Despite being one of two uniquely American holiday traditions, Thanksgiving doesn’t have the same cinematic cultural cache as its bookend cousins Halloween and Christmas. Even TV shows tend to shy away from turkey-centric storytelling – America's longest running family series The Simpsons has just a handful of Thanksgiving episodes in nearly three decades. Perhaps this is due to the holiday being steeped in kitschy Americana and a mythologized past about a group of fundamentalist theocrats who took advantage of indigenous hospitality when they couldn’t grow their own damn food. If the former appeals to you, there’s not one, but two different Charlie Brown specials to enjoy. For anyone interested in the latter, here’s a reminder that The Addams Family Values is more about November than October. Of all the directors who could have threaded the needle between celebrating middle America nostalgia and subtly satirizing the darker side of the holiday, John Hughes would have been the leading candidate. Planes, Trains and Automobiles almost universally gets mentioned as the great American Thanksgiving film, but a careful re-watch reveals a heavily edited down story salvaged by a brilliant John Candy performance. This raises another important question: where are the Canadian Thanksgiving movies? Until we can find more thorough answers to all these questions, here are two of the more interesting Thanksgiving centered films to watch this holiday.
Krisha - Thanksgiving in Texas may not seem like the most obvious setting for an experimental indie film, but that's exactly what Trey Edward Shults chose for his debut feature about a deadbeat mom trying to reconnect with her son. Shults cast many of his actual family members in this film that goes beyond simple dysfunctional dynamics and addiction tropes.
Pieces of April - Surprisingly, this quirky indie comedy featuring both Katie Holmes and "Thong Song" maestro Sisqo hasn't had as much impact on the holiday discourse as it probably should have. We can probably blame Katie for that. Peter Hedges (father of Lucas) wrote and directed this story of a rebellious daughter in New York's Lower East Side determined to host her suburban family for the perfect Thanksgiving dinner.
On the other hand, if you really can't stand the holiday, live in a state that's legalized cannabis and/or want to traumatize your relatives, here are two more out there options.
Son in Law - It's probably unfair to blame Paulie Shore for the country's current political and cultural divide, but this movie may change your mind.
ThanksKilling - The tagline says it all. An evil turkey takes its revenge on some meddling college kids. It's kind of an allegory for the treatment of American Indians. Yes, there are sequels.