25 Movies To Watch During Thanksgiving Weekend 2014

One of the many reasons we're thankful for Thanksgiving is that it cuts the work week short, giving us twice as much weekend time to spend at the movies. And there's no shortage of titles right now to spend that time on. The only question is where to start.

To help you answer that, we've put together a helpful guide that (we hope) covers every base. Hit the jump for our list of 25 movies to watch this Thanksgiving.

Index

Our selection of 25 movies to watch this Thanksgiving is broken up into five sections: Family, Oscar, Indie, Miscellaneous, and VOD. Not all of the films are new this weekend, and (especially with older or more obscure titles) we can't guarantee that all of them are playing at a theater near you. But whether you're looking to spend the entire weekend in a theater alone, or only have time for one quick jaunt with the entire family, we should have something for you.

Hunger Games Mockingjay - Katniss

Family Picks

The great thing about Thanksgiving is that it brings everyone together, from your hippie aunt to your hipster cousin to your drooling baby nephew. The bad thing about bringing everyone together is that it's a challenge to get all of them to agree on anything. But your trip to the cinema isn't doomed — try one of these titles with broad, multi-quadrant appeal.

If you're watching with everyone: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

Odds are good you've already seen The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, but consider watching it again anyway. It's the big crowd-pleaser: ostensibly a teen movie, but more than smart enough for the adults in your party. There's thrilling action, heart-pounding drama, intelligent politics and even a healthy dose of humor. And thanks to some truly excellent world-building by director Francis Lawrence and author Suzanne Collins, it's got great rewatch value.

If you're watching with kids: Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6 is your perfect Thanksgiving movie. The little ones will be charmed by the bright colors and cute characters, the geeky ones will appreciate the Marvel Comics roots, the sentimental ones will swoon for the sweet family storyline, and everyone will fall instantly and madly in love with Baymax. And unlike last year's big late-fall hit, Frozen, it's not a musical, so you won't be left with Idina Menzel's voice running on a loop in your head.

If you're watching with kids who've already seen Big Hero 6: Penguins of Madagascar

Penguins of Madagascar is more specifically targeted at children than Big Hero 6, with a sillier storyline and a more hectic pace. But it's not so sickeningly kiddie as to repel adults. It's one of the funnier entries in the Madagascar series, with gags ranging from supremely silly to the surprisingly sophisticated (a Werner Herzog cameo falls in the latter category). Plus, don't you want to see if Benedict Cumberbatch has finally figured out how to say "penguins"?

If you're watching with slightly older kids: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is not the best option for young children with limited attention spans. On the other hand, older or more introspective kids and their parents will find much to admire in this delicate fairy tale from Studio Ghibli. The hand-drawn images and bittersweet tone stand in stark contrast to the bright colors and relentless cheeriness of mainstream American animation.

If you're watching with grownups: Interstellar

With a 169-minute running time, complicated scientific ideas, and heavy abstract themes, Interstellar is definitely not one for the kids. But as a surprisingly tender meditation on familial love, it's a solid choice for your grown-up relatives. If all this family togetherness is starting to wear you down, the heart-rending scenes between Matthew McConaughey and Mackenzie Foy (who plays his daughter) will serve as a helpful reminder to appreciate whatever time you have with your loved ones.

THE IMITATION GAME

Oscar Picks:

There's no better time than Thanksgiving weekend to get your first peek at next year's Academy Awards race. The real contenders have started filtering into theaters, while the dark horses have yet to begin flooding indie cinemas. If you're serious about your Oscar research you'll definitely want to catch up on these five films, all considered locks for one of the major categories.

The Theory of Everything

If you're following the Best Actor race: The Theory of Everything

If The Theory of Everything makes it into the Oscar race — and it's looking likely it will — it'll be on the strength of Eddie Redmayne's performance. The young Brit star plays Stephen Hawking over a period of decades, chronicling every stage of his debilitating Lou Gehrig's disease. It's a showy ar, but Redmayne isn't showy in it. He so completely disappears into the character, the real Hawking has remarked that he felt like he was watching himself onscreen at times.

imitation_game

If you're following the Best Actor race, and you also really like Sherlock: The Imitation Game

There's a scene in The Imitation Game where a supporting character snarks to mathematician Alan Turing that "to pull off the irascible genius routine, one must actually be a genius." Well, we've no idea what Benedict Cumberbatch's IQ is, but we can attest he pulls off the irascible genius routine quite well. The prickly Turing may have struggled to connect to his peers, but Cumberbatch's nuanced performance should have no trouble connecting with audiences.

new Foxcatcher teaser

If you're following the Best Actor race, and you're tired of British geniuses: Foxcatcher

Between the prosthetic nose and the eerily flat affect, Steve Carell is nearly unrecognizable in Foxcatcher. Gone are the genial personality and the goofiness. What does remain is Michael Scott's insatiable neediness, amped up to a dangerously delusional degree. Carell is supported in his dramatic breakthrough by two other noteworthy performances — a wounded one from Channing Tatum and a warm one from Mark Ruffalo.

birdman

If you're following the Best Director race: Birdman

Birdman's single-shot illusion is a difficult trick to pull off, and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is getting a lot of well deserved attention for it. But it's not gimmickry for gimmickry's sake. It adds a dreamlike quality to the film, which has Michael Keaton playing a sort of parallel universe version of himself. Birdman feels both painfully intimate and bracingly huge, and its ambition deserves to be celebrated come awards season.

gone-girl-DF-01826cc_rgb.jpg

If you're following the Best Actress race: Gone Girl

Though British actress Rosamund Pike has been bouncing around Hollywood for years, she's so far been unable to gain much traction with American audiences. Gone Girl should change that for good. To say too much about her performance here would be to give away the movie's jaw-dropping twists, but suffice it to say you'll never forget her name after this one. As a bonus, Gone Girl's "battle of the sexes" storyline should provide plenty of conversational fodder for the dinner table.

Index

Our selection of 25 movies to watch this Thanksgiving is broken up into five sections: Family, Oscar, Indie, Miscellaneous, and VOD. Not all of the films are new this weekend, and (especially with older or more obscure titles) we can't guarantee that all of them are playing at a theater near you. But whether you're looking to spend the entire weekend in a theater alone, or only have time for one quick jaunt with the entire family, we should have something for you.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Arthouse Picks

As evidenced by the previous titles on this list, there are some great big movies out there getting tons of attention. But if you're lucky enough to find yourself in an area with a good indie film scene this Thanksgiving, now is your chance to seek out some under-appreciated gems.

The Babadook

If you want to feel scared: The Babadook

If there's any justice in the world, The Babadook will be hailed as an instant classic and the Babadook will enter the canon of iconic movie bogeymen. It's one of the best horror movies we've seen in years. Director Jennifer Kent ratchets up the tension to nearly unbearable levels and then actually delivers when it comes time to deliver the scares. But what'll really keep you up at night are the real-life horrors that The Babadook taps into: despair, desperation, and parental ambivalence.

Dear White People teaser

If you want to feel amused: Dear White People

Race relations in contemporary America could be a depressing topic. But in the hands of writer-director Justin Simien, it's fodder for sharp, insightful jokes delivered with style by actors like Tessa Thompson and Tyler Jesse Williams. His perspective feels genuinely fresh, especially in an industry dominated by white men. And he'll make sure you never see Gremlins the same way again. Dear White People can be uneven at times, but when it's good it's great.

Force Majeure trailer

If you want to feel uncomfortable: Force Majeure

Force Majeure centers on what appears to be a "controlled avalanche," and that's what the movie feels like as well. A split second of panic reveals the cracks in a seemingly perfect family, and as the story rolls forward the crack becomes a bigger disaster. It's maybe not the thing to watch if you want to bask in the glow of family togetherness over the holiday, but if you can handle some uncomfortable questions you'll find a sharp, insightful drama.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night trailer

If you want to feel cool: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

It seems safe to call A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night the best Iranian feminist vampire black-and-white Western ever made, if only because it's probably the only Iranian feminist vampire black-and-white Western ever made. In other words, it's like nothing we've ever seen, or are likely to see again any time soon. Check it now, and you'll get to brag to your friends in a few years that you've been following director Ana Lily Amirpour and star Sheila Vand before they were big.

Whiplash' with Miles Teller

If you want to feel awed: Whiplash

J.K. Simmons gives one of his best performances ever as a jazz instructor whose real talent seems to lie in tormenting his students. Miles Teller more than holds his own as an ambitious drummer who makes himself the willing subject of Simmons' abuse. Whiplash dives deep into the ugly process of making beautiful art, and left us feeling simultaneously disturbed and inspired.

Index

Our selection of 25 movies to watch this Thanksgiving is broken up into five sections: Family, Oscar, Indie, Miscellaneous, and VOD. Not all of the films are new this weekend, and (especially with older or more obscure titles) we can't guarantee that all of them are playing at a theater near you. But whether you're looking to spend the entire weekend in a theater alone, or only have time for one quick jaunt with the entire family, we should have something for you.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays an unscrupulous news cameraman in the thriller Nightcrawler

Miscellaneous Picks

We'll be honest: These films are lumped together simply because they weren't an easy fit anywhere else. They're the pictures we think are just plain good.

John Wick trailer

If you're in the mood for something exciting: John Wick

Revenge dramas are a dime a dozen, but despite the familiar storyline John Wick feels special. The setting is unusually rich and stylish, the fight scenes are expertly choreographed and lovingly shot, and Keanu Reeves is perfectly cast as an avatar of cold, competent rage.

Nightcrawler trailer 2

If you're in the mood for something creepy: Nightcrawler

Even by the high standards of Jake Gyllenhaal's recent career, Nightcrawler is a standout. Gyllenhaal's Lou Bloom is unnerving from the very first frame, with his unblinking stare and his ingratiating platitudes, and he only gets more grotesque as we get to know him. Like the gory accidents that he covers, Lou Bloom is hard to watch and even harder to turn away from.

Horrible Bosses 2

If you're in the mood for something funny: Horrible Bosses 2

If you liked the first Horrible Bosses, Horrible Bosses 2 is no worse and might even be better. As with the first film, the fantastic chemistry between Jason Sudeikis, Jason Bateman, and Charlie Day is what makes the movie. We could watch these three idiots riff for hours. But it turns out they work even better as a foursome. Chris Pine joins the mix this time around, with surprisingly hilarious results.

Beyond the Lights

If you're in the mood for something romantic: Beyond the Lights

Beyond the Lights is the kind of grown-up romance that studios supposedly aren't making anymore. Well, let's just be thankful someone made an exception for this one. Director Gina Prince-Bythewood adds intelligence and complexity to what could've just been an over-the-top melodrama, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Nate Parker anchor even the more contrived elements with their irresistible chemistry.

Citizenfour

If you're in the mood for something thought-provoking: Citizenfour

The Edward Snowden documentary Citizenfour is undoubtedly an important piece of filmmaking, revealing some very unpleasant truths about the surveillance state. But it's smart enough not to overplay its own importance, or embellish on an already dramatic tale. Several Snowden movies are in the works at the moment but it's hard to imagine any one better positioned than Laura Poitras', as she was one of the people who first worked with Snowden to leak those documents.

Index

Our selection of 25 movies to watch this Thanksgiving is broken up into five sections: Family, Oscar, Indie, Miscellaneous, and VOD. Not all of the films are new this weekend, and (especially with older or more obscure titles) we can't guarantee that all of them are playing at a theater near you. But whether you're looking to spend the entire weekend in a theater alone, or only have time for one quick jaunt with the entire family, we should have something for you.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Video On Demand Picks

Hey, we get it. The tryptophan is kicking in, it's 20 degrees outside, and the only member of your family with a car big enough to fit everyone has just polished off an entire bottle of red. A trip to the theater is not in the cards. Thank goodness for the magic of modern technology, which makes it possible to have a great movie night without ever leaving the house.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (11)

If you're watching with family: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Hiccup and Toothless are older and wiser but no less appealing in How to Train Your Dragon 2, which expands the first film's mythology in a big way while delivering more of the heart and humor that made the first one such a hit. The family-centric plotline should especially resonate during Thanksgiving weekend, when you're forced to spend time with people you love to pieces but don't quite get.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

If you're catching up on Oscar hopefuls: The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel seems unlikely to break into Best Picture or any of the acting races. It is, however, exactly the kind of movie that the Academy loves to recognize in the screenplay category: well written, well liked, and a little offbeat. Indeed, writer/director Wes Anderson has been nominated for Original Screenplay twice before. We wouldn't bet against him doing it again in 2015.

Obvious Child

If you're feeling offbeat: Obvious Child

Obvious Child is quietly revolutionary for its mature, matter-of-fact treatment of abortion. But the real argument for watching it is that it's really freaking funny. Jenny Slate plays a stand-up comedian with an endless supply of jokes, but the humor comes mostly from a naturalistic, relatable place. Jake Lacy also makes a winning impression in what should've been a throwaway role, as Slate's straight-laced love interest.

Snowpiercer

If you just want something awesome: Snowpiercer

Remember all that back-and-forth last year about whether the American market would get a happier, dumber version of Snowpiercer? Well, thank god the Weinsteins did not prevail, because Bong Joon-ho's original cut is a stunner: relentlessly dark, bleakly funny, and viscerally upsetting. Sure, the plot goes off the rails a bit if you think too logically about it, but otherwise it's one dizzying trip.

Jon Favreau Chef

If you're trying to get rid of leftovers: Chef

It's a movie about food. Well, no — it's a movie about Jon Favreau trying to regain his creative mojo. But there's a lot of food in it, and it all looks delicious, and you'll get hungry again just watching it. Not only that, you may even feel inspired to cook up something new with all that leftover turkey, rather than just stuffing it into another boring sandwich. Put this film on and your fridge will be wiped clean in no time.

Index

Our selection of 25 movies to watch this Thanksgiving is broken up into five sections: Family, Oscar, Indie, Miscellaneous, and VOD. Not all of the films are new this weekend, and (especially with older or more obscure titles) we can't guarantee that all of them are playing at a theater near you. But whether you're looking to spend the entire weekend in a theater alone, or only have time for one quick jaunt with the entire family, we should have something for you.