The 7 Greatest Thanksgiving Movies Of All-Time, According To Experts

Thanksgiving is a time for gathering with loved ones, expressing gratitude, and indulging in delicious food. But in addition to these traditional festivities, many people also enjoy watching movies that capture the spirit of the holiday. From heartwarming family dramas to hilarious comedies, there is a wide array of Thanksgiving-themed films that can enhance the joy and warmth of the season. This is why today we will explore some of the best Thanksgiving movies that have become beloved classics, each offering its own unique perspective on the holiday and reminding us of the importance of love, family, and friendship. 

Even outside of the holiday season, some people just aren’t in the mood for a good scare or an action-packed journey as heroes save the world. Sometimes, TV viewers just want a light-hearted, feel-good movie to cap off the day. Now, a new study is revealing which factors make feel-good movies so appealing. They say a combination of humor, happy endings, and light-hearted moods makes the genre attractive to moviegoers.

Many of us enjoy sitting down to watch a good film because of the way movies can make us feel. A new study even shows movies can offer a chance to connect with and explore our emotions in a safe way. Because of the effect that films can have, there’s growing interest in using them as a therapeutic tool. Although this field is still very new, the review of the research so far shows that film therapy can be effective at helping people process difficult emotions – which may help improve mental health. So, the next time you sit down to watch a movie, think about how you can make the most of the experience. Applying film therapy methods may help you engage more mindfully with what you’re watching and may help you learn new things about yourself as a result.

Luckily, some classic feel-good movies can be found on the list below. As always, we at StudyFinds have researched across multiple expert sources to bring you today’s list of the top seven best Thanksgiving movies for this holiday season. Don’t agree with our list or feel we missed out on your favorite? No worries, we would love to hear from you in the comments down below. 

brown wooden board
Thankful (Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash)

The List: Best Thanksgiving Movies Of All-Time, Per Experts

1. “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” (1973)

“A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” is a heartwarming animated television special that captures the essence of friendship, gratitude, and the joy of coming together during the holiday season. Created by Charles M. Schulz, “When Charlie Brown attempts to prepare a Thanksgiving meal with the help of Linus, Snoopy, and Woodstock, things do not go exactly as planned. This 1973 animated classic will remind your family of the true meaning of Thanksgiving,” says Parade.

"A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" (1973)
“A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” (1973)

“This 25-minute animated classic follows the Turkey Day traditions and festivities of Charlie Brown and the Peanuts crew. You might think it’s just for the kids, but good luck resisting its charms,” raves Harper’s Bazaar.

“This animated film tugs on our heartstrings the way only a true classic can. Watch Charlie Brown learn the meaning of Thanksgiving alongside the motley crew that is the beloved Peanuts gang. Jimmy Ahrens, Todd Barbee, and Christopher DeFaria star with Bill Melendez and Phil Roman as co-directors,” notes Pure Wow.

2. “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” (1987)

“Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” is a classic comedy film directed by John Hughes. Released in 1987, this heartwarming tale follows the misadventures of two unlikely travel companions. “Travel stress is nobody’s favorite part of Thanksgiving, but watching Steve Martin and John Candy as an odd-couple duo of hapless travelers trying desperately to get home for Turkey Day will help you laugh off your own struggles,” writes Town and Country.

"Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" (1987)
“Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” (1987)

“In real-life America, Thanksgiving is a day of feasting, football, and friends and/or family. In the movies, however, the holiday is often presented as a painful obligation, one where long-simmering tensions frequently boil over at the dinner table. It’s for that reason that ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ persists as the only Thanksgiving movie most families actually want to watch around Thanksgiving,” states Time Out.

“When I was growing up, my whole family—parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles—would gather ’round as we ate our pumpkin pie to watch Steve Martin and John Candy’s road-trip comedy ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles.’ Though we’ve since dropped the tradition, I highly recommend adding it to your queue. But warning: It might feel a little too real for anyone who’s had to travel during the holidays. When it comes to classic Thanksgiving movies, it doesn’t get much better than this,” adds Glamour.

3. “Addams Family Values” (1993)

“Addams Family Values” is a sequel to the 1991 film “The Addams Family” and was released in 1993. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, “‘Addams Family Values’ is one of the rare wholly successful sequels. In fact, EW’s critic called it ‘Wittier and more consistent than the first Addams Family movie… it’s much better at getting the Addamses out into the straight world, where they can really do some damage.’ The film mostly focuses on new (and mustached) baby Pubert Addams and his duplicitous nanny, Debbie (a fiendish Joan Cusack), who sets her gold-digging sights on Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd),” explains EW.

"Addams Family Values" (1993)
“Addams Family Values” (1993)

“While not a traditional Thanksgiving movie, this one does have one of the most memorable Thanksgiving scenes in any film. The ‘Addams Family Values’ catches up with the titular (and iconic) family as they welcome a new child and try to balance family life with a new nanny. In this film, there is one of the most fantastic Thanksgiving scenes,” comments Collider.

“The film takes place in summer (and Charles Addams’s macabre family brings vibes closer to Halloween), but this sequel to Barry Sonnenfeld’s well-loved ’90s reboot earns its place in the Thanksgiving canon thanks to its most memorable sequence. Stuck in a WASP-y summer camp, Christina Ricci’s Wednesday is forced to act in a strangely timed Thanksgiving pageant. Yet instead of breaking bread with pilgrims, her Pocahontas stages a scene of righteous retribution, sending pilgrim limbs flying and stage blood gushing during a massacre that would do Tarantino proud. The sequence also includes Pugsley delivering the line: ‘I am a turkey, kill me’ while dressed as a bird during a twisted musical number,” describes Time Out.

4. “Garfield Thanksgiving” (1989)

“Garfield Thanksgiving” is a heartwarming and hilarious holiday special that captures the essence of Thanksgiving in the most Garfield-esque way possible. This beloved animated film takes viewers on a delightful journey filled with laughter, friendship, and, of course, a whole lot of food. “Who doesn’t have half an hour to get reacquainted with the orange fur ball you grew up watching? Just one of several holiday specials starring the lazy cat voiced by Bill Murray and his yellow-dog sidekick, ‘Garfield’s Thanksgiving’ is one part nostalgia, one part comedy, and entirely necessary in your seasonal movie lineup,” reports Oprah Daily.

"Garfield Thanksgiving" (1989)
“Garfield Thanksgiving” (1989)

“Garfield is one of the most relatable cartoon characters because he never wants to stop eating! This makes sense because one of his favorite holidays is Thanksgiving. Throw this kid-friendly option on before or after you had your Thanksgiving feast, and it’s sure to set the tone,” raves The Pioneer Woman.

“In this 1989 special, Garfield faces a Thanksgiving crisis when the vet tells him he’s overweight and forces him to go on a low-fat, low-carb diet. And when Jon asks the vet on a date and attempts to cook her a turkey, Thanksgiving kitchen disasters ensue,” says Parade.

5. “Tower Heist” (2011)

“Tower Heist” is a thrilling action-comedy film that was released in 2011. The movie stars an impressive ensemble cast partnered with its fast-paced plot and clever humor. “Nothing like a little humor and action to lull you out of a tryptophan coma. Enter: Rush Hour’s Brett Ratner, who directs this New York City-set heist flick,” states Harper’s Bazaar.

"Tower Heist" (2011)
“Tower Heist” (2011)

“Josh (Ben Stiller) is the manager of a high-class apartment complex. When one of his residents steals part of his retirement fund, he’s determined to seek revenge by plotting a heist in the days leading up to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,” explains Pure Wow.

Eddie Murphy, Ben Stiller, Matthew Broderick, and Gabby Sidibe join forces for a Brett Ratner holiday heist. Their goal: to rob the wealthy hotel owner (Alan Alda), who ripped them off with his self-serving Ponzi scheme. There’s a game plan made out of Legos, a fake Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, and plenty of Murphy zingers to keep the entire family satisfied,” notes Oprah Daily.

6. “You’ve Got Mail” (1998)

“You’ve Got Mail” is a romantic comedy film directed by Nora Ephron and released in 1998. Set in New York City, the movie explores the charm of anonymous online communication in the early days of the internet. “When booksellers Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) and Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) meet in an anonymous chat room, they quickly fall into an e-romance. Little do they know they actually know each other—as business rivals, no less. Join in on both Kathleen and Joe’s Thanksgiving celebrations, both of which feature a little song and dance, in this classic rom-com,” explains Harper’s Bazaar.

"You've Got Mail" (1998)
“You’ve Got Mail” (1998)

“While the whole movie has great foliage scenes and a crisp, autumnal vibe, the scene where Joe rushes to the front of Zabar’s cash-only line to vainly save a work enemy (or so he thinks…), actually happens on Thanksgiving Day,” comments Town and Country.

“There’s not one, but two Thanksgiving scenes in one of our all-time favorite rom-coms. This is Nora Ephron at her best and the perfect picture of a moment in time (the late ‘90s). The ensemble cast includes Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Jean Stapleton, Heather Burns, and Dave Chappelle. Remember the ‘You’ve got mail’ notifications? Were we ever so young,” questions Pure Wow.

7. “Krisha” (2015)

“Krisha” is a critically acclaimed film that delves into the complexities of family dynamics and the struggles of addiction. Directed by Trey Edward Shults, “This film follows a woman who, on Thanksgiving, returns to the family she abandoned — which makes for a tense holiday, to say the least. The film won the Grand Jury and Audience Awards at the 2015 South-by-Southwest Film Festival,” states Good Housekeeping.

"Krisha" (2015)
“Krisha” (2015)

“There are stressful Thanksgiving dinners; then there’s the feast at the center of indie powerhouse ‘Krisha,’ the story of a family gathering completely disrupted by the return of an estranged aunt. We won’t reveal exactly how this grounded, gut-wrenching, and semi-autobiographical film frays the nerves with such efficiency, but suffice it to say that the family dinner at its center somehow makes director Trey Edward Shults’s harrowing follow-up, ‘It Comes At Night,’ seem welcoming… and that movie was an apocalyptic horror film, not a family drama set on Turkey Day,” adds Time Out.

“No matter how tense your Thanksgiving gets, short of bloodshed, there’s no way it can be as terrifying as ‘Krisha,’ a fascinating character study that turns the holiday into a horror movie. The title character (played by Krisha Fairchild) is a 60-something woman who is returning to celebrate and cook Thanksgiving dinner with her family after several estranged years. But, as the jarring score is quick to inform you, something is very wrong with this picture,” concludes EW.

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

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About the Author

Jilly Hite

New York raised and Florida-based Jilly Hite studied screenwriting and theatre at The Lee Strasberg Institute before becoming a full time content creator and podcaster. She loves old movies, musical theatre, and her pup Ted.

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Comments

  1. You missed a really good Thanksgiving movie you probably have no awareness of. An absolute classic is Alice’s Restaurant, done in 1969 and featuring Arlo Guthrie. You should check it out.

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