The movie is brisk and consistently funny, and it hits the sentiment bone in a smart, relatively honest way. The slow-burn rage of Mr. Martin against the oblivious amiability of Mr. Candy (his character’s signature line: “The last thing I want to be remembered as is an annoying blabbermouth”) remains a spectacular comedic blend. As is customary with films written and directed by John Hughes in the 1980s, there’s an American class-analysis subtext that holds the characterizations together: Mr. Martin’s aspirational hauteur is the irresistible force bulldozing into the immovable object of Mr. Candy’s just-folks awkwardness. The language is still super-salty even by today’s standards, so it might not be fun for the entire family.
The second, “Home for the Holidays” (1995), is something that looks like it ought to get by on its cast alone: Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, Geraldine Chaplin and Claire Danes. Not to mention Dylan McDermott, Cynthia Stevenson, and Steve Guttenberg cast against type as an uptight in-law. As it happens, the movie, directed by Jodie Foster, has got even more going for it. While you wouldn’t want to call it prescient, Ms. Hunter’s character, Claudia, an artist turned restorer, is the kind of career-challenged bohemian whose status remains relevant today. Mr. Downey’s frenetic gay brother is also refreshing in his nonstereotypical quirkiness. The family-is-almost-all-we’ve-got theme is a little pat but not totally cringeworthy. It’s a smile-inducing sit, rated PG-13 and free to stream on Amazon Prime.
Some pictures that are not entirely set on Thanksgiving but are popular for their funny Thanksgiving scenes include the not-entirely-good teaming of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in “Grumpy Old Men” (1993) and “Funny People” (2009), which features Adam Sandler giving a doozy of a Thanksgiving toast. (“Grumpy Old Men” is available free for Hulu subscribers, and both films can be rented or purchased via Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, Microsoft and Fandango Now.) If you’re not in the mood to watch all of “Funny People,” there’s a clip Fandango put up on YouTube. (It’s good, but not quite as trenchant as the short film of William S. Burroughs’s “Thanksgiving Prayer,” also on YouTube and definitely not family fare since it, for instance, gives “thanks for a country where nobody is allowed to mind his own business; thanks for a nation of finks.”)
When I’m inclined to recreate my Thanksgiving movie reveries of old, well, I cannot tell a lie: I will go with my nice Blu-ray Disc of the 1933 original of “King Kong.” The movie is still enough of a classic that there’s nowhere you can stream it free (legally). But you can rent or buy it from Amazon, iTunes and the other usual suspects. If you’re a premium member at Warner Archive, that streaming service offers the agreeable not-quite-sequel “Son of Kong,” featuring the great beast’s far-less-terrifying-but-still-engaging offspring. “King Kong vs. Godzilla” has yet to hit streaming services, but several ’60s Japanese monster movies, from “Godzilla” itself to the definitively odd “War of the Gargantuas,” have just landed in the aforementioned Starz app, although, again, if you’re going through your cable provider, you might not be able to access them. In which case, there’s always football.
Or not. I’ve seen the hashtag #Noirvember turning up on social media, a casual push to make the chilly month of November into some kind of ideal time to indulge in film noir. Picking up on this, the Tumblr of streaming services FilmStruck posted a list of over 40 films on the site that make the noir grade. Among them are Otto Preminger’s immortal “Laura” and a few Kurosawa pictures. (Yes, the Japanese master did noir too.) Check out his 1949 crime drama “Stray Dog,” with a young Toshiro Mifune playing a detective who gets his gun stolen, drawing him into a seamy postwar underbelly of Tokyo. Happy grimly fatalistic viewing!