It’s unlikely that holiday meals are ever as awkward as they are constantly depicted in films and on television. Almost every Thanksgiving movie seems to offer unrelenting tension and scorn between characters, until, at the very end, everyone realizes, “Hey. Family.” and decides to not hate each other anymore.

As trite as the convention is, it doesn’t cheapen the general discomfort that accompanies these movies, either due to conflict or the fact that the characters are awful. Generally both.

If you’re concerned that your Thanksgiving holiday will be too pleasant and conflict-free, take solace in these films, which will show you what Hollywood really thinks turkey day is about.

Scent of a Woman

I can’t say I would want Al Pacino at my Thanksgiving dinner, and his family in Scent of a Woman seems to feel the same way. Basically, we see that the miserable old crank is a miserable old crank in front of his whole family and always has been. Also, we learn that he lost his vision by being an alcoholic who juggled live hand grenades.

While he remains stoic during the beginning of Bradley Whitford’s telling of the story, it’s almost immediately clear that he’s seething underneath, and it’s only a matter of time before he explodes. And explode he does. After he attacks his nephew, he takes off, taking the narrative with him, but I would like to see how the rest of that dinner went.

Dexter S4 Thanksgiving Episode

This doesn't require too much explanation. Any dinner that includes a brutal fight and use of the dreaded "C-Word" is going to make this list. Throw in the fact this dinner has not one, but two serial killers at the table, and you can't get much more awkward without involving incest.

Son In Law

Every Thanksgiving, when people ask me what I’m thankful for, I immediately respond, “Pauly Shore.” It’s almost a reflex at this point. Considering Pauly Shore’s character, the awesomely-monikered “Crawl,” might be the most irritating houseguest in history (but he’s got a heart of gold!), it’s no wonder that tensions run a little high at Thanksgiving. This is doubly true after dinner, when he claims to have proposed to Becca, his host, so that she doesn’t get asked by her jerk boyfriend Travis. I hate Travis soooooo much!

Any time Pauly Shore gets punched and bleeds all over the dinner table, that’s an awkward Thanksgiving.


While we don’t get to see too much of the dinner itself, calling the journey to Thanksgiving dinner a trainwreck isn’t fair to trains. When free spirit Dutch (Ed O’Neil) picks up his girlfriend’s son, Doyle, and takes him from his boarding school in Georgia to Chicago, the proverbial shit hits the fan. There are not one, but two run-ins with pellet guns, lots of fireworks, racy playing cards, and one instance of Dutch’s dad, played by Shooter McGavin, getting punched in the face with Dutch’s ring hand.

It’s a great film if you can get past what a jerk Doyle is, which takes some time.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Anytime Steve Martin unconsciously slides his hand in John Candy’s asscrack, that’s an awkward Thanksgiving. Despite the strict adherence to formula in this film, the characters are both likable enough, and the situations funny enough, that it manages to stand out among often-trite holiday fare.

The two strangers who meet through happenstance go on a disaster-riddled journey that involves a dense rental car lady, briefly turning into skeletons while driving between two trucks, and eventually just burning their rental car to the ground.

But it all works out in the end. Oops. Spoiler.

The Big Chill

This makes the list just because these smug yuppie bastards are the worst. They listen to songs like “Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog” (which is actually titled “Joy to the World”) and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” while being all superior and reminiscing.

The plot to this film is largely incidental, as it’s mostly baby boomers whining about their awesome lives while listening to oldies and smoking pot. Ugh.

I don’t know about you, but a whole weekend in which old people talk about how great things used to be while one woman actively seeks out a man to impregnate her sounds way worse than no holiday weekend at all.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

I understand that this is a cherished film, so I will tread lightly. I love Charlie Brown as much as most anyone, but it would be a horrible event to participate in. A bunch of large-headed, morose children amble about, getting all existential about every little piece of whimsy or tradition. No one EVER seems to be having any fun, until Schroeder gets on the piano and everyone rocks out like a bastard.

Further, their Thanksgiving dinner consists of buttered toast, jellybean, pretzel sticks, and popcorn, which pisses off Peppermint Patty to no end. She berates Charlie Brown for his admittedly shitty dinner, only to realize that she is acting totes bitchcakes. She apologizes, and the children continue their somber lives soundtracked to bizarre, sparse music.

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