40 of the Best 'Thanksgiving Movies' to Get Us in the Mood for the Holiday

Samantha Sutton | Nov 9, 2018 Movies

Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
United Feature Syndicate Inc.

Out of all the holidays, Thanksgiving is one that gets a pretty rough deal. Right after Halloween, all of that spooky orange decor immediately gets replaced with red and green somethings, while classic Christmas songs play on repeat. Santa Claus becomes a topic of everyday conversation, and the stressful adventures of shopping for the folks on our holiday list begins. Still, we refuse to let Turkey Day slip on by without some proper acknowledgement -- aside from the fact that we'll likely be digging into a full, yummy feast. (There's also the promise of spending a few quality days with a bunch of our loved ones.)

So, how can we get into that Thanksgiving Day spirit in the weeks leading up to Thursday, November 22? With fun, festive movies, of course! While it's definitely true that Thanksgiving films are far and few between -- especially once we consider the dozens of December-friendly stories out there, many of which are played over and over from now until the end of the year, thanks to "Christmas countdowns" -- we've quickly discovered there are more than we originally thought.

For instance, we didn't even realize that the superhero hit Spider-Man has a big Thanksgiving Day scene, or that Paul Blart: Mall Cop takes place on Black Friday. Of course, there are the more obvious options, too -- such as Planes, Trains and Automobiles -- and we kept an eye out for kid-friendly cartoons, like A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. All in all, we've found 40 great options that are worth watching throughout the month.

  • 'Miracle on 34th Street'

    1

    It's the best of both holidays! Santa is first discovered after being cast for the Thanksgiving Day Parade, and does such a great job -- possibly because he is Santa -- that he ends up getting a seasonal gig at Cole's department store (or Macy's, if we're watching the original).

  • 'A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving'

    2

    This Peanuts special is full of lessons about friends, sharing, tradition, as well as not to trust Lucy to hold a football. It also airs every year on ABC.

  • 'Addams Family Values'

    3

    Can someone tell us why, exactly, these kids are performing a Thanksgiving play at summer camp? Regardless, we're grateful for the scene where Wednesday Addams, who was cast as Pocahontas, basically tells the pilgrims to shove it. She goes off script, rejects the feast invitation, and start setting everything on fire.

    It's worth a watch.

  • 'March of the Wooden Soldiers'

    4

    Sure, there's no feast, but in many parts of the country, the 1934 film -- which stars Laurel and Hardy, and tells a twisted tale about Mother Goose and nursery rhyme characters  -- has been airing on Thanksgiving since 1963.

  • 'You've Got Mail'

    5

    Not only does the Thanksgiving scene depict what a nightmare it can be to grocery shop for dinner, Kathleen (Meg Ryan) gets stuck in the cash-only lane ... with no cash! (The worst.) Thankfully, Joe (Tom Hanks) come to her rescue.

    You've Got Mail is one of our fall movie faves that's perfect for Thanksgiving.

  • 'Home For the Holidays'

    6

    Since her daughter made plans of her own for Thanksgiving (which include having sex with her boyfriend), Claudia, who recently lost her job after having an affair with her boss, heads home to celebrate. In short, it's one of those movies that makes our own family gathering look pretty tame.

  • 'Funny People'

    7

    There's nothing like George's semi-serious dinner speech to remind us how important it is to take in each moment.

  • 'Free Birds'

    8

    What would Thanksgiving be without its signature dish? That's what two turkeys are hoping to find out in this cute, kid-friendly cartoon. (It also makes us feel somewhat guilty about diving into our meal).

  • 'Son in Law'

    9

    The Haunting of Hill House fans will appreciate seeing a young Carla Gugino as a small-town girl who brings back a quirky party-boy (aka, then-It-guy Pauly Shore) when returning home from college.

  • 'Beethoven'

    10

    Dog owners will agree: It wasn't exactly wise to leave a large turkey within the reach of an energetic and daring St. Bernard.

  • 'The House of Yes'

    11

    Parker Posey plays a Jackie-O-obsessed twin who is not happy when her brother comes home for the holiday and announces that he's getting married. It gets a bit weird and incestuous at points, but is considered a cult-classic nonetheless.

  • 'Pieces of April'

    12

    Katie Holmes plays a wild child who ends up hosting her estranged family for Thanksgiving that includes her dying mother and total-opposite sister.

  • 'Avalon'

    13

    It may take place in the late '40s and early '50s, but the story of immigration is still as timely as ever. The Thanksgiving tie-in comes in a scene where the family celebrates the holiday, and an argument erupts over cutting the turkey.

  • 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles'

    14

    Struggling to get home for the holidays is never fun, but as a plot for a movie? It's freakin' hilarious.

  • 'What's Cooking?'

    15

    Following four different dinners, this movie proves that no matter where people come from or what their story is, every family has its own issues.

  • 'For Your Consideration'

    16

    This movie is really about actors making a movie, and after the project -- originally titled Home For Purim, but changed to Home For Thanksgiving to seem more mainstream -- starts getting Oscar buzz, everyone gets a little too excited and things get crazy.

  • 'The Ice Storm'

    17

    Between affairs, drinking, drugs, and death, this one's not a traditional holiday film.

  • 'The Daytrippers'

    18

    While home for Thanksgiving, Eliza discovers a note from her husband that makes her think he's having an affair. So the whole family packs up the car and heads to NYC to confront him.

  • 'Hannah and Her Sisters'

    19

    This story about Hannah, her sisters, and a lot of relationship drama -- which also involves Hannah's ex and current husband -- is connected by Thanksgiving celebrations at the beginning and end of the movie.

  • 'Garfield’s Thanksgiving'

    20

    Garfield is put on a diet, and his owner, Jon, is struggling to make dinner to impress his date in this cute 1989 cartoon special.

  • 'A Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving'

    21

    There's a bit of mixup going on: The group thinks it's Groundhog Day after the wind blows the pages off of a calendar! It leads to a lot confusion over the snow and ends with a Thanksgiving celebration once it's discovered that it's still November.

  • 'The Myth of Fingerprints'

    22

    All it takes is a few days of family time for everyone's secrets and past demons to come to light.

  • 'National Lampoon's Thanksgiving Family Reunion'

    23

    Mitch Snider's long-lost cousin connects with him right before Thanksgiving, and considering the two couldn't be more opposite, this holiday ends up being anything but stress-free.

  • 'An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving'

    24

    Fun fact: The author of Little Women also wrote the short story that inspired this TV movie. Taking place in the 1800s, it's about a high-society woman who comes to town to reconnect with her ill, estranged daughter and grandchildren.

  • 'Holiday Engagement'

    25

    For those itching for something perfectly cheesy, this one is about a woman who gets dumped right before a four-day weekend with her family -- so she hires someone to play her fiancé.

    Really, what could go wrong?

  • 'Dutch'

    26

    Wow, getting home for the holidays seems to be the source of a lot of drama, huh? This time around, the not-so-smooth trek includes a working-class guy who volunteers to pick up his wealthy girlfriend's son from prep school.

  • 'A Family Thanksgiving'

    27

    This is kind of the Thanksgiving, Hallmark version of the The Family Man: A workaholic power woman finds herself in an alternate universe where she's a married "soccer mom" of two kids, and realizes what her life could have been.

  • 'Holiday Inn'

    28

    Just like the trailer says, "there's a song for every holiday, and a holiday for every song" -- and that includes Thanksgiving.

  • 'Paul Blart: Mall Cop'

    29

    Of course the bad guys attempt to take over a shopping mall on Black Friday, and now it's up to Paul to save the day.

  • 'The Blind Side'

    30

    This real-life story is about a family who takes in a homeless teen who then becomes an all-star football player. At one point, he also makes Sandra Bullock's character realize that maybe it's better to sit down at the table and bond for Thanksgiving dinner, rather than spend it watching the game in front of a TV.

  • 'Curly Sue'

    31

    A con man and his adorable kid companion are taken in by a wealthy woman -- and for many, it's the movie's overall lesson about love and family that has turned it into a Thanksgiving must-watch.

  • 'Grumpy Old Men'

    32

    The grumpy old men in this movie have been feuding for years. But when they find themselves both lusting after the same woman, they now have something to really fight about. Unfortunately, at one point, they choose to do it over Thanksgiving dinner.

  • 'The New World'

    33

    We're transported back to the very beginning of America -- and get a bit of a love story, too -- in this 2005 drama that stars Colin Farrell.

  • 'Scent Of a Woman'

    34

    Al Pacino won an Oscar for playing an irritable blind man in this 1992 film, which also features a crazy yet iconic fight that happens over a Thanksgiving meal.

  • 'Krisha'

    35

    Lesson learned: This holiday probably isn't the best time to host estranged family members. The theme is explored yet again in this indie drama, and, of course, secrets end up being exposed and pent-up emotions get released.

  • 'Jack and Jill'

    36

    Twins reuniting! Adam Sandler playing both Jack and Jill equals an extremely awkward dinner! We're going to be honest here: This movie got pretty bad reviews, but maybe a weird, light comedy is just what we need while we sit around digesting all that food.

  • 'Spider-Man'

    37

    Yes, this action-packed superhero film has a Thanksgiving scene, which reunites the Goblin and Spider-Man (Norman Osborn and Peter Parker) following their fight.

  • 'Tower Heist'

    38

    The staff of a high-rise building lose their pensions to what's discovered to be Ponzi scheme of Wall Street businessman Arthur Shaw. So they devise plan to rob him -- with the help of a criminal (Eddie Murphy) -- during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

  • 'Nobody's Fool'

    39

    Not to be confused with the 2018 movie of the same name, this classic stars Paul Newman and explores what happens when a stubborn, independent man is reunited with his son. 

  • 'The Oath'

    40

    Finally, for those looking to head to the movie theater, there's the upcoming Thanksgiving comedy, The Oath, which stars Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz. It's about a politically divided family who fights over signing a "a loyalty pledge" that's been issued by the government. Eek.

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