With Thanksgiving around the corner, it’s time to gather the turkey, the cranberry sauce, the green beans. On top of that, it’s time to watch some TV specials and movies in honor of the occasion. If you need some ideas for what to enjoy with your family this time of year, the following five selections should leave everyone satisfied.

5. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

source: Searchlight Pictures

You might not think this picture fits the bill for Thanksgiving (a stop-motion film about talking animals, I mean; what!?), but it captures the spirit more than any animated movie I’ve seen. Based on the beloved Roald Dahl book of the same name, it follows Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney), a domesticated fox who brings trouble for his family when he returns to his thieving ways. Unsurprisingly, the human farmers he steals from decide to retaliate, and Mr. Fox must not only draw upon all of his connections and resources to save the day, but attempt to repair his interpersonal relationships in the process.

Why this is an ideal choice for Thanksgiving is simple: it’s all about prioritizing your love for your family and friends. As Mr. Fox’s journey progresses, the turmoil caused by his criminal behavior forces him to look inward, as he reexamines his values and principles. By the end, he learns that all he needs is a wife, kids and community who care about him, similar to how the togetherness of this holiday is what has caused it to retain its iconic status. Add to that some visually stunning animation, Wes Anderson‘s dollhouse-like sets and symmetrical camerawork, and his distinctively quirky sense of humor, and you’ve got the recipe for a unique new annual tradition.

4. Instant Family (2018)

source: Paramount Pictures

Now, I honestly wasn’t expecting anything good out of this one. The trailer looked generic when I saw it in theaters. That lack of enthusiasm wasn’t budged by the fact that it was from the director of That’s My Boy (2012), Horrible Bosses 2 (2014), and Daddy’s Home (2016).But when I saw a video explaining that Sean Anders had based the movie on his and his wife’s experience adopting, I begrudgingly decided to give it a try. I am, after all, a sucker for personal filmmaking. When I finally watched this on Amazon Prime, I was more than pleasantly surprised!

The story centers around Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne), a couple who decide to foster three siblings named Lizzy (Isabela Merced), Juan (Gustavo Escobar) and Lita (Julianna Gamiz). As you can guess, hijinks ensue, some tears are shed, and everyone learns important lessons about what it means to be a family. But while the humor mostly hits in Instant Family, what makes it stick are the dramatic elements, as Pete and Ellie bond with the displaced youngsters. Anders, as well as co-writer John Morris, makes sure to address the reality of how tough it can be for kids to adjust to being part of a foster family. We watch for a while as Pete and Ellie’s experience with their new children jumps between warm and chaotic. Given this draws from lived experience, these moments feel more impactful, especially because the writing doesn’t coddle you as the viewer. This also makes the inevitable happy ending feel a lot more earned as a result. It’s a film that truly hammers home how family is comprised of those who are there for you through thick and thin.

3. Little Women (2019)

source: Sony Pictures

Little Women is a novel that has justly stood the test of time in terms of feminist literature. But what truly makes this adaptation stand out as the best is how convincingly its core cast portrays the relationship amongst the four March sisters. For those unfamiliar, it’s essentially about Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Beth (Eliza Scanlen), Amy (Florence Pugh) and Meg’s (Emma Watson) efforts to live life on their own terms in the 1800s.

Where this becomes a certifiable Thanksgiving (and Christmas, as well) classic in my book is the fact that the March sisters’ love for one another shines above all else. Whatever their ambitions, differences, or disputes, they always band together when it matters most. If a family member passes away, they’re there for each other. When they put on a play for the town’s children, you can feel their shared love of playing make-believe. The lead actresses also have seemingly effortless chemistry with one another. We feel like they really have known each other for years. It really encapsulates what Thanksgiving really is all about: sharing time with your family. Give it a watch if you’re a fan of this cast, of Greta Gerwig as a filmmaker, or even if you just want a family-friendly treat to go with your delicious feast.

2. Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)

source: Paramount Pictures

As far as movies go, nothing captures the true meaning of Thanksgiving more than this one. The premise is pretty standard by now: a prickly businessman named Neil (Steve Martin) needs a way to get home to his family for their turkey dinner after several mishaps, which forces him to hitch a ride with the warmhearted goofball Del (John Candy), leading to even more hilarious hijinks.

While not an original idea, the performances and writing in Planes, Trains and Automobiles have such an emotional authenticity to them that we consistently are able to identify with Neil and Del, as silly as the whole thing is. No matter what’s happening, Steve Martin makes us relate to Neil’s desperation and exasperation in his plight to make it home on time to share this special day with his clan. Likewise, we can empathize with Del’s eagerness to please and diffuse the situation, because he just wants for Neil to be happy and achieve his goal. Del might be a klutz, but his heart’s always in the right place, which is aided by John Candy‘s affable onscreen persona. I honestly think it was his best role, and it always reminds me we lost him too soon when I watch it.

Where this film truly cements itself as the definitive Thanksgiving picture, though, is its last third. I won’t give it away if you somehow haven’t seen this classic, but the story smartly drops the funny stuff and goes right for the heart, with a dramatic revelation that hits home the exact message John Hughes wants you to take away from it. Definitely seek this one as soon as possible, and make it part of your holiday routine.

1. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)

source: CBS

Anyone who knows me well enough saw this one coming. The 1974 winner of the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Children’s Programming remains a staple for not just my own family, but for so many others, and for very good reasons. In just twenty-five minutes, it delivers all the wonderfully simple laughs, heart and creativity you’d expect from a Peanuts special. But it’s that very simplicity that makes it encapsulate the meaning of Thanksgiving masterfully. The premise revolves around Charlie Brown (voiced by Todd Barbee), as he scrambles to concoct a perfect meal for all his friends.

I mean, what really can be said about this masterpiece that hasn’t been said? The characters are as memorable and identifiable as they’ve ever been. The hand-drawn visuals feel like the comic strip leapt off the page. The Snoopy and Woodstock antics are some of the best animated slapstick I’ve seen in anything. Best of all, everything is beautifully built up to serve the payoff of the messaging. It never once acts silly just for its own sake. Each scene has Charlie Brown and his cohorts fret over the superficial features of Thanksgiving, whilst they forget what the real point of it is, similar to A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)When Linus relays the origins of the holiday towards the end, I just feel all cozy inside. I couldn’t imagine not placing this as my top recommendation for what to watch this holiday season.

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