Every year as Thanksgiving approaches, I like to see a good movie about the holiday. Of course, I first read Truman Capote’s The Thanksgiving Visitor, a masterfully written and moving story for and about the holiday. Written for adults, the story is yet immensely appealing to children since, according to the Committee for Children, “The story’s events, relationships, and flawed characters are guaranteed to spark lively discussions about such issues as bullying and bystander behavior, anger management, empathy, and friendship.”
However, once I finish Capote’s beautiful story, again, I enjoy watching a Thanksgiving movie, but it seems that good movies about this holiday, or even bad ones for that matter, are in short supply, which isn’t the case for Christmas, which has generated thousands of movies, or so it seems, especially if one counts both older and newer films.
Then again, although few in number, there are yet some good movies with Thanksgiving themes and/or settings, and although the list of movies below is purely subjective, they are among the best Hollywood and television have to offer.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving for Children of All Ages
This Thanksgiving animated film is rated four stars by Mick Martin and Marsha Porter, coauthors of Video Movie Guide 1995, and described as an “adorable seasonal special.” Originally made for television in 1973,it is still shown in many areas around the country and is also available on DVD. Filled with Charles Schulz’s delightful Peanuts characters, the story beautifully captures the true meaning of Thanksgiving and does so with humor, warmth, and sincerity.
The Thanksgiving Story for Wholesome Family Entertainment
Another original television special, which was also made in 1973, The Thanksgiving Story stars Richard Thomas, Ralph Waite, Michael Learned, Ellen Colby, and Will Geer, otherwise known as the Walton family. John Boy (Thomas) has fallen in love with “the girl of his dreams” and is applying for a college scholarship, but then he has a serious accident that threatens to destroy everything. Although Martin and Porter claim the movie is “a bit slow-paced and overly sweet,” it’s well worth seeing and will warm even the coldest heart.
Miracle on 34th Street for Classic Movie Lovers
Granted, this movie is associated with Christmas, but it is also a Thanksgiving movie. After all, Macy’s big parade is always held on Thanksgiving Day, and one of the big scenes in the movie is the annual parade. Besides, watching it at Thanksgiving can help put you in the mood for the coming Christmas season.
Made in 1947 and starring Natalie Wood, Maureen O’Hara, and Edmund Gwenn, this family classic, as Martin and Porter say, is “one of Hollywood’s most delightful fantasies.” It tells the story of a little girl who has lost the spirit of Christmas but has it rekindled by a department store Santa who causes a furor when he claims to be the real thing. Whether he is or isn’t the real thing, well, that’s up to you to decide.
Home for the Holidays for Sheer Entertainment
Made in 1995, directed by Jodie Foster, and starring a cast that includes Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, and, in a minor but well-acted role, the ever-watchable David Strathairn. Admittedly, this movie is my favorite Thanksgiving movie, and I’ve watched every holiday since it was first released in 1995. Moreover, I don’t care that film critic Leonard Maltin describes it as “a dreary comedy about a woman at loose ends who flies home to spend Thanksgiving with her wildly dysfunctional family” (p. 625).
All I can say is that Mr. Maltin occasionally has lousy taste in movies, for this is a truly delightful film that tells a wonderfully entertaining and at times heartwarming story of a family like your family and my family, meaning one wherein the members might bicker and squabble, but through all the trials and tribulations and heartache, they never once stop loving one another. Plus, some of the scenes, especially the Thanksgiving Day meal, are hilarious and will have you in stitches. (Rated PG-13)
The Big Chill for Irresistible Soundtrack and All-Star Cast
You don’t have to be a former 60’s radical or flower child to enjoy this film or it’s fantastic soundtrack. Made in 1983 and starring such acting greats as Tom Berringer, Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, William Hurt, and Jeff Goldblum, The Big Chill is rated R and, therefore, not recommended for small children, mainly because of Close’s shower scene and some language. (Martin)
The story is about a group of former college-radicals who reunite for the funeral of a friend who was once part of their group and recently committed suicide (The friend is played by Kevin Coster in his first role, but you never see his face, only his body in the casket). Now part of the establishment they once abhorred, the friends spend the weekend together playing football in the fallen leaves, cooking an elaborate meal, dancing to the film’s amazing soundtrack, and reminiscing about what once was and what might have been. Not for everyone, but it’s still a good movie for Thanksgiving viewing.
In conclusion, again, this list is purely subjective, but each movie has a Thanksgiving theme or setting, and all but the last one are suitable for family viewing, so why not rent or even buy one or more for your holiday viewing pleasure?