With Thanksgiving upon us, it’s time for turkey! But why stop at the food variety? This holiday is all about indulgence (and being grateful or something), so why not extend your appetite for turkeys to the movies. When you’re all trytophanned out by your festive feasting (by the way, it’s the overeating that actually knocks you out), kick back and enjoy the best turkeys cinema has to offer.
Now, we’re not talking turkey-centered movies like the animated adventure Free Birds, or the bonkers holiday slasher ThanksKilling (trust us, those are for the birds). Instead, we’re offering choice cuts of different kinds of turkeys that can be found when you combine this treasured fowl with some whimsical (read: desperate) wordplay. Let’s tuck in, shall we?
Movies for: Talking Turkey
This expression relates to speaking frankly, cutting out all bullshit. As such, “talking turkey” often means having an emotional conversation that demands such intense honesty that it can be positively devastating — the kind of poignant moments that win actors Academy Awards. So, when picking a prime example, we considered the melancholic monologue that helped Robin Williams score an Oscar for Good Will Hunting, and Tom Hanks’ Oscar-winning turn in Forrest Gump, in which he declared in a Southern twang, “I’m not a smart man, but I know what love is!”
However, the most heart-wrenching moment of cinematic talking turkey didn’t win either of its stars an Academy Award, though both were nominated. Directed by Ang Lee, 2005’s Brokeback Mountain follows a pair of cowboys who fall in love with each other. Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a firecracker, booming, bright and fearless. Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) is meeker, speaking softly into his chest with a low rumble, rarely daring to let his deepest thoughts trickle out. As different as they are, Jack and Ennis see each other as no one else does. But theirs is a world not ready for such romance, so these lovers hide the true nature of their relationship behind tough guy retreats to the wilderness and sham marriages to frustrated wives. Over the years, desperation for affection and acceptance aches, leading to the climactic argument where both lay down what they want, and what they’re willing to risk to have it.
Though Ennis has repeatedly rejected Jack’s offers to build a life together, he seethes with violent jealousy upon learning that he’s been with other men. “But you didn’t want it, Ennis!” Jack barks back in agony, speaking of what might have been over the past 20 years if only Ennis had let it. Ledger delivers a performance thoughtfully restrained, or more accurately, shrewdly repressed. Even as Ennis yells at Jack, he can’t bare to open his mouth beyond gritted teeth, as if Ennis fears what might come out if he dared. In response, Gyllenhaal explodes in passion and rage, giving voice to the love and truth so long denied. Finally, he lets loose with a line about heartache and regret that’s so honest and hard-hitting, it was instantly iconic: “I wish I knew how to quit you.”
Movies for: Cold Turkey
This curious phrase sounds like the start to a delectable post-holidays sandwich, but it’s an idiom used to describe quitting something abruptly, as opposed to weaning away from it in stages. That something is most often drugs or alcohol, and while there’s been plenty of movies that have tackled issues of substance abuse — from The Lost Weekend to The Basketball Diaries and Requiem for a Dream — few have captured the mind-melting horrors of withdrawal as vividly as 1996’s Trainspotting.
Directed by Danny Boyle, this twisted adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s debut novel follows a gang of sort-of friends deeply entrenched in the Edinburgh drug scene. In his breakout role, Ewan McGregor stars as Mark “Rentboy” Renton, a heroin addict who parties with his buds, Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) and Tommy (Kevin McKidd). This leads them down a path of regretful underage hook-ups, prison-leading shoplifting and accidental infanticide. Renton needs to choose life, but first he has to kick the habit, even if it means being locked into his childhood bedroom for a mind-snapping, cold turkey detox.
In this stunning sequence, Underworld’s “Dark and Long” thrums and thumps as Renton thrashes beneath the covers, his body twitching with want of the drug. He curses and caterwauls. He experiences visions of said underage hook-up (Kelly Macdonald), experiences threats from psycho bruiser Begbie (Robert Carlyle), watches the dead baby crawl across his ceiling, cooing a creepy reprimand, and perhaps worst of all, hallucinates excruciatingly jaunty British game show host Dale Winton.
Boyle brews a suffocating sense of unease with the pulsing soundtrack, the trippy visions and close-ups that bring audiences under the sweaty sheets, where Renton cannot escape his pain and guilt. As such, the sequence makes us twitch, all the better to understand Renton’s struggle in going cold turkey.
Movies for: Getting Stuffed Like a Turkey
This one’s pretty clear, as similes tend to be! Essentially, being “stuffed like a turkey” means feeling so full you fear your belly might burst. There’s been some real gut-buster moments in cinema, including the gross-out grandeur of Stand by Me’s spew-splattered pie-eating contest sequence, and Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life sketch in which obese gentleman Mr. Creosote indulges to the point of literally bursting all over an elegant French restaurant. However, the movie moment that best captures that tipping from satisfyingly full to sickeningly over-stuffed came courtesy of John Candy.
Long before there was Man v. Food, there was The Great Outdoors. This 1988 comedy starred Candy as Chet Ripley, a family man doing his best to give his wife and kids an unforgettable summer vacation at a lake resort in Wisconsin. However, things gets prickly when Chet’s pompous brother-in-law Roman (Dan Aykroyd) drops in unexpectedly. So begins a one-upmanship competition that repeatedly pushes Chet to dangerous places in search of respect. That includes the challenge of the “Old 96’er”: If Chet can eat the whole thing, the whole family eats free! Plus, he earns a spot in local legend as the first man to ever manage this feeding feat.
The 96-ounce prime-aged beefsteak is introduced like the villain in a horror movie. Ominous music plays as a door swings open to reveal a fog-strewn freezer with a red slab of beef the size of a chunky toddler. What began as a fun family night out becomes a test of Chet’s manhood: When the Old 96’er is dropped before him, it’s so heavy it rocks the condiments on the table. His fretful expression says it all, but with his wife, kids and that jackass Roman looking on, Chet will not be bested by a piece of meat.
A crowd gathers. A blood-splattered butcher with a bushy beard and intense glare looks on, mocking Chet as his belly burbles, his hands tremble and his jaw works, works and works on the gigantic steak. But just when he thinks he’s done, the wall of a watchman gestures to the thick, sweaty slab of gristle and fat, the size of a keyboard. Thankfully, The Great Outdoors spares us the sure-to-be gag-inducing downing of this last chunk, but we know Chet conquered it as he exits wearing an exhausted expression and a souvenir T-shirt. Truly, this is the platonic ideal of American heroism.
Movies for: A Turkey Shoot
“Turkey shoot” is a metaphor used to illustrate a fight as being wildly one-sided, like, for example, a gun-toting hunter versus an unarmed turkey. Now, such fights aren’t really the way of Hollywood movies: American audiences tend to prefer our heroes outnumbered, but still packing a wallop. For examples, just look to Neo, John Wick or just about any action hero from the 1980s, who faced down sprays of bullets and literal armies of men, only to stay standing and raring for more.
For a true turkey shoot scenario, you’ve got to turn to tales of true outlaws. 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid concludes with its titular bandits being gunned down by dozens of soldiers, yet director George Roy Hill spares the audience the horror of seeing dashing leading men Paul Newman and Robert Redford ripped to ribbons by gunfire, freezing and fading to sepia instead. However, Arthur Penn wouldn’t be so coy with his true-crime classic, 1967’s provocative Bonnie and Clyde.
The Depression-era drama follows the infamous couple Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) and Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) on a crime spree of bank robberies, murder and mayhem. Upon its release, the film sparked controversy for its graphic violence and an alleged glamorization of two cold-blooded killers. But there’s nothing glamorous about Bonnie and Clyde’s final scene, which showed the bloody, bullet-ridden end to their reign of terror, delivered courtesy of a brutal police ambush.
Movies for: Jive Turkeys
This is a piece of vintage slang, born of Black culture of the 1970s. In this context, “jive turkey” meant someone who lies or exaggerates to impress — essentially, someone who can’t be trusted, or is a fool for thinking their tall tales will be believed. The term popped up as an insult on the TV show The Jeffersons, in a string of Blaxploitation movies and as the title of a 1974 song from the funk band Ohio Players. The most memorable movie moment involving a jive turkey, though, comes from 1983 hit comedy Trading Places.
Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd star as a pair of strangers who see their fortunes flipped by the whims of a pair of bored millionaires. Louis Winthorpe III (Aykroyd) is a white, wealthy and educated businessman. Billy Ray Valentine (Murphy) is a black, broke and street-smart hustler, who knows how to play to a crowd. While the role-reversal premise will see Billy Ray wooing a slew of snooty white folk, he can’t fool a pair of burly black cellmates in this unforgettable scene.
The charismatic comedian spins a story about big money, bitches and battles, with a Bruce Lee name drop to boot. Whatever dubious question might be posed to his fast-talking bullshit, Billy Ray pivots with ease and confidence. But two of his audience aren’t buying this “Karate Man” shtick, leading to the damning — and delicious — denouncement, “It ain’t cool being no jive turkey so close to Thanksgiving.” Truly, a holiday tip we could all stand to remember.
Movies for: The Biggest Turkey Ever
We’re not talking that obscenely plump bird your grandmother has brining — we’re talking about the biggest box office bombs of movie history. There’s plenty to choose from: The Lone Ranger, Cutthroat Island, Gigli and the rest. But to stick with our festive theme, we’re looking to one of the biggest turkeys to ever land on the Thanksgiving holiday.
2012 was a fantastic year for animated features. Disney rolled out Pixar’s first female-fronted adventure with Brave; unlocked an outstanding ode to video games with Wreck-It Ralph; and went cute and creepy with Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie. Sony unveiled the first of its charming monster romps in the Hotel Transylvania trilogy. Stop-motion animation took to the high seas in the quirky adventure The Pirates! Band of Misfits and went to the spooky and beyond with ParaNorman. Sadly, lost amid all this was DreamWorks Animation’s Thanksgiving release, The Rise of the Guardians.
Based on William Joyce’s Guardians of Childhood book series, The Rise of the Guardians was intended to be the start of a family-friendly film franchise. It centered on mischievous sprite Jack Frost, who must team up with such icons of childhood as the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman and Santa Claus to defeat an evil spirit who seeks to turn the world into a waking nightmare. Despite a script from acclaimed playwright David Lindsay-Abaire, vibrant voice work from Chris Pine, Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin, Isla Fisher and Jude Law and some genuinely awesome animation, this animated film flopped hard, losing an estimated $87 million for its studio.
So, the sequels never came. But frankly, this magical movie deserved better: It’s funny, imaginative and jaw-droppingly gorgeous, with a unique holiday story full of heart. If you liked director Peter Ramsey’s better-known follow-up — the critically adored Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse — you owe this undervalued gem a second look.
Movies for: Those Who Want to Know the No. 1 Movie in Turkey Right Now
We’ve run out of idioms, similes and slang, so let’s talk Turkey! The Republic of Turkey imported a bunch of big American films this year, including the Fast & Furious spinoff, Hobbs & Shaw; family-friendly offerings like Toy Story 4, The Secret Life of Pets 2 and How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World; as well as superhero hits like Aquaman, Spider-Man: Far From Home, and Avengers: Endgame. All of the above made the top 30 for highest grossing movies in the nation in 2019, but topping all of these big-name blockbusters is a Turkish drama called 7 Kogustaki Mucize.
A remake of the South Korean hit Miracle in Cell No. 7, the film stars Aras Bulut Iynemli as Memo, an intellectually disabled man who has a deep bond with his 6-year-old daughter, Ova (Nisa Sofiya Aksongur). But their domestic bliss is shattered when Memo is accused of murdering a local girl (you can take a look at the trailer below to see the source of this cruel misunderstanding). Railroaded by a justice system that exploits his condition, Memo is facing a death sentence: It seems only a miracle might save him.
This tender tearjerker is an undisputed domestic hit. But more surprising than its beating of a bunch of big American titles is just how quickly it managed to do so: The closest American contender is Avengers: Endgame, which earned $6.8 million in Turkey over 29 weeks in theaters. 7 Kogustaki Mucize has pulled in nearly twice that, grossing $13.2 million, and in just five weeks! The film only opened on October 11, so this beloved tale of family and miracles could sore even higher.
Sadly, it’s currently unclear if or when this Turkish delight will hit the U.S., so this holiday season, we’ll have to content ourselves with the other “turkeys” on this list — and on the dining room table tomorrow.