The leaves are changing, the temperatures are dropping, and the existential terror of facing your family members is setting in. That can only mean one thing: It’s Fall, folks! The part where we stop carving pumpkins and start carving turkeys (if you’re into that sort of thing) and the part where you’ll look for absolutely any opportunity to avoid talking politics with your racist uncle. This year has given us an abundance of excuses but if you need another, just tell them you have a lot of movies to watch. If they’ve asked which ones, then tell them to put on their Country Living best and cut themselves some pumpkin pie because these are the ten movies everybody should be watching this November.
- Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Few movies really do justice to how much of a headache holiday travel is. This one really does the job and does so in the funniest way possible. Steve Martin and John Candy get stuck as reluctant traveling partners when they both try to make it home in time for thanksgiving. Everything that could possibly go wrong does, and hilarity ensues—a rare timeless comedy with just enough edge and just enough heart to feel authentic in its convictions. A scene involving Steve Martin trying to get a rental car is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen and the perfect catharsis to your holiday stress.
2. The Witch
Thanksgiving is a holiday about a bunch of pilgrims imposing boundaries where they shouldn’t have, right? Well, that’s what this movie is about! An ultra-religious family moves into a woodside farm after being banished by their Puritan township for being too pious. They see the woods as a place to be tamed, and they find out that they may be a little in over their heads when it turns out a witch has already made a home nearby. It’s reminiscent of old wood carvings from around the time of the first Thanksgiving, but the pilgrims actually get what they deserve. The Witch is an excellent metaphor for the pressures one’s family puts on them with an absolute banger of an ending. Throw it on after eating too much and let it envelop you in darkness.
- Over the Garden Wall
Ok, I know, it’s a miniseries, not a movie. But with a total runtime of around two hours, you can knock it out in the same amount of time, and it’s probably the purest representation of this time of year ever committed to the screen. Two brothers are lost in the woods and are trying to make their way back home with a lot of speed bumps and adventures along the way. The animation is gorgeous, the music is memorable, and it plays on such a specific kind of melancholy that feels perfectly tuned to the transition between fall and winter. It’s truly one of the best things you’ll see this year and only improves on annual rewatches.
Brandon Cronenberg’s mind-bending, body-hopping, assassin flick’s connection to the season isn’t as clear as the others on this list. It isn’t set around this time of year, nor does it have any specifically autumnal imagery. But Possessors’ almost entirely blood red and sickly yellow color palette frames a story about the death of one’s previous self akin in many ways to a tree shedding its leaves. Plus it’s got enough stabbing in it to make you queasy when you go to cut into that roast at the family dinner table. So enjoy being permanently scarred.
- Last of the Mohicans
When I was younger, my dad used to watch Michael Mann’s The Last of the Mohicans every year around this time. This one exists purely as a personal fall movie for me, but I think it is the perfect kind of film to avoid leaving your house with. It’s epic and moving in equal measure, with the tail end being filled with some absolutely brilliant filmmaking. The kind of adventure film the whole family can enjoy with the added bonus of being set in the mountains of the northeast, a place that’s naturally more Thanksgiving-themed than the rest of the country.
- The Fantastic Mr. Fox
Wes Anderson’s singular aesthetic moves into animation, allowing the filmmaker full control over every single thing that exists within the frame. His obsessive focus on art direction really sings in this fall tale of a fox trying to outwit some farmer. A small and wholesome tale elevated by its humor and beautiful animation. The palette is all warm golds and looks like it was borrowed exclusively from the leaves of a maple tree.
- Get Out
Remember that existential fear of visiting family I mentioned? Well, this time, it’s not even your family who are harboring all the secret horrible opinions. Get Out has become an annual Halloween watch for some, but watching it around Thanksgiving helps lean into some of the smaller horrors it has to offer. This excellently crafted scare-fest is all about a black man going to meet his white girlfriend’s family and all of the continually escalating discomforts that come with that situation. I promise you’ve never had a first impression this bad.
You may know Trey Edward Schultz from his all too poignant for 2020 horror film It Comes at Night, but his first film plays on much more personal fears. Krisha is the tale of a woman returning for her first family thanksgiving after years of being cut off from them because of substance abuse. As the long-term effects of her issues start to come into focus, things get tense, and it plays on some extremely raw feelings that could easily come up around a bowl of stuffing this year.
- Knives Out
Last year Rian Johnson made the ultimate Thanksgiving film. If Chris Evans sweaters aren’t enough to prove my point, then maybe the beautiful fall landscape will be, and if that still doesn’t do it, how about a family full of people with differing opinions being trapped in a house together? Like I said, the ultimate Thanksgiving film. Knives Out is a hilarious and thrilling whodunnit that ends up as a poignant statement on simply being a good person. This movie will satisfy every fall craving you’ve got and will leave you trying to impersonate Daniel Craig’s foghorn leghorn accent until the new year.
There’s a lot of reasons to watch Rocky. It’s Stallone’s best movie, and it really is as good as it’s reputation suggests. A gritty, grounded, and inspiring underdog story, largely regarded as one of the great American movies. But the reason Rocky is on the list is because of that part where Paulie throws a whole damn turkey out the window. A perfect reminder that none of us should be going home this year. Happy Thanksgiving!