There’s a movie for every holiday (well, maybe not Arbor Day), but Thanksgiving has more than its share. There’s something about a family coming together around an overloaded table that makes for gripping drama and hilarious comedy. Before you tuck into IFC’s Sweatsgiving marathon weekend, take a look at our picks for the best Turkey Day movies of all time. They’re far tastier than Aunt Bertha’s leftover three-bean casserole.
This ultra low-budget horror comedy about a killer Turkey is the perfect NSFW antidote to heartwarming holiday treacle. Fans of the film’s so-bad-its-good charms helped Kickstart a sequel, ThanksKilling 3. What happened to ThanksKilling 2? Guess the killer turkey ate the print.
9. The Ice Storm
Key parties, family secrets and Nixon masks all converge in one particularly eventful Thanksgiving weekend in Ang Lee’s searing look at dysfunctional families in the turbulent days of the early ’70s. And you thought your post-dinner family games of Trivial Pursuit were tense.
8. Pieces of April
Katie Holmes broke free from her teen drama roots with this indie flick about a young urban misfit who invites her straight-laced suburban family to a big city Thanksgiving dinner. An underrated comedy about the importance of families (be they urban or biological) that also answers the age-old holiday question: canned or fresh cranberry sauce?
What is it with Thanksgiving and quasi-incest comedies? 2002’s Tadpole tells the tale of Oscar Grubman, a hyper-intelligent high school boy who has a crippling crush on his stepmother. When he goes home for Thanksgiving, this Oedipal nightmare gets transferred onto a horny cougar chiropractor, and things rapidly spin out of control. A general rule of thumb for the holidays: keep it in your pants, particularly when family is involved.
6. Scent Of A Woman
Al Pacino comes dangerously close to the edge of self-parody in his iconic role as blind ex-Army Ranger Frank Slade, but also scored a Best Actor win in the process. Chris O’Donnell plays the college student who is hired to take care of Slade over Thanksgiving break and finds himself dragged along on an adventure that includes a stop by his brother’s house for a Turkey Day dinner that goes wildly out of control. Hoo-hah! Pass the gravy.
5. The House Of Yes
This psychologically twisted 1997 black comedy helped make Parker Posey a star. She plays “Jackie-O” Pascal, a mentally disturbed young woman who joins her family at their ritzy Virginia estate for Thanksgiving. As a hurricane bears down on the area, Jackie proceeds to go further and further off the rails, capped off by an incestuous encounter with her own brother while they role-play the JFK assassination. With a strong cast and a wickedly sharp script, The House of Yes goes down like a slice of pumpkin pie with a whiskey chaser.
4. The War At Home
This underrated 1996 drama tackled some pretty tough subjects. Jeremy Collier (played by Emilio Estevez, who also directed) is a Vietnam vet back home and dealing with PTSD. Martin Sheen plays his dad, who doesn’t understand that his son came back a little changed. It all comes to a head at the family’s Thanksgiving dinner, where Jeremy pulls a gun on his dad because he wouldn’t loan him the cash he needed to flee the draft. The fact that Estevez and Sheen are father and son in real life only adds to the film’s dramatic tension.
3. Home for the Holidays
Few films capture the mix of dysfunction and warmth that comes with Thanksgiving better than Jodie Foster’s 1995 comedy. Holly Hunter and Robert Downey, Jr. are perfectly cast as a brother and sister weathering uptight siblings, kooky aunts and other family drama with sharp humor and lump-in-your throat tearful moments. We’re not crying. Mom must be cooking her famous onion soup.
2. Hannah and Her Sisters
Widely considered one of the best films in Woody Allen’s vast filmography, Hannah and Her Sisters charts the lives of three very different sisters over the course of three separate Thanksgivings. The holiday serves as a backdrop that reminds us of the ties that bind and also tear us down.
1. Planes, Trains And Automobiles
No movie captures the ups and downs of Thanksgiving quite like this John Hughes classic. Steve Martin plays Neal Page, a high-strung marketing suit who gets paired with John Candy’s slobby salesman Del Griffith as they both try to get back to Chicago in time for the holiday. Hughes was a master of tapping into some very American emotions, and the movie’s climax — where (spoiler alert!) Neal realizes Del has nowhere to go and invites him to come to dinner with his family — is a touching moment that in lesser hands would come off as maudlin.