5 Family Favorites:
Fall Holiday Movies & TV
The fall holidays bring families together — at the dinner table, in the living room, and occasionally in front of the TV. So what do you watch together when it's a little too early for the Christmas classics and the generous offerings of horror films for Halloween may be a little too scary for young children (and some adults too)? Here are five must-see productions, perfect for the crossover from Halloween to Thanksgiving and suitable for all ages.
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
If not the most beloved of all the TV specials based on Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts (A Charlie Brown Christmas probably gets that honor), this is certainly a close second. It has drawn huge viewing audiences every year since it was first broadcast in 1966. As Charlie Brown struggles with his ghost costume and suffers mean treat-givers who put rocks in his bag, Linus and Sally sit in a pumpkin patch awaiting the arrival of the Great Pumpkin.
Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein
Even kids who can't sit still during most older movies seem to be tickled by the mixture of slapstick and spookiness in this 1948 classic. The comedy duo crosses paths with the Frankenstein monster, Count Dracula, the Wolf Man and — very briefly — the Invisible Man. Adults love the movie too, and its dual appeal of old-fashioned horror and timeless laughs has made it one of the most enduring films of its era.
The Adventures of Ichabod & Mr. Toad
For a Disney film made during the studio's richest period (Bambi, Fantasia, Pinocchio and Dumbo came out the same decade), this beautifully animated 1949 feature is criminally underrated. The two-part film makes a perfect fall holiday pairing. It opens with an adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, following the wacky adventures of Mr. Toad and his animal friends. With whimsical characters and a warm, autumnal tone, this is ideal viewing for harvest season and Thanksgiving. The second half, a funny and frightening version of Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, is a Halloween essential. The Headless Horseman comes to chilling life, while nerdy but romantic Ichabod Crane provides the chuckles.
Heaven Can Wait
Let's not forget that fall is football season, which makes this 1978 comedy about a pro football player prematurely called to Heaven, a great choice. When top-ranking angel James Mason realizes that star quarterback Warren Beatty was called before his time, he gives him the chance at life in another man's body. Beatty, at the height of his stardom, made his directorial debut here (aided by co-star Buck Henry) and co-wrote the screenplay of this charming remake of 1941's Here Comes Mr. Jordan.
While probably too serious and thoughtful for very young children, families with strong connections to their immigrant roots will be deeply moved by this multi-generational 1990 drama from the director of Rain Man. A Thanksgiving dinner gone wrong is the centerpiece of this rich tapestry of the American experience. Tears may be shed as the story shows how the extended family unit of the past gives way to a focus on the immediate family as years pass, but the truthful, bittersweet tone of the movie has also brought many distanced relatives back together. And shouldn't that be what Thanksgiving is all about?