Ten Of The Best Thanksgiving Movies

These are ten of the best movies for watching at Thanksgiving due to their themes and general entertainment levels.

Brendan Doyleby Brendan Doyle
Image: United Feature Syndicate/Universal Uclick

Thanksgiving is a time of simple gratitude. It’s all about gathering your friends and family around, showing appreciation for what you have, stuffing your face with way too much food with a fall theme, and trying really hard to ignore the uncomfortable colonial genocidal overtones that the celebration implies. What could be better at a gathering like that than a good movie to bring it all together? For those that believe the answer to be, “not much tbh” the following list contains information on the top ten movies for the Thanksgiving season:

10. ThanksKilling

Word to the wise- this one’s not for the kiddos. Make sure the little ones are conked out after turkey time or off in another room playing out of earshot, because this Thanksgiving movie is not for the faint of heart, as the title might suggest. ThanksKilling is a low budget sendup of B-movie slasher films featuring a killer turkey named Turkie, and truth be told it’s probably not even appropriate for most adults, let alone the tykes in the family. Nudity, swearing, violence, and all sorts of other vulgarities await viewers of this film, which may turn some off to the entire concept. For fans of the parody exploitation genre, however, this one might be right up your turkey baster, and it’s definitely good for a few crude laughs with like-minded friends.

Plus, if you enjoy the original, there’s a sequel somewhat confusingly titled ThanksKilling 3, so you’re free to make the two of them into a dirty double feature for the freaks in the family.

9. The Game

Taking things for granted and being alone is like, the exact polar opposite of what Thanksgiving is all about. That’s why it’s called Thanksgiving, and not Takingthingsforgrantedgiving. So of course, it might seem peculiar that the main character of the game, a certain rich and powerful Nicholas Van Orton (played capably by a certain Michael Douglas) is so darn full of himself and unappreciative of everyone else. He really thinks he’s great, and because of that, he’s determined to spend as much time alone in his huge mansion with his big money as possible. He dreads talking to his ex-wife who has left him because of this habit, and he mostly refuses to see even his own brother.

The Thanksgiving part comes in when this all changes. Van Orton receives a mysterious birthday gift leading him to an organization that is supposedly going to allow him to play the best game ever invented. He’s pretty sure it’s BS, but he goes anyway. At first, it seems like nothing is going to happen, but the game in question rapidly begins to invade his daily life and even the inside of his home, until it becomes unclear who is part of the game and how far the conspiracy behind it goes. The goal of the game? To search for clues and to find out for himself just what the heck is going on. Along the way, he’ll probably learn some things. Saying more would spoil the fun of this thriller, but suffice to say that a certain spin on the movie’s central concept at the end places this one directly in ‘Thanksgiving appropriate’ territory.

Or you could just watch the Saw series and be thankful that you still have all your limbs at the end, but The Game seemed like it had a little more depth to it than that.

8. Addams Family Values

America’s favorite weirdos are back in the sequel to the movie based partially on the book adaption based on the sitcom based on the cartoon, and they’re stranger than ever. When the Addams parents hire a nanny to take care of their new baby, it turns out that she’s actually a serial killer who has her eyes set on the family fortune. This might not seem like the traditional Thanksgiving plot, and that’s because it’s not. But since when do you watch anything involving the Addams family expecting normal? Seriously, who even does that? What the film lacks in conventional Thanksgiving elements, it more than makes up for in peculiar but still heartwarming family… well, values. The Addams clan is bizarre but loving, and their unusual bond with one another is matched only by their adoration for the macabre.

Plus, there’s a scene with Wednesday Addams in a Thanksgiving Day play at summer camp, and she absolutely brings down the house with her fiery performance. That’s one scene that needs to be seen to be believed.

7. Matilda

We’ve been over the fact that family is important on Thanksgiving already, but what happens when your family is pretty much the epitome of awful? Well, that’s what Matilda needs to figure out. Based on the Roald Dahl novel of the same name, Matilda is a movie about an incredibly intelligent girl living in an incredibly abusive home and with an incredibly abusive principle. In order to rise above and shine to her fullest potential, she’ll need the help of friends from school and just a pinch of psychic powers. Oh, did I mention she has those? She does. Ultimately, the movie ends up pointing out that family isn’t just about blood; it’s about really caring about one another, and because of this family can come from anywhere. If that’s not a sweet message for a Thanksgiving gathering, then I’m not sure what is, and it certainly helps that the film will hold the attention of children and adults alike.

6. The Incredibles

Thanksgiving is all about being with family, and it doesn’t get a whole lot more family than an entire home full of crime fighters using superpowers to take down a crazed super genius out for petty vengeance. Enter, The Incredibles. This movie made a huge splash when it released in 2004 (wow I feel old) and currently has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 97%. For those who aren’t aware, that’s really freaking good. What’s more, the film delivers its message about appreciating the importance of familial love without being preachy about it, making for a work that is both exceptionally entertaining and wholesome all the same.

Plus, with the sequel coming (finally!) in 2018, it might be a good idea to refresh your memory on what happened in the original at the end of the year. It’s one of those movies that can be watched over and over again without getting boring, so you really can’t go wrong with this.

5. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

It’s possible that this might actually be too short to be considered a full movie. It’s more like a special short film, in all actuality. It’s also an animated classic though, which probably makes up for that. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is one of those cartoons that can and likely should be watched every year just to appreciate the tradition of watching it. Scenes of Snoopy getting into a scrap with a folding chair and Charlie Brown handing out jelly beans at the dinner table don’t get old, and the low time investment means that this one can be viewed as something of a short akin to those played at theaters prior to the main feature.

4. Grumpy Old Men

Not exactly a name you’d expect a Thanksgiving movie to have, but there you have it. In this one, a couple of old frenemies end up at each other’s throats over their new neighbor’s hand in marriage. The film is a comedy with some dark tones to it, but in the end, it’s about real friendship’s persistence even through adversity, which makes it good for the Thanksgiving season. Plus there’s a scene with the holiday dinner itself, which gives it bonus points in that category.

As a bonus, there’s a not-as-good-but-still-decent sequel, so you could watch that too.

3. Plains, Trains, and Automobiles

Steve Martin is a funny guy, and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is a funny movie, but it’s got heart too. When an uppity marketing executive (Martin as Neal Page) is tasked with getting home for Thanksgiving with the help of an outgoing-but-awkward curtain ring salesman, things go beyond awry and it starts to look like they’ll never make it in time. Throughout this series of misadventures, however, Neal learns a lot about what’s important, and he even makes a new friend. The concept is a formula as old as time, but this classic comedy is still one of those movies that has earned its place at the Thanksgiving dinner table through its sheer charm.

2. Pieces of April

Pieces of April is about a young and wild woman played by Katie Holmes who has reluctantly invited her much more serious family over for Thanksgiving dinner in order to spend it with her mother, who is dying of breast cancer and likely won’t live to see another holiday season. She realizes that her oven isn’t working and so she is forced to turn to her strange neighbors for help, which leads to a series of odd yet touching encounters in which she makes new friends and starts to figure out why having her family around for a dinner is so important to her in the first place. Subplots include the family’s trip out to see April from their perspective and April’s boyfriend’s attempt to find a suit for the dinner so that he can make a good impression on her family. All this comes together in the end for a lesser known but still sweet take on the turkey dinner.

1. Forrest Gump

Life is like a box of chocolates because you never know what you’re going to get, and Thanksgiving is all about accepting those chocolates with gratitude regardless of what ends up being in there. That’s Forrest Gump in a nutshell, really. Besides being an incredibly sweet, simple guy, Tom Hanks’ character reminds us all that life can be crazy and it’s our job to make the most of the adventure no matter what. Though the film itself doesn’t focus on Thanksgiving specifically as a holiday in any way, it might just be one of the most thematically fitting classics in movie history to watch over some turkey and taters.