There are a ton of Christmas movies out there that get regular rotation during the holidays. But the only Thanksgiving films I can think of off the top of my head are “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” and “Pieces of April.” I know there are others, but none of them have really became classics to the extent that “It’s a Wonderful Life” has.
A movie about thanksgiving would have next to no international appeal, since it’s mostly a US-only holiday, and most movies these days expect to make at least half of their money overseas.
While “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” is indeed about Thanksgiving, it could equally be about Steve Martin’s character trying to get home for Christmas, or for any other family holiday, so that it still has international appeal.
We don’t want to remember the pain of being with our families.
I’ve got Home for the Holidays, The War At Home, and The Ice Storm off the top of my head. (Although The Ice Storm is a stretch)
A Christmas movie can be about almost anything. The entire North Pole mythos has endless possibilities. Childhood memories, love stories, non-believers, being the only family on the block without a Christmas tree, religion, burglers, redemption, becoming a better person… There’s no end to it.
How many plot lines can come out of Thanksgiving? Dry turkey is about the biggest drama there is.
ETA: NSFW! Includes badly video’d boobies.
Spoken like someone who hasn’t seen Home for the Holidays*, The Ice Storm, or Pieces of April.
*Technically, a comedy IIRC.
Spoken EXACTLY like that. I haven’t seen any of those.
I don’t know the plots, but I can’t imagine what they might be. Family drama, illness, dinner gone awry – those are the only likely plots I can think of, and those can only be milked so much. I can also imagine a pilgrim movie, but it doesn’t sound like it would be too exciting. I saw a made for TV one a couple of years ago and it was OK.
But Santa/elf plots always make good movies.
Because Christmas has a huge variety of traditions and iconographic symbols to feed off of: Santa, Christ, presents, trees, decorations, caroling, reindeer, snow, mistletoe, Dickens, angels, etc. Most of these involve people going out and doing things (office parties, going to mass, building snowman, picking a tree, stringing lights) or involve well-known characters that have easy cultural cache.
What are Thanksgiving traditions? Eating and watching football, both fairly static and visually uninteresting activities, w/little in the way of specific iconography (raking leaves, fall colors, etc. don’t count). Sure Black Friday and Macy’s parade are also “traditions”, but both are seen as Christmas precursors. As for iconic characters, you have pilgrims & Indians, which represent a p.c. minefield with little potential for entertainment value beyond feelgood history lessons. While things like cooking the turkey might provide enough fodder for 23 minutes (and most long-lasting TV series, especially comedies, end up having a Thanksgiving ep sooner or later), there’s just not enough there to support a film.
Of course, Thanksgiving also represents families and reunions (and the potential strife, conflict, and dramatic reconciliation that might result), but you can find any excuse to contrive those kinds of dynamics, so it’s not something that the holiday has a monopoly on. Also, Thanksgiving is pretty short (typically 4-day weekend max), while the build-up to Christmas is something that last longer (which, from a story development perspective, is also an advantage).
There have been lots of great food/cooking movies, but not one centered around Thanksgiving, so maybe one day, the perfect, mouth-watering film will come along to fill that niche. But otherwise, it’s a holiday that’s difficult to get any kind of traction on (and even if one does, it only resonates with an American audience anyway, as has already been mentioned).
There’s always the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving…
You want family drama at Thanksgiving, there’s always SPIDER-MAN…
Iconographic symbols? Yes, absolutely. I’d even say that ther are some character archetypes that are very much ingrained in our collective conscious. How many movies could they possibly make about Ebenezer Scrooge? Apparently dozens. About Santa? Hundreds.
Christmas also has a lot of emotions that surround it, and those can be archetypes as well. A character who is cynical, grumpy, cheap, or greedy goes on an emotional (and often physical) journey and come out the other side as more evolved. That just plain feels good to viewers. And I’d bet that it’s the plot of about 90% of Christmas movies. We can’t get enough of it. Just off the top of my head,
The Little Drummer Boy
I’m sure I’ve forgotten far more than I’m remembering.
Key parties, electrocution, and underage sexual angst.
And that’s just The Ice Storm.
That sounds like it could take place on any holiday.
In that case, the moviegoer (and before that, the reader) is left to figure out for himself why the story is set when it is. Some of us don’t like movies (or books) that do all our thinking for us.
Here’s my favorite Thanksgiving movie: What’s Cooking, directed by Gurinder Chadha, who also directed Bend It Like Beckham. It follows four families of different ethnicities on Thanksgiving Day. Lots of family stuff and food porn.
And, of course, there’s also Alice’s Restaurant.
Oo, random WAG here:
Thanksgiving tradition is to watch football, not movies, while during Christmas, the tradition is to watch movies to get into the “Christmas Spirit.” For other seasons, the films have become one of the traditions related to the holiday, while for Thanksgiving, the main traditions center around food, family, and football.
Myth of the Fingerprints
An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving
Isn’t Alice’s Restaurant all you need??