It’s a day to celebrate the bonds of family, but while putting this list together I started to notice a common theme: dysfunctional families. The good, the bad, the crazy—the turkey holiday tends to bring out every side of the family and your friends to both comedic and dramatic effect—which makes these rife with conflict and tense situations perfect for film.
If dinner doesn’t put you into a state of ZZzzz, these films will be sure to keep you awake this Thursday.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving – Let’s start on a light note. Like a plate of warm stuffing, here’s one the whole family can get around. A cartoon classic (it originally aired in 1973 as a prime time special), the Peanuts gang top the list here when they try to throw together a Thanksgiving dinner.
Pieces of April – It’s hard to believe this indie starring a pre-Tom Cruise imprisoned Katie Holmes as a wayward punk wasn’t even ten years ago! This 2003 dramedy depicts a young woman who wants to impress her estranged family with the perfect Thanksgiving, except it doesn’t turn out as planned.
The Ice Storm – Based on the Rick Moody book of the same name, this Ang Lee scorcher is a chilly look at an ensemble of characters in a 1970s suburban Connecticut town—a slice of middle class life and ennui where relationships are put to the test during Thanksgiving weekend. Stars Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Joan Allen, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Elijah Wood, and, again, Katie Holmes.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles – A guy who just wants to make it home for the holidays braves airports, weather, and other transportation fails, not to mention a chatty shower curtain ring salesman. This Steve Martin-John Candy classic is one that needs to be dusted off every post-Thanksgiving meal.
Hannah and Her Sisters – This Woody Allen ensemble (which one right?) is one of the auteur’s most beloved, bookending a witty, fast-talking family over two years that starts and ends with a Thanksgiving dinner.
Home for the Holidays – This Jodie Foster vehicle is a Thanksgiving dramedy that captures every awkward family situation you can imagine. The actress, who also directed this gem, plays a woman who just lost her job during the most inopportune time ever (the holiday season) and is thrown into the lion’s den that is her dysfunctional family’s antics. Legendary Anne Bancroft also stars.
The Myth of Fingerprints – Julianne Moore stars in this and it’s like the dark meat of the turkey, y’all. The American gothic tone of this film centers around an estranged family that’s brought together around the Thanksgiving Day table, yet pulled further apart when a son who hasn’t visited in three years visits.