Yes, it’s around Thanksgiving that Hallmark and Lifetime start to release holiday movie after holiday movie, but don’t skip out on the dozens of Thanksgiving big-screen and TV movies available to watch.
A quick search will bring up movies for children, those looking to laugh and those who don’t mind a little drama alongside their turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole.
Read on for rundowns of 10 Thanksgiving films, plus an honorable mention – all great to watch with family either safely in person or virtually.
“A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”
Of course I had to kick off the list with this 1973 classic. In the special, Charlie Brown finds himself in charge of hosting Thanksgiving dinner for his friends despite his lack of culinary skills, leading to a buffet of toasts, pretzels, popcorn, jelly beans and ice cream. Beginning this year, this special and the rest of the “Peanuts” library will be shown exclusively on Apple TV+, though as part of the deal, Apple TV+ must provide a three-day window, Nov. 25-27, during which “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” is free to view.
“Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow”
For Thanksgiving, a recently divorced father (Jay Harrington) takes his children, Tim (Graham Verchere) and Annie (Genevieve Buechner), to Turkey Hollow, home of his eccentric aunt played by Mary Steenburgen. There, Tim and Annie get caught up in the hunt for the 10-foot Howling Hoodoo and a plot by a scheming neighbor (Linden Banks) to take over their aunt’s farm. A quartet of Henson puppets round out the cast.
“Arlo Guthrie: Alice’s Restaurant 50th Anniversary Concert”
If part of your Thanksgiving tradition involves listening to Arlo Guthrie’s 18-minute-long “Alice’s Restaurant,” the title track of his debut album, consider adding the film adaptation, which was released in 1969, to the evening. The film follows the song’s narrative fairly closely, with Guthrie starring as himself. It all starts with a post-Thanksgiving dinner trip to the town dump. Things go awry from there. The film was nominated for an Academy Award, a Writers Guild of America Award and a BAFTA.
In this 2013 animated film, two turkeys (voiced by Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson) are on a mission to travel back in time to prevent turkeys from becoming part of Thanksgiving. Amy Poehler, George Takei, Colm Meaney and Keith David also lend their voices to the film.
The day before Thanksgiving, Jon Arbuckle (Thom Huge) takes Garfield (Lorenzo Music) to the vet, who declares the cat needs to be put on a diet. How will Garfield get his fill of Thanksgiving dinner when Jon and Odie (Gregg Berger) are watching his every step? “Garfield’s Thanksgiving,” released in 1989, was nominated for an Emmy for outstanding animated program.
“You’ve Got Mail”
No, this isn’t a Thanksgiving movie, per se, but it does feature a Thanksgiving grocery shopping scene during which Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) swoops in and saves the day when Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) finds herself in a cash-only line with nothing but a credit card. Unbeknownst to Fox and Kelly, the pair, rivals in real life, have been developing a relationship online. The film was inspired by the Hungarian play “Parfumerie,” which also inspired the films “The Shop Around the Corner” and “In the Good Old Summertime.”
“Addams Family Values”
OK, this definitely isn’t a Thanksgiving movie, but who can forget the Thanksgiving play Wednesday (Christina Ricci), Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) and the other outcast campers take over during summer camp? Remind me: Does the capturing of camp counselors (Peter MacNicol and Christine Baranski) and a snobby camper (Mercedes McNab) and setting the camp on fire come before or after you break the wishbone? If you’re still bummed about this year’s abbreviated Halloween, you might consider watching this film as a way to extend the spooky season just a little longer.
“Planes, Trains and Automobiles”
It’s not recommended to travel for Thanksgiving this year, so stay home and let Steve Martin and John Candy do the traveling for you. In this 1987 John Hughes film, Neal Page (Martin) is trying to get from New York to Chicago in time for Thanksgiving. For one reason or another, he can’t shake shower curtain ring salesman Del Griffith (Candy). Traveling via planes, trains and automobiles, including a milk truck, the pair fight through misadventure after misadventure to make it home for Thanksgiving dinner.
Four ethnically diverse families – Vietnamese, Latino, Jewish and African American – gather on Thanksgiving to share four versions of Thanksgiving dinner, with the film jumping from one family to the next. The one thing all four families have in common is stress – about dinner, family members and the future. The film stars, among many others, Kyra Sedgwick, Alfre Woodard, Mercedes Ruehl, Dennis Haysbert, Joan Chen, Estelle Harris, Julianna Margulies and François Chau.
“Miracle on 34th Street”
If “Addams Family Values” helps you transition between Halloween and Thanksgiving, “Miracle on 34th Street” will help you transition between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The 1947 classic kicks off with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and follows Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn), a Macy’s Santa Claus who claims to be the real deal. The film won three Academy Awards, including one for Gwenn for best actor in a supporting role.
Honorable mention: “Home for the Holidays”
The tagline for director Jodie Foster’s 1995 film reads, “On the fourth Thursday in November, 84 million American families will gather today … and wonder why.” Any dysfunctional family – in other words, everyone – will relate in some way to this movie with comedy, drama and romance starring Holly Hunter, Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, Robert Downey Jr. and Dylan McDermott.
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