Just because we’re thankful on Thanksgiving doesn’t mean we’re in agreement. That’s why my family will be watching What About Bob for the 20th time on Thursday — aside from turkey and stuffing, in our family keeping conflict to a minimum is a long-held Thanksgiving tradition.
In the spirit of heartwarming, noncontroversial entertainment — the kind you can binge on, again and again, like an epic Thanksgiving dinner—here are our favorite rewatchables.
I’ve watched The Thin Red Line more times than I care to count. It’s one of those movies that I can’t ever turn off. I’ll catch a scene on TV, and next thing I know — 2 hours later — I’m watching the end credits roll. I think it has something to do with Jim Caviezel’s narration throughout the film that keeps me coming back. In many ways, it’s more a poem about war than it is a movie. —Andrew Fiouzi
Star Wars: Episode IV is extremely low-key, and everyone can recite Luke’s whiny lines about bringing power converters to Toshi Station together — a surefire way to patch up any weird arguments that came up during dinner. Plus, the first half is so boring that anyone who wants to slip out of consciousness can do so in peace, and then wake up an hour later for some X-Wing battles and father-son hand amputation. —Sam Dean
No matter what atrocities he’s committed post-2004, my family will always support Adam Sandler. Anyway, it’s not like we’re watching any of his new films; we’re stuck on the old stuff: The Wedding Planner, Big Daddy, Happy Gilmore — you name it, we’ve played it on loop in the background of some family event. There’s something calming about already knowing the (awful) jokes to be made, repeating the well-worn lines back at the TV and remembering when Sandler made a bunch of Northeastern-born Jews proud of him. —Lindsey Weber
My family used to watch Christmas Vacation every holiday season, mainly under threat of me throwing a tantrum if we didn’t. And I suggest yours do the same this Thanksgiving, especially if you’re expecting dinner to be particularly tense in the wake of the election. The elder Griswolds are senile and near death, the uncle is a derelict mooch, the kids are unappreciative, the neighbors are a couple of yuppie douchebags, the turkey is dry and the dad is just doing his damn best to keep it all together. Watching the Griswolds’ intense holiday dysfunction will make your family’s problems seem quaint (or at least normal) in comparison. —John McDermott
Since it came out in 1992, my brother and I have always been obsessed with Terminator 2: Judgement Day. There was a period of time in the late 1990s, back when there was only basic cable plus HBO, Showtime and The Movie Channel, where it was on TV constantly, and we made it our mission to watch it hundreds of times, to the point where we basically have the whole movie memorized. We watched it because it was a fantastic action movie, but also — and perhaps most importantly — because every syllable that escapes Arnold Schwarzenegger’s mouth is incredibly, unintentionally funny.
We’re both in our mid-30s now, but whenever the family gets together, we try and find the time to whip out the corrugated metal-encased “Collector’s Edition” Blu-Ray and do our best Arnold impressions. —Jeff Gross
Growing up in Britain in the 1980s with only four TV channels, a handful of VHS tapes and, most importantly, two older sisters who always controlled the viewing, I was six or seven years old the first time I saw a movie that wasn’t either a cartoon or a musical. (I can still recite entire scenes from The Sound of Music and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.) So when I discovered the tape of Ghostbusters my dad had recorded off the TV, it was almost too much to comprehend. No dance numbers? No talking animals? What was this? When Bill Murray didn’t fully burst into song in this scene, it blew my mind. I don’t think I even recognized it as a comedy until many years later — it was, for a long time, simply the most amazing thing I’d ever seen.
Not long after, my eldest sister told me she wanted me to watch a movie with her, and as a long, excruciatingly dull tap dance number began, I rolled my eyes. Little did I know that my tiny brain was about to be blown all over again. The period dance movie homage that opened Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom gave way to two hours of what appeared to be the manliest man who had ever manned, all hat and whip and stubble and still the cause of the sad trombone noise in my head whenever I look in the mirror and see who I actually grew up to be. —Nick Leftley
There are three movies I’ve watched every Thanksgiving night since their release. My mom has now retreated to the cold of her upbringing, but having descended to Southern California to raise me, she felt it important to deliver winter’s approaching chill with The Missing (Cate Blanchett, Tommy Lee Jones) and The Edge (Anthony Hopkins, Alec Baldwin, a bear). This double feature was a true event — blinds shut, cranked air conditioner, primitive snacks like nuts or things with visible roots. The angle here was to fear and revere the unforgiving nature of the American landscape rather than focus on the charade of Thanksgiving, and I think mostly just to feel really cold, when it is not cold.
The third movie that wraps up this tradition on a lighter note was birthed from the Disney Channel’s choice to repeat it annually (I’d wager for the same reasons), Wild America. It’s very good. Danny Glover has a superb cameo and there’s also snow and bears. Plural. —Spencer Olson
I don’t like rewatching my favorite movies very often because I fear their impact might get deluded — I want each viewing to be special. So the ones I do see a lot tend to be comfort food. I watch them not just because they’re good but because I really need them at that moment.
My wife and I saw Fantastic Mr. Fox on Thanksgiving morning 2009 — it’s a holiday tradition that we catch a kids’ movie before we enjoy a big meal with friends. I’d always admired Wes Anderson’s films, but this one made me a convert, the director transforming Roald Dahl’s book into a poignant, handmade stop-motion movie about marriage, family and aging. Like the best family films, Fantastic Mr. Fox speaks both to adults and children, treating its audience like grownups who can handle complicated, darker emotions like envy, loneliness and regret. It’s a tiny little miracle of a movie. —Tim Grierson