Thanksgiving is here! For millions of Americans, that means it’s a day for family and friends, fantastic food, football, fun, and of course, feel-good films. Yes, Americans love the holiday season so much that watching countless movies about this time of the year is a must for many of us. There may be no better way to unwind after stuffing our bellies than by getting cozy on the couch and putting on some seasonal favorites. That said, with so many choices out there, you might be wondering which are the best Thanksgiving movies to add to the playlist.
Those playlists are getting quite large these days with so many streaming options available. One recent study found that the average person has 16 movies lined up on their streaming playlist, along with 13 TV shows — totaling a whopping 104 hours! It may be tough to add even more titles to the list, but there’s something to be said about enjoying the holiday spirit, especially with family. If anything, watching movies is one way to put any family bickering aside, at least for a couple hours.
Above all, feel-good movies evoke healthy emotions in viewers — they’re intended to do just that, make us feel good. “In addition to an element of humor and the classic happy ending, feel-good films can be identified by certain recurring plot patterns and characters,” explains Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics researcher Keyvan Sarkhosh, in a 2021 study on the appeal of feel-good movies. “Often these involve outsiders in search of true love, who have to prove themselves and fight against adverse circumstances, and who eventually find their role in the community.”
So, all that said, which movies make Americans feel good the most on Turkey Day?
StudyFinds set out to find the best Thanksgiving movies, according to expert reviews. To do so, we visited 10 “expert” websites to see which titles they recommend the most. Because there were so many options and suggestions, we used each site’s top 15 recommendations to come to the consensus top seven movies. We’ve also included five honorable mentions.
The List: Best Thanksgiving Movies, According To The Experts
1. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
In perhaps the most obvious choice on this list, the most recommended Thanksgiving movie is this classic family film starring Charlie Brown, Lucy, Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang.
“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,” writes Parade.
With plenty of laughs to go around, Town & Country magazine notes one of their favorite scenes involves Snoopy and Woodstock attempting to pull apart the turkey’s wishbone.
“This 25-minute 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,” adds PureWow.
2. Little Women (2019)
Older viewers may first think of the 1994 adaptation of the iconic book, which stars Winona Ryder, but it’s the 2019 version that made more “best Thanksgiving movie” lists.
“Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women has been adapted countless times before, but Greta Gerwig’s 2019 version captured the warmth and spontaneous laughter inherent to sisters, as these real-life families of four girls told us,” notes OprahDaily.com.
Experts agree that the importance of family shines in this movie, making it perfect for a Thanksgiving gathering.
“Little Women is not expressly a Thanksgiving movie, though so much of it takes place around the holidays and in the run-up to Christmas, and there are plenty of around-the-table scenes to give you that cozy feel — and make you feel thankful for your family,” says Good Housekeeping.
3. You’ve Got Mail
This movie inspired by America Online’s signature phrase likely makes the list of best rom-coms for many. Though it’s not exactly a movie specifically about Thanksgiving, who could possibly resist a modern-day love story starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan?
“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,” writes Town and Country Magazine.
4. Addams Family Values
You might think this is better suited for Halloween, but it turns out this sequel to the 1991 hit film landed on half of our experts’ lists for best Thanksgiving movies. Yes, get ready for a ghoulish take on Turkey Day.
“Dare we say the second chapter in the story of the creepy, kooky, and spooky brood is better than the first? We dare, and we do. And it’s thanks in no small part to Wednesday Addams’s stone-cold performance in a school production. In a departure from the script, she rewrites the history of what really happened on the day we now know as Thanksgiving,” writes Harper’s Bazaar.
Uncle Fester and his hopes for romance is the central story in this fun-filled adventure, sure to win over the hearts of everyone at your family gathering.
“Feel free to engage in a friendly debate with your family members about any of the following topics: the better Addams Family film, Wednesday’s iconic style, and—of course—the iconic Thanksgiving pageant,” says Cosmopolitan.
5. The Oath
As mentioned earlier, family bickering sometimes slips its way into a Thanksgiving dinner, and The Oath highlights this problem for many families.
“In this dark comedy, Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz star as a married couple who vow not to discuss politics (and a controversial new loyalty oath) during Thanksgiving dinner with their extended families, but it isn’t long before that plan goes off the rails,” explains Cosmopolitan.
Though it might make some people a bit uncomfortable if the political battles at the table are a serious issue, perhaps some levity could also help folks get along better for their annual meal.
“Based on the conversations you might be having with some relatives this year, this plot might seem almost too on the nose,” writes Esquire.
It’s a concept that’s grown in popularity in recent decades, particularly because of the problems seen in The Oath: Instead of getting together with family for Thanksgiving, why not make it a holiday for friends? Thus, Friendsgiving was born. But, as it turns out, in this Friendsgiving take, being with friends doesn’t necessarily mean a better outcome.
“This flick is all about a Friendsgiving celebration that’s jam-packed with dysfunction—like, a lot of it. Who wouldn’t want to watch some friendly chaos unfold?” says Cosmopolitan.
“The trend of hosting a Friendsgiving seems to become more popular every year. This comedy starring Malin Åkerman and Kat Dennings is a little too relatable in its portrayal of how these gatherings are never as quaint as our Pinterest boards imagine them to be,” adds Town and Country Magazine.
7. Garfield’s Thanksgiving
And last, but certainly not least, another old friend proves to be one of the best Thanksgiving movies of all-time. If you want to avoid all the real-life drama flicks, stick with the happiest fat cat who knows how to steal our hearts.
“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,” says OprahDaily.
Adds Harper’s Bazaar: “The orange cat you love more than he loves lasagna hosts a Thanksgiving special that not only tugs on the nostalgic heartstrings, but also offers the kids a distraction as you set the table. The classic toon begins with a trip to the vet and ends with Grandma doctoring a Thanksgiving feast that, in the end, is perfect.”
- Soul Food
- Home For The Holidays
- Tower Heist
- Planes, Trains and Automobiles
- Free Birds
- Town and Country Magazine
- Country Living
- Pure Wow
- Rotten Tomatoes
- Oprah Daily
- Good Housekeeping
- Harper’s Bazaar
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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.