Thanksgiving is a magnificent holiday, but, let’s face it: it’s a lot of work. Planning, shopping, prepping, shopping again when you inevitably discover everything you forgot the first time you went out shopping, cooking, travel. And then, even after the meal is over, when all you want to do is enter a food coma, there’s clean-up. And you know what makes all of that harder? Having to parent. That’s why we’ve put together this list of the best Thanksgiving movies for kids, because sometimes you just need to plop them in front of the TV while you stuff the turkey or sit motionlessly on the couch and digest.
Thanksgiving movies can be sort of hard to come by (there’s weirdly not a lot of them) and Thanksgiving movies for kids can be even more difficult to rustle up. But, look hard enough and between television specials, new movies, and, of course, the classics we know and love (we see you, Charlie Brown!) there’s plenty of holiday goodness to be had by all.
So whether you just need a few minutes to get your house in order or want to cozy up and maybe even learn a thing or two, here are some movies that are perfect to get you into the Thanksgiving spirit.
An Arthur Thanksgiving Can Arthur and his friends save Thanksgiving? PBS Kids
In this hour-long special, Arthur and his family and friends prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving. Arthur’s father a David, a chef, is of course in his glory preparing for the feast. (His turkey dinners are famous!) The kids of Lakewood Elementary are preparing for their annual Thanksgiving parade. But when everything goes awry, it’s up to Arthur and his friends to find a way to salvage the holiday... fortunately, as they find out, the most important ingredient in a Thanksgiving celebration is a community of loved ones who are willing to work together.
Stream An Arthur Thanksgiving, rated TV-Y, on Amazon Prime. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Is it even a holiday without The Peanuts? Apple TV
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+. Garfield’s Thanksgiving
Poor Garfield. Of all the days for a vet appointment, the day before Thanksgiving has to be the least fun. And things get worse when his vet, concerned about his weight, recommends a diet... again
right before Thanksgiving. And to make matters worse, Jon, smitten with this vet, has invited her to Thanksgiving dinner. Of course, Jon knows nothing about cooking much less how to host Thanksgiving. Soon it’s Grandma to the rescue! Hijinks and hilarity ensue with everyone’s favorite lazy orange cat (no word on whether turkey lasagna is a thing, though)... Stream Garfield’s Thanksgiving, rated TV-G, on YouTube. Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving The Hundred Acre Wood has a lot to be thankful for. Apple TV
This compilation of stories from the Hundred Acre Wood features three seasonal tales. In
Groundpiglet Day, when entire months go missing from Rabbit’s calendar, everyone think it is February 2, and must find a groundhog to try to eke out an early spring. When there’s no groundhog to be found, they employ Piglet for the task.
A Winne the Pooh Thanksgiving, all the friends gather together for a special holiday meal. But when Rabbit insists that a special feast needs special items, they all set out to find them.
In the third segment,
Find Her, Keep Her, it is Christmas Eve, and Rabbit tells the story of Kessie, a baby bluebird he raised, only to find it difficult to go when she wanted to learn to fly and go south for the winter. Stream Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving, rated G, on Apple TV+. Dora’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Swiper, no swipin’ the turkey! Paramount+
Everyone’s favorite bilingual cartoon explorer is getting ready for the big Thanksgiving Day parade and dinner with her
familia (that’s family) . They’ve even decorated a ship-themed float with beautiful flowers. But when the Pirate Piggies accidentally drift away on the boat float, Dora and Boots will have to use all their skills to race to Pumpkin Rock and rescue them. Will they make it in time to save Thanksgiving? Will Swiper try to swipe, or will he be inspired by the spirit of this sharing holiday? Let’s go, friends! Vamos, amigos! Stream Dora’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, rated TV-Y, on Amazon Prime. Waffles + Mochi Holiday Feast Happy Freezie Day! Netflix
Waffles and Mochi spend a lot of their time traveling around the world for grocery store owner Mrs. Obama (yes,
) to learn about new foods and cultures, but for this special they’re in their home, the Land of Frozen Food. When Steve the Mop calls asking about their holiday traditions, Waffles makes up Freezie Day, a holiday all about food... which backfires when Steve and his partner Brümhilda (she’s a broom) to Waffles and Mochi’s house to celebrate! Soon it’s a mad dash around the world, from Norway to Hawaii, to put together a feast fit for Freezie Day! that Mrs. Obama Stream Waffles + Mochi Holiday Feast, rated TV-Y, on Netflix. We’re Back You’ve never seen a parade like this! Amazon Video
After a time-traveling alien named Neweyes feeds
four dinosaurs – Rex, Woog, Elsa, and Dweeb – a potion to make them gentle, intelligent, and able to speak in order to show them to the human children of Earth. He arrives in New York City in 1993, which would probably have been surprising to say the least, but since it’s Thanksgiving the Thanksgiving Day Parade is in full swing, people just assume they’re animatronics and part of the celebration. With the help of two children, Louie and Cecilia, the dinosaurs search for Dr. Julia Bleeb at the Museum of Natural History, who will know how to help them in the modern world.
But the festive atmosphere takes a turn for the worse when Neweyes’ wicked brother – appropriately named Dr. Screweyes – hatches an evil plan...
Stream We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story, rated G, on Amazon Prime. Free Birds Can two turkeys with a dream save their brethren? Netflix
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 and AppleTV. Miracle on 34th Street
Susan isn’t like other 6-year-olds. Precocious and super serious, she doesn’t believe in Santa, and doesn’t experience the same kind of magic other kids her age do around the holidays. But when her mother, an executive for Cole’s Department Store, hires a kindly old man named Kris Kringle to play Santa in the Thanksgiving Day Parade, things begin to change for the better. Well of
course they do: Kris is the real Santa... now he just needs people, especially Susan and her mother Dorey, to believe in him.
“But wait!” you say. “This is in color! Did you pick the 1996 version of
Miracle on 34th Street over the classic original from 1947?” Yeah. Between the two we like it better. We said what we said. (But, if you like the old one, go ahead, it’s also good, and it’s also streaming on HBO Max.) Stream Miracle on 34th Street, rated PG, on Disney+. This Is America, Charlie Brown – The Mayflower Voyagers Charlie Brown and the gang walk the footsteps of the Pilgrims in this well-researched classic. Vimeo
Telling the story of the first Thanksgiving can often get tricky for parents who are interested in historical accuracy and respectful representation of the Wampanoag tribe who took part, but we have to admit that Charlie Brown and the gang do a pretty good job (though the stilted English of some of the Indigenous characters is for sure problematic in some cases). The Peanuts re-enact the voyage of the Mayflower and the (sometimes macabre) story of their struggle to adapt to life on Wampanoag land, as well as the vital help they received from Tisquantum (aka Squanto) that culminated into the first Thanksgiving in 1621.
Stream This Is America, Charlie Brown – The Mayflower Voyagers, rated TV-G, on Vimeo. An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving Hallmark movies aren’t just a Christmas thing! Hallmark Channel
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. Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow We always thought Thanksgiving needed more Muppets... Lifetime
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. Gather A thoughtful look at the food cultures of Indigenous Americans. Summer Solstice/YouTube
There are a lot of things that come to mind when we think about Thanksgiving: family, food, tradition, and, of course, Indigenous people, all of which are explored in this documentary, which follows the growing movement among Native Americans to reclaim their identities – spiritual, cultural, and even political — through food sovereignty. A beautiful and important watch for families seeking a deeper understanding of
Indigenous experiences, and an important reminder that the story of the Mayflower and the arrival of European colonizers in what we now call America holds a much darker meaning for many. Gather is not rated, but includes some themes (particularly cruelty against Indigenous people and communities and genocide) that make this more suitable for older children. Common Sense Media suggests 13 and above while parents who have watched the movie suggest 8.) Stream Gather, not rated, on Netflix. Addams Family Values That monologue tho... Amazon Video
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 Paramount+ and Amazon Prime. Te Ata Te Ata is a heartfelt movie about how a woman shared her culture through stories. Netflix
This inspirational movie, based on a true story, is set in the early 1900s where a Chickasaw woman named Te Ata shared her culture through story-telling and Native art. Despite the pressure to assimilate to cater to the sensibilities of white audiences, she holds fast to her integrity and culture.
A few notes about this choice –
Te Ata is about a Chickasaw woman in the early 20th century. It is not a Thanksgiving story. The Chickasaw characters in this movie do not represent the Indigenous peoples of the first Thanksgiving any more than the white characters represent the Pilgrims. That said, we wanted to include it because as much as Thanksgiving is the celebration of a particular historical event, it also represents a day of mourning for many Native people, for the family, lands, and culture that have been lost since contact with European colonizers. It’s also come to be a day of honoring Indigenous cultures, traditions, and history as an act of reclamation. So we thought this movie is a good way to do that, and a reminder to keep up that spirit not just on Thanksgiving but throughout the year.
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This article was originally published on
November 1, 2021