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Thanksgiving, one of the more historically and politically fraught US holidays, is this week. Rather than celebrate its problematic history, check out a few films that, though they have the occasion as some part of their background, instead have weightier concerns on their minds. Whatever your plans for the holiday, stay safe and enjoy yourself!

The Ice Storm (1997)

After successfully crossing over from primarily Chinese-language indie films to the mainstream with Sense and Sensibility, Ang Lee directed one of the lesser-heralded but better adult dramas of the ’90s. Set during Thanksgiving weekend in the 1970s, it follows two families with a mess of romantic entanglements between them. As both the married couples and their adolescent children test the waters of the sexual experimentation of the time, their interpersonal issues come to the fore.

Available on various platforms.

The Last Waltz (1978)

One of the greatest music documentaries ever made, Martin Scorsese captured the farewell concert held by The Band in San Francisco on Thanksgiving day in 1976. The mood is set right off the bat with screen text announcing “THIS FILM SHOULD BE PLAYED LOUD!” The sets are intercut with interviews and studio footage in which the members both look back on their time together and look forward to the road ahead. It’s the perfect example of a film embodying a performing group’s vibe in the act of depicting it.

Available on various platforms.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

This is not a Thanksgiving movie. Heading home for the holidays is the excuse for the plot, but it’s all about the journey, not the destination; specifically, how the journey can be hell. This is a film about how awful it is to travel, and the innumerable ways someone else can get on your nerves, as embodied by Steve Martin and the late great John Candy’s delightful cross-country antics.

Available on various platforms.

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Dan Schindel

Dan Schindel is Associate Editor for Documentary at Hyperallergic. He is studying in the masters program at Merz Akademie in Stuttgart, Germany. You can find his all his links and public profiles here.