Why is it that most Thanksgiving movies tell such sad stories? Isn’t this the holiday that comes with considerably less pressure (no gifts!) and lots of delicious food? Whatever the reason, all of that onscreen dysfunction does serve a purpose: it makes you feel better about your own nutty relatives. Here, five films to watch while avoiding IRL family drama.
Pieces of April
Since we are in the midst of a Katie Holmes resurgence, you might as well watch her criminally underrated performance as the titular character in Pieces of April, a 2003 Sundance favorite from Peter Hedges (father of Lucas Hedges). In an attempt to reconnect with her estranged family—played by Oliver Platt, Patricia Clarkson, Alison Pill, and John Gallagher Jr.—April invites her parents and siblings to travel from suburban Pennsylvania to her home on the Lower East Side for Thanksgiving dinner with her new boyfriend (played by Derek Luke), only for her oven to break just hours before they arrive.
Where to stream: Hulu
Home for the Holidays
Jodie Foster directed this dramedy about the stress of, well, going home for the holidays. Holly Hunter and Robert Downey Jr. star as an amusing brother-sister pair, while the rest of the ensemble cast consists of Anne Bancroft, Geraldine Chaplin, Dylan McDermott, Cynthia Stevenson, and Claire Danes.
Trey Edward Shults may be in the press these days for his A24 hit Waves, but it was the 2015 film Krisha that marked his feature length directorial debut. Shults cast many of his real-life family members, including his aunt Krisha Fairchild, for the film in which a middle-aged woman returns to her estranged family’s home for Thanksgiving to cook dinner for everyone, only for chaos to slowly unfold.
Where to stream: Netflix
Hope Davis plays a woman who, in one single day, enlists the help of her family to crack the case of whether or not her husband is cheating on her after she finds a love note written to him by someone else on Thanksgiving.
Where to stream: You actually have to buy this one on Criterion Collection.
The House of Yes
No, the title is not a reference to the Bushwick venue, and no, we will not apologize for including more than one Parker Posey flick on this list. The House of Yes is a cult film, based on Wendy MacLeod’s play of the same name, about a man who brings his hapless fiancée (Tori Spelling) home for Thanksgiving, where she meets his brother (Freddie Prinze Jr.) and delusional twin sister (Posey) who believes she is Jackie Kennedy (Chanel pillbox hat and all).
Where to stream: Amazon
10 Thanksgiving TV Episodes That Have Us Feeling Extra Grateful
Master of None‘s Denise, played by Lena Waithe, goes home for Thanksgiving and struggles with coming out to her family in this Emmy-winning episode of the series cowritten by Waithe. Photo courtesy of IMDB.
Meredith Grey goes home for Thanksgiving but ends up avoiding her family by returning to the hospital. Relatable. Photo courtesy of IMDB.
Ross is forced to tell everyone why his parents, Jack and Judy, don’t like Chandler. When he tries to escape Thanksgiving he is invited to spend it with Janine and a pack of dancers.
Will’s mother visits for Thanksgiving and puts the kids to work on preparing a meal, but as you might predict, things don’t exactly go according to plan. Photo courtesy of Everett Collection.
Rory and Lorelai try to fit in four Thanksgiving dinners; Lorelai finds out Rory applied to more colleges than just Harvard; and Lane has her first kiss. Photo courtesy of IMDB.
As Thanksgiving hits the Upper East Siders of Gossip Girl, Blair suspects her mother is lying to her, Vanessa ditches dinner with her family to hide in Dan’s loft, and Rufus discovers that Lily has been lying to him about her mother’s health. Photo courtesy of IMDB.
Ryan visits his estranged brother in prison and Marissa tags along to see where he grew up. Photo courtesy of IMDB.
Almaviligerais, Pops’ older sister unexpectedly shows up to the house for Thanksgiving, which excites everyone except Ruby. Bow and Dre go on their last vacation before their new baby arrives, and the kids try to figure out why Ruby hates Almaviligerais so much. Photo courtesy of IMDB.
Kendall begins to plot a vote of no confidence against Logan, Tom questions his prenup, and cousin Greg gets stuck in the car for a long ride with his estranged Grandpa Ewan, setting up a catastrophic chain of events to unfold during the remainder of the season. Photo courtesy of IMDB.
Who could forget Don Draper’s iconic emotional pitch for Kodak, in which he reinvented the wheel as The Carousel? “It’s called ‘The Carousel.’ It lets us travel the way a child travels. Around and around and back home again. A place where we know that you’re loved,” he says, after skipping out on his wife’s family’s Thanksgiving. Other notable Mad Men Thanksgiving episodes include season four’s “Public Relations” (in which Don spends the holiday with a sex worker, while Sally complains about the food her stepdad Harry is serving) and season five’s “Dark Shadows.” Photo courtesy of IMDb.