Hey there pilgrims! Got a delicious new list guaranteed to knock the stuffing right out of you! Feast your eyes and gobble down on six dinner party movies, each with a fictional gathering that you should give thanks you didn’t attend! Turkey!
Okay, enough pandering. It’s Thanksgiving — let’s move on.
I do have to admit that it is in the spirit of the holiday that I chose to talk about these films themselves and not how they were made or anything like that — sometimes when you spend all your time thinking about what goes into a film it’s easy to forget what you love about them in the first place.
So, for this reason here is a straight-up list of some of the best, most delightfully intense, and entertaining dinner party movies. After all, what’s a good group meal without a little sex, mystery, and of course, fowl play.
I couldn’t resist that last pun.
It could be the nostalgia talking — but in my opinion, Clue seems to be the only film based on a board game that is actually a viable idea. The filmmakers took the murder mystery genre and hammed it up to the extreme, giving us everything we would want from trap doors to suspicious maids… and of course our diabolical butler played by Tim Curry.
Curry alone could make this film; however, you can’t forget the wonderful performances of Michael McKean’s Mr. Green, Lesley Ann Warren’s Miss Scarlet, Madeline Kahn’s Mrs. White, Christopher Lloyd’s Plum, and Martin Mull’s Mustard. However, my personal favorite has to be Lee Ving’s baffling performance as Mr. Boddy.
If you’re wondering why this particular actor stands out to me, it’s because the only other thing Lee Ving is known for besides this film is having his ’80s punk band FEAR booted from Saturday Night Live.
That’s right, this suited villain was the lead singer of one the rudest punk bands of its time — and so why was he cast in this film? According to the filmmakers it was because his name sounded like the word ‘leaving’, which is probably not the best way to cast a role. But hey, it worked out – and now we have one of the most fun dinner party movies you’ll ever see.
Gosford Park (2001)
If you love Brits, then you’re going to love this film. It’s delightfully British — rainy, slow-moving, dryly comical, and has Michael Gambon in it. If you have no idea who he is, that’s him up top… and if that still doesn’t ring a bell – this will.
In fact, Gosford Park is so British is has not just one, but five actors from the Harry Potter movies in it — not to mention Stephen Fry, Clive Owen, and Helen Mirren. So British.
Like Clue, this film also happens to be a murder mystery, as it follows a group of 1930s upper-class socialites as they mingle together for a dinner party and hunting trip. Meanwhile, their armies of servants have their own get-together in the lower decks of the house. The festivities are unfortunately interrupted when a brutal poisoning/stabbing takes place, leaving the partygoers and servants alike wondering just who is responsible. Oh, and Ryan Phillippe is in it too!
It has a wonderful cast, a wonderful story, and so much food that you can’t help but be hungry the entire film. Also murder.
The Last Supper (1995)
Speaking of murder, if you are in the mood for some fun politically slanted slaughter this is definitely a movie for you. It also happens to be Cameron Diaz’s second film ever made, right after The Mask.
The film follows a group of young ambitious liberal roommates who, after accidentally inviting a neo-Nazi to their house supper ends up in a physical altercation over the dinner table ending with the stabbing of said Nazi. While a moment made even more satisfying due to the Nazi being played by Bill Paxton (I love Bill Paxton but it’s really fun to watch him be stabbed for some reason), they still have a dead body on their hands, which they decide to bury in the garden behind the house.
It doesn’t stop there of course, for this group of friends now have a bit of a taste for Nazi murder, and decide to make a habit of killing people who they happen to disagree with. Sunday after Sunday, they begin to invite ultra-conservatives to their dinner parties, only to end the night with one more lump in their garden. This pattern comes to its apex when one of them gets hold of a famous right-wing television talking head, played by Ron Perlman, who graciously accepts their invitation to dinner. The meal results in one of the more unforgettable meals of a film.
The House Of Yes (1997)
Originally a play, The House of Yes is the only film on the list that actually takes place on Thanksgiving and is also the absolute craziest of the batch. First off, you’d never expect to see top-notch performances from both Freddie Prinze Jr. and Tori Spelling, but you certainly get it. Unfortunately for them, both performances are completely blown away by Parker Posey’s awe-inspiring insanity as she plays ‘Jackie-O’ Pascal, a girl who is not only obsessed with the Kennedy assassination but also with her twin brother Marty that goes way, way beyond the love between siblings. Yeah, it’s a messed-up family.
Really, really messed up family.
It all begins with Marty bringing home his new fiancée for the family to meet, which proves to be much more than a minute mistake as it sends his incestuous sis into a crazy rage lasting the entire film. As the plot unfolds it becomes clearer and clearer that Jackie-O’s and Marty’s weird sexual past revolving around JFK’s death isn’t even the darkest nook of this family’s past — but it is certainly the weirdest.
See the crazy for yourself:
Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner (1967)
Of course. This film follows Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn playing an older yet relatively liberal-minded couple who now has to come to terms with their free-spirited daughter’s (Hepburn’s real-life niece Katharine Houghton) decision to marry a black doctor, played by Sidney Freaking Poitier. This clearly wouldn’t be such a big deal now; however, this film happened to be made in the late ’60s when the subject of interracial marriage was still considered fairly taboo. Despite this, the film received two Academy Awards: Best Original Screenplay; and the Best Actress award for Hepburn’s more than deserving performance.
I personally find Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? to be my favorite of these dinner party movies because we never actually get to the dinner — the entire premise is the anticipation of the event, which promises to be especially eventful as both fiancés’ parents are planned to attend and discuss the repercussions of this potentially divisive coupling. It’s almost as if the resolution is only the promise of a resolution, which reflects the frustrations of life, family, and relationships better than any film I’ve ever seen.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope is the only film on this list of dinner party movies that literally makes my stomach hurt because of the suspense. It begins with two friends who have decided to pull off a murder for the pure sake of the act — strangling a classmate who they deem to be intellectually inferior to them and hiding him in a chest.
But that’s not the fun part — the fun part is when they use the chest at the serving table for a dinner party that very night in which they have invited their victim’s friends and family. As the movie progresses one of the killers is able to completely brush off the event – going so far as to use the very rope used for the murder to tie up books given as a gift to the victim’s father. The other killer, however, begins to break down as grief, paranoia, and alcohol kick in. This dynamic, as well as James Stewart’s portrayal of the two killers’ overly suspicious friend, makes this party one of the most gut-wrenching displays of suspense you’ll ever see from a Hitchcock film.
The most painful scene is near the end when their maid begins to clean up after the party — slowly clearing the chest as our two homicidal hosts entertain the guests. With each setting cleared she begins to retrieve piles of books, which she intends to return to the chest once it’s fully cleared.
Watching this moment slowly play out knowing what she will find if she does open the chest is absolutely stressful to watch. All more stressful when you find yourself trying to figure out exactly who you are even rooting for the entire film.
To top everything off — Alfred Hitchcock shot the entire film to maintain the illusion of a single continuous shot throughout — making the entire film run in real-time, which only increases the discomfort of the situation.
This is the film to watch on Thanksgiving — a little reminder that even if Grandma is hitting the bottle a little too hard or that your nephew just vomited on the carpet, at least you haven’t killed anybody… yet.
This list was written by David Christopher Bell