The Best Thanksgiving Movies

Food coma got you feeling lazy? Need a family activity? We compiled the best Thanksgiving movies for you and your family to watch after Thanksgiving dinner.

Best Thanksgiving Movies to Watch Right Now

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Best Thanksgiving Movies to Watch Right Now

What do you get into on Thanksgiving? After you’ve watched the Macy’s Day Parade, devoured the turkey (or effective substitute), watched the football games, played the UNO, and spent some quality time with your fam? It’s time to fire up a good film. For many, that might mean some two-hour epic that they will pass out to, but this is a national holiday—why not check out some “Thanksgiving” films?!

The Thanksgiving film is a unique category. It’s already a weird holiday week, with more people talking about hectic travel and Black Friday deals before really speaking on what the holiday is supposed to mean. That means that a number of films that take place around Thanksgiving usually save the bird until the end of the film, as most of the film is traveling or dealing with family drama. Just know that while the “Thanksgiving movie” genre might not be massive, there are some awesome films to watch that will help you get into the holiday spirit.

From classic animated specials and comedy classics to smaller, more intimate indie flicks, these are the Best Thanksgiving movies for you to watch while trying to avoid passing out due to consuming amazing food.

Son in Law (1993)

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Director: Steve Rash

Starring: Pauly Shore, Lane Smith, Carla Gugino

Arguably Pauly Shore’s best film (which may not be saying much?), Son in Law finds Shore portraying a guy named Crawl, a resident advisor at a university who connected with Becca (Gugino) as friends while she was acclimating to college as a freshman. Crawl doesn’t have a home to go to, and Becca has a situation with a marriage proposal she isn’t ready for, so for Thanksgiving break, Becca brings Crawl home as her “fiancé.” If you’re not a fan of Shore, this may not be for you, but for a film that has to balance “culture clash” with a story about not being rushed into life-changing positions, Son in Law is a lot better than you think it is. Or, maybe it’s just an easy watch that has a heart and some genuine laughs from Shore, Gugino, and company. And it’s about family, which is what Thanksgiving is truly all about.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)

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Director: Bill Melendez, Phil Roman

Starring: Bill Melendez, Todd Barbee, Christopher DeFaria

Sandwiched between the more popular It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is something of a red-headed stepchild (Little Red-Haired Girl, if you will) in the Peanuts holiday canon. But its message of acceptance, gratitude, and happiness deserves to be just as celebrated. The time-honored trope of an increasingly exasperated Charlie Brown dealing with his friends’ demands is used to great effect here, helping the special win an Emmy Award and earning its place as one of Thanksgiving’s best cinematic offerings.

Addams Family Values (1993)

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Director: Barry Sonnenfield

Starring: Raúl Juliá, Anjelica Huston, Christina Ricci, Christopher Lloyd

It isn’t set during Thanksgiving, but Barry Sonnenfeld’s sequel to 1991’s The Addams Family features such a memorable nod to the first Thanksgiving that leaving it off this list would be criminal. After Christina Ricci’s endearingly morbid Wednesday Addams is forced to play Sacajawea in an end-of-summer-camp play about the first celebratory dinner between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans, she veers off course and commandeers the play, eventually burning the entire village set to the ground. Mixing the Addams’ deadpan humor with biting satire about the state of modern Native American relations, Wednesday’s speech and subsequent arson make Addams Family Values a Turkey Day must-watch.

Alice's Restaurant (1969)

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Director: Arthur Penn

Starring: Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, James Broderick, Patricia Quinn

Listening to Woody Guthrie’s winding 18-minute-and-34-second magnum opus about a Thanksgiving dinner, a littering citation, and avoiding the draft has become an annual tradition on Thanksgiving for families across America, so why shouldn’t a viewing of the film adaptation follow suit? Telling much of the same hilarious true story as the song and released only five days after Woodstock, Arthur Penn’s film stands as a great time-capsule satire of 1960s counterculture, driven by frustations with domestic issues and the Vietnam War. In our current divided political state, Alice’s Restaurant is a perfect dramedy to watch with your family and make you thankful for what you have.

The Ice Storm (1997)

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Director: Ang Lee

Starring: Christina Ricci, Sigourney Weaver, Joan Allen, Kevin Cline

Before he hit it big with visionary blockbusters like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Life of Pi, Ang Lee was known as a director of intimate, emotional dramas like The Ice Storm. Telling the story of two immoral upper-class families who try to escape their problems with alcohol, drugs and sex during the Thanksgiving weekend of 1973, The Ice Storm is far from a warm and fuzzy holiday experience. But it is filled with great performances from a stacked A-list cast and a whip-smart screenplay by frequent Ang Lee collaborator James Schamus. If you’re looking more for cinematic meat than holiday fluff, The Ice Storm is definitely one to check out.

Pieces of April (2003)

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Director: Peter Hedges

Starring: Katie Holmes, Patricia Clarkson, Oliver Platt, Derek Luke

Katie Holmes’ career will almost assuredly be overshadowed by her now-defunct marriage to Tom Cruise, but movies like Pieces of April show just how much of a shame that is — in the right circumstances, Holmes can carry an entire film with both humor and emotional weight. After Holmes’ titular April invites over her estranged relatives for Thanksgiving, including her terminally ill mother Joy, she and her family scramble to get everything together, creating a hilarious but serious indie film that will ring true for anyone who has ever struggled to get ready for an impending family visit or trip, especially over the holidays.

Dutch (1991)

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Director: Peter Faiman

Starring: Ethan Embry, Ed O'Neill, JoBeth Williams, Christopher McDonald

Written by comedy legend John Hughes and directed by the guy who did Crocodile Dundee, it's shocking that more people don't remember Dutch. It might be because it was one of the few films Ed O'Neill starred in during his time as Al Bundy on Married With Children. Maybe it's because the film devolved into a grown-ass man and a snobby prep school kid causing hi-jinx across the highways and byways of America. Either way, at it's heart it's a touching story of a blue collar guy trying to impress his girlfriend by driving her son home for Thanksgiving. This slapstick comedy bombed at the box office, but is an easy enough viewing for those looking for something quick, dirty, and relevant to their holiday festivities.

Rocky (1976)

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Director: John G. Avildsen

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers

Not only is watching the Best Picture–winning classic that spawned the biggest and best sports franchise of all time a pretty patriotic thing to do, but most people forget that Rocky has a great sequence set at Thanksgiving that will remind more than a few viewers of their own holiday experiences. After a tumultuous argument between Adrian and her brother Paulie leads to him chucking her turkey out the backdoor, Rocky takes her to the skating rink, where they head out alone onto the ice. It’s a heartbreaking family drama turned into heartwarming romance, bolstered by Sylvester Stallone and Talia Shire’s effortlessly great performances. It might be Thanksgiving, but to Rocky, it’s just Thursday.

Home for the Holidays (1995)

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Director: Jodie Foster

Starring: Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., Anne Bancroft, Dylan McDermott

Jodie Foster’s acting career spans six decades; she’s won two Oscars, two Golden Globes, and three BAFTAs. However, her only Emmy nominations come from her time working as a director, and, while her career behind the camera pales in comparison to her acting, she deserves a spot on the list of best actors-turned-directors. An example of this is Home for the Holidays, her third feature film, which adeptly balances grounded drama with hilarious comedy in a tale of a down-on-her-luck single mother who spends Thanksgiving with her family after losing her job. Holly Hunter and a pre-rehab Robert Downey Jr. shine as beleaguered siblings, and as director, Foster ably handles the absurdity of the holiday while never veering too far away from its emotional throughline.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)

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Director: John Hughes

Starring: John Candy, Steve Martin, Kevin Bacon, Laila Robins

How could the top spot go to anything else? John Hughes’ classic tale of holiday travel gone wrong ranks pretty high on the list of funniest movies of all time, so there’s no way it could be counted as anything less than the best Thanksgiving movie ever. John Candy and Steve Martin are perfectly cast as the obnoxious shower curtain ring salesman Del Griffith and the nebbish, judgmental Neal Page, bouncing off each other with relentless and impeccable comic timing. Filled to the brim with great characters, hilarious set-pieces, endlessly quotable one-liners, and a hell of a lot of heart, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is the perfect movie to sit around and laugh at with your family after stuffing yourself with the heaviest food imaginable.

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