Turkey Day Round-Up! Best-Of Holiday Movies

One of the best things about Thanksgiving is it’s one of the only holidays where you don’t have to buy a gift for people – unless you consider buying some food for Thanksgiving dinner a “gift”.  However, one of the worst things about Thanksgiving is it’s one of the only holidays where you eat dinner with the relatives you try to avoid most of the time.  So, if you want a little time where you don’t have to speak to the relatives, here are the Thanksgiving movies I recommend.  

Note that there aren’t many movies on this list because when I was researching Thanksgiving movies, I found a lot of movies that only have a single scene of people having Thanksgiving dinner.  For the movies where Thanksgiving is the main theme, almost all the movies are about a dysfunctional and/or estranged family or group of friends getting together for Thanksgiving dinner.  I usually avoid those types of movies, so those aren’t recommended.

Best Thanksgiving Comedy:

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987) – A advertising man (Steve Martin) and a shower curtain ring salesman (John Candy) have a lot of bad luck getting from New York City to Chicago in time for Thanksgiving dinner.

Written and directed by John Hughes.  For me, this is THE Thanksgiving movie.  I think it’s one of the best movies that Steve Martin, John Candy, and writer/director John Hughes have ever made.  This is the only Thanksgiving movie that I watch at least once every year.

For the whole family? – it’s rated R for adult language and adult subject matter but – except for one scene where a certain word is mentioned several times in a row – there’s only a little bit of adult content or language.  I think it’s suitable for anyone over 13.

Runner Up: 

Dutch (1991) – A blue collar construction worker (Ed O’Neill) volunteers to drive his girlfriend’s preppy son (Ethan Embry) home for Thanksgiving.  However, their trip doesn’t go as smoothly as he hoped.

This movie was also written by John Hughes, but he didn’t direct it.  Although the main theme is like “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” – people trying to get home for Thanksgiving – the storyline is vastly different.  

For the whole family? – It’s rated PG-13 for adult subject matter and some adult language but there’s only a few scenes such as a conversation about nude women on playing cards.

Best Thanksgiving Drama:

Scent of a Woman (1992) – A prep school student (Chris O’Donnell) needing some extra money agrees to “babysit” a blind man (Al Pacino) over Thanksgiving weekend.  He thinks he’ll just need to stay with him, but the man takes him on a trip to New York City.

Al Pacino won an Academy Award for this movie.  His somewhat famous “Hoo-ah” – which people often quote when mentioning Al Pacino – is from this movie.  The trip he and Chris O’Donnell take to New York City would be a dream vacation for a lot of people – staying at a nice hotel, having a nice dinner, dancing with a beautiful woman, driving a luxury car – except for the scene where they crash a Thanksgiving dinner.

For the whole family? – Rated R for adult language.  There’s also a lot of adult subject matter in this movie so it’s not suitable for children.

Runner Up:

The Ice Storm (1997) – A dysfunctional family is forced to stay in a house together over Thanksgiving weekend due to an ice storm outside.

One of the first movies Ang Lee directed and based on a bestselling book.  It’s about the Hood family who spend Thanksgiving weekend at home together due to an ice storm.  The Hood family is father Ben (Kevin Kline), mother Elena (Joan Allen), son Paul (Tobey Maguire), and daughter Wendy (Christina Ricci).  There’s also a good supporting cast including Sigourney Weaver and Elijah Wood.  Katie Holmes – in her very first role – has a very small part in the movie.

For the whole family? – NO!  Rated R for adult language, adult situations, and drug use.  Definitely a movie only for adults.

Best Thanksgiving Family movie:

Free Birds (2013) – Animated movie about two turkeys who try to change history and get Turkeys off the Thanksgiving menu.

This movie isn’t as funny as other animated movies from Pixar, Disney, or Dreamworks, but I recommend it because it has some funny moments and it’s the only animated movie that I know of that’s about Thanksgiving.

For the whole family? – It’s rated PG for some rude humor and some “peril”, but I think it’s appropriate for the whole family to watch.

Runner Up:

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1973) – Charlie Brown, Peppermint Patty, Linus, Snoopy, and Woodstock throw together their own Thanksgiving dinner.

This is the show people think of when they think of a family Thanksgiving movie.  The only reason why it’s not the recommended movie is because it’s not a movie.  It’s a 25-minute TV special.  However, it’s still a great show to watch with the whole family.

For the whole family? – Of course it is!

Honorable Mention:

Tower Heist (2011) – When the employees of a high-rise New York City tower lose all their retirement money to their wealthy tenant’s Ponzi scheme, they enlist a criminal to help them rob the high-rise residence.

If “Die Hard” is considered a Christmas movie because it happens on Christmas Eve, then this is a Thanksgiving movie because the Thanksgiving parade is part of one of the final scenes.  This is a funny action comedy with a great cast including Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Casey Affleck, Alan Alda, and Matthew Broderick.

For the whole family? – Rated PG-13 for adult language and adult content.  The theatrical version has some adult language and some adult conversations.  I think it’s OK for everyone except young children.  There’s also an “unrated” version on home video with a sex scene that is not suitable for most children.

Addams Family Values (1993) – There is one scene in this movie where Wednesday Addams is forced to be in a summer camp re-creation of the first Thanksgiving.  She makes a few changes to the story including having the turkeys sing “eat me” and the Indians – led by Wednesday Addams – revolt and burn down the pilgrim’s village.