The Best Thanksgiving Movie Ever Is Now Streaming

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Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is currently streaming on Paramount+.

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown
| Published

John Hughes was the king of writing and directing Hollywood hits in the 1980s. He wrote and directed classics like Ferris Bueller’s Day off, The Breakfast Club, and, of course, the best Thanksgiving movie ever made, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, starring Steve Martin and John Candy. In some of the best news we’ve heard all month, this holiday comedy classic is now streaming on Paramount+.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is the story of a high-strung Chicago advertising man named Neal Page (Steve Martin), who is desperately trying to make it home from New York City to be with his wife and kids. When his flight gets rerouted to Kansas after a freak snowstorm, Neal must bunk up with lovable, talkative, and annoying shower curtain ring salesman Del Griffith (John Candy) and team up with him to get back home. Along with the insanity of traveling during the holidays comes knee-slapping, belly-bursting shenanigans that make this movie one of the best Thanksgiving movies ever made.

John Hughes made a name for himself by writing, directing, and producing teen coming-of-age films with a comedic and relatable flare, so many were surprised when Hughes branched out from teen comedies to create this Thanksgiving movie. Despite being different from his known repertoire at the time, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles was immediately met with critical acclaim upon its release.

Steve Martin and John Candy in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)

Critics praised the chemistry between Martin and Candy. The actors brought a level of humanity to their characters that extends beyond simple comedy and into the realm of heart and truth. Though the film has slapstick components igniting from Neal and Del’s misadventures, Hughes wrote an ending that embodies the warmth and heart that his movies are known for; Martin and Candy portray the heartwarming characters perfectly.

Alongside Martin and Candy, the film also stars Laila Robins (Eye in the Sky and True Crime) as Neal’s wife, Susan. Kevin Bacon also makes an appearance, as well as Michael McKean (This is Spinal Tap and Clue). The film was produced by Hughes Entertainment and distributed by Paramount Pictures in 1987.

Hughes’ original cut of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles would have left this Thanksgiving movie running twice as long as the version that we all know and love. The first cut was close to four hours in length, double the runtime of your average comedy, and much longer than the average 120-minute runtime of films in the 1980s. 

Hughes rewrote his script several times during filming, leaving him with much more footage than made sense for his final draft. In fact, an entire subplot where Susan didn’t believe Neal was actually running late and suspected him of cheating on her was cut entirely from the film.

While critics applauded Hughes for his script and Martin and Candy for their comedic and heartfelt acting, the film’s music score did not get the same approval and was criticized by critics, including famous film critic and historian Leanard Maltin. Luckily, the film’s score didn’t hurt the reception too badly, and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles has gone down in history not only as the greatest Thanksgiving movie of all time but as one of the best comedy movies ever made.