Give thanks for these movies, some of which are actually about Thanksgiving
For such a traditional American holiday, one could argue that there aren’t a lot of traditional Thanksgiving movies. When you set at Halloween or Christmas, audiences can usually get a sense of what the movie’s tone will be or what might happen in the plot. But Thanksgiving is another story. The movies that have to do with the holiday are almost as diverse as America itself.
Below, I’ve compiled 15 movies to choose from if you need something to watch after you stuff your face with turkey. There’s something for everyone, whether you want something that just feels like fall, something about Thanksgiving, or something that just happens to take place on the third Thursday of November.
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Wes Anderson’s first foray into stop-motion animation is a marvel to look at with its careful attention to detail and gorgeous shades of burnt orange and autumn colors. Anderson turns Roald Dahl’s book into an examination of family, nature and purpose, but never gets too schmaltzy. Available to stream on Disney+.
Familial strife. Dinner-table arguments. Cable-knit sweaters. Donuts. Murder. Rian Johnson’s whodunit doesn’t take place at Thanksgiving, but the film’s autumnal New England setting and chilly family dynamics make this a perfect Thanksgiving film. Available to stream on Amazon Prime.
You’ve Got Mail
The Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan romcom covers a lot of holidays, but the sweaters and New York-in-fall settings and this Thanksgiving dinner shopping scene earn it a place in the Thanksgiving Movie Canon. It’s also a nice lighthearted viewing option in a year that’s been neither nice nor lighthearted. Available to stream on HBO Max.
Home For The Holidays
An all-star cast including Holly Hunter, Claire Danes and Robert Downey, Jr. star in Jodie Foster’s film about a woman flying home to see her family for Thanksgiving. It’s an emotional onslaught that understands the very specific ways that people who deeply love each other can also do the most harm to each other. That sounds bleak, but the ending is rather heartfelt. Available to stream on Hulu and Amazon Prime,
Don’t act like you’re above a good Pauly Shore/Carla Gugino fish-out-of-water story. And what’s a Thanksgiving dinner without an awkward introduction to your college boyfriend or girlfriend?Available to rent on iTunes, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu.
Before he made It Comes At Night or Waves, Trey Edward Shults got money from a Kickstarter to fund this independent film about a newly-sober woman trying to make amends on Thanksgiving. It stars his own family members and is an excruciating look at addiction and family bonds. Available to stream on Hulu and Amazon Prime.
Actual Thanksgiving movies
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
John Hughes’ classic tale of two men just trying to get home for Thanksgiving dinner has a ton of quotable lines, but it’s endured as a holiday staple because, just like Neal Page, it has a lot of heart underneath its irritable exterior and celebrates the heart of the holiday: sharing a meal with the people you love. Available to stream on Amazon Prime.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
It’s an American tradition that goes hand-in-hand with Thanksgiving. Plus, you can watch it on PBS this year! Available to stream on Apple TV+ and available on air on PBS
Addams Family Values
Yes, this technically takes place during the summer. But Wednesday Addams’ refusal to participate in a Thanksgiving summer camp performance is a perfect critique of the holiday’s questionable roots. Available to stream on Amazon Prime.
Arthur Penn’s 1969 film adapts Arlo Guthrie’s 1967 song about Guthrie’s mostly-true story of draft-dodging and Thanksgiving run-ins with the law for the big screen. Take a trip and remember the counterculture of the 60s. Not available for streaming.
This brutal tale of how far one father will go to capture his daughter’s kidnapper takes place on Thanksgiving. It’s also a perfectly-crafted movie from Denis Villeneuve that’s so disturbing and in parts I never want to watch it again, but it does showcase excellent performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, Hugh Jackman and Paul Dano. Available to stream on Hulu.
On the lighter side of the crime genre, Four Brothers has Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, Andre Benjamin and Garrett Hedlund as four adopted brothers who return home to Detroit one Thanksgiving to avenge their adoptive mother’s murder. It’s a Western set in the cold Midwest. Available to stream on Sling.
The Last Waltz
Perfect for those who just want to have some music in the background. Martin Scorsese’s concert documentary showcases the final performance of The Band on Thanksgiving Day 1976. It’s joyful and melancholic at the same time, kind of like Thanksgiving. Available to stream on Hulu and Amazon Prime.
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade isn’t a bad cover as far as heist distractions go. And this isn’t a bad film, but it is the perfect thing to have on in the background as you sleep off all that turkey and flip the channel to a football game. Available to stream on Hulu and Amazon Prime.
North By Northwest
I’ll be honest, this one’s a stretch. This has nothing to do with Thanksgiving, except for the fact that a shot of a newspaper in the film places the time of the action right around Thanksgiving. But is there ever a bad time to watch Cary Grant? Available to stream on Hulu and Amazon Prime.