Believe it or not, there aren’t too many Thanksgiving movies. Wedged between heavy hitters
Halloween and Christmas, Thanksgiving can get a bit lost in the shuffle. While family dramas around the Thanksgiving table certainly make for good entertainment (lighthearted or otherwise), you can’t deny that Thanksgiving lacks the aesthetic flair of surrounding holidays. So, cinematically speaking, it’s hard to compete. Still, it’s a favorite of many, what with the family togetherness and loads of delicious food. And, honestly, it’s the perfect day to power through movies. Who wants to do anything after a morning full of cooking (or travel) and an afternoon/evening full of gorging yourself?
So we’ve come up with 10 Thanksgiving movies you can enjoy, either with the whole family or on your own after the kids go to bed (perhaps with a
second-wind leftovers sandwich — we won’t judge). We’ve made sure to include ratings and a few friendly words of advice, parent-to-parent, to help guide your decision about what to watch.
From comedies to dramas, cartoons to classic to movies that aren’t
explicitly Thanksgiving-themed but have memorable holiday scenes or motifs, there may not be a ton of Thanksgiving movies, but there’s plenty to digest while you digest! (Oh yeah: that joke just happened.) A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
The Peanuts are known for their positively delightful holiday specials and, among them, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving may be lesser known. But it’s still full of the same charm and humor as the others. When Peppermint Patty, in her characteristic bold fashion, invites herself and other friends over to Charlie Brown’s for a Thanksgiving dinner, Charlie Brown panics! All he knows how to cook is cereal and toast! Hijinks and hilarity, of course, ensue, as do lessons about friendship, gratitude, and generosity. And, of course, since it's Charlie Brown and Thanksgiving, you can bet there's a classic football bit thrown in for good measure.
Stream A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, rated TV-G, on Apple TV Free Birds
Reggie is a turkey with a new lease on life. He’s been “pardoned” by the president as part of Thanksgiving festivities. He’s excited to finally live the sweet life — carefree and easy going on a farm — until another turkey named Jake recruits him for a special mission. It’s a mission that will alter the course of history, and especially Thanksgiving tables, forever. The two travel to the year 1621, the eve of the first Thanksgiving. The two are determined to keep turkeys off the menu completely, disrupting the tradition and saving their fine feathered friends for centuries to come. But colonist Myles Standish has other plans: the Pilgrims are hungry, and it’s turkey season.
Stream Free Birds, rated PG, on Starz or Apple TV. Pollyanna If anyone can put you in a good mood, it’s Pollyanna. Disney+
It would be understandable for Pollyanna to be down in the dumps: her parents are both dead and she’s been sent to New England to live with her wealthy but strict and dour Aunt Polly. But Pollyanna is indefatigable, and lives her live through “The Glad Game,” which allows her to see the bright side of even though most awful of situations. And it turns out her joy and optimism is contagious as it slowly turns the embittered town into a cheerier place.
While certainly not a traditional Thanksgiving movie, its message of feeling glad and grateful, even in the face of adversity, is certainly in keeping with the spirit of the holiday.
Stream Pollyanna , rated G, on Disney+. Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow
Based on one of Jim Henson’s final, unfinished projects,
Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow tells the story of recently divorced Ron and his children Tim and Annie. The trio travel to the farm of Ron’s eccentric aunt, Cly in Turkey Hollow to celebrate Thanksgiving. There’s no technology in the town, but there is a legend: the 10 foot tall "Howling Hoodoo.” But when the kids set out to find the Hoodoo, the wind up finding mini-monsters Squonk, Zorp, Burble, and Thring. They also find local ne’er-do-well Eldridge Slump is engaged in a plot to take Aunt Cly’s farm! Fortunately, their new friends are ready, willing, and able to help save the day! Stream Turkey Hollow, rated PG, on Amazon Prime An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving
Based on a short story by Louisa May Alcott,
An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving has a similar vibe that fans of Little Women will surely appreciate. Mary Bassett is a widow with three children who have fallen upon hard times. The farm isn’t as productive as it should be, and they can’t even afford a turkey for their Thanksgiving dinner. Tilly, the eldest, attempts to help the family by writing to Mary's wealthy and estranged mother Isabella (she may have exaggerated their circumstances just a wee bit). Moved to action, Isabella travels to the farm. But while she and Tilly hit it off right away, there are lingering issues and resentments between her and Mary that must be addressed. Stream An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving, rated TV-PG, on Hallmark Movies Now Avalon
This movie follows the lives of the Polish-Jewish Krachinsky family, from the time patriarch Sam comes to America in 1914 to the early 50s. Generational divisions and changes abound – the younger generation have even changed their last name from Krachinsky to Kaye and Kirk. Sam is has made a good living in the wallpaper business, but his ambitious son, Jules, dreams bigger in hopes of moving to the suburbs of Baltimore. Family matriarch Eva clashes with her daughter-in-law, Ann, a modern woman.
While not explicitly a Thanksgiving movie, there is a Thanksgiving scene (it’s a good one), and the general themes of family and generational differences will definitely be in keeping with the vibe of the holiday. The hustle and bustle of the (many) scenes featuring family gatherings will for sure be familiar to anyone who grew up in a large, loud family.
Stream Avalon, rated PG, on Amazon Prime You’ve Got Mail
In, perhaps, the most iconic romantic-comedy of the last 25 years, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks play Kathleen and Frank, rival book store owners who unknowingly are falling for each other online.
OK, elephant in the room:
is absolutely not a Thanksgiving movie in the purist sense of the word. It doesn’t even have a general Thanksgiving feeling. But there’s a Thanksgiving scene at Zabars (with Sarah Ramirez no less) and, let’s face it: you’re always kind of looking for an excuse to watch this movie. You’ve Got Mail Stream You’ve Got Mail, rated PG, on HBO Max. Home for the Holidays
When single mom Claudia’s teenage daughter decides to skip Thanksgiving, Claudia is on her own when she travels to her childhood home to spend Thanksgiving with her dysfunctional family. In no time at all, things get chaotic. Her parents drive her up the wall, her aunt is beyond eccentric, her sister is irritating, and her brother-in-law is a huge snob. Long simmering resentments, clashing personalities, and booze make for an explosive holiday. Fortunately, Claudia’s brother has brought along an impossibly handsome friend named Leo and... well,
This definitely isn’t a kids movie – there’s not much likely to speak to their interests and there are some adult themes that may not be appropriate for
children under a certain age. Though they might casually be interested in the fact that Iron Man (aka Robert Downey Jr) plays Claudia’s brother Tommy. Stream Home for the Holidays, rated PG-13, on Paramount+. Addams Family Values
When Baby Pubert joins the Addams family, things get a little bit more chaotic in the household, prompting Morticia and Gomez to hire a nanny, Debbie, who’s cheerful disposition wins over the lonely Fester. Soon, it becomes clear that Debbie isn’t there for the children (who are prompted sent off to summer camp), but to woo and wed Fester before murdering him for his fortune (as she’s done with her previous husbands)!
Again, this is another non-Thanksgiving movie, strictly speaking, but it definitely counts based on Wednesday’s perfect anti-colonial monologue in the pilgrim-themed summer camp production. It’s a perfect Thanksgiving movie for the reveler who still wishes it was Halloween.
Stream Addams Family Values, rated PG-13, on Amazon Prime. Planes, Trains & Automobiles
Neal is a jumpy, neurotic control freak. And one thing we all know about jumpy, neurotic control freaks is how well they handle a) travel b) sudden changes of plan, right? Haha! Yeah, Neal isn’t happy when his flight to get home to his wife and kids is rerouted due to a freak snowstorm. And the fact that he’s forced to get through with chatterbox Del certainly does help matters. This odd couple road trip is the perfect holiday comedy, though due to salty language and a couple adult references, you probably don’t want to watch with young kids. (
Common Sense Media suggests it’s OK for kids 15 and older, but parent users on the site have said 11 and older can handle it.) Stream Planes, Trains & Automobiles, rated R, on Paramount+.
This article was originally published on
Oct. 24, 2021