The Ice Storm (1997)
It's hard to ignore this one, but although the story unfolds on a Thanksgiving weekend, it's not really a movie you'd want to gather the kids for after the Macy's Parade. Ang Lee's scorched-earth study of suburban life in 1973 introduces us to an alcoholic businessman (Kevin Kline), his distraught wife (Joan Allen) and their nymphomaniac daughter (Christina Ricci). There's adultery, drug use and a crippling ice storm that freezes everyone into one way-too-cramped situation. The cast is uniformly perfect, and Lee's portrait of a culture where taboos are tossed aside like lingerie is as chilling as its title.
The War at Home (1996)
Why Emilio Estevez didn't win an Oscar for his heartbreaking performance as a traumatized Vietnam veteran enduring a disastrous Thanksgiving at home is one of the great shames of Award-dom. Estevez directed the film — with his real-life dad Martin Sheen and Kathy Bates as his parents — and he crafted a painfully intimate portrait of a family at the end of its rope. The final scenes of The War at Home are as powerful a 15 minutes as you'll ever spend watching a movie.
Alice's Restaurant (1969)
The most famous Thanksgiving dinner of the 1960s gets the big-screen treatment from director Arthur Penn — who'd just made history with Bonnie and Clyde — in this quirky rendering of Arlo Guthrie's subversive song. Arlo plays himself, narrating the story of how, after a "Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat," he and a buddy were arrested for dumping Alice's garbage along a roadside. It's hard to imagine today that Alice's Restaurant was considered terribly edgy back in the turbulent '60s. It's interesting to note that many people in the film (the song is based on an actual run-in Arlo had with the law) played themselves, including the original Officer Obie and the judge who convicted Arlo based on the evidence of "27 eight-by-ten color glossy photos." That spirit of good-natured coexistence runs through an antiwar film undoubtedly made to prick a nation's conscience, but which survives as a warm evocation of a time long gone.
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