Listen/Look: Thanksgiving Movies Are a Thing, Too

An afterthought of Halloween and frequently regarded as the beginning of the Christmas season, Thanksgiving is (in my opinion) the most underrated holiday. After all, what other celebration requires nothing more than being grateful, eating and watching football, often from the comfort of your own living room? 

Nothing highlights the forgotten-ness of Thanksgiving like the movie industry. An entire month of horror movie marathons? Check. An entire channel dedicated to the genre of Christmas movies? Yep. Thanksgiving gets the shaft there too. But fear not! We’ve compiled a list of Thanksgiving-adjacent media to watch to prepare yourself for the political conspiracy theories of your crazy aunt, or after consuming your weight in tryptophan and sweet potatoes (no judgment here). 

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
It’s a classic and required watching in my house. While the traditional Thanksgiving fare is my absolute favorite, I have longed to host a gathering and serve popcorn, jelly beans and toast around a repurposed ping pong table my entire life. The special also opens with the classic Lucy-pulling-the-football-away-as-Charlie-Brown-tries-to-kick-it scene, as well as Snoopy and Woodstock in pilgrim costumes. As expected, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving was created after A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, but it did win an Emmy. Take that, Christmas and Halloween!

Friends Thanksgiving Episodes (all nine of them!)
Even with Thanksgiving-hating Chandler (his parents announced their divorce on Thanksgiving) in the mix, spending the holiday with our six best Friends is always a great idea. Generally filled with guest stars (Christina Applegate! Brad Pitt! Elliott Gould!), each one is comedy gold. From the Season three tag football game when we’re first introduced to hyper-competitive Monica, to the Season five episode full of flashbacks and both Monica and Joey with turkeys on their heads, to Rachel’s accidental trifle/shepherd’s pie combination in Season six (“Custard, good. Jam, good. Meat, good!”), you can stream all ten seasons of Friends on HBO Max. And yes, Friends ran for ten seasons, but only gave us nine Thanksgivings. Apparently 1995 was 2020 before 2020 was 2020.

The Oath
Remember that comment about crazy, politically-charged relatives? If you have one, this is the film for you (or, maybe not, if it hits a little too close to home). Directed, written by and starring the incredibly talented Ike Barinholtz, the film tells the story of an already politically-divided family dealing with the aftermath of the government’s request that all citizens sign a loyalty pledge. It’s a dark comedy, to say the least, but you’ll giggle and probably recognize a few relatives.

Free Birds
All you really need to know is that Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson and Amy Poehler lend their voices to this animated film about turkeys who travel back in time to change the menu of the first Thanksgiving, thus securing turkey safety in the future. Don’t watch this one with the conspiracy-theory kin; the treatment of Reggie the turkey by his coop and subsequent “rescue” by the Turkey Freedom Front will just get them riled up again.Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Did you think we weren’t even going to mention the greatest Thanksgiving movie of all time? You can’t beat an 80s buddy comedy starring Steve Martin and the late, great John Candy. All high-strung exec Neal wants is to get home to Chicago for Thanksgiving with his family. After his plane is diverted for snow, hijinks abound as Neal and his newly obtained, completely unwanted travel buddy Del (a traveling shower ring salesman – it’s too good) make their way to Chicago using whatever travel methods made available. Like all John Hughes movies, this one pulls at the heartstrings at the end and resolves itself beautifully.