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Taylor Swift... as a cat, in Cats. Image: Universal Pictures

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Movies actually improved by watching while full of Thanksgiving turkey and wine

Bonus points for movies that won’t invite any family arguments

Petrana Radulovic is an entertainment reporter specializing in animation, fandom culture, theme parks, Disney, and young adult fantasy franchises.

If you’re an American who celebrates Thanksgiving, chances are you’ve tried to find an activity to occupy your extended family in the post-dinner haze. Watching a movie is perhaps the easiest solution, but there is one big caveat: You probably don’t want to watch a movie that you think you’ll actually enjoy.

Why? Well, for one, you are probably in the beginning stages of a food coma, brought on by the sheer amount of carbs. And the wine that you’ve had to drown out any political arguments sure isn’t helping. And for another, watching movies with family invites a lot of discussion, and explaining to your mother why Everything Everywhere All at Once really resonated with you while she tells you she just didn’t understand why the daughter wasn’t nicer is probably not a conversation you want to have during a holiday.

But that’s where we come in. Polygon is proud to present a carefully selected assortment of movies where dozing in and out will only enhance the experience. Additionally, these movies are also great ones to talk over and point out weird moments, ultimately bringing you and your loved ones together. And if one of these sounds compelling, but someone you’re hosting points out that they just watched it on the plane or you don’t have the streaming service it’s on, we’ve offered up some substitutions.

Avengers: Infinity War

Spider-Man, Iron Man, Drax, Star-Lord, and Mantis all look puzzled on Titan in Avengers: Infinity War. Image: Marvel Studios

If you forgot what happens in Avengers: Infinity War — or if you forgot what happens before Avengers: Infinity War — don’t worry about it. Avengers: Infinity War is basically three hours of a million characters being shuffled around a chessboard and exchanging witty one-liners. This is the ultimate “AH THESE TWO GUYS ARE INTERACTING!” MCU movie, which means you can doze off in between scenes and then wake up just in time for the next two guys to interact.

Where to watch: Streaming on Disney Plus, or available for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple, and Google Play.

Substitution: Other MCU movies that can be summarized as two and half hours of getting a dozen characters in the place they need to be for the next movie, or introducing a dozen characters that will be important later: Eternals, Captain America: Civil War, or Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

Any of the Robert Langdon movies

tom hanks as robert langdon and Audrey Tatou as sophie in the da vinci code Photo: Columbia Pictures

There was a time not long ago when readers devoured Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, because it made them feel very smart. For the most part, we’ve realized that a few smart facts about art history does not a good novel make (especially when those books wax on about how hot and hunky their lead character is). But Brown’s writing talents and the factual accuracy of the books aside, they still make for fun movies. If you want adventure movies that treat history as a light jumping off point for warped facts, then you might as well go with the ones that mess around with European history.

Where to watch: The Da Vinci Code is available to watch for free with ads on Tubi, or for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple, and Google Play. Angels & Demons is available to watch on Netflix. Inferno is available to watch on Starz, or for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple, and Google Play.

Substitution: National Treasure and National Treasure: Book of Secrets, since they are archaeological adventure movies that aged better than Indiana Jones; also, Dora and the Lost City of Gold. Just trust me.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2

Robert Pattinson and Kristin Stewart in Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2. Photo: Summit Entertainment

Did Breaking Dawn need to be broken into two movies? Absolutely not. Does it work? Honestly, yeah. A good chunk of this movie is awkward narration to show the clunky passage of time, but there are some incredible highlights, like the really cool vampires from around the world that have unique power (featuring actors like Rami Malek and Lee Pace??? Hello?????), as well as the epic final “battle” scene. Lee Pace’s character Garrett and electricity-generating vampire Kate (Casey LaBow) have literally the best love story in the entire four movies, and they have like 15 minutes of screen time. Instead of lamenting the fact that all these cool characters are only here to support Bella and Edward’s comparably bland story, while wine-drunk and sleepy you can simply enjoy the time they have.

Where to watch: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 is available to watch on Showtime, or for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple, and Google Play.

Substitution: Other “this is the second half of the last book in a bestselling YA series that we broke into two movies for more money,” of which there were quite a few in the 2010s — namely The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2.

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones

anakin and padme and C3PO on tatooine looking for anakin’s mom Image: Lucasfilm

I will refrain from making any statement about the prequels versus sequels versus original trilogy versus the Disney Plus shows, but Attack of the Clones rules when you’re not really paying attention to it. The scene where Obi-Wan discovers that someone has ordered an entire army of human men and he just kinda goes along with it like an elaborate game of improv? High comedy. Padme freeing herself from chains and her clothes ripping in a way that’s oh-so fashionable? Slay. Yoda going apeshit with his lightsaber? Blessed. The entire “Across the Stars” montage? OK — that’s actually good.

Where to watch: Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones is available to watch on Disney Plus.

Substitution: If you don’t want to ignite a cross-generational debate in your family about prequels versus sequels versus original trilogy versus the Disney Plus shows, but still want sci-fi with garish special effects and a plot that is barely threaded together, try Jupiter Ascending and/or Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

Cars 2

Lightning McQueen and Mater race away from an explosion in Cars 2 Image: Pixar

Nothing about Cars 2 makes sense. Enjoy this as a feature, not a bug. Any other Pixar movie might make you too emotional, or you’ll fall asleep and miss out the part that is supposed to tug at your heartstrings and then wake up wondering why everyone is tearing up. But Cars 2 is just absolutely bonkers from start to finish. Mater becomes a super spy! Cars fly with rockets! Also, the whole message is that renewable energy sources are a scam, which is a really weird message to put in a kid’s movie, especially after WALL-E, but we’re just going to ignore that.

Where to watch: Cars 2 is available to watch on Disney Plus.

Substitution: Any DreamWorks animated movie made between 2004 and 2008.

Cats (2019)

Jason Derulo as a cat in Cats Image: Universal Pictures

The only way to watch this movie is to be somewhat intoxicated, be it on wine or turkey. That way, what is a horrifying experience turns into a dreamlike and surreal state of mind. Let yourself be whisked away into the world of the Jellicle cats, with their human faces and fingers, but fur-covered naked bodies and tails. Let “Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat” get stuck in your head, instead of hyper-scrutinizing why the cats look so small on the railroad. Disclaimer: Polygon is not responsible for any songs that get stuck in your head for the rest of the weekend.

Where to watch: Cats is available for digital rental or purchase via Amazon, Apple, and Google Play.

Substitution: Movies that will also inflict psychic damage upon your loved ones: The Greatest Showman and Cinderella (2021). But if you want Cats, but actually good, then try the official Broadway recording.


cruella de vil in a fabulous masquerade mask and red gown Image: Disney

The thing about Disney’s live-action remakes is that for the most part, they’re all basically the same story as the originals, but in a less visually engaging way. There are a few exceptions, however, which come in the form of the “let’s give this one-note villain a tragic backstory.” Cruella makes this list slightly over Maleficent simply for being the villain that deserves this backstory less. In a post-food haze, you can stop dwelling on the ethics of murdering puppies and instead just enjoy the elaborate fashion heists.

Where to watch: Cruella is available to watch on Disney Plus.

Substitution: Aladdin (2019), Maleficent (2014), Mulan (2020), Cinderella (2015)... any of the Disney live-action remakes, really, except for The Lion King (2019), which will put you straight to sleep.

Mamma Mia!

A group of women marching and singing in tandem while singing. Image: Universal Pictures

This doesn’t really deserve the slander of being on this list because it’s a good movie, but I will say that the experience of this one increases with each successive glass of wine — let your inhibitions go and belt out ABBA to your heart’s content. The hidden bonus here is that in my personal experience, parents and friends of parents love ABBA and they’ll be all like, “Oh wow, you know this old song?” and you get to be like, “Hell yeah, of course I do!” Leave out the fact that everyone in the world knows “Dancing Queen,” and they’ll be extra impressed.

Where to watch: Mamma Mia is available to watch on Hulu and Peacock.

Substitution: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. Be warned — you might cry.

The Country Bears

the country bears vibing Image: Disney

How do I even begin to explain The Country Bears? It’s based on a really old theme park attraction. It’s a “getting the band back together to save a beloved building!” movie, except the band is made up of anthropomorphic bears. No one questions the fact that these bears just live alongside humans. The main character is a teenage bear living with a human family who only recently learned he was adopted. Elton John is in it, as himself. There are two musical sequences featuring early-2000s B-list pop stars. The lead singer of the Eagles makes a comment about how the Country Bears are better than the Eagles. Christopher Walken brings 110% to his role as the villain. Every moment of this movie is played seriously and because nothing makes sense, it sort of makes sense? Definitely more sense when you’re a little tipsy.

Where to watch: The Country Bears is available to watch on Disney Plus.

Substitution: Nothing. Sorry, nothing else compares.

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