The best movies for cord-cutters to stream for Thanksgiving

At some point over the past century, Hollywood’s giant, expensive flops came to be nicknamed “turkeys.” And so what could be better to watch at Thanksgiving than some insanely awful head-spinners, or, even better, some misunderstood or underrated classics that just never got their due? We have dirtied our hands combing through the trash heap to come up with a dozen treasures and/or the most succulent of movie turkeys for your post-feast enjoyment. So grab some pumpkin pie and your remote and dig in!

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen 

★★★★☆

(Rental—Apple, Amazon Prime, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play, etc.—from $2.99)

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After dealing with all kinds of problems around the release of his 1985 masterpiece Brazil, Terry Gilliam chose this giant-sized fantasy for his next film. In the PG-rated The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1989), the Baron (John Neville) watches a play about his life, declares it inaccurate and proceeds to demonstrate what “really” happened, including a ride on a cannonball, a trip to the moon and to a volcano, and clashes with the volcano god, the King of the Moon (an uncredited Robin Williams), a sea monster, and the Angel of Death.

It’s filled with Gilliam’s unique personal touches and vivid fantasy worlds, though perhaps it was a bit too much for most at the time; it earned about $8 million against a $46 million budget. Today, critics and audiences have a far greater appreciation for it. Eric Idle, Oliver Reed, and a young Sarah Polley co-star, as well as a dazzling Uma Thurman as Venus.

Beloved 

★★★★☆

(Rental—Apple, Amazon Prime, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play, etc.—from $2.99)

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Based on the late Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the movie Beloved (1998) came out surrounded by a smothering air of significance. Director Jonathan Demme was an Oscar winner, and producer/star Oprah Winfrey used all her influence to promote it. All that plus the movie’s three-hour running time probably kept viewers away. (It made about $23 million against an $80 million budget.) But it’s actually a beautiful and moving film, with Winfrey playing Sethe, a former slave in the late 1800s who lives with her daughter Denver (Kimberly Elise).

The strange “Beloved” (Thandie Newton) appears out of nowhere, perhaps just a visitor, but perhaps a ghost. Danny Glover plays Paul D., another former slave who comes for a visit and winds up staying. Demme weaves an arresting spell, clashing the harsh realities of slavery, with the strange, supernatural occurrences in the margins. Beah Richards is a standout as Baby Suggs, and Lisa Gay Hamilton, Albert Hall, Jason Robards, Wes Bentley, and Irma P. Hall co-star.

The BFG 

★★★★☆

(Disney+)

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It’s hard to believe that Steven Spielberg could make a flop of this magnitude, but The BFG (2016) was the biggest of his career, costing $140 million and grossing only $55 in the United States. One possible reason is that the Big Friendly Giant—played by Mark Rylance, who had previously won an Oscar for Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies—looked kind of odd and unappealing in the promotional artwork. But onscreen, talking and moving, he’s somehow totally delightful.

Based on Roald Dahl’s novel, the movie tells the story of an orphan girl, Sophie (Ruby Barnhill), who helps the BFG save the world from evil giants. It’s funny—the giant’s weird, sing-songy dialogue is oddly quotable—exciting, and charming, with exquisite design. Despite, or perhaps because of, a few fart jokes, it’s also a pretty good movie for kids. Even the Queen of England’s famous Corgis are here! It was the final screenplay by the late Melissa Mathison, who had also written E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.

Blackhat 

★★★★☆

(Rental—Apple, Amazon Prime, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play, etc.—from $3.99)

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Director Michal Mann maintains a fairly high reputation based on only a few movies, Manhunter (1986), The Last of the Mohicans (1992), Heat (1995), The Insider (1999), etc. So it was a surprise when this film noir came along, starring Chris Hemsworth no less, and it earned just a little over $19 million against a $70 million budget. Blackhat (2015) is, to be fair, a bit preposterous, but Mann manages to make the surfaces and moods matter more than the plot.