6 Must-See Movies to Watch This Thanksgiving Break: Spotlight, Creed, and More!

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 Kerry Hayes/Open Road Films


Katniss survives and she’s taking her anger out on the cat! Okay, now that you got the final Hunger Games out of your system, let’s get down to business. We’re in the thick of Oscar season. While you’re chowing down on your Thanksgiving meal, a smorgasbord of prestige films are unspooling at the local Cineplex. And make no mistake: Mom’s pumpkin pie is good; Spotlight is better. But the beauty of an extended holiday break is the ample time available to take hold of your loved ones. . . and head straight to the theater. These diverse cream-of-the-croppers provide perfect bonding opportunities, as well as conversation fodder about something other than little Ava’s Thanksgiving pageant. Be thankful for them. Very thankful.

1. Spotlight

4 stars (out of 4 stars)

Now in theaters

Don’t miss this crackling — and deeply important — film about the power of the press. This true story deftly chronicles the Boston Globe reporters who uncovered the rampant sex abuse within the Catholic Church in 2002. (The all-aces cast includes Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber, and John Slattery.) Thanks to thriller-like pacing, you’ll be riveted as one tip leads to a source, which leads to another source, which crescendos with a maelstrom of damning information. The no-nonsense journalists’ tenacity in piecing it all together and bracing for the inevitable fallout spellbinds. The result of their labor hits you like a punch in the gut. (Prepare to gasp before the closing credits.) One of the best movies of the year, it’s already the front-runner for the Best Picture Oscar.

Take your. . . issue-minded, newspaper-reading mom and dad.

Michael B. Jordan and Sylvestor Stallone in Creed.
Michael B. Jordan and Sylvestor Stallone in Creed. Barry Wetcher

2. Creed

3 stars (out of 4 stars)

In theaters Nov. 25

Look who still has the eye of the tiger! Nearly 40 years after the first Rocky, Sylvester Stallone returns to his iconic role in a surprisingly powerful and moving drama. Stallone’s retired champ Rocky Balboa is now a restaurateur living quietly in Philadelphia. He reluctantly agrees to train Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), the son of his deceased foe turned friend, for a big fight. It doesn’t matter who wins. This installment packs a punch because it focuses on what it means to get up after life knocks you down. (Alas, the screenplay includes even more boxing metaphors.) The incredible Stallone, now 69, carries himself like a man who has been physically bruised and emotionally battered yet deep down remains a fighter. But Jordan is the true supernova here. In fact, while Creed pays proper homage to the past, the talented actor has the swagger to carry the future of the franchise on his sculpted shoulders.

Take your . . . . brother, boyfriend, or spouse who still chokes up watching Apollo Creed die in Rocky IV.

Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett star in Carol.
Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett star in Carol. WILSON WEBB/weinstein

3. Carol

3 1/2 stars (out of 4 stars)

Now playing in NYC and L.A.

They lock eyes across a crowded Manhattan department store. Within an instant, they’re smitten. But for two women in the 1950s, a romance is socially forbidden. This is the premise of an artfully crafted drama, which features stirring performances from Cate Blanchett (as cosmopolitan, unhappy housewife Carol) and Rooney Mara (as reserved Therese). At first, the pair represses their feelings for each other as they pursue a platonic friendship. The tension builds until they fall into each other’s arms. Director Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven) stages the characters’ fraught journey with an elegant touch; the deliberately leisurely pace leads to a hard-earned — and quite sensual — payoff. The two stars shape this love story, though. Through Carol and Therese’s most trying moments, their deep connection transcends the pain.

Take your. . . . arthouse movie-loving friend on either coast.

The Good Dinosaur
The Good Dinosaur Disney

4. The Good Dinosaur

2 1/2 stars (out of 4 stores)

In theaters Nov. 25

Not every Pixar film can be a classic. Yet small kiddies will be entertained by this sweet-but-mild effort. This is the tale of timid dino Arlo, who can’t help be frustrated that he’s not as big and strong as the rest of his family. He finds his roar after he gets lost and must make his way home. It sounds familiar because it’s the plot of nearly every Pixar movie. (Think about it.) A relative dies too, sigh. The studio has a knack for brilliantly crafting fare that features bright visuals for children and mature themes for adults. Just think back to this summer, when Inside Out taught people to embrace their inner sadness. But here, the easy message is to “make your mark.” The lack of sophisticated for-grown-ups-only jokes and a cry-your-eyes-out resolution only add to the letdown. That said, the tots will be too taken with the adorableness to care.

Take your. . . . too-cute-for-words young child, nephew, or niece.

Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay in Room.
Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay in Room. George Kraychyk, courtesy of A24

5. Room

4 stars (out of 4 stars)

Now in theaters

Every once in a while, a film comes along that makes you appreciate the beauty of life. This is the film. Based on Emma Donoghue’s best-selling novel, it’s the story of a kidnapped woman (Brie Larson, wow) and her 5-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) held in captivity in a backyard shed. “Ma” is desperate to escape but the situation seems hopeless. Until it isn’t. That’s pretty damn bleak, agreed. But stick with it, Okay? The amazing Tremblay narrates from Jack’s point of view, and he provides a wide-eyed sense of wonder to his ultraconfining surroundings. He smiles at a stray mouse, and in the morning, he greets all the items in “room.” For all the suffocating claustrophobia at the outset, it contrasts beautifully with the cathartic deep breaths in the second half. Indeed, this small tale is filled with enormous love.

Take your. . . . emotionally strongest ally who will support you when you lose your s–t.

Brooklyn
Brooklyn Fox Searchlight

6. Brooklyn

4 stars (out of 4 stars)

Now playing in NYC and L.A.; everywhere Nov. 27

What does it really mean to follow your heart? That’s the theme of a gorgeous coming-of-age tale sure to stand the test of time. In the 1950s, shy Irish immigrant Eilis (a wonderful Saoirse Ronan) emerges from a cocoon of loneliness after she falls for a nice, gregarious Italian boy (Emory Cohen) in Brooklyn. But during an extended trip to Ireland to see her family, she starts spending time with a kind friend named Jim (Domhnall Gleeson). Torn between two lives, Eilis shows gumption rarely seen in a female-centered film. (She may be a polite lass with impeccable table manners, but boy can she tell off a nosy local.) Don’t think of this movie solely as a shamelessly sappy tearjerker about picking a man: It’s a witty, dreamy love letter to independence and self-discovery — no matter where you call home.

Take your. . . . self. And a box of Kleenex.

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