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By Steve Dollar

What do people do after ingesting a massive holiday dinner with assorted friends and relatives, many of whom have traveled thousands of miles through crowded highways and airports to spend a few hours communing with their loved ones?

As many Americans will do Thursday when they celebrate Thanksgiving, they’ll kick back and watch a movie (before or after the various Major Sporting Events of the day). And there’s a good chance the movie will boast a holiday theme, since it’s one thing everyone can relate to. For all the hearty folks heading from here to there during the next few weeks, here’s our Top 5 movies for holiday travelers.


Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Everything that can go wrong will go wrong in this classic John Hughes comedy. An ode to roadbound misadventure, it stars Steve Martin at his flappable best as an uptight advertising executive. Absurdly cheerful goofus John Candy is his catastrophic companion, a shower-curtain-ring salesman who derails him on a zig-zagging journey home from New York to Chicago by way of…Wichita? While taking every mode of transport at hand, each man discovers that the other isn’t exactly who they seem to be. When wheels fail them, an unexpected friendship prevails.

Scent of a Woman

Al Pacino won an Oscar for his hammiest of roles, playing a blind, drunk, ex-military crank who takes the prep school kid (Chris O’Donnell) hired to babysit him over Thanksgiving on a whirlwind trip to New York City. The boy’s jaw drops as Pacino’s stubborn crustbucket turns into a connoisseur of the good life, sweeping young women across dance floors, gunning a test-drive Ferrari through the city streets and regaling him with whiskey-fueled tall tales. Just when they’re having fun, he starts waving a gun around, threatening suicide. Anyone watching this will be grateful for a quiet Turkey Day with their boring family.

The Big Chill

The title of Lawrence Kasdan’s ensemble dramedy doesn’t allude to the sudden crisping of the autumn breeze but the icy fingers of mortality, felt among a group of 30-something college friends who reunite in Beaufort, S.C. to bury one of their own. Camped out over Thanksgiving amid the coastal splendor and moss-laden oaks of the Low Country, some of America’s finest actors (Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, William Hurt, Jeff Goldblum) get stoned, fool around, spill secrets and bond like crazy to a non-stop soundtrack of Motown classics.

The Sure Thing

Jocular freshman “Gib” Gibson (John Cusack) meets awkward with prim bookworm Alison Bradbury (Daphne Zuniga) in this update of the classic screwball comedy It Happened One Night (written and directed by Rob Reiner, fresh off This is Spinal Tap). Polar opposites, the East Coast college kids spar and squabble when they’re thrown together on a haywire cross-country trip to California, where they hope to spend Christmas break. Gib’s got a “sure thing” (beach bunny and future Desperate Housewives hussy Nicolette Sheridan); Alison has a boring yuppie fiance. After much interstate misery, they hitchhike their way into each other’s arms.

In Bruges

Angry dwarves. Hit men on the lam. Drugs. Guns. And the 12th century charms of “The Venice of the North,” better known as Bruges. Tourism has a body count in this 2008 dark comedy, written and directed by Irish dramatist Martin McDonagh. Quaint surroundings be damned, For Colin Farrell, playing an English mob assassin laying low after a job misfires, it’s a Christmas holiday in hell and death may be his Santa Claus. While Farrell broods and chases skirts, his partner Brendan Gleeson serves up colorful bits of Flemish history.

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Steve Dollar

Steve Dollar

Steve Dollar writes about film and other pop-cultural topics for the Wall Street Journal and other publications. Find him on Twitter at @dollarama3k.
Steve Dollar

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