Apart from those folks who are prioritizing their mental health by simply ordering a pizza, a lot of Americans will be preparing a turkey this week for Thanksgiving dinner — and if movies and TV are any indication, this is no small feat. Turkey dinners are constantly botched in the world of pop culture, and it’s usually pretty funny because it’s not happening to you or me... 

Little Fockers — Ben Stiller Bleeds All Over the Turkey

Since the Meet the Parents franchise is a gauntlet of ceaseless embarrassment for Greg (Ben Stiller), you just know things are going to get focked up when he’s tasked with carving up the Thanksgiving turkey in Little Fockers. Somehow it’s even more unpleasant than you might think. After his kid’s pet lizard darts across the table, Greg’s father-in-law screams, causing him to slice his hand and bukkake blood all over the turkey. 

A Muppet Family Christmas — The Turkey Outwits the Swedish Chef

Muppets eating meat is a disconcerting premise, as proven by the time Miss Piggy cannibalized her friends and family in the service of promoting Denny’s. So for their TV Christmas special, the Muppets ended up dining on seasonal spaghetti after the live turkey that was supposed to be their dinner ends up outsmarting the Swedish Chef, almost convincing him to slaughter and serve Big Bird instead. Which, while something we've all thought about at one point (the Buffalo wings alone…), isn't a dinner we want to see made into reality.

The Santa Clause — Tim Allen Is Forced to Take His Son to A Goddamn Denny’s

Because he has yet to murder Santa Claus and absorb his magical powers, Tim Allen’s The Santa Clause protagonist, Scott Calvin, is pretty useless at the start of the film. Prime evidence is how his culinary efforts produce a flaming turkey, necessitating a Christmas Eve trip to Denny’s with all the other divorced dads, their soul-crushed children and non-denominational serial killers. 

Mr. Bean Gets His Head Stuck in the Turkey

In one of the most famous Mr. Bean scenes, the titular silent weirdo is preparing Christmas dinner for himself and his girlfriend — who somehow doesn’t know she could do way better — but he gets his head stuck in the abnormally large bird, leading to hilarity and, presumably, a severe case of salmonella poisoning. (Behind-the-scenes note: Filming this scene actually ended up causing Rowan Atkinson months of severe back pain in real life.) 

Home for the Holidays — Robert Downey Jr. Can’t Carve for Beans

In Jodie Foster’s 1995 Thanksgiving dramedy, Robert Downey Jr. inadvertently sends the turkey sailing through the air while carving it, with it landing right onto his uptight sister’s lap. Things get worse when the turkey is removed, but the juices flow onto her screaming face like a scene out of Carrie. Bonus points for how the situation becomes somehow even worse as he relentlessly ridicules her, all while being videotaped by their dad. 

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation — The Driest Turkey in Human History

There is arguably no better cinematic representation of the blown turkey dinner than in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, in which the Griswold family meal is ruined by a painfully dry bird. Part of what makes this one so painful is how it seems picture-perfect at first… before the reveal that it’s pretty much completely inedible. In a way, it’s an apt metaphor for Clark Griswold’s vain struggle to create the ideal holiday experience, even at the expense of his family’s mental health and common sense in general.

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this). 

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