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The Best Movie Families to Visit for Thanksgiving — IndieWire Critics Survey

From the Addams family to the Corleone clan, these are the movie families that our panel of film critics want to join for Turkey Day.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

“Fantastic Mr. Fox”

Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of film critics two questions and publishes the results on Monday. (The answer to the second, “What is the best film in theaters right now?”, can be found at the end of this post.)

Thanksgiving is upon us! For this week’s question, we asked our panel of film critics which movie families they would most want to hang out with for the holiday.

Carlos Aguilar (@Carlos_Film) The Wrap, MovieMaker Magazine, Remezcla

Spending time with selkies (magical beings from Celtic mythology that shift between human and seal form) could be a fun twist on any holiday in need of rebranding. But since underwater festivities are probably complicated and wet, it helps when the hosts are a mixed group of selkies and humans. It’ll definitely be more manageable if one can stay dry.

With “Song of the Sea,” his sophomore animated feature based on Irish folklore, director Tomm Moore gave us the perfect family for such an unconventional celebration – granted it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving but fun times would be had nonetheless. Produced by Cartoon Saloon and distributed by GKIDS stateside, this gorgeously rendered tale set in the 1980s takes place on an island where a family unit struck by otherworldly tragedy copes with disappearance of their mother and wife, Bronagh (Lisa Hannigan)

There’s 10-year-old Ben, a spirited boy inspired by the director’s own son; his younger sister Saoirse, who is mute and a selkie like her mother; their father Conor, voiced by Irish legend Brendan Gleeson, a dependable and loving fellow who enjoys having a pint once in a while; Granny, voiced by veteran actress Fionnula Flanagan; and their irresistibly huggable sheepdog Cú—this writer’s personal favorite. Together they undertake an ordeal that is at once fantastical and personal.

They love each other disregarding that some of them transform into sea creatures that communicate through song. Also, there is a birthday party in the movie that goes awry, and what’s a family but a group of people that will embarrass you while embracing you.

Ken Bakely (@kbake_99), Freelance for Film Pulse

Holiday gatherings can be pretty awkward under the best of circumstances, so you have to keep things light, and what better way to do that than hanging out with the Sheridans, the main characters of the “Mamma Mia!” franchise? Sure, the movies take place entirely outside of the United States, and many of the supporting characters aren’t American, making it rather unlikely that Thanksgiving in particular would factor in as a significant holiday. But consider the picturesque settings, fantastic guests, and the knowledge that you won’t be judged—in fact, you will be actively encouraged and accompanied—if you spontaneously break into an elaborate performance of ABBA’s greatest hits. That’s what I would call something to be thankful for.

Lindsey Romain (@lindseyromain) Nerdist, Thrillist, /Film

I was recently swept into the magical wave that is “Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again,” a ludicrous, sun-drenched musical fairy tale sequel to 2008’s “Mamma Mia.” I watched “Here We Go Again” a staggering four times in three days, so enamored was I with its magical spell of tanned legs and wispy fabric blouses and ABBA jams. Normally, I would go cynical for an answer about family, but honestly, a big reason I found such indulgent delight in “Here We Go Again” was its very simple concept of family. Amanda Seyfried’s Sophie was raised by a single mother on a remote Greek island, but by the end of the first “Mamma Mia” has assembled an entire family made out of her mother’s past lovers and best friends.

The answer of Sophie’s parentage is never clearly answered, and so she accepts all three possible candidates – Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Stellan Skarsgård – as her dads, and they accept her back. As someone who grew up without a father figure, the idea of three loving, supporting, doting fathers who accept you unconditionally is pretty marvelous. Sophie’s mother – played by Meryl Streep – is dead in “Here We Go Again,” but raised her daughter with a flurry of locals and under the influence of her besties – Julie Walters and Christine Baranski – so that her life is full of open love and a great, big, chosen family.

Carl Broughton II (@Carlislegendary), Writer for thefilmera.com

I would love to spend Thanksgiving with King T’challa and his royal family from “Black Panther”. Getting the chance to spend the holiday with my favorite comic book hero, and exploring the world of Wakanda can’t be topped.

Wakanda is without question the most fleshed out fictional setting to ever grace a comic book film. Wakanda isn’t just a backdrop for the characters but a magical place based on the beauty of Africa, and technological advances human minds have yet to create. The best way to describe Wakanda to people who have yet to see this film is to tell them to picture the beginning of “The Lion King” but with real live people. To the harsh but gorgeous Jabari Mountains, the mighty rivers, or to the very majestic plains, Wakanda is the dream every person wishes they could experience. Don’t even get me started on the food they would serve, I would definitely need a to go plate.

Alonso Duralde (@aduralde), TheWrap, Linoleum Knife, Who Shot Ya?

I’m tempted to go with the warm and loving Smith family from “Meet Me in St. Louis,” but I have a sneaking suspicion that 1910s America means bland food (and a dry turkey), and the meal is just as important as the company, so instead I’m gonna go with the Whitfields from “This Christmas” (2007). The evening is guaranteed to include some prickly sibling squabbles, Ma’Dere’s sweet potato pie, and a Soul Train line after dinner.

Luke Hicks (@lou_kicks), Film School Rejects, Birth.Movies.Death., Bright Wall/Dark Room

Lestat de Lioncourt, Louis de Pointe du Lac, and dearest Claudia from “Interview with the Vampire.” The idea of spending Thanksgiving with Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, and a darling little Kirsten Dunst in late-18th century New Orleans sounds like an absolute delight. Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I’ve never spent the holidays with an unconventional vampire family in the French Quarter. Assuming Lioncourt (Cruise) is on his best behavior, du Lac (Pitt) is as tender as ever, and Claudia (Dunst) is rocking those adorably festive Goldilocks curls, I’ll be in cinephilic paradise. The one downside: I’ll probably have to bring my own dinner.

Fran Hoepfner (@franhoepfner), Bright Wall/Dark Room

I’d give anything for a brash family dinner at Dorethea Fields’ (Annette Bening) house in Mike Mills’ “20th Century Women.” With all their boarders and friends surrounding me, we’d eat and drink and argue about how women are now into the night. It’d be the ultimate friends-giving, the movie itself an exercise in both the profound ties of family and chosen family.

Courtney Howard (@Lulamaybelle) Freelance for Variety, FreshFiction

The Brown family from the “Paddington” franchise. Not only do they seem like good people with smashing senses of humor, but they have the best bear in the world also living with them, offering unparalleled sage wisdom, warm hugs and marmalade sandwiches. Small talk at parties is always exhausting for me. However, I’d imagine conversation starters would be easy in the Brown household – what with Judy’s burgeoning journalism career, Jonathan’s like of locomotives and Mary’s wildly varied ventures drawing and swimming. I’d even love to get insurance advice from Henry, and spill the tea with Mrs. Bird about narcissistic actors. Plus, I’d love to see their hallway mural up close and personal.

Joanna Langfield (@Joannalangfield), The Movie Minute

I’ve been thinking a lot about them recently, but, yes I would like to spend Thanksgiving with the gang from “Roma.” As an only child, I always had an idealistic vision of the day: a bountiful table, surrounded by a big, noisy group of people who came together out of love. Watching those dining scenes in “Roma,” it seems that family fits my bill, perfectly.

Sarah Marrs (@Cinesnark), LaineyGossip.com, Freelance

I 100% want to spend Thanksgiving with the Addams family. Sure, there is drama to be had with your Ambersons and your Benedicts, but only with the Addamses is there drama AND potentially murder. You know someone is probably getting poisoned at an Addams family dinner. It’s probably their version of pulling the wishbone–whoever gets dosed with nightshade is the winner of some long-running family game of luck. Also, the dinner itself is sure to be interesting. Will there be a more imaginative family spread than that which emerges from the Addamses’ kitchen? There is definitely going to be some kind of monster slow-roasted with poisoned apples. I very much look forward to the braised kelpie with a reduction of belladonna. And then there is the sparkling conversation. Gomez and Morticia are undoubtedly flawless macabre hosts, and Wednesday’s cutting asides make every conversation lively. I cannot imagine a more interesting, weird, potentially gross, possibly murderous, definitely morbid Thanksgiving than spending it with the Addams family.

Andrea Thompson (@areelofonesown), Freelance, The Young Folks, The Chicago Reader

Holidays with The Addams Family seems like a great way to spend the holidays. My favorite depiction will always be the 1993 film “Addams Family Values,” which cemented their status as one the all-time great cinematic clans for me as a kid. Not only do they all share a wickedly playful, dark sense of humor I can appreciate, but Gomez and Morticia are one of those fantastic on-screen couples who make a great case for marriage, and Wednesday takes no crap from people who are unnerved by her individuality, continuing to inspire today. They also tend to treat people (and each other) with a surprising amount of compassion and respect, from the people who work for them (even when one turns out to be a serial killer) to taking time out of their epic revenge to give a great speech about why certain Thanksgiving traditions have proven to be so painful for some. If they’re ever having guests for the holidays, sign me up.

Joey Keogh (@JoeyLDG), Contributing Editor of Wicked Horror, freelance for Birth.Movies.Death, Vague Visages, The List

The Addams Family are the definitive movie family and the only choice for a lifelong weirdo (and moody goth) like me. Sure, their various culinary concoctions aren’t the most appetizing, but the point of attending Thanksgiving at the Addams Family pile isn’t to eat but to indulge in whatever acts of whimsy they’re partaking in to mark the occasion. A rousing game of Wake The Dead, perhaps? Hitting golf-balls at the neighbors? 

I can’t even really envision what an Addams Family Thanksgiving would look like (which makes me even more excited to attend), but I imagine it includes a still-live turkey running riot before being beheaded by a specially-made mini guillotine. There probably wouldn’t be any potatoes on offer, but that’s okay, because I’ve never had a Thanksgiving dinner anyway, so wouldn’t really know the difference.

Read More:  The 15 Best Food Movies Ever Made — IndieWire Critics Survey

At the end of it all, I would of course hope for adoption. Or, if nothing else, to be buried in the family crypt alongside all the other Addamses, only to be awoken from my slumber many years later by bratty children with shovels.

Mike McGranaghan (@AisleSeat), The Aisle Seat, Screen Rant

I’d pick the Griswold family from the “Vacation” movies because I know Thanksgiving would be hilariously problematic, and yet still okay by the end of the day. Also, as the author of a book on the films of Chevy Chase, I’d like to get to the bottom of why the Griswold children look different in every movie.

Aaron Neuwirth (AaronsPS4), We Live Entertainment, Why So Blu

This one seems pretty straightforward: I want to spend Thanksgiving with the Corleones. “The Godfather” has plenty of things going for it, but the extended wedding sequence that opens the film is about as perfect as things get, as well as a great example of how much fun a Corleone family Thanksgiving would be. Just imagine the fun to be had. You would be surrounded by people who love to talk, argue, and laugh with each other. There’d be plenty of great music and dancing to enjoy. Between the guards inside and the police on the outside, you’d be well protected throughout the night. There’s no doubt I would be able to hear plenty of great stories from many members of the family. And the food! This would be a feast for the ages. As long as there were no long simmering blood feuds that needed to be settled that night, I’m sure I’d have a ball having a Thanksgiving with this infamous family.

Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@chrisreedfilm), Hammer to Nail, Film Festival Today

The movie family with whom I would most like to spend Thanksgiving is the Sungs, profiled in Steve James’ 2016 Oscar-nominated documentary “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail.” In the film, father Thomas, wife Hwei Lin and daughters Vera, Jill, Chanterelle and Heather come together and fight back against the unfair prosecution of their family-run bank by New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., who decides to scapegoat them following the 2008 financial crisis. Instead of going after the big, corrupt institutions that actually caused the meltdown, the bullying Vance thinks he has an easy mark with the Sungs. Not so. Terrific exemplars of the Chinese-American immigrant community they serve and represent, as well as icons of what should be all-American values of hard-work, honesty and justice for all, the Sungs are my kind of cinematic heroes. Never give up, never surrender. May I join you for dinner, please?

Don Shanahan (@casablancadon), Every Movie Has a Lesson

Quality time with family is nice and all but, let’s face it, Thanksgiving is about the food.  After an engorging day eschewing every diet, I am thankful for what tends to be the best meal day of the year. If you’re giving me an open invitation to join any movie family, I’m scouting for kitchen talent and the menu. Turkey and the traditional American fare is overrated, so I’m ordering Italian. Save me a seat at Paradise from 1996’s “Big Night,” one of the best food movies of all-time.  I’ll take all of the brotherly bickering of Tony Shaloub’s Primo and co-director Stanley Tucci’s Secondo if it leads to a feast equal or better than the legendary spread from that underseen gem. That’s a film you can practically taste with your eyes. I want to match the Ian Holm character that is so moved by the dazzling delicacies gracing his plate and palette that I too rise from my chair in sumptuous rage to consider murdering the chef in the first breath only to embrace him with thankful kisses and hugs in the next.  You can keep your cranberry sauce and what not from hearth and home.  Give me some timpano, flowing wine, and the full Louis Prima treatment.

Millicent Thomas (@MillicentOnFilm), Social Editor at Screen Queens

I would want to spend every thanksgiving (and Christmas, and birthday etc) with the Cortez family from the “Spy Kids” trilogy. I know for a fact that Ingrid and Gregorio would cook up one hell of a feast, probably with a bunch of protein, veggies, and all that good stuff; in case we’re called out by the OSS mid-dinner for a top-secret mission. Of course, Machete would bring presents. Probably some electro gum-balls or his new prototype of the world’s tiniest camera. Something tells me that the Cortez’s would even be kind enough to invite Gary and Gertie Giggles, so it’s sure to be a memorable celebration.

Sarah Welch-Larson (@dodgyboffin), Bright Wall/Dark Room, Think Christian, Freelance

The Logans from Steven Soderbergh’s “Logan Lucky”. They sound like they know how to have a good time. Plus, Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) has a list of rules for robbing a bank, which would also apply well to planning Thanksgiving dinner with any family. They are as follows:

1) Decide to rob a bank.
Amend to: “decide to host dinner for all your friends and relatives,” which, depending on the family, could be just as stressful.

2) Have a plan.
You’ve gotta know where to seat everyone to keep conversation flowing, but away from sensitive topics.

3) Have a backup plan.
There’s no shame in escaping to the kitchen to “check on something” if things get hairy.

4) Establish clear communications.
Make sure everyone is bringing the right dish, otherwise you’re going to end up with two dishes of candied yams and three pecan pies and absolutely no mashed potatoes at all, which would be a travesty.

5) Choose your partners carefully.
Assign aforementioned dishes to people who know how to cook them.

6) Expect the unexpected.
Thanksgiving dinner crashed by your weird uncle’s girlfriend? No problem, you’ve got an extra chair.

7) Shit happens.

8) Don’t get greedy.
You don’t have to eat everything, that’s what your family is there for.

9) Remember, shit happens.
Also self-explanatory. (This is where the backup plan comes in handy.)

10) Hang up and know when to walk away.
When in doubt, escape to the kiddie table.

Brianna Zigler (@briannazigs), Screen Queens, Film Inquiry

I think the Palmer family from “Twin Peaks” and all such “Twin Peaks”-adjacent material would be fun to spend some turkey time with. I would have to do all the cooking since two of their members are dead (if, perhaps, not physically), and one is still debilitated by grief and acting as host to an unfathomable and bloodthirsty cosmic force, but it would keep political discourse at a minimum and Sarah Palmer would be sure to keep us stocked up with wine and spirits (get it?? spirits??????????).

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