Thanksgiving has always been the poor and unfortunate middle child of the fall and winter holiday season.
With Halloween at it’s back in October and Christmas and other year-end religious holidays such as Hanukkah in December right after, it’s unsurprising that Thanksgiving feels a little cramped.
It’s for this reason Thanksgiving does not have much of a cultural niche. Scary films are a bit of a tradition for many in October. And many see any time after Nov. 1 as open season for Christmas music and movies.
Thanksgiving just does not have as much of an appeal as the other two bigger holidays. The story of the Pilgrims and Native Americans coming together for the first Thanksgiving meal is pretty on paper, but not much media has been made around it, especially as awareness in recent years has increased skepticism of that story.
Thanksgiving-themed movies may be in short supply, but there's still a catalog of movies that are set around Thanksgiving time that may have slipped the average Thanksgiving fan’s memory.
Here are some worth mentioning:
One movie that comes to mind is “Rocky,” starring Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa. The classic movie about a man training to be the very best he can be at boxing is not branded as a Thanksgiving movie, but it does have important moments set during the holiday.
The Thanksgiving shoutout features Rocky’s best friend, Paulie, bringing Rocky home on the holiday to help the burgeoning boxer meet and go out with his sister, Adrian. The holiday falls in line with the general themes of Rocky’s pursuit to the top regardless of any obstacle, with him saying to Adrian: “To you it’s Thanksgiving, to me it’s Thursday”.
If superhero films are the genre of choice for an enterprising Thanksgiving movie viewer, another option could be “Spider-Man,” starring Tobey Maguire as the iconic Marvel character. Much like “Rocky,” this movie only features the holiday in a small portion, but it is relevant to the plot.
In this movie, part of the story occurs over the Thanksgiving holiday and dinner, with strong themes of family. Spider-Man and his best friend’s family are both present, as well as the girl they are both in love with, with a goal of everyone coming together to celebrate the holiday. The resulting dinner is a scene with plenty of intriguing character interactions, as like in many Thanksgivings, things do not exactly go the way as planned. With rumors of Maguire’s interpretation of the character making a reappearance in the upcoming “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” this may be a good time to rewatch this flick.
“Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”
If it’s a laugh you’re looking for, the John Hughes movie “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” starring Steve Martin and John Candy, is a classic Thanksgiving comedy. The entire plot of the movie surrounds the characters trying to get from New York City to Chicago in two days for Thanksgiving, with a wacky and seemingly endless array of obstacles standing in their way. This is certainly a refreshing concept compared to the mass of “I’ll be home for Christmas”-style films, and the theme makes it a perfect watch in this season.
Not all these examples are inherently Thanksgiving movies. With the limited publicity Thanksgiving can get, these movies suffice as a way to celebrate the holiday in a way that creates new Thanksgiving traditions.