Thanksgiving may not be what first comes to mind when people think of holiday-themed movies, but there are quite a few films that have tackled the fall holiday over the years. Here are 10 Thanksgiving movies that you can stream at home.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
This beloved Peanuts special has been a staple of broadcast and cable TV since it premiered on CBS in 1973, and as of 2020, it’s streaming on Apple TV+ exclusively. It features some classic “good grief!” moments for hapless kid Charlie Brown, including once again having a football snatched away by his friend Lucy just as he’s about to kick it.
Charlie Brown also puts together a ramshackle backyard Thanksgiving dinner for his friends (plus dog Snoopy and his bird sidekick Woodstock), before everyone ends up with a more traditional Thanksgiving at his grandmother’s house, for a heartwarming holiday celebration.
How do turkeys feel about Thanksgiving? The turkey main characters in this animated movie are not fans of the holiday when millions of Americans eat turkey dinner, so they use a time machine to travel back to the first Thanksgiving in 1621 to stop turkeys from becoming the Thanksgiving meal of choice. It’s a silly premise with some noble messages about respecting animals, along with plenty of goofy antics and bright colors to keep kids entertained.
This comedy starring Malin Akerman and Kat Dennings is 2020’s contribution to the Thanksgiving canon, taking on the modern tradition of holiday gatherings that are more about friends than family. Comedy all-stars Aisha Tyler, Chelsea Peretti, Wanda Sykes, and Margaret Cho also appear in this story of two best friends whose plans to have a quiet Thanksgiving together quickly balloon into a raucous house party.
Home for the Holidays
Jodie Foster directed this dramedy about the various mishaps that befall a single mother (Holly Hunter) and her family when she goes home for Thanksgiving. It was a minor commercial disappointment when it was released in 1995, but it’s since become a holiday favorite, thanks to a powerhouse cast (including Robert Downey Jr., Claire Danes, Anne Bancroft, and Dylan McDermott), plus Foster’s careful handling of sensitive family issues.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Filmmaker John Hughes was the king of the teen comedies in the 1980s, before dominating family movies like the Home Alone and Beethoven franchises in the 1990s. But he did make a handful of movies aimed at an adult audience, including this energetic showcase for Steve Martin and John Candy as polar-opposite travelers who end up stuck with each other over a harrowing trip to get home for Thanksgiving. Martin’s uptight Neal and Candy’s gregarious Del get on each other’s nerves in hilarious ways, eventually coming together in the spirit of the holiday.
The House of Yes
Bringing a significant other home to the family for the first time at Thanksgiving is tough enough, but what if your mentally disturbed sister thinks she’s Jackie Kennedy and is determined to break up your relationship? That’s what happens in this black comedy based on an acclaimed stage play.
Parker Posey makes quite an impression as “Jackie O,” and the film deals with themes of murder and mental illness in a darkly funny way. It’s certainly not your typical holiday celebration.
The House of Yes is streaming on CBS All Access ($5.99+ per month after a seven-day trial) and available for digital purchase ($9.99) and rental ($3.99) at iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, and other outlets.
Family Thanksgiving can get pretty intense, as captured in this acclaimed indie drama from writer-director Trey Edward Shults. Shults cast his own aunt, Krisha Fairchild, as the title character, an unstable alcoholic who barges into her estranged sister’s Thanksgiving gathering and wreaks havoc after insisting on cooking dinner herself.
The woozy, chaotic filmmaking style reflects the main character’s troubled internal state, and also the way that the day gradually spirals out of control for the entire family.
If you think arguing about politics with your family over Thanksgiving dinner is bad, you have nothing on the family in this dark comedy from writer/director/star Ike Barinholtz. Barinholtz and Tiffany Haddish play a couple headed to Thanksgiving dinner in a near-future world where every American is strongly encouraged to sign a document pledging loyalty to the U.S.
The fights over the oath (which is clearly not actually optional) spiral increasingly out of control, in violent and morbidly funny ways. It’ll make you feel better about disagreeing with that one uncle you only see once a year.
Pieces of April
Katie Holmes plays the title character, a rebellious young woman living in a rundown New York City apartment with her boyfriend (Derek Luke). She’s not the typical Thanksgiving host, but she’s determined to prepare a suitable meal for her family, including her terminally ill mother (Patricia Clarkson), who’ve agreed to visit even though April has previously kept her distance. It’s a simple story of family reconciliation, marked by tears of both sadness and joy.
Son in Law
It may be hard to believe now, but there was a time when Pauly Shore was one of the biggest stars at the box office. This goofy comedy, about a laid-back California dude who is quite out of place when he joins his girlfriend for Thanksgiving at her family’s South Dakota farm, may represent the height of Shore’s comedic talent. With Carla Gugino as the college student trying to convince her family that she hasn’t changed, Son in Law is an endearing spotlight for the talents of the Weasel himself.
Son in Law is streaming for free on Hoopla via many local libraries.