Planes, Trains and Automobiles
This year, it's good to stay home. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't travel vicariously – and this T-Day movie road trip is a classic!
Steve Martin and John Candy are, respectively, the uptight straight man and gregarious interloper who somehow get stuck together over and over in a mad-dash attempt to make it from NYC to Chicago in time for Thanksgiving dinner. The John Hughes comedy features all kinds of funny set-ups involving all kinds of vehicular travel. It also has a lot of heart, much of that belonging to the two leads and especially the warm big bear hug of a performance from the late, great John Candy.
Home for the Holidays
Jodie Foster directs this 1995 comedy that's pretty much the epitome of what's good, bad, ugly and hilarious about coming home for the holidays with all your insane relatives.
Holly Hunter stars as a single mom whose teen daughter opts out of the family Thanksgiving dinner (to stay home and have sex with her boyfriend no less). Mom's left solo then to cope with her crazy aunt (Geraldine Chaplin), her indifferent sister (Cynthia Stevenson), her snobbish brother-in-law (Steve Guttenberg), her doting parents (Charles Durning and Anne Bancroft), her just-married (secretly) brother (Robert Downey Jr.), and his attractive new (available?) friend (Dylan McDermott).
Pieces of April
Two severely underrated Katie Holmes performances and movies: 1999's "Go," which finds Holmes and a merry band of Gen X pranksters leading a thrilling and definitely dangerous lifestyle on Christmas Eve on the streets of Los Angeles and Las Vegas; and 2003's "Pieces of April." The latter is a comedy-drama that finds Holmes' red-haired, punk-styled character April volunteering to host and cook Thanksgiving dinner for her family in her small New York apartment. Estranged from her family, she's hoping to make the peace, especially since her mom (Patricia Clarkson) is suffering breast cancer.
The tough part…she doesn't really know how to cook…at all. With a little luck and some help from the residents in her complex, everything may still turn out!
Scent of a Woman
Al Pacino won the Oscar for Best Actor for his larger than life role as a blind, retired Army officer who convinces the high school prep student (Chris O'Donnell) watching over him for the Thanksgiving holiday to take a trip into New York City. It's not the traditional Thanksgiving adventure, but there's a lot of humor and genuine bonding that take place as Pacino's embittered vet learns as much on decency and integrity from the kid as he provides in grit and strength.
Trey Edward Shults' directorial debut is an emotional stunner.
The indie drama won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival, and the cast includes members of Shults' own family, including Krisha Fairchild as Krisha, a woman who has been estranged from her family for many years. She finally reconciles with them at Thanksgiving, but due to the pressure, falls back on past addictions with drink and drugs in secret – until emotions and secrets explode between them all.
For a lighter, family-friendly movie course, try this appetizing cinematic fare featuring an all-star cast of voices including Owen Wilson, Amy Poehler, Woody Harrelson, George Takei and more. The breezy animated comedy finds two time-travelling turkeys headed back through the generations to see if they can switch up the traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu – specifically the main course.
Nominated for Best Actor for his performance here, screen legend Paul Newman is, as the marketing proclaims, "absolute perfection" as Sully, a care-free, cranky and cantankerous 60-something hustler/construction worker in a sleepy New York town. When his grown son and young grandson arrive at Thanksgiving, Sully finally begins to own up to the responsibilities of his life.
Nowadays, our country can appear pretty divided, and we'll admit, the premise of this Thanksgiving comedy might be a little too close for comfort for many.
For others, though, it might be just the thing to defuse all the tension. If you can laugh at it, you can probably laugh through anything.
The story involves a future America where citizens are requested to sign a document (the Oath) swearing loyalty to the US government by Black Friday. Ike Barinholtz and Tiffany Haddish play an interracial couple who have issues with the order and the sitting President. When two government agents arrive at their door after the Thanksgiving holiday, communications between them and their extended family are strained more than a little bit. Here, it's best just to sit back, enjoy the fireworks and be thankful it's not your family.
The Blind Side
The hugely popular "The Blind Side" earned over $300 million at the box office, and a Best Actress Oscar for Sandra Bullock. It's an inspiring, family-friendly, real-life story about the obstacles overcome by Michael Oher, a kid from an impoverished background who went on to defy his circumstances and become a first-round draft pick in the NFL. A key moment in the movie comes when Oher sits down to Thanksgiving with his adopted family, and everyone realizes how blessed they truly are.
Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango, Movies.com, MediaTrip, Hollywood.com and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.