Too often we skip from Halloween to Christmas Evil. Where’s the love for the Thanksgiving movie? As complicated a holiday as our Thanksgiving is, it’s prime for some of the most delightful, inquisitive, and downright strange films of the season. Here’s what I’m watching this week:

The Usual Story (with added honesty)

The New World (2005) – Dir. Terrence Malick

The New World (2005) | Thanksgiving Playlist 2017 | onecriticalbitch.com

The Thanksgiving story you’re used to, complete with John Smith, Pocohantas, and a lot of corn. With additional brutal, unpleasant, relatively truthful details. My favorite Malick film, it’s both beautiful and horrific.

Thanksgiving Dinners with Difficult Families

Home for the Holidays (1995) – Dir. Jodie Foster

Home for the Holidays (1995) | Thanksgiving Playlist 2017 | onecriticalbitch.com

Agonizingly honest and sentimental (in the best way). With incredible performances from Anne Bancroft and Geraldine Chaplin, it has all the hallmarks of Foster’s greatest directorial work (have you seen The Beaver?) – difficult family members, psychological trauma, and a sense of humor about it all. Good turkey jokes.

Pieces of April (2003) – Dir. Peter Hedges

Similar in tone to Home for the Holidays, but even more intimate. Full of sadness and belly aching laughs. Patricia Clarkson is sardonic, cruel, and somehow lovable. Good turkey jokes.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987) – Dir. John Hughes

For lovers of slapstick, John Candy, and road trips with terrible company. I can’t imagine a Thanksgiving movie list without this. No turkey jokes; rental car jokes make up for it.

The Wiz (1978) – Dir. Sidney Lumet

 A Thanksgiving snowstorm takes Diana Ross’s Dorothy to Oz. She finds another family waiting for her there. I’ve written about the importance of this musical before, but in the current climate, its message of empowerment and endurance is more important than ever – especially on a day we’re meant to take stock of what we’re grateful for.

On Why You’re Really Here (Graphic Images of Food)

Waitress (2007) – Dir. Adrienne Shelly

Waitress (2007) | Thanksgiving Playlist 2017 | onecriticalbitch.com

Pies.

Julie and Julia (2009) – Dir. Nora Ephron

French food.

Chef (2014) – Dir. Jon Favreau

Cuban fusion.

Simply Irresistible (1999) – Dir. Mark Tarlov

Magic crab. Plus pastries.

Ratatouille (2007) – Dirs. Brad Bird, Jan Pinkara

Ratatouille (Duh).

The Trip (2010) – Dir. Michael Winterbottom

The cuisine of Northern England (I know, wrong country) and Michael Caine impressions.

Films By and About Native Americans

Smoke Signals (1998) – Dir. Chris Eyre

Smoke Signals (1998) | Thanksgiving Playlist 2017 | onecriticalbitch.com

Your favorite kind of American road trip. A necessary film, not just because it’s written by, directed by, and starring native Americans (the first film of its kind), but because it’s very funny, very sad, and very good.

Reel Injun (2009) – Dirs. Neil Diamond, Catherine Bainbridge, and Jeremiah Hayes

A documentary that can help explain why there aren’t more movies in this part of the list.

The Immigrant Experience in America

El Norte (1983) – Dir. Gregory Nava

El Norte (1983) | Thanksgiving Playlist 2017 | onecriticalbitch.com

Thanksgiving is supposed to be about coming together and making a home. Here’s an immigrant story that shows how terrifying and difficult that journey can be.

Everything is Illuminated (2005) – Dir. Liev Schrieber

 A second-generation American Jew travels through Ukraine with an aspiring rapper, his anti-semitic grandfather, and a dog named Sammy Davis, Jr., Jr., to learn more about his family origins. His collection of family artifacts (like teeth) in ziplock bags is a highlight.

What will you be watching alongside you turkey/tofurkey/uncomfortable politics?

Please, leave your favorite Thanksgiving film in the comments (If it’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, you know I’ll understand).

  • I watched the Disney Pocahontas a couple of weeks ago and it reminded me of “The New World.” My husband had never seen it so I ordered it immediately and we watched it as soon as it came. I had forgotten how beautiful and honest it was.

    • Isn’t it exquisite? Q’orianka Kilcher couldn’t have been better cast, the story is as cruel and difficult as it should be, and the gorgeous, gorgeous landscape makes for a really strange and surreal backdrop. So glad it resonates with you, too.

      • Yes, I totally forgot to mention the landscape. It’s so very true to that part of Virginia and where Jamestown actually is. I was basically screaming at the Disney version wondering where these cliffs and waterfalls are.

%d bloggers like this: