Halloween is over, and now we must shift from “spooky scary fall” to “crisp and cozy autumn.” The time for scary pumpkins has passed, and it is time for decorative gourds. It can be hard to resist the temptation to dive head-first into all things Christmas, but we must practice restraint and pay Thanksgiving its dues. Fortunately, many movies out there typify the exact brand of wholesome warmth that this particular time of year calls for, and that can help propel us into the thick of the holiday season.
1. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)
After waiting for the Great Pumpkin but before picking out their Christmas trees, the Peanuts gang celebrated Thanksgiving together in this animated classic. The thirty-minute holiday special follows the hijinks that ensue after Peppermint Patty invites everyone over to Charlie Brown’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, even though his family has no knowledge of this and is planning to spend the holiday away from home with their grandparents. Charlie tries to kick a football, Snoopy cooks his own take on Thanksgiving dinner, and the whole thing is packed with cute and comedic holiday joy.
2. Black Friday (2021)
Many of us have bore unfortunate witness to the cruelties of Black Friday. Fortunately, this horror comedy allows us to laugh at the frenzied antics that consumer culture can push us to. This film follows a group of retail employees who clock into work just as a crashing meteor unleashes an alien parasite upon the Earth. The employees open up the store only to be met by hordes of murderous, zombified holiday shoppers.
3. Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
This might be a Christmas movie, but it starts at the Thanksgiving Day Parade — making it an ideal pick for this specific time of year. This remake of the 1947 original begins when Dorey, a department store special events director, hires the mysterious Kris Kringle to play Santa Claus for the holiday season. When Kringle reveals that he actually believes himself to be the real Santa Claus — and very well may be — a court case ensues in which the general public and Dorey’s skeptical six-year-old daughter are inspired to believe again.
4. Rushmore (1998)
This early Wes Anderson film exudes eccentric academia and is set against the book-lined walls and rich foliage of the fictional Rushmore Academy. The story focuses on the battle between Max Fischer — a teenage scholarship student who devotes all of his energy to elaborate extracurriculars at the expense of his grades, and Herman Blume — a wealthy but disillusioned parent. Both are in love with Rosemary, the school’s new elementary school teacher and will stop at nothing to win her affections.
5. Planes, Trains, Automobiles (1987)
Few films encapsulate the risks and challenges of holiday travel quite like this Steve Martin masterpiece. The film follows Neal Page (Steve Martin), a controlling advertising executive who is eager to make it home to Chicago and celebrate Thanksgiving with his family. When an unexpected snow storm derails his plans, he ends up hitting the road with the ultra-talkative Del Griffith and embarking on a sanity-shaking series of misadventures.
6. Notting Hill (1999)
It’s not quite Love Actually season, but Notting Hill can bring us more than enough Richard-Curtis-and-Hugh-Grant-fueled whimsy to tide us over. This film is set against the backdrop of our protagonist William Thacker’s “favorite bit of London,” Notting Hill, and begins with a highly personal introduction to the neighborhood. When he has a chance encounter with Hollywood actress Anna Scott and the two find themselves falling in love, the two find themselves in a variety of hilarious and heartwarming situations.
7. Home for the Holidays (1995)
This 1995 dramedy tells the story of a dysfunctional family’s Thanksgiving dinner — and does so with a wildly star-studded cast. Directed by Jodie Foster, the film stars Robert Downey Jr., Holly Hunter, Anne Bancroft, Steve Guttenberg, Geraldine Chaplin, and Dylan McDermott, among others. The initially explosive family dinner is continually intensified further by evolving character dynamics and tensions, creating a narrative that takes a comedic and cynical look at the traditional holiday dinner.
8. You’ve Got Mail (1998)
They’ve got mail! This cinematic homage to the old AOL catchphrase tells the story of two single adults who — get this — meet online! While this does not really sound like much of a movie premise within the context of the modern world, at the time of its release, this was a novel concept. The love story between competing booksellers Kathleen Kelly and Joe Fox is nonetheless an endearing one, and the catch is that, despite their online romance, neither party realizes that they actually know (and despise) each other in real life.
9. Good Will Hunting (1997)
This classic film tells the inspiring story of Will Hunting, a remarkably bright MIT janitor whose talents are noticed by Professor Gerald Lambeau. After Will is arrested for getting into a physical fight with a police officer, the Professor bails him out and gets him a lenient sentence, but only on the condition that he study mathematics under his supervision and begin seeing a therapist. Though his relationship with his new therapist is initially strained, the two eventually form a close bond that changes both of their lives forever.
10. Knives Out (2019)
Featuring dysfunctional family dynamics, a forested New England manor, and a murder mystery — Knives Out is a wildly entertaining movie that is dripping cozy-fall-atmospheric-energy. The film follows the eccentric members of the Thrombey family who have gathered to celebrate the 85th birthday of the family’s crime novelist patriarch — only to find him dead. The entire family is rendered suspect in the investigation of his murder, and Detective Benoit Blanc is on the case.