie, and if you find yourself looking for a movie that reflects your family’s particular brand of loyalty that other people could sometimes label “too close,” The Godfather should serve nicely. I would pair it with a lovely bottle of chianti.


For the family with kids trying to passive aggressively tell their parents to lay off….

Vitus (2006)

There is nothing quite like the pointed conversation at a Thanksgiving table about the children’s future plans. While this cousin or that cousin talks about what they’ll be doing after they graduate from law school, there are those of us who don’t have it quite figured out and would rather not have their pumpkin pie served with a heaping scoop of parental passive aggressiveness. Enter Vitus, a hidden gem of a Swiss movie, tells the story of piano prodigy Vitus von Holzen, played by Fabrizio Borsani as a young child and Teo Gheorghiu as an adolescent. He is a gifted performer from a young age, but for all his precociousness and skill, he doesn’t quite want to follow the path his parents set out for him. So, he figures out how to things his way. I suggest popping it on while enjoying a tall glass of something stronger than that curious bowl of punch which always makes its way into Thanksgiving dinners, and nodding vigorously whenever Vitus tells his parents what he really thinks.  


For the family who needs to get pumped up before Black Friday….

Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)

The turkey’s been served, the dishes have been washed, and you’re all getting ready for a power nap before you load in the car and stand in line at Walmart, coffees in hand, with your mission, if you choose to accept it: get the best deal possible on a new laptop. There’s a level of insanity to subjecting oneself to the Black Friday rush, but the reward if you pull off the impossible of beating everyone else to lay your hands on one of the six deluxe Smart TV’s is all the sweeter. What better way to get in the right mindset and pick up a few tips for running full tilt across a crowded store than to watch the master of crazy stunts himself, Tom Cruise, dash around trying to save the world from its newest threat. Christopher McQuarrie’s second spin in the director’s chair in this now 22 year-old (!!!) franchise has just the right balance of humor, heart, and death-defying action sequences to get you revved up and ready to go.


For the family who needs a good laugh….

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)

Cooking for a gazillion people can be taxing, and lord knows that the the traveling for Thanksgiving is an Odyssey in its own right. So if you and the family are in need of some good belly laughs while also wanting something that is actually about Thanksgiving, I give you Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Really a comic showcase for the singular and overflowing talents of John Candy and Steve Martin, this riff on the buddy road comedy follows the two of them as they try to make it home to their respective families after their flight is cancelled. There is of course the minor wrinkle that Martin plays an uptight, type-A businessman who suffers no fools, and Candy is a happy-go-lucky salesman who things just never seem to go quite right for. Watching the two fight, travel, and slowly warm up to each other is a festive joy to behold. Also, if you find yourself enjoying the late John Candy, throw in Uncle Buck () for a solid double feature.


For the family who needs a jumpstart for family therapy….

Hereditary (2018)

There’s just something about the holiday’s that can make families go a little nuts. What is it about turkey and scalloped potatoes that convince everyone it’s time to talk to their sister about the long-gestating grudge they developed against her during the second grade? They were supposed to be my colored pencils, you already had the markers….but I digress. If you need a reminder that there are families out there who most definitely have more strained and sometimes more deadly meals, Ari Aster’s horror outing is a perfect way to get the therapy session going, complete with demonic children, a funeral, and all sorts of little domestic dioramas that give way to the family secrets within. Toni Collette gives an outstanding performance as the distorted matriarch of a family that gives new meaning to the phrase “you got it from your mother’s side.” If you’re looking for more on it, see what Jane had to say about it here.


For the family who needs a compromise that isn’t NFL or the Macy’s Day Parade…..

Best in Show (2000)

Personally, I’m more of a Macy’s Day Parade person than a NFL Thanksgiving person, but more than either of those I look forward to the National Dog Show. As someone who has never owned a dog but has long enjoyed other people’s dogs without really wanting one myself, it’s peak vicarious living. But, maybe your family isn’t in to the actual dog show either, but I guarantee Christopher Guest’s bananas mockumentary Best In Show will make everyone happy. Following the bonkers adventures of a group of owners and trainers preparing for and traveling to the National Dog Show, the hijinks that these people will get up to in pursuit of that elusive title of Best in Show is some of the most fun you can find streaming. For the football fan there’s plenty of slapstick physical humor to be found, and it may not have floats or balloons, but you won’t miss the Macy’s extravaganza when you’re watching those precocious pups parade around the arena.


For the family who lives for adrenaline….

Jurassic Park (1993)

Nothing brings people together like a charging Tyrannosaurus Rex, and you can’t beat the special effects in Jurassic Park for sheer adrenaline inspiring factor. Don’t bother with the CGI messes that are the two Jurassic World sequels of recents years, just go straight to the Michael Crichton penned and Steven Spielberg directed classic that is as much an allegory on the danger of scientific hubris as it as a wonderful glimpse into bringing people together. How can you resent your younger sibling when they’re trying to save you from a velociraptor in the kitchen? As a bonus, for those of us had dreams of paleontology as a kid, it’s a nice way to quiz yourself on all the kinds of dinosaurs that try, or sometimes succeed,  to kill the cast over the runtime. Good, wholesome, thrilling family fun, though the squeamish may want to wait and have seconds till after the movie finishes.


For the family that’s looking forward to Christmas already….

Meet me in St. Louis (1944)

I get it, once the first snow hits the ground some people just cannot wait for it to be time to pop in White Christmas (1954) or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964). You try and hide the fact that you’ve been humming “The First Noël” since the first week of November, and you already have your Christmas cards picked ou. But, there’s still a turkey coma and some questionable Black Friday shopping to get through, so you can’t quite deck the halls yet. Have no fear, Meet me in St. Louis will come to your rescue. A true classic of a Judy Garland musical, the movie follows the four Smith sisters and their family as their home of St. Louis prepares for the 1904 World’s Fair. It moves through most of the years significant holidays and events, and features the premiere of Garland singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” so you can get the family fun and a dose of Christmas without anyone batting an eyelash.


For every family….

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

Do yourself and your family a favor, don’t even think about it, just put Taika Waititi’s riotous New Zealand romp Hunt for the Wilderpeople on and enjoy. Stop reading this now and put it on. Just do it. Shit is about to get so real (you’ll get it once you watch the movie, which you should be doing by now).

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