We always see movies around Christmas, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day. But what about Thanksgiving? This underappreciated holiday deserves some love, and movies, too. That’s why I compiled a list of 25 movies that either focus on the holiday itself or take place over the holiday. I included classics like Charlie Brown and Winnie the Pooh and more modern flicks like Friendsgiving and Free Birds. There may be a few spoilers, so scroll at your own risk.
25. ‘ThanksKilling’ (2008)
ThanksKilling, to my surprise, actually exists. The movie merges Halloween horror and Thanksgiving gatherings. And somehow, it is worse than some of the other films on this list. Everything from the acting to the special effects was horrible. It’s one of the worst movies I’ve seen; I don’t know how it got a sequel. Seriously, don’t go searching for this movie.
It starts off in 1621 when a Pilgrim is killed by a demonic Tomahawk-wielding turkey. Centuries later, in present-day, five college students come back home to the former site of that murder. One night a dog accidentally resurrects the turkey a few hundred years ahead of schedule. Now, the demonic turkey is on a spree again.
24. ‘Tadpole’ (2002)
I surprisingly didn’t like this movie. Tadpole is a coming-of-age story about a teenager falling in love with his stepmother. When the stepmother’s best friend responds to the teen’s advances instead, he finds himself unsure of what to do next.
Personally, the woman’s best friend going after the teenager romantically rubbed me the wrong way. It felt a little gross to watch. Overall, despite the great cast, I found the movie pretty boring. It might have been great at the time, but it hasn’t aged well.
23. ‘Friendsgiving’ (2020)
I had such high hopes for this movie when it first came out, but it let me down hard. I loved the cast, but even they couldn’t make the subpar script sound good. It probably would have been better as a limited series that focuses on different guests at the meal.
In Friendsgiving, Molly and Abby are planning a quiet Thanksgiving meal together, but that all changes when random people start showing up in addition to the girls’ moms. Each guest that shows up has their own story and brings more chaos with them.
22. ‘The Oath’ (2018)
I usually love Tiffany Haddish movies, but that changed with this movie. I would have preferred skipping this movie. Ike Barinholtz wrote, produced, directed, and starred in the film. And he probably should’ve stuck to just three of those hats. It might have turned out better.
In the near future, American citizens are asked to sign a legal document swearing their allegiance to the United States by Black Friday. As the deadline approaches, Haddish and Barinholtz’s characters host a Thanksgiving meal with their extended family. What follows is political arguments and a ruined meal.
21. ‘Son in Law’ (1993)
When Rebecca moves away to college from her small South Dakota farm, she changes a lot. So much so that when Thanksgiving break rolls around, her hometown friends and family are taken aback. When her boyfriend is about to propose, she pretends to be engaged to her friend from college, Crawl.
Son in Law was funny, I’ll give it that. But, not funny enough to keep my interest piqued for long. I found myself looking at the progress bar to see when it would finally end. The only thing I really liked was the iconic “fake dating” trope I can’t get enough of.
20. ‘The Vicious Kind’ (2009)
Even the star-studded cast couldn’t help this movie. The Vicious Kind has a love triangle that shouldn’t have happened to begin with. One thing I actually liked was that a divided family started mending their differences towards the end of the film.
The movie focuses on Caleb, his brother Peter, and Peter’s girlfriend, Emma. While the trio is heading back to the brother’s home for Thanksgiving break, Caleb warns Peter that Emma might not be accepted. However, problems start when Caleb starts falling for Emma.
19. ‘The Ice Storm’ (1997)
Set in 1973 over Thanksgiving weekend, the movie follows the Hoods and the Carvers, neighboring families. The family’s lives have always been intertwined, but it got a whole lot worse during this holiday. They deal with social changes and various personal problems.
A lot was shoved into the movie, and a few storylines could have been cut out to make it a bit more interesting. The cast is excellent and includes iconic faces like Kevin Kline, Christina Ricci, Tobey Maguire, Sigourney Weaver, Elijah Wood, and Katie Holmes.
18. ‘A Family Thanksgiving’ (2010)
This is your typical Hallmark movie. The only difference: it’s Thanksgiving and not Christmas. I didn’t have high hopes for liking this one, and I’m glad I didn’t. A Family Thanksgiving might have had a nice message, but the story itself wasn’t enough to bring the tears like other Hallmark films.
The movie follows Claudia, a high-powered corporate attorney, as she is sucked into an alternate reality to see how her life would have turned out if she’d made different choices. When she returns to her life, she has a new perspective on what she can be thankful for and what matters to her.
17. ‘The Turkey Bowl’ (2019)
The Turkey Bowl sees a 30-something man as his high school friends drag him back to his hometown on Thanksgiving to finish a legendary game. The Turkey Bowl is a football game against their high school crosstown rivals that was snowed out 15 years prior.
This was like Grown-Ups meets Thanksgiving. I honestly enjoyed the movie, but I wouldn’t watch it again unless I completely lost all memory of it. I honestly only watched it because of one cast member: Alan Ritchson, who played Gloss in Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
16. ‘Paul Blart: Mall Cop’ (2009)
I know, I know. This isn’t technically a Thanksgiving movie, but it takes place on Black Friday, so it counts. It is one of my favorites, but I will admit it’s not the best movie ever. Kevin James does such a great job in it, and the rest of the cast backs him up even better.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop follows Paul Blart, a mall security guard with his trusty Segway, as he saves his mall from a gang of organized criminals planning a Black Friday heist. It combines perfect comedic timing with tons of physical comedy bits to bring a classic film I could watch every year.
15. ‘Addams Family Values’ (1993)
Again, I know: not a Thanksgiving movie. But hear me out. The sequel to The Addams Family is set in summer, but Wednesday’s retelling of the original Thanksgiving is what made me put this on the list. Not to mention, it has a tight-knit family that we all want on Thanksgiving.
Addams Family Values sees Wednesday and Pugsley shipped off to Camp Chippewa while Fester Addams unknowingly marries a serial killer who’s after his inheritance. It’s full of dark humor and one of my favorite scenes from the 1990s: Wednesday setting fire to the camp stage.
14. ‘Turkey Hollow’ (2015)
Turkey Hollow tells the story of two children, Annie and Tim, searching for the legendary Howling Hoodoo while saving their Aunt Cly’s farm from her scheming neighbor. The movie features Jim Henson’s trademark animatronics, which you might recognize from The Dark Crystal and Dinosaurs.
The movie was cute, but it’s definitely made for children and not adults. Something that shocked me when I watched it was that Ludacris narrated it. I wasn’t expecting that at all. The cast was also new to me, but they did a great job making it believable.
13. ‘The Myth of Fingerprints’ (1997)
I honestly only watched this movie for Julianne Moore. And she did great. In fact, the whole cast did. The writing was also okay; it just wasn’t something I’d like to watch again for a few years. Maybe when I’m feeling down about myself, I’ll find it again.
The Myth of Fingerprints tells the story of a dysfunctional family who comes together for the first time in three years to celebrate Thanksgiving. Their past almost immediately comes back to haunt them. What follows is explorations of each family member and why they aren’t close anymore.
12. ‘Free Birds’ (2013)
Free Birds follows two turkeys who travel back in time to save all turkey-kind from being Thanksgiving dinner each year. Reggie is a “pardoned” turkey who is enjoying his time of relaxation. Jake, a member of the Turkey Freedom Front, grabs Reggie, and together, they travel to the first Thanksgiving.
You couldn’t expect anything less from an Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson movie. Amy Poehler and George Takei also starred in the film. It was enjoyable for my younger family members and me a few years back. And it was just as funny when I rewatched it earlier this month.
11. ‘Pieces of April’ (2003)
I didn’t know how I felt about Pieces of April when I first found it, but it was surprisingly heartwarming. It has its funny moments, emotional moments, and you never know what’s going to happen next. You can also tell it was made in the early 2000s just based on April’s shirt alone.
Katie Holmes portrays April, a girl who decides to make a Thanksgiving meal for her dying mother and extended family. Pieces of April follows both April as she prepares the meal and her family as they decide whether it’s a good idea or not.
10. ‘What’s Cooking?’ (2000)
What’s Cooking? follows four diverse families – Vietnamese, Latino, Jewish, and African American – as they gather for a traditional meal. But, as with all families, there are some personal problems mixed in with the traditional recipes.
I didn’t immediately recognize any other actors until Kyra Sedgwick showed up. Regardless, I immediately fell in love with all of the characters. The cast did a great job, and it felt like I was really watching someone’s family getting ready for the holidays.
9. ‘Hollidaysburg’ (2014)
This movie was created as part of the Starz reality show, The Chair, and went against Shane Dawson’s Not Cool. Each team was given the same budget, screenplay, time constraints, and filming location. While Dawson leaned more into comedy, Hollidaysburg underwent rewrites and was described as arthouse and Hallmark-y. It definitely should have won the competition.
Not to be confused with the town, Hollidaysburg is a movie that follows five friends returning home for Thanksgiving break during their first college semester. Tori deals with the awkwardness of being home and a broken friendship with Katie. Scott and Heather break up, leading to Tori and Scott building their friendship.
8. ‘Garfield’s Thanksgiving’ (1989)
We’ve finally gotten to the first classic on this list. Garfield’s Thanksgiving sees Garfield on a low-fat, low-carb diet after his vet tells him he is overweight. Even worse for Garfield, Jon asks the vet on a date and attempts to make a turkey Garfield cannot touch.
You already know anything with Garfield in it is going to be funny, so it’s no surprise why this is ranked so high. My favorite scene from the short film is when Odie is put on a diet after eating too much of Jon’s food. Garfield is shown taunting Odie as Odie did earlier to Garfield.
7. ‘An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving’ (2008)
Thanksgiving is really about coming together and being thankful for what we have. And this movie shows that no matter what time period you’re in or what your financial circumstance is, you can have a lovely holiday with your family.
A widowed mother and her three children are dealing with not being able to afford a Thanksgiving turkey. However, when the mother’s mother shows up, thinking they’re worse off than they are, things get dicey, and the women butt heads constantly.
6. ‘Home for the Holidays’ (1995)
Home for the Holidays follows Claudia Larson, a down-on-her-luck Chicago woman who decides to spend Thanksgiving in Baltimore with her parents. However, her only daughter, Kitt, stays in Chicago to spend the holiday with her boyfriend.
The movie shows how Claudia deals with the consequences of her actions, like kissing her boss, while also dealing with her daughter growing up and starting to live her own life. The cast is also super talented, with Robert Downey, Jr., Dylan McDermott, and Claire Danes starring.
5. ‘Hannah and Her Sisters’ (1986)
This has quickly become one of my favorite movies. It has a similar structure to Fanny and Alexander, showing three Thanksgiving gatherings over three years. The first celebration focuses on contentment, the second on troubles, and the third on resolving the problems.
Hannah’s husband starts an affair with Hannah’s sister, Lee, but that ends around the second Thanksgiving. Hannah’s ex-husband, Mickey, is dealing with an existential crisis. And Holly, Hannah’s other sister, is struggling with following her dreams. In the end, it all works out for the family.
4. ‘Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving’ (1999)
Seasons of Giving is a compilation of three holiday-themed stories starring the Hundred Acre Woods inhabitants. In addition to its Thanksgiving short, we have Groundpiglet Day, which is a Groundhog Day story, and Find Her, Keep Her, which is based around friends coming together for Christmas.
The Thanksgiving-inspired tale is A Winnie the Pooh Thanksgiving. It follows Pooh, Rabbit, Owl, Piglet, and their friends as they try to prepare a Thanksgiving feast. In the end, they learn what Thanksgiving truly means: spending time with loved ones.
3. ‘Scent of a Woman’ (1992)
Al Pacino stars in this lovely remake of the Italian film Profumo di donna. Both films were based on Giovanni Arpino’s novel Il buio e il miele, translated to English as Darkness and Honey. Chris O’Donnell also stars, and Philip Seymour Hoffman appears throughout the film.
Charlie Simms, a preparatory school student, takes on the job as an assistant to grumpy, blind, and medically-retired Army lieutenant colonel Frank Slade. The film follows the duo over Thanksgiving weekend, seeing Charlie save Frank’s life and Frank save Charlie’s future.
2. ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ (1987)
Planes, Trains and Automobiles tells the story of a marketing executive, played by Steve Martin, as he tries to get home to his wife for Thanksgiving. However, his traveling partner, a shower ring salesman, played by John Candy, isn’t making it easy.
It is R-rated, so skip to number one for a kid-friendly flick. The entire movie takes place over three days and manages to keep the pacing just right. John Hughes did a great job in one of his departures from teen comedies.
1. ‘A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’ (2003)
Call me biased, but Charlie Brown will almost always be number one on any list it’s on. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is the third holiday special from the franchise, right behind A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving sees Charlie Brown attempting to prepare a Thanksgiving meal with Linus, Snoopy, and Woodstock. But things don’t exactly go as planned. Linus also tells the story of the first Thanksgiving, and we get to see Woodstock and Snoopy break a wishbone together.