Thanksgiving is a time for family gatherings, great food, and, of course, some Thanksgiving movies! Beyond the turkey, the stuffing, and the pumpkin pie, Thanksgiving is also a great time to curl up in front of the TV to enjoy some Thanksgiving movies with the holiday spirit.
While the canon of Thanksgiving movies may not be as extensive as other holidays, the list of Thanksgiving movies still includes a varied menu!
Whether you’re in the mood for a heartwarming family film or a laugh-out-loud comedy, there’s something for everyone on this list. From timeless classics to contemporary favourites, movies have a way of mirroring the love, chaos, and warmth that Thanksgiving brings. So, grab a plate of turkey, settle in, and get ready to enjoy these fantastic films!
The Best Thanksgiving Movies
The list may not be as long as the list of best movies for Christmas or Halloween, for example, but there is still a pool of great picks to choose from; there are the timeless classics, the feel-good ones, and the comedies that never fail to make us feel better in the dark times!
The Timeless Classics!
Like any other genre, there are always those timeless classics that never get old! No matter how many times we have watched them, watching these classics actually becomes an integrated part of the holiday! Coming up next, here is a list of the best timeless classics of the Thanksgiving movies!
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
While often associated with Christmas, this film begins at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It is perfect for kicking off the holiday season with its message of belief and the importance of family.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947) is a classic movie directed by George Seaton and starring Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, and Natalie Wood. It tells the story of Kris Kringle (Gwenn), a department store Santa Claus who is put on trial for insanity after claiming to be the real Santa Claus. His case is defended by lawyer Fred Gailey (Payne), who must prove Kringle’s sanity in order to save him from being institutionalized.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is a 1973 American animated television special based on the comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz. It was the third animated television special based on the Peanuts comic strip, following A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966).
The special tells the story of Charlie Brown, who is invited by Peppermint Patty to have Thanksgiving dinner with her and her friends. Charlie is initially hesitant, but he eventually agrees. However, Charlie soon realizes he has no idea how to cook a Thanksgiving dinner. He turns to Snoopy and Woodstock for help, and they come up with a plan to cook a Thanksgiving dinner out of toast, popcorn, pretzels, and jelly beans.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is a beloved Thanksgiving movie classic that generations of viewers have enjoyed. The special has also had a significant impact on popular culture. The phrase “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” is often used to refer to any Thanksgiving dinner that is simple or unconventional. The special has also been referenced in other films and television shows and has inspired many other works of fiction.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
This comedy classic starring Steve Martin and John Candy is a must-watch Thanksgiving film. Steve Martin is Neal Page, a high-strung businessman who is trying to get home to Chicago for Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, his flight is cancelled, and he is forced to travel with Del Griffith (John Candy), a talkative salesman. The story revolves around the trials and tribulations of getting home for the holiday, something many can relate to.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a hilarious and heartwarming film that perfectly captures the stress and chaos of holiday travel. It is also a reminder that even the most unlikely friends can find something in common.
The Family Favorites Thanksgiving Movies!
Family-friendly movies provide a different sort of comfort, perfect for a post-meal relaxation time where all the family, regardless of their age, come together to enjoy a Thanksgiving movie.
Garfield’s Thanksgiving (1989)
Garfield’s Thanksgiving is a 1989 American animated television special based on the Garfield comic strip. It was first broadcast on CBS on 22 November 1989 and was nominated for Outstanding Animated Program at the 42nd Primetime Emmy Awards.
In the special, we follow everyone’s favourite lasagna-loving cat deals with a Thanksgiving he’ll never forget in this family-friendly special.
Garfield’s Thanksgiving is a funny and heartwarming special that is perfect for the whole family. It celebrates the importance of family and friends, and it reminds us that even the most unlikely of guests can be welcome at our table.
Addams Family Values (1993)
With its dark humour and iconic characters, this film includes a memorable Thanksgiving play that makes it a quirky pick for the holiday.
Addams Family Values (1993) is directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and written by Paul Rudnick, based on the characters created by Charles Addams. It is the sequel to The Addams Family (1991) and stars Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd, Christina Ricci, Carel Struycken, Jimmy Workman, and Christopher Hart.
The film follows the Addams family as they celebrate the arrival of a new baby boy, Pubert. Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) also falls in love with a murderous babysitter named Debbie Jilinksy (Joan Cusack), who marries him and then tries to kill him to inherit his fortune. Debbie also ships Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) off to a summer camp, where they must hijack the Thanksgiving play to escape.
Free Birds (2013)
Free Birds is an animated adventure movie that stars the voices of Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, and Amy Poehler, with supporting roles by George Takei, Colm Meaney, Keith David, and Dan Fogler.
The film follows Reggie (Wilson), a domesticated turkey who is pardoned by the President of the United States and sent to live a life of luxury. However, Reggie is soon recruited by Jake (Harrelson), a wild turkey who has discovered a time machine, on a mission to travel back in time to the first Thanksgiving and prevent turkeys from being eaten ever again.
Free Birds is a film that is both entertaining and thought-provoking. The film’s humour is often absurd and slapstick, but the film also deals with more serious themes, such as the importance of teamwork, friendship, and the true meaning of Thanksgiving.
The Feel-Good Movies
It is never the wrong time to watch a feel-good movie! So, in case you are one of those who always love to watch one of those movies, here are our picks of the best feel-good Thanksgiving movies to watch.
Home for the Holidays (1995)
This film, directed by Jodie Foster, tackles the Thanksgiving family reunion with all its complex dynamics, showing that there’s no place like home for the holidays.
This ensemble comedy features an all-star cast, including Holly Hunter, Catherine O’Hara, and Robert Downey Jr., as a group of siblings who come home for Thanksgiving. The movie is hilarious and heartwarming, and it perfectly captures the chaos and dysfunction of many family gatherings.
Pieces of April (2003)
A poignant story about a young woman trying to host her estranged family for Thanksgiving dinner in her cramped New York City apartment, this film showcases the holiday’s ability to bring families together.
This drama tells the story of April Burns (Katie Holmes), a young woman who decides to host Thanksgiving dinner for her dysfunctional family, even though she’s never cooked a turkey in her life. The movie is funny and moving, and it explores the importance of family and forgiveness.
The Blind Side (2009)
While not specifically about Thanksgiving, this film embodies the spirit of giving and family, making it a fitting choice for the holiday.
The Blind Side is a heartwarming true story about a family who takes in a homeless teenager and helps him become a successful football player. This movie will remind you of the power of love, family, and Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving comedies capture the lighter side of a holiday that can sometimes be fraught with stress and high expectations.
Dutch is a comedy-drama film written by John Hughes and directed by Peter Faiman. It stars Ed O’Neill and Ethan Embry, with JoBeth Williams, Christopher McDonald, Ari Meyers, and E.G. Daily in supporting roles.
The film tells the story of Dutch Dooley (O’Neill), a working-class man who offers to drive his girlfriend Natalie Standish’s (Williams) son Doyle (Embry) home from prep school for Thanksgiving. However, Doyle is a spoiled and arrogant young man, and the two quickly clash. As they embark on their road trip, Dutch and Doyle are forced to learn from each other and grow as individuals.
The film is full of humour and heart, and it is a story about two unlikely friends who learn to appreciate each other.
Grumpy Old Men (1993)
This film, which takes place over the holidays, is filled with comedic bickering and an eventual heartwarming turn that underscores the value of friendship and family.
Grumpy Old Men is directed by Walt Becker and starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. The film tells the story of two older men, Max Goldman (Matthau) and John Gustafson (Lemmon), who have been feuding with each other for as long as they can remember. However, when Max’s daughter Ariel (Ann-Margret) moves in across the street with her son Billy (Kevin Pollak), Max and John are forced to put aside their differences and work together.
Grumpy Old Men was a critical and commercial success, grossing over $70 million at the box office. It was praised for its heartwarming story, its hilarious humour, and the strong performances of its two leads.
You’ve Got Mail (1998)
The icon of rom-com movies from the 1990s is not just a great movie for Valentine’s but also an excellent choice for Thanksgiving! Set against the backdrop of New York City during the fall and leading into the holiday season, this romantic comedy has all the warmth of a Thanksgiving gathering.
You’ve Got Mail tells the story of Kathleen Kelly (Ryan) and Joe Fox (Hanks), two anonymous online pen pals who fall in love despite being unaware of each other’s true identities. Kathleen is the owner of a small independent bookstore called The Shop Around the Corner, while Joe is the corporate heir to the Fox Books chain, which is threatening to put Kathleen’s store out of business.
The film was a critical and commercial success, grossing over $250 million worldwide. It was praised for its charming story, its witty dialogue, and the strong performances of its two leads.
While many don’t prefer the drama genre during the holiday season, some still enjoy these kinds of movies and consider that the holiday season can also be a period of reflection. So, in case you are a drama movies-lover, here are some options to consider for Thanksgiving.
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
Set between two Thanksgivings, Woody Allen’s drama dives deep into the complexities of family life, marked by an ensemble cast and intersecting storylines.
The film stars Mia Farrow, Barbara Hershey, Dianne Wiest, Michael Caine, Max von Sydow, and Carrie Fisher. It tells the interwoven stories of three sisters, Hannah (Farrow), Lee (Hershey), and Holly (Wiest), and their husbands and lovers.
Hannah and Her Sisters was a critical and commercial success, grossing over $72 million worldwide. It was praised for its sharp screenplay, its strong performances, and its honest and insightful portrayal of family relationships.
The film is one of Allen’s most personal and ambitious works. It explores a wide range of themes, including love, loss, faith, and the meaning of life. Allen does not shy away from complex topics, but he also finds humour amid heartbreak.
The Ice Storm (1997)
This drama takes a darker look at family and societal dynamics over the Thanksgiving weekend during the 1970s. The drama film is directed by Ang Lee and stars Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Jamey Sheridan, Christina Ricci, and Elijah Wood.
The film is set in New Canaan, Connecticut, 1973, during a severe ice storm. It tells the story of two dysfunctional families, the Hoods and the Carvers, and their struggles to cope with their own personal demons and the changing times.
The Ice Storm is a complex and nuanced film that explores a variety of themes, including family dysfunction, sexual alienation, and the loss of innocence. Lee’s direction is masterful, and he creates a truly immersive and atmospheric film. The performances are excellent, with Kline, Allen, Weaver, Sheridan, Ricci, and Wood all giving unforgettable performances.
The Big Chill (1983)
A group of college friends reunite over a long weekend, evoking the nostalgia and reflection that often accompanies holiday gatherings.
The film is set in the early 1980s, and it reflects the disillusionment and anxiety of that era. The characters in the film are all struggling to come to terms with their own lives and the choices they have made. They are all grappling with issues such as career dissatisfaction, marital problems, and unfulfilled dreams.
Thanksgiving is not only a time for feasting but also for storytelling, reflection, bonding over shared experiences and a good Thanksgiving movie. The aforementioned Thanksgiving movies are not just about entertainment; they encapsulate the spirit of the holiday; the Thanksgiving movies are more about the holiday’s quirks, mirth, and the inevitable touch of madness that comes with a house full of people.