The best movies for cord-cutters to stream for Thanksgiving

12 movie "turkeys" for post-pig-out fun.

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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.

Hemsworth plays an expert computer hacker who is released to help a special team crack down on an evil hacker that has been manipulating market prices. There’s a tacked-on love interest (Tang Wei), plenty of time spent stylishly staring at computer screens and waiting, and a ridiculous showdown during a parade, but the team travels all over the world, and the movie looks great and has a genuine noir-like feel. Viola Davis co-stars.

The Cotton Club

★★★★☆

(Amazon Prime)

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Director Francis Ford Coppola finally realized and released his director’s cut of The Cotton Club (1984), which will be released on DVD and Blu-ray soon, but for now the original 127-minute theatrical cut is available on Amazon Prime. Its troubled production history was public knowledge, and when it finally appeared in December of 1984, it managed to make back less than half of its $58 million budget. Nevertheless, it’s classically entertaining and filled with terrific music and dancing.

Set in the 1930s in Harlem, it focuses on two characters, a talented dancer (Gregory Hines) who gets a job at the title club, and whose star begins to rise faster than that of his brother’s. Then, a cornet player (Richard Gere) gets himself in good with powerful gangster Dutch Schultz (James Remar), but unfortunately falls in love with Dutch’s girlfriend (Diane Lane). The great cast also includes Lonette McKee, Bob Hoskins, Nicolas Cage, Fred Gwynne, Laurence Fishburne, Tom Waits, Woody Strode, and more. Mario Puzo (of The Godfather) co-wrote the story.

Gigli 

★☆☆☆☆

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

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In movie history, there’s arguably no better (or worse) Thanksgiving “turkey” than Martin Brest’s insanely misguided Gigli (2003). It even contains the line “It’s turkey time! gobble, gobble!” Costing $75 million and grossing about $7 million, the movie tells the story of Larry Gigli—pronounced “JEE-lee”—(Ben Affleck, with big hair and an exaggerated Brooklyn accent), a gangster who is hired to kidnap the developmentally disabled younger brother (Justin Bartha) of a powerful lawyer.

Lesbian Ricki (Jennifer Lopez) is brought in to keep an eye on him, but it’s not long before Gigli “converts” her to his “team.” (The movie has an almost medieval view of things.) Al Pacino plays a mob boss (very different from Michael Corleone), and Christopher Walken plays a detective; in one scene, he delivers a monologue about pie that must be seen to be believed. The phrase “what were they thinking?” was practically invented for this movie.

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