Written by Natale Ryan
In the United States, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. Whereas in Canada, it is celebrated on the second Monday of October. People from both countries think of the holiday as a time to gather with friends and family. For this issue, I wanted to provide a list of movies to prepare for the upcoming holiday seasons. Even though Canadian Thanksgiving has passed, the U.S.’s holiday is approaching. The history of Thanksgiving is controversial for some people in the United States, as some believe that it shouldn’t be celebrated anymore or the day should be rededicated. A reason for this is that the story of Thanksgiving that we are told as children has often been skewed, leaving out the sad reality of the forced removal of indigenous people from their land. Despite this, many of us still see the end of the year as a time for being thankful. Here are my top six movies to get you ready for the holiday season.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
Starring Steve Martin and the late John Candy, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles tells the story of Neal Page (Martin) struggling to make it home in time for Thanksgiving. His flight is canceled, and his failed attempts of finding other modes of transportation lead him to an encounter with a door-to-door salesman named Del Griffith (Candy). The two men are as different as night and day, Neal is white-collar and calm, whereas Del is boisterous. Since the two men are both on their way to Chicago, they agree to carpool. During their journey, they are plagued with bad luck. However, Neal, who was once repulsed by Del, changes his mind and learns more about himself and family. If you want an all-American movie that reminds you of what the holidays are truly about, look no further. The movie takes the number-one spot because of its heartwarming message.
Like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Dutch is a road movie. It was directed by John Hughes, who also directed the popular Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Dutch stars Ed O’Neill as Dutch Dooley and a young Ethan Embry as Doyle Standish, and tells the story of a man named Dutch who is traveling from Chicago, Illinois to Georgia to pick up his girlfriend’s son from a prestigious boarding school. Little does Dutch know that the boy he will be traveling with is a snobby brat who resents the fact that his parents divorced and also that Dutch is dating his mother. The duo fall victim to hardships on their journey, and by the time they make it back to Chicago, the audience is treated to a hilarious and heartwarming story.
Free Birds (2013)
Now it is time for an animated film that is much more recent. Free Birds tells the story of one of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions: the turkey pardon! Reggie (voiced by Owen Wilson) is a turkey lucky enough to be spared from becoming dinner. He begins to enjoy a lazy life at Camp David, but soon, he meets another turkey named Jake (voiced by Woody Harrelson), who forces him to travel back into time to Plymouth during 1621. Though it may not be as appealing to adults, the film is great for children and features a lot of Thanksgiving traditions. However, the film received some backlash and was called “insensitive” for portraying the turkeys as Native Americans. Despite controversial content, this cute movie is what families are sure to like and has a good message, overall.
The Addams Family Values (1993)
The first The Addams Family was a commercial success and is still a Halloween must-see, but did you know that many view the sequel as a spooky Thanksgiving movie? The original cast of the first film return for this sequel as Gomez (Raul Julia) and Morticia (Anjelica Huston) welcome baby Pubert (voiced by Cheryl Chase). His siblings, Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) hate their new brother, so they carry on with their typical shenanigans of endangering the baby with medieval techniques. To their horror, Wednesday and Pugsley are sent away to an eerily upbeat summer camp, and it is during a camp skit that we get our Thanksgiving link. The counselors, who had been trying to force happiness upon the always gothic Wednesday, are taken hostage. Wednesday takes a play about the stereotypical first Thanksgiving feast and adds truth to it. With Wednesday’s alterations, the story transforms when the Native Americans retaliate against the settlers. The scene, though dark, has been favorited among people who oppose the celebration of the holiday. If you want a laugh during the holiday and also wish to gain a piece of understanding for Western Thanksgiving history, I suggest watching this movie, especially for the scene mentioned above.
The New World (2005)
This is my favorite on this list, and I had to add it because it focuses on the true reason for celebration during the Thanksgiving season – selflessness. This movie tells the closet story of Pocahontas that can be accounted for to date. John Smith is played by Colin Farrell, who is taken hostage by a Native American tribe and is spared by the chief’s favorite daughter, Pocahontas (Q’orianka Kilcher). The princess is intrigued by the man she saved and marks him as hers with body paint as a symbol of her love. John Smith returns to his village, Jamestown. Pocahontas falls into a depression when a war between her tribe and the settlers breaks out, and she is exiled from her tribe for having provided food for the starving men of Jamestown. The movie goes further into the history of Pocahontas, her marriage to John Rolfe, and her kindness toward people. It paints a beautiful picture of humanity and tells Pocahontas’ story exquisitely.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)
What is Thanksgiving without the most iconic TV show of all-time? In this short cartoon, Charlie Brown is faced with the task of putting together a holiday feast for the Peanuts gang. This story may not seem like much in comparison to other films, but it is a show that many Westerners have watched every year to mark the holiday, as well as to get their fix of Charlie Brown’s stage-stealing pet, the much-beloved beagle, Snoopy!
These are my top six picks to get you in the mood for the upcoming holiday season. If you are abroad and are feeling homesick as the holidays approach, want a taste of Western culture, or are simply a somewhere-in-between movie fan, I recommend these films to warm your heart!
Natale is an English teacher in Mokpo. She is from Memphis, Tennessee, in the United States. She attended college in Jonesboro, Arkansas, and majored in criminology and sociology. In her free time, she enjoys watching scary movies and writing short stories. Her favorite movies are To Kill a Mockingbird, E.T., and Memento. Her heroes are Snoopy and Audrey Hepburn.