Pass the remote. Check out these Thanksgiving-centered movies

Steven Spearie
State Journal-Register

Thanksgiving movies might not have the revelry or cache of Christmas movies. But themes of family dynamics, no matter how dysfunctional, can provide some good theatre.

These cinematic gifts can provide a bit of levity, insight or inspiration as the turkey and pumpkin pie come around again and again and again.


'Home for the Holidays' (1995)

Claudia Larson (Holly Hunter), who has just lost her job as a Chicago art restorer, is headed off to spend Thanksgiving with the folks in Baltimore. Her daughter has steamier plans for the holiday, which goes awry in a variety of ways. Directed by Jodie Foster, the ensemble cast features Robert Downey Jr., Claire Danes, Dylan McDermott and Anne Bancroft.

Steve Martin, left, and John Candy team up for "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" (1987)

'Planes, Trains and Automobiles' (1987)

The beloved John Hughes comedy will make you reconsider your travel partners. Uptight Chicago advertising executive Neal Page (Steve Martin) and shower curtain ring salesman Del Griffith (the late John Candy) make their way from New York City to Chicago. Martin's profane-laced vent at a car rental agent is memorable as is Candy's selling shower curtain rings as jewelry. The St. Louis scene was really filmed at Lambert International Airport.

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Katie Holmes stars in the indie gem "Pieces of April."

'Pieces of April' (2003)

A gem of an independent movie with Katie Holmes as the plucky and punky April, who takes it upon herself to host Thanksgiving dinner at her postage-stamp-sized Manhattan apartment for her suburban family, including her mother, Patricia Clarkson, who is dying of cancer. A broken oven, indifferent neighbors and scrapping families are all at the center of Peter Hedges' film.

(L to R) George (ADAM SANDLER) and Ira (SETH ROGEN)  in a scene from the motion picture Funny People.  Photo by Tracy Bennett, Universal Pictures (Via MerlinFTP Drop)

'Funny People' (2009)

Successful comedian/actor George Simmons (Adam Sandler) is diagnosed with leukemia and returns to his roots of stand-up comedy, taking the green Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) under his wings. The veteran comedian provides a touching Thanksgiving toast ("If you love somebody, don't let them slip away.") The Judd Apatow written and directed feature also stars Leslie Mann with Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman in supporting roles.

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'What's Cooking?' (2000)

Cultural and generational differences are explored in four Los Angeles families of different ethnicities — Latino, Asian (Vietnamese), Jewish and Black — as they gather for their respective Thanksgiving dinners. Mercedes Ruehl and Alfre Woodard are standouts in a diverse cast.

'Cold Turkey' (2013)

The Turner family is eccentric enough, topped by Peter Bogdanovich as the boozing patriarch, but when tornadic daughter Nina (Alicia Witt) bursts back into picture after 15 years, relationships are turned upside down. It also features Cheryl Hines and Victoria Tennant.

'The New World' (2005)

Terrence Malick's arresting, if overlong film follows the mythical love story of Capt. John Smith (Colin Farrell) and Pocahontas (Q'orianka Kilcher, in her big-screen debut). The Native Americans staring at the arrival of the English ships is telling. With Christopher Plummer.

Alfre Woodard was featured in "What's Cooking?"

'Free Birds' (2013)

Time-traveling turkeys try to prevent their kind from ending up on future Thanksgiving menus. Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler and George Takei lend voice performances to this computer-animated feature.

Contact Steven Spearie: 217-622-1788,,