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Thanksgiving streaming recommendations: the best shows and movies to binge-watch

Thanksgiving is almost here, and nothing goes quite as well with a weekend off from work and eating huge amounts of food like hours spent digesting on the couch, binge-watching movies and TV shows.

Unfortunately, given the massive amount of content available on the myriad streaming platforms, actually finding something that everyone can agree on to watch can be as miserable as whenever someone brings up politics during Thanksgiving dinner. Here are our suggestions to help make your holiday streaming go smoothly.

The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride is a classic adventure movie with something for everyone: “Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…” Think family comedy, but with one of the greatest fencing scenes ever filmed. My huge extended family used to rewatch The Princess Bride every single year after Thanksgiving dinner — probably the one thing everyone could agreed on — and it only gets better with repeat viewing. Though as a result, I believed Rodents of Unusual Size (ROUS) were nesting in my childhood closet and refused to sleep with the door open. —Helen Havlak

Where to stream: Rent on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, YouTube, or Vudu.

Best seen with: Your kids, who will definitely not have nightmares about the ROUS.

The Long Kiss Goodnight

  1. Geena Davis
  2. A little girl screaming “Life is pain, mommy!”
  3. Okay, if you really need more reasons, here they are. This is a Christmas movie about a schoolteacher with amnesia discovering she’s actually a stone-cold assassin. This a road trip movie with Samuel L. Jackson doing extremely Samuel L. Jackson things. This is a classic ‘80s-style action movie (made in 1996) that you would swear is directed by Shane Black, but in fact he just wrote it. It’s cringe-y and dated and just edgy enough to be fun, but not so edgy that you’ll feel awkward watching it with your parents. —Dieter Bohn

Where to stream: Rent on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, YouTube, or Vudu.

Best seen with: That one insufferable uncle who says that Die Hard is the only good Christmas movie.


Star Wars: The Force Awakens promotional still (DISNEY/LUCASFILM)

Star Wars (all of them)

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a new Star Wars movie coming out in less than a month. What better way to prepare than watching Episodes 1 through 8 in a giant marathon? (Throw in the first few episodes of The Mandalorian, too, while you’re already logged into Disney+). Plus, Star Wars movies are the ultimate crowd pleaser — uncontroversial tales of good and evil with epic lightsaber and space duels that should entertain the entire family without too much of a fight over what to watch. —Chaim Gartenberg

Where to stream: Disney+, Netflix (for The Last Jedi)

Best seen with: The Star Wars fan in your life who won’t stop talking about The Rise of Skywalker.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang didn’t get the audience it deserved when it first came out, and A.O. Scott, The New York Times movie critic, panned it: “It’s just a movie with no particular reason for existing,” he wrote. Well, no movie has any reason to exist at all, if you want to get existential about it, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a sun-drenched noir that just wants you to have a good time.

Here are three reasons you should watch this movie: Robert Downey Jr.’s performance, Michelle Monaghan’s performance, and especially Val Kilmer’s performance. Downey plays Harry Lockhart, a small-time New York criminal who’s mistaken for an actor while he’s running from the cops and flown to Los Angeles for a movie role. There he meets Kilmer’s Perry, a private eye who Harry shadows to help prepare for his role. Perry insists being a PI is boring, and that’s when the bodies start turning up.

As Harry and Perry try to get to the bottom of things without getting killed themselves, Harry runs into his childhood crush, Harmony, a failing actress with a thing for detective novels. The rest of the plot is an homage to the noir genre, hitting every major cliché along the way with self-aware glee. Every gun that is placed on the mantelpiece goes off by the end, while Kilmer, Downey, and Monaghan swap witty one-liners. It’s a buddy comedy for people who’ve seen every buddy comedy, a noir for Raymond Chandler aficionados, a slightly bitchy love letter to Hollywood, and a career-best performance from Kilmer. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is fast and funny — and pretty much endlessly rewatchable, so after you join its little cult, you can press it on all your friends. —Elizabeth Lopatto

Where to stream: Rent on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, YouTube, or Vudu.

Best seen with: Fans of Veronica Mars and Hot Fuzz. Also, any English teachers, writers, failed writers, editors, or copy editors you may know: there is a recurring joke about adverb usage that they will especially appreciate.


Chef

If you’re thinking, “Hey, my family and I need a movie that will make us want to eat even more food than what we’ve already consumed,” then this is the movie for you! Chef is a fun and lighthearted movie with a great cast, starring Jon Favreau, Scarlett Johansson, Sofia Vergara, Robert Downey Jr., and more. After quitting his job at a high-end restaurant in Los Angeles, Chef Carl Casper decides to launch a food truck with his best friend, ex-wife, and son. My mom and I watched this last Thanksgiving actually and I think we’ll probably watch it again because it was that good. Just make sure you have snacks nearby or else you’ll be pausing the movie multiple times like we did, to run to the kitchen for leftovers. –Dilpreet Kainth

Where to stream: Amazon Prime Video

Best seen with: Basically anyone who’s eating those leftovers

Frozen

There are two reasons to watch Frozen over Thanksgiving.

1. Because you will probably be seeing Frozen 2 this weekend, and odds are you (or more likely, your child / cousin / niece / nephew / etc. who was too young to remember the story details from the first movie) could use a refresher on what exactly happened in the first movie back in *checks notes* 2013.

2. Alternatively, if your kids are still younger, just show them this, pretend it’s Frozen 2, and save on the movie tickets. —Chaim Gartenberg

Where to stream: Disney+

Best seen with: Smaller relatives that you’ll be taking to the movie theater in a few weeks / days / hours to see Frozen 2.


Image: Sony Pictures Animation

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

In a world dominated by the MCU, superhero movies can start to feel very, very same. One that actually feels different is Into the Spider-Verse, a Marvel-character movie that isn’t actually made by the behemoth of a film studio.

The movie tells a classic superhero origin story to the T, but it deconstructs those familiar beats and uses them to build a hilarious wrapper around a newer character whose story feels less like a parable and more like the experience of someone actually struggling to grow up in New York City (… just with a radioactive spider thrown in).

If for nothing else, the animation alone should be enough for a draw here. Into the Spider-Verse looks like a comic book that’s come alive, and there’s nothing else on-screen quite like it.

Plus, getting everyone to agree to watch Spider-Man should be pretty easy. And ultimately, isn’t avoiding a prolonged argument about what to watch truly something to be thankful for? —Jake Kastrenakes

Where to stream: Netflix

Best seen with: Anyone who appreciates a good Nicolas Cage cameo.

Eighth Grade

If you’re the kind of person who would rather not be reduced to floods of tears over the holiday, then please feel free to skip Eighth Grade. Bo Burnham’s directorial debut is a relatively simple story about a girl struggling to get through a year of school. What makes this a great holiday watch is just how painfully relatable her experience is, both for anyone young enough to remember their middle school years, as well as any parents who spent that time desperately trying to support them. —Jon Porter

Where to stream: Amazon Prime Video

Best seen with: A family member you haven’t hugged in a little while.


Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 isn’t technically a Thanksgiving movie, but finding a superhero flick that takes time to celebrate family and hours-long dinners full of laughter and joy is difficult. For one, superheroes don’t really have families. For another, they’re busy. Who has the time? Fortunately, director Shane Black partnered with Marvel Studios and Robert Downey Jr. (who he collaborated with on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, also on this list) to make a superhero Christmas movie. And since Christmas is so close to Thanksgiving, why not just start with Iron Man 3 and work your way back? Iron Man 3 is also one of the best Tony Stark stories (and a perfect evolution of Marvel’s take on the infamous “Demon in a Bottle” comic that Disney tried to start in Iron Man 2). If you’re looking for a superhero movie, this is the most holiday appropriate. —Julia Alexander

Where to stream: Disney+

Best seen with: Family members who won’t go, “What is happening now?” every few minutes.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Hear me out. Look, just give me 15 seconds to sell my case. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice isn’t a particularly great movie. It’s arguably better than Justice League in the Zack Snyder DC Universe, but it isn’t as fun as Aquaman or as critically acclaimed as Joker. It is, however, a perfect Thanksgiving movie because of one scene: the infamous “Martha” scene. There’s a moment in the movie where Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent, who have spent the entire movie trying to kill each other, form an unlikely friendship over the fact that both their mothers are named Martha. Can you imagine?! You can’t! It’s an absolutely ludicrous moment. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is arguably about family, therefore, and makes this nearly three-hour romp a must watch with family members who just want to watch something for ten minutes before falling asleep on the couch. —Julia Alexander

Where to stream: Rent on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, YouTube, or Vudu.

Best seen with: Ideally, a family member named Martha.


Under the Skin promotional images (A24 Films)

Under the Skin

A lot of suggestions on this list are movies that are accessible and approachable to all members of your family. But what if you want to put on something that will immediately alienate them? What is the movie you can put on that will make everyone slowly vacate the room?

My pick is Under the Skin, a slow, haunted sci-fi film that grotesquely ponders existence and intimacy. It’s the kind of pretentious stuff sure to scare the impatient viewer away. Sure, Scarlett Johansson in a fur coat might be a draw. (“Is that the nice girl from Lost in Translation?” an aunt might ask.) But about five minutes into this movie, your parents and extended relatives will be immediately repulsed by the lack of dialogue, itchy score, bewildering concept, all the swinging flaccid dicks being slowly lowered into black liquid. —Kevin Nguyen

Where to stream: Netflix

Best seen with: Nobody, but who knows, maybe that Lost in Translation-loving aunt might stick around.

The City of Lost Children

French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet is best known for the romantic comedy Amélie. But he’s also the co-director (along with collaborator Marc Caro) of The City of Lost Children: a gorgeous, steampunk-ish fantasy film about a man who kidnaps children to steal their dreams, until he unwisely takes the brother of a circus strongman played by Ron Perlman. There’s a bizarre plot involving child-catching cyborgs, urchin street gangs, and a family of discarded scientific experiments living in an abandoned oil rig. And for anybody who’s just wandering through the living room, every scene is bursting with surreal and memorably creepy imagery. —Adi Robertson

Where to stream: Rent on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, YouTube, or Vudu.

Best seen with: Teens and other family members (although definitely not children) who want something weird and substantive without tipping into ponderous artsiness, outright alienation, or over-the-top sex and gore.


Holiday in the Wild

Netflix’s latest holiday movie, Holiday in the Wild, might have all the makings of a classic, terrible Hallmark movie, featuring the age-defying Kristin Davis and Rob Lowe falling in love over Christmas in Africa and overcoming a slew of midlife crisis cliches. (And really, what more could you want?)

But this Netflix romcom is worth watching because of the elephants. The story takes place in an elephant sanctuary in Zambia, and it showcases the plight of elephant orphans and the terrible poaching problem that elephants face in parts of Africa. There are also lots of cute baby elephants (and a trunk hug scene)! —Esther Cohen

Where to stream: Netflix

Best seen with: Elephant and/or Rob Lowe enthusiasts

Duck Soup

This is the Marx Brothers’ funniest and most chaotically satirical movie, and a great introduction for anyone new to their films. Groucho plays the happily corrupt leader of a fictional nation who starts a war just because he feels insulted by a rival; Chico and Harpo are his equally self-interested spies. But actually, the plot doesn’t really matter — like all their movies, this is basically a series of comedy skits. The adults will like the satire and wordplay, the kids will like the knockabout physical comedy (assuming they can handle the lack of color in this 1933 film). —Barbara Krasnoff

Where to stream: Rent on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, YouTube, or Vudu.

Best seen with: Anyone who has been spending too much time paying attention to the news.


The Magicians

The Magicians is TV’s answer to “what if Harry Potter, but horny?,” a thoroughly modern take on adult onset ennui sprinkled with sex, spells, and snarky fantasy creatures. It’s rare that I’ll argue a show is better than any book, but SyFy’s adaptation of Lev Grossman’s magical trilogy is the exception. The Magicians may start as another cliche tale about a white guy who finds out he’s special, but it evolves into something much more, tackling topics like depression, sexual violence, and queer identity. It manages to do all this while also pulling off episodes that include bank heists, impromptu musicals, and forests that may or may not get you high. What more could you want? —Megan Farokhmanesh

Where to stream: Netflix

Best seen with: Your relatives who only use Harry Potter references to talk about politics.

Jeopardy

Jeopardy is a good show. It’s been running for a very long time, probably because it is just that: a good show. —Makena Kelly

Where to stream: Netflix

Best seen with: Anyone except the weird cousins who spent too many years competing on their middle school Quiz Bowl team.


Photo: Amazon Prime Video

Good Omens

The adaptation of the beloved Terry Pratchett / Neil Gaiman novel about an angel and a demon teaming up to try to prevent Armageddon finally made its way to TV with an Amazon Prime miniseries this year. It’s quirky and optimistic and very British, and is more or less the television equivalent of a cozy blanket and a mug of a hot chocolate (except for the whole “end of the world” bit).

The key is the casting of Michael Sheen and David Tennant, perfectly cast as the angel / devil duo with a love-hate relationship that spans several millennia. Plus, the six-episode miniseries is the perfect length to binge over the holiday weekend. —Chaim Gartenberg

Where to stream: Amazon Prime

Best seen with: Fans of the book, relatives who aren’t overly offended by alternative takes on religious content.

Terrace House

If you want to watch the realest reality show, it’s Terrace House. The entire premise: six Japanese young adults, three men and three women, live together in a beautiful Japanese home. That’s it. From there, the messiness of life takes over and you get to see some real drama. A lot of watching the show is to speculate who will date who, but that will lead to endless discussions with your family (if you can pull yourself away from watching just one more episode). And the best parts of the show are the six additional cast members who, throughout each episode, get airtime to comment and banter about the same exact episode you’re watching. They almost become your second family. Netflix has already released the first twelve episodes of the show’s newest season, and the next batch comes out on December 24th, so Thanksgiving break gives you plenty of time to catch up. —Jay Peters

Where to stream: Netflix

Best seen with: Your other millennial family members who, despite all being older than 21, are still shunted to the kids table.


Kiwami Japan

Colloquially referred to as “knife psycho” in my apartment, this Japanese YouTuber makes knives that are amazingly well crafted out of increasingly stranger materials. However, there is a strange malice that haunts these videos, which are shot less like a relaxing crafting video and more like a horror film. You will ask why he would make a knife out of fungi, or what his fascination with cow-shaped creamers is, or what would compel someone to make a ring out of human fingernails? But he never speaks, so you will never know. You can only watch it unfold and scream your questions uselessly at the screen. Unanswered, you will watch the next video in hopes of gleaning some understanding, but it will never come. —Michael Moore

Where to stream: YouTube

Best seen with: Those wishing to distract themselves and their family from familial interactions with existential dread.

Cobra Kai

This show is not good — it’s fantastic. Taking place years after the original Karate Kid movie, Danny (the original hero) is a successful businessman owning multiple car dealerships, while the once-villainous Johnny is a burnout just living day to day until he reopens the Cobra Kai dojo and enrolls a few misfit kids.

Going into Cobra Kai, you’d expect a story with a lot of black-and-white morality, but what you actually get is a complex tale that interweaves morality, community, and remixes a ton of what made the original great. No one is all good, and no one is all bad, and best of all: there are plenty of cars to wax. —Grayson Blackmon

Where to stream: YouTube Premium

Best seen with: Basically anyone in your family. It’ll appeal to anyone who’s seen the original movie, but you don’t need to have seen it to enjoy.


Carolina Panthers v New Orleans Saints

Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Football

It’s Thanksgiving. There is NFL football. There is NCAA football. Just watch the football. — Chaim Gartenberg (on behalf of his brother Eli)

Where to stream: Well, that depends. If you have a TV antenna or cable, you’re best off using that. Alternatively, try to “borrow” a cable login from one of your visiting relatives if they pay for terrestrial television. You can also sign up for an over-the-top streaming service that gets you CBS / NBC / Fox. Or just admit defeat and sign up for NFL Sunday Ticket, but be aware that there may be blackouts based on geography.

Honestly, streaming football is still painfully complicated in 2019.

Best seen with: Football is for everyone.

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