The 10 Best Movies to Stream This Thanksgiving

Before there was Disney+ or Netflix, Blu-ray or DVD, YouTube or HBO, VHS or Betamax, or even basic cable television, families and friends looking to sprawl out on every available couch, chair, and inch of floor space to watch a movie as they digested their Thanksgiving dinner were fairly limited in their “What should we watch?” choices. Fortunately, that’s no longer the case. But instead of spending an hour considering your thousands of options (haven’t there been enough arguments today?), go straight to “play” with any one of these post-pumpkin pie movie picks. They’re sure to satisfy the crowd—with a couple of fun games thrown in to keep the holiday moving.

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

If you’re one of the 12 people in this world who hasn’t seen Avengers: Endgame (the movie didn’t make just shy of $2.8 billion worldwide from lack of ticket-buyers), a lazy and long holiday weekend is the perfect time to right that wrong. Or make a marathon out of this one, too: from Iron Man to Captain Marvel and everything in between, there’s enough MCU content to take you through to the new year.

Look for: If you start from the beginning, take a look at how disheveled Captain America looks following the Battle of New York in The Avengers (2012) vs. what he looks like in Endgame’s flashbacks to that battle.

Where to stream: Disney+

The Oath (2018)

Ike Barinholtz writes, directs, and stars in The Oath, a timely satire that plays upon the idea of never talking politics at Thanksgiving. When a controversial new law arises that requires American citizens to sign a pledge of loyalty to the president in exchange for a tax break, political junkie Chris (Barinholtz) and his wife Kai (Tiffany Haddish) refuse to take the oath, regardless of the consequences. But as the Black Friday deadline for signing looms, Chris and Kai will have to deal with government interrogations, family arguments, and one very tense Thanksgiving holiday to make it through.

Turkey talk: The premise of The Oath was inspired by several real-life historical events, including the 1947 Truman Loyalty Oath, which prescribed “procedures for the administration of an employees loyalty program in the executive branch of the government.”

Where to stream: Hulu

ThanksKilling (2009)

“Gobble, gobble motherfucker!” That’s the tagline of this so-bad-it’s-kinda-good Thanksgiving horror movie (it doesn’t have a ton of competition in the category) in which a group of college students heading home for the holiday get stranded in the woods when their car breaks down. Unfortunately for them, there’s also a homicidal turkey on the loose … do we really need to say any more to sell you?

Turkey talk: ThanksKilling spawned a Kickstarter-funded sequel, ThanksKilling 3, which you can pay to rent on Amazon. No, there is no ThanksKilling 2.

Where to stream: Amazon

The Ice Storm (1997)

Five years before he slipped into the Spidey suit for Sam Raimi, Tobey Maguire delivered his breakthrough performance as Paul Hood, a disaffected teenager who comes home from boarding school to spend Thanksgiving in Connecticut with his dysfunctional upper-middle-class family—an adulterous dad (Kevin Kline), bored housewife mom (Joan Allen), and Watergate-obsessed/sexually adventurous sister (Christina Ricci)—who are each so caught up in their imagined pathos that it takes a bona fide tragedy for them to realize how lucky they are. But even upon that realization, Maguire just looks bored by the whole thing. Though the Ang Lee-directed film (based on the Rick Moody novel) earned a Golden Globe nomination for Sigourney Weaver as the Hoods’ seductive neighbor, it never quite received the recognition it should have for its deft balancing of humor and heartbreak. Given the politically-charged setting, maybe now is the time its given its due.

Turkey talk: Though the station and the exterior of the train that Paul takes from Manhattan to Connecticut bears the Penn Central logo—the transit company that would have run that train line in 1973, when the film takes place—the interior shows a Metropolitan Transportation Authority (or MTA) logo, which is an anachronism.

Where to stream: Amazon

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

First things first: You’ll have to fork over at least $2.99 to rent this John Hughes classic—and it’s worth every damn penny. Yes, even if you’ve seen it 30 times before. If you overlook the oddly over-dramatic reunion of Neal (Steve Martin) and his wife Susan (Laila Robins) at the end of the film, set to the swelling sounds of “Every Time You Go Away,” Planes, Trains and Automobiles is perfect in almost every way. When a Chicago businessman (Martin) misses his first-class flight home from New York, he somehow finds himself stuck with Del Griffith (John Candy, a garrulous shower curtain ring salesman who seems to make their predicament of getting home in time for Thanksgiving even worse at every turn. Martin and Candy’s chemistry is undeniable, and what begins as The Odd Couple meets Midnight Cowboy turns out to be a pretty moving film and meditation on the importance of family and hanging on to every moment we share with them.

Look for: Toward the end of the movie, Del pulls up in a semi-truck to take Neal home to Chicago. For some reason, Del has a black eye when he arrives. While it disappears in the next scene, it reappears again later—with no explanation ever given.

Where to stream: Amazon

Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope (1977)

Whereas TBS used to be the place to scratch one’s Star Wars itch on Turkey Day, if you want to relive the basic cable marathon days of the past, you can now do it at your own pace on Disney+. As long as you don’t mind hashing out the Han Shot First debate for the millionth time, thanks to yet another edit to the 42-year-old film, courtesy of George “Please Give Me a Job So That I Stop Tinkering With This Franchise” Lucas. But don’t stop at A New Hope—make it a true Star Wars marathon. (Though we won’t blame you if you choose to skip over The Phantom Menace. In-laws and Jar Jar Binks in one day could prove fatal).

Look for: Potatoes may be the last thing on your mind after consuming what feels like a five-pound bag all on your own, but if you make it to The Empire Strikes Back, start up a debate about whether or not one of the asteroids was really just a potato.

Where to stream: Disney+

Black Christmas (1974)

If ThanksKilling whets your appetite for some holiday horror, up the ante with this truly terrifying flick about a homicidal mouth-breather who sneaks into the attic of a sorority house as the sisters are getting ready to depart for Christmas break. Which means that it takes a little longer to figure out that these women are being picked off in increasingly bizarre ways, and not just making their way home for eggnog with their parents. Even the biggest horror movie snob will be impressed to learn that this is the movie that inspired John Carpenter’s Halloween.

Turkey talk: Bob Clark is the undisputed king of Christmas flicks: In 1983, less than 10 years after he wrote and directed Black Christmas, he made A Christmas Story.

Where to stream: Amazon

Lady and the Tramp (1955)

Once you’ve been tricked into accidentally streaming the all-new live-action edition of Lady and the Tramp, teach the youngsters at your Thanksgiving gathering the very important lesson that remakes rarely match the original by putting on the 1955 animated classic. You’ll never look at your dog, or a plate of spaghetti, the same way again.

Look for: Though Disney’s classic cartoons might be universally beloved, there are a handful of them that are also problematic. Lady and the Tramp is one of them. The original cartoon’s racist “We Are Siamese” song (sung by a pair of Siamese cats) was removed from the live-action remake, but still part of the animated version—which now comes with a warning about its “outdated cultural depictions.”

Where to stream: Disney+

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Natalie Wood is the definition of precocious in this classic holiday story of a wise-beyond-her-years little girl who only begins to believe Santa Claus exists when she meets a jolly old man named Kris Kringle who claims to be the St. Nick. Is he the real deal or just a delusional old man? It might take a trial to determine the answer. Suspicion and sentiment collide in unexpectedly moving ways in this Oscar-winning film, which has been remade a handful of times—but never as perfectly as George Seaton’s version.

Look for: When Kris Kringle shows his license, it lists his next of kin as his eight reindeer (Rudolph not included) but lists Donder instead of Donner. Technically, this isn’t incorrect: Donder is the Dutch word for thunder and is sometimes used in place of Donner. But whenever he is mentioned in the movie, he’s referred to as Donner.

Where to stream: Disney+

Fantasia (1940)

Come for The Mandalorian, stay for the classic Disney cartoons. One of the great things about the run on Disney+ is that it’s introducing a whole generation of moviegoers reared on CGI and 3-D to good, old-fashioned cell animation. And few animated films were as wildly inventive with the medium than Fantasia, a series of innovative shorts that pushes animation to its then-limits as it dares to tackle highbrow topics like evolution. What better time could there be to revisit the classics of your youth than when surrounded by several generations of family?

Look for: Now you see them … The terrifying Chernabog, the demon seen in Fantasia’s “Night on Bald Mountain” has got a nipple problem: It has them in some scenes, and not in others. Then again, maybe it’s best not to bring up a cartoon monster’s disappearing nipples in mixed company.

Where to stream: Disney+

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