What’s not to love about Thanksgiving? Food, family, friends, football, and the last of the fall leaves. It’s one of our all-time favorites, and we thought a family friendly Thanksgiving movie marathon in the comfort of your own home might be an excellent way to welcome the holiday. Our expert on all things cinematic has curated a list of some of the best films set on or around Thanksgiving that are perfect for a movie marathon this year.
best films for a thanksgiving movie marathon
With Thanksgiving drawing near, it’s time to start preparing for pumpkin pie, crispy turkey and a meal with our favorite people. While you’re in the kitchen, or hanging out with your family, why not watch some favorite films to get into a festive mood?
If you’re up for a Thanksgiving movie marathon, we’ve found over a dozen excellent films set around Thanksgiving season that we really love. Not surprisingly, since Thanksgiving is all about family, togetherness, and gratitude, many of the movies on our list feature the same themes. It’s a great reminder to appreciate everything and everyone we hold dear.
Now pass the popcorn!
Just for fun, we’re also including some classic quotable lines from some of the movies on our list. Because you might find that you need a mantra, or a laugh, at some point over Thanksgiving dinner. Keep these in your pocket, just in case.
the best movies set on or around thanksgiving perfect for a marathon this year
In addition, here are thirteen additional festive options to add to your queue for the perfect Thanksgiving movie marathon.
1. Planes, Trains & Automobiles
Planes, Trains & Automobiles is the ultimate Thanksgiving classic. Steve Martin plays Neal Page, a buttoned-up businessman trying to get from New York to Chicago to be with his family on Thanksgiving.
As comedy requires, his efforts are thwarted at every possible turn. Forcing him to embark on a disastrous adventure with Del Griffith, the chaotic and charismatic shower ring salesman who is his foil in every way. Those who are looking for a feel-good ride with some timeless slapstick will love this transportation fiasco. Especially as the humor turns to sweetness, and a lesson in what Thanksgiving really means.
2. The Big Chill
Critically acclaimed, everybody knows the plot of The Big Chill. A group of friends is forced to reunite under tragic circumstances, after they lose one of their own. Though the Thanksgiving dinner scene was actually cut from the film before it made its big screen debut, the entire film still feels like a lesson in saying thanks, and in how to love the people around us while they’re here.
Best Quote: Wise up, folks. We’re all alone out there and tomorrow we’re going out there again.
3. Pieces of April
Without question, Pieces of April is the best film about families at Thanksgiving that we’ve ever seen. The plot is simple: rebellious daughter April is living in a low-rent neighborhood in New York. Her estranged mother, suffering from cancer, is coming for Thanksgiving dinner. Her sweet boyfriend is committed to helping. But everything that could possibly go wrong does. The soundtrack is great, the struggle feels real, and April’s apartment building actually looks like what most New Yorkers live in when they’re young and broke. The way in which a wildly diverse group of neighbors, family members, lovers and friends rally in the face of seemingly impossible odds to get dinner on the table will touch you. And stay with you long after the holidays are over.
4. The House of Yes
Parker Posey stars as a woman obsessed with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Her alternate reality is shaken to its core when her twin brother and his fiancée (Tori Spelling!) arrive for the Thanksgiving holiday.
You may have missed this lovely coming of age flick when it came out in 2014, and now is the perfect moment to revisit it. Hollidaysburg features a small town, and a group of college freshmen who return home for the first time and reunite with their friends from childhood. Remember what that first visit home after leaving for college felt like?
Unlike many films about adolescence, this movie is refreshingly sweet, exploring its characters’ changing hearts and minds with empathy and the best of intentions. You will come away feeling a little brighter about the people in your life, and ready for a wholesome holiday celebration.
6. Sweet November
We don’t believe in the term ‘guilty pleasure’ when it comes to movies. But if we did, Sweet November would be one of the best of its kind.
Charlize Theron plays Sarah, an embodiment of the free-spirited the manic pixie dream girl. She convinces high-powered Nelson, played by Keannu Reeves, to move into her home, with the promise that she will change his life. The movie is all about the magic of November, concluding in an emotional Thanksgiving dinner scene. Anyone with a soft spot for romantic films loves will fall in love with this tearjerker.
Best Quote: This is our month. It never has to end. Surrender all the attempts to control life, yours or mine.
7. What’s Cooking?
This scripted feature film follows four families of different cultural identities—Vietnamese, Jewish, Black, and Latino—as they prepare for a day of thanks. The cast includes Joan Chen, Julianna Margulies, Kyra Sedgwick and Alfre Woodard, among others.
Directed by Trey Edward Shults, Krisha is a family drama that feels so real, it could almost be a highly emotional documentary.
Krisha, estranged from her family for many years as she struggled to become sober, returns to her sister’s house for Thanksgiving with hope of reconciling with her son. The film is at its best in several memorable fight scenes, which are upsetting and resonant without ever going over the top. This is a lesson in the limits of unconditional love and familial bonds, and the heartache that this time of year can sometimes bring.
The 1990 gem Avalon is a must-watch this holiday season. Directed by Barry Levinson, it is the story of an immigrant family who has moved to Baltimore from Russia. Their story stretches across decades in the early twentieth century.
Together the family adjusts to life in a new country, going into business and enduring the changes of the world around them. Thanksgiving as a holiday is a tradition for them, and watching the Krichinsky’s around the table will fill you with holiday warmth.
Best Quote: If I knew things would no longer be, I would have tried to remember better.
10. The Ice Storm
Based on the novel of the same name, The Ice Storm is director Ang Lee’s breakout movie. This incredible ensemble film is a dark look at a Thanksgiving weekend in suburban Connecticut. Starring Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Jamey Sheridan, Christina Ricci, Tobey Maguire, Elijah Wood, Katie Holmes and Allison Janney, this drama takes a peek at all that goes on behind closed doors, and the way in which those secrets can sometimes have tragic consequences.
11. You’ve Got Mail
The Nora Ephron romantic comedy You’ve Got Mail is an all-around iconic fall classic. Though it extends past Thanksgiving, it paints a beautiful picture of New York in the autumn, complete with twinkle lights. In a classic Thanksgiving shopping scene, the two main characters, Colleen (Meg Ryan) and Joe (Tom Hanks), squabble at the supermarket.
Best quote: It’s your turn to say Happy Thanksgiving back.
12. The Oath
The dystopian comedy The Oath takes place in the near future, where the citizens of the United States are forced to sign an oath swearing their allegiance to the government. Ike Barinholtz and Tiffany Haddish are hilarious as they host a Thanksgiving dinner the night before the big day, where everyone will either have to take ‘the oath’ – or not. The film is funny and risky, offering a totally different mood for the season. Maybe watch it before dinner and get all the political discussions out of the way before the festivities actually begin!
13. Home for the Holidays
When we think of family holiday movies, we are often conditioned to think of Christmas films, where squabbling relatives are trapped together while snow falls outside. But Home For the Holidays, directed by Jodie Foster and starring Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr, Ann Bancroft and many others, is a Thanksgiving drama. And like the best films that celebrate autumn, it hits the notes that one would hope. This one has all of the antics that we expect and love from movies about dysfunctional families. Watch for theatrical, enjoyable dynamics about the people we just so happen to have stuck in our lives.
14. The Humans
The brilliant Broadway drama has been made into a movie. And Jayne Houdyshell is back in her Tony-winning role as Deirdre, the matriarch of a modern family that’s beginning to unravel. As they gather in a partially below-ground Chinatown apartment for Thanksgiving, the weight of jobs lost and loves lost begins to press in like a tangible presence at the table.
15. Miracle on 34th Street
We love both versions of the beloved classic Miracle on 34th Street. This year we are recommending the 1947 version, which won three Academy Awards and is still a perfect film today. Though some consider it a family Christmas movie, it actually begins on Thanksgiving. And watching it will make that special period of time between the two holidays feel more magical than ever. This is the kind of movie that will make you feel about the holidays the way you did when you were a child, and when it ends, you’ll end up looking at the world with just a little more wonder than before.
Best Quote: Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to.
We’re grateful to Netflix for giving us this Friendsgiving-themed movie. After all, Friendsgiving is a beloved tradition, captured in many of our favorite TV shows – and it’s about time that a movie took on the same subject. This one has an incredible cast, including Malin Akerman, Aisha Tyler, Kat Dennings, Wanda Sykes, and Chelsea Peretti. We’re not sure how this new comedy slipped under our radar this last year, but we can’t wait to make it annual viewing.
17. Black Friday
If you’re in the mood for a Thanksgiving horror film, then this 2021 comedic release might just be the movie for you. As the title suggests, the film focuses on the day after Thanksgiving – although this is not your average shopping spree. Employees at a toy store must unite against their rabid customers… all of whom are infected with an alien parasite. Sounds like fun holiday viewing to us!
18. The Daytrippers
Though Greg Mottola’s The Daytrippers takes place the day after Thanksgiving, it still has the makings of a great Thanksgiving movie: a chaotic family dynamic, and time spent driving around a winter-bound New York. When Eliza (Hope Davis) discovers a love letter written to her husband, she turns to her family for advice – and they spend the rest of the day trying to solve the unwanted mystery. Parker Posey, Anne Meara, Pat McNamara, Liev Schreiber, and Stanley Tucci also star.
19. American Son
Nick Cannon stars as Mike, a young man who is forced to face the difficult truths of adulthood when he takes his four-day Thanksgiving leave from the Marines. Thanksgiving can sometimes be a difficult time – when families come together, hard truths can rise to the surface – and this is a movie that puts those grievances in the spotlight.
20. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
Need we say more? A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is classic holiday viewing, and should absolutely grace your television set all month long. And then you can transition to A Charlie Brown Christmas, and finish up the year with Snoopy and friends.
best films for a thanksgiving movie marathon
We don’t know about you, but we’re getting ready for Thanksgiving with a movie marathon this year. Those are our picks for the best family friendly films set on or around Thanksgiving that will get everyone into the holiday groove. Have a great Thanksgiving, dear reader!