My Favorite Thanksgiving Movie (That You’ve Never Heard Of)

pieces of april best thanksgiving movieNow is a good time to tell you about my favorite Thanksgiving movie that you’ve probably never heard of. (Not that there are many Thanksgiving films to begin with!)

Pieces of April is a gritty comedy about family dysfunction, centered around a family’s Thanksgiving dinner. Katie Holmes plays April (and this is way back in 2003 in the pre-Tom Cruise era), and she’s persuaded her family to drive in from the suburbs to her rundown shoebox of an NYC apartment for Thanksgiving dinner.

The family’s a mess. April describes herself as the family’s “first pancake”–the ruined one, the one you throw away. But her mom (Patricia Clarkson, who is always fabulous) is dying of cancer, and April is hell-bent on having a decent last Thanksgiving dinner as a family.

I’m sure many of you will hate this movie. (Feel free to leave a question in comments or email me if you’re wondering if you’d like it or not.) Pieces of April is not for kids, or for young teenagers. (There’s a little sex, some language, and her mom is dying of cancer.)  But I love it for its themes of hope and forgiveness. Some of you will love it, too.

You can rent Pieces of April from Amazon here.

If you’re looking for a Thansgiving film for family viewing, stick to Planes, Trains & Automobiles. There’s heaps of profanity in the beginning, but this Steve Martin comedy is a classic. (And hey, it’s not football!)

For all ages, I recommend A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. It lacks the brilliance of the Christmas and Halloween specials, but this Thanksgiving film is still fun family viewing on Thanksgiving Day.

Does your family watch anything special on Thanksgiving Day?

*****     *****     *****

Heads up: I’ve talked your ears off this year about Susan Cain’s brilliant book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. It’s on Kindle sale for the jaw-dropping price of $2.99 right now. Go get it while it’s cheap!

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  1. Have you watched the Peanuts gang in “The Mayflower Voyagers”? It’s a bonus on our DVD copy of “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”, and it orginally came from the “This is America, Charlie Brown” set. Very fun and cute version depicting when the Pilgrams came to America.

    We also have to watch “A Garfield Thanksgiving” – just because.

    And “Holiday Inn” is always a good one to throw in there as well, thanks to the “I”ve Got Plenty To Be Thankful For” song that Bing sings.

    When I was a kid, we used to watch “The Mouse on the Mayflower”, but it’s been years since that was on TV, and it’s not available on DVD (yet).

    And then there’s this short clip that our pastor showed in church a couple of years ago…he has a sense of humor. 😉

  2. Jamie says:

    I’m with the previous reviewer – I look for Garfield’s Thanksgiving every year. Nothing beats Jon’s grandma taking a chainsaw to the turkey! Lol.

    Pieces of April doesn’t sound my speed, but thanks for pointing it out. There is definitely a dearth of good Thanksgiving movies. I was thinking Facing The Giants might be a good option, though. Or maybe Eight Below (since it’s all about family, friends and reunions).

  3. HopefulLeigh says:

    I actually have seen Pieces of April and I agree with your recommendation. It’s been a long time since I watched it but certain scenes stick with me.

    My cousins will inevitably turn on football. Unless the Bears are playing, I stick to hanging out with my aunts in the kitchen or playing a board game instead.

  4. Alison says:

    Pieces of April is a good one! And Katie Holmes is her perfect angsy self in it. Another great Thanksgiving movie is a relatively new one–Stuck on Love, about a family of writers. It’s excellent. Happy Thanksgiving! So thankful for your site.

  5. Tim says:

    I got Quiet even cheaper than the deal you found, Anne. The library had it. Great book, I agree. Introverts of the world unite! But not all at once … Or in large numbers … Or at all. I’ll be over here by myself, thanks.

  6. Eva says:

    I saw Pieces of April on an airplane in 2004 and I really liked it! I got my girlfriends to watch it with me again around Thanksgiving and it got mixed reviews from them but I liked it just as much as the first time. Haven’t seen it since, but I think it is definitely time to watch it again:) Thanks for the reminder!

  7. Abigail says:

    I actually have heard of Pieces of April. My high school English teacher introduced it to me, and had us do in-class discussion on it! It certainly is different than you would expect, but it’s got great themes of forgiveness, redemption, and perseverance in it. And it’s got Katie Holmes, who is so lovable in this role. Glad to know there are other fans out there of Thanksgiving movies, few though they are!

  8. Melissa D says:

    Oh I’d forgotten about that wonderful movie! Thanks for the reminder.

    I’m taking a break from dealing with my non-gelling pumpkin pie — WHYYYYYYYY << cue from Galaxy Quest, another one of my faves.

  9. Linda says:

    You for “Home for the Holidays!” This is such a funny, albeit irreverent, movie with Holly Hunter and a star-filled cast. Our family just has to watch it each year. And I totally agree with you about “Pieces of April.” I cannot help wondering what a great movie career Katie Holmes might have had….but maybe she still will.

  10. Ana says:

    Late to this but I do love that movie…I’d forgotten about it!
    That is a GREAT deal on “Quiet” but I just got my library notice that a copy is being held for me, so I guess I’ll save the $2.99.
    I always loved the Charlie Brown stuff as a kid, but reading the books to my son I realize how terrible and full of mean-ness they can be (we got one from the library where Lucy keeps moving the football and Charlie Brown keeps falling…my 2 year old didn’t quite get how this “not nice behavior” was happening with no one getting a time out)…I’m not sure how the movies are, so I’m holding off for now.

  11. Sarah Jane says:

    My husband and I watched Pieces of April per your rec last night. We both thought it was so slow at the beginning, but I think that needed to happen for the full effect at the end. Great movie. Thanks!

  12. Julia says:

    I thought I was the only person who loved this movie. What a neat surprise to have followed you over from pintrest out of curiosity to find out you love Pieces Of April. I love the forgiveness and redemption in this movie. Its full of such love and hope in your not so typical package.

  13. My favorite Thanksgiving viewing is the Thanksgiving episodes of thirtysomething. I watch them every year thanks to the boxed dvd sets. (The whole series is also now available on Amazon Instant Video) I also enjoy watching the Friends thanksgiving episodes. The one with Brad Pitt is especially hilarious!

  14. Sally Pyasta says:

    I liked Pieces of April, but you’re right, it is not everyone’s cup of tea. I highly recommend watching, Home for the Holidays, with Holly Hunter, Claire Danes, & Robert Downey Jr. It’s a funny movie about family and holiday dysfunction. As a child, my family used to watch Planes, Trains, and Automobiles every year.

  15. I am so bummed that Home For The Holidays is not available on Amazon Instant Video, nor are they offering it on dvd! I had actually gone there to look for it several weeks ago, and the conversation here prompted me to check again but no dice. Such a disappointment! I did rent Pieces of April, which kind of reminds me of Rachel Getting Married, based on the way you described it. That one’s also about a dysfunctional young woman facing her family and is also gritty but good. Anne Hathaway is the main character. She does a good job in the role, and it’s different to see her not playing the good girl. That one is now on Netflix. Thanks to the comments here, I also rented One True Thing, which I saw years and years ago, and is based on the novel by Anna Quindlen. Good stuff, can’t wait to watch again when I get a break from turkey making!

  16. Teresa says:

    I have watched “The Homecoming” on Thanksgiving day every year since 1974. My kids think I am nuts and just shake their heads.

  17. Teresa says:

    I must admit I’m not a fan of Pieces of April. I have watched it twice hoping I would like it, but alas, no such luck. I’m more of a Charlie Brown fan. Also love Holly Hunter, Robert Downey, Jr. and Anne Bancroft in “Home for the Holidays”. It is not a movie for everyone though …. can we say dysfunctional family, but funny!

  18. Taryn B says:

    I’m late to this comment stream, but I have to say that the movie we watch each Thankgiving is Ladyhawk. Yup. My husband’s family watched it a couple Thanksgivings in a row–accidentally–when he was growing up, and now we watch it every thanksgiving we can. It has absolutely nothing to do with the holiday, and it’s so campy, but I love that it will forever be our Thanksgiving movie.

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