‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles,’ ‘Charlie Brown’ and ‘Rocky’ among Thanksgiving films worth watching as families reunite

·4 min read

Give thanks for family — and films — this holiday season.

With many families finally able to reunite this Thanksgiving due to the COVID-19 vaccine, there’s never been a better time to celebrate with a movie that captures the season’s message of togetherness.

Or, of course, to distract you and your relatives from awkward political debates at the dinner table.

Here are Thanksgiving movies worth carving out time for Thursday.

“A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” (1973)

Perhaps the ultimate Thanksgiving flick, the “Charlie Brown” special is as synonymous with the holiday as apple pie — and just as sweet.

It’s a movie the whole family can enjoy, and that generations have been sharing with their kids for decades.

New York audiences can also take comfort knowing Charlie Brown might be the only one having worse luck with a football than the Giants and Jets these days.

“Planes, Trains and Automobiles” (1987)

Halloween may be the holiday for sweets, but Thanksgiving is all about Candy.

John Candy and Steve Martin’s misadventures masterpiece about a whirlwind journey to Chicago for Thanksgiving isn’t just one of the holiday’s top movies — it’s among the best comedies ever made.

It’s worth a lengthy commute just to share some laughs from “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” with family. And if the ending doesn’t get you, you might not have a soul.

“Rocky” (1976)

If “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie, “Rocky” can be a Thanksgiving movie.

Rocky and Adrian, played by Sylvester Stallone and Talia Shire, have their first date on Thanksgiving, at a skating rink. And in the sad-but-too-often-true spirit of Thanksgiving, Paulie (Burt Young) is that family member who has too much to drink and spoils things.

“Free Birds” (2013)

It’s always good to get another perspective.

The comedy follows time-traveling turkeys who hope to avoid being cooked for Thanksgiving, with Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson and Amy Poehler voicing the animated poultry.

Watch this one after dinner, or else you might end up only wanting to eat the side dishes.

“Hannah and Her Sisters” (1986)

Times were much different when this movie came out. The problematic origins of Thanksgiving were rarely, if ever, discussed. And Woody Allen just seemed quiet and quirky — with a loving, devoted partner in Mia Farrow.

But no matter what you think of the holiday’s history or the director’s sordid story in real life, this is one of Allen’s best films. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and brought Oscars to Michael Caine and Dianne Wiest. As the all-star cast gathers for three Thanksgiving parties, try to ignore the other issues and focus on the film.

If you’re having trouble doing that, wine might help.

“Dutch” (1991)

Filmmaker John Hughes wasn’t done serving up Thanksgiving trek movies with “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”

He also wrote “Dutch,” a comedy starring Ed O’Neill that follows a man’s desperate attempt to drive his girlfriend’s snobbish son from Georgia to Chicago in time for the holiday.

It’s not in the same league as the Martin-Candy classic, but many can relate to going great distances to see loved ones on Thanksgiving — or to being dragged to a dinner they don’t want to attend.

“Home for the Holidays” (1995)

This comedy depicts a common Thanksgiving experience, with mayhem ensuing as soon as a dysfunctional family comes together for Turkey Day.

You’d probably be more willing to tough it out, though, if your family dinner featured the likes of Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr. and Claire Danes.

“Pieces of April” (2003)

It’s Thanksgiving, New York style.

The Manhattan-set comedy-drama has all the fixings of a holiday in the city, from a small apartment with an even tinier kitchen, to a stove that won’t turn on to cook the turkey.

Between the laughs, the Katie Holmes-led movie features poignant messages about family, with Patricia Clarkson, who received an Oscar nomination, playing a woman suffering from breast cancer on what may be her final Thanksgiving.

“Friendsgiving” (2020)

If you can’t be with your family on Thanksgiving, then make one.

The film represents an experience shared by many New Yorkers — pals gathering on or around the holiday and making the best of being away from their relatives.

The movie may have felt a bit more relevant last year, when fewer people traveled due to COVID, but it’s still worth tuning in for the on-screen drama that occurs when Malin Åkerman, Kat Dennings and Jane Seymour’s characters come together for the holiday.

“Son in Law” (1993)

Need something to be thankful for? Be glad that Pauly Shore won’t be at your Thanksgiving dinner.

This tiresome turkey got a lowly 21% approval on Rotten Tomatoes. Watch only if you need a nap and the tryptophan in your dinner bird didn’t do the trick.

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