As a result of the pandemic, this Thanksgiving is going to be pretty different from those of years past. Instead of traveling, most of us will be staying home, celebrating small, and spending many hours on the couch binging all the entertainment. Luckily, there are a ton of awesome movies we can watch to keep us in the holiday spirit while we digest our dinners and eat our leftovers. If you’re looking for some great flicks to watch over the Thanksgiving weekend, here are our recommendations.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
Originally aired on CBS back in 1973, this animated Peanuts movie has become a Thanksgiving classic. It follows Charlie Brown as he attempts to create his own Thanksgiving dinner for his friends, despite the fact that he only knows how to make “cold cereal and maybe toast”. While the celebration turns out to be an unconventional one, Snoopy, Woodstock, Lucy, Linus, Peppermint Patty, and the rest of the gang eventually end up enjoying a delicious meal at Charlie Brown’s grandmother’s house. This year, instead of airing on traditional TV as it’s done in years past, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving will be available for streaming exclusively on Apple TV+. PBS and PBS KIDS will also be airing it for free on November 22 at 7:30 p.m. EST.
This fun action-comedy is packed with big-name stars, including Eddie Murphy, Ben Stiller, Matthew Broderick, Tea Leoni, and Casey Affleck. It follows the story of three employees who work in an exclusive New York City apartment building. When they all lose their pension in an evil Ponzi scheme, the trio enlists a motley crew of individuals to help them steal back their money—all while trying to evade the FBI. The exciting climax takes place during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which will definitely get you into the holiday spirit.
The Last Waltz
If you’re a fan of The Band (or rock music in general!), make sure to queue up this Martin Scorsese-directed documentary from 1978. It features footage from the final concert of the Canadian-American rock group, The Band, which was performed at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco on Thanksgiving Day, 1976. Scenes from the concert are interspersed with history about The Band and interviews with key players, including band members Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel, and Robbie Robertson. Critics consider this film to be one of the greatest documentary concert films ever made, so it’s definitely worth your time.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
This comedy classic from 1987 stars Steve Martin and the late, great John Candy. Directed by John Hughes, it follows the story of two unlikely strangers who are forced to spend three days together while trying to travel home in time for the Thanksgiving holiday. In addition to being a huge hit when it was first released, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles has become a cult holiday favorite. Look closely, and you may even catch a glimpse of a few well-known actors in small parts before they became famous, including Kevin Bacon and Better Call Saul’s Michael McKeon. Also, there’s reportedly a reboot in the works starring Will Smith and Kevin Hart!
Addams Family Values
A sequel to the 1991 movie, The Addams Family (which was based on a TV show from the 1960s), this dark comedy from 1993 stars Raul Julia, Anjelica Huston, Christopher Lloyd, Carel Struycken, and Joan Cusack. It also features a 12-year-old Christina Ricci as Wednesday, the Addams family’s sarcastic and often sadistic-minded young daughter. Although the action takes place in the summer, the movie has become a holiday classic due a hilarious scene featuring Wednesday in a camp play about Thanksgiving. It’s also relevant because, underneath all the laughs and weirdness, the movie is about the importance of family.
Grumpy Old Men
This romantic comedy stars Hollywood legends Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, who had previously worked together in well-known films such as The Odd Couple and Buddy Buddy. Grumpy Old Men tells the story of two curmudgeonly old neighbors who initially detest each other (and fight over the same woman), but eventually come to consider themselves family. Released on Christmas day back in 1993, the film features a memorable Thanksgiving dinner scene that you won’t want to miss.
Perfect for the kids, Free Birds is a fun 3D computer-animated film from 2013. It tells the story of two turkeys (voiced by Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson) who travel back in time in an attempt to stop the tradition of Thanksgiving from ever coming into being. Amy Poehler is also featured in the voice cast as Jenny, a female wild turkey who catches the eye of Wilson’s character. While the movie didn’t get the best reviews when it was first released, it’s an entertaining and upbeat film that’s perfect for distracting your kids while you try to cook.
Starring Adam Sandler and Seth Rogan, this 2009 comedy-drama was directed by Judd Apatow. It’s a funny-but-touching story about a famous comedian (played by Sandler) whose life takes a turn when he’s diagnosed with a terminal disease. The movie features a sweet Thanksgiving dinner scene that makes you feel warm and fuzzy in all the right ways. Other well-known cast members include Leslie Mann, Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman, Aubrey Plaza, and Aziz Ansari.
If you’re looking for some mayhem and mystery this Thanksgiving weekend, Knives Out is the perfect pick. A true whodunnit about the sudden death of a mystery novelist with a large, eclectic family, the movie features an awesome ensemble cast that includes Ana De Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, and Christopher Plummer. Released to much acclaim right before the Thanksgiving weekend last year, this movie is funny, smart, and will keep you guessing until the very end.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop
This silly comedy was a surprise hit when it was released back in 2009, grossing $183.3 million worldwide. It stars funnyman Kevin James as Paul Blart, a bumbling mall security guard who’s forced to take down a big-time burglary on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Craziness ensues as the unlikely hero attempts to catch the criminals and restore order to the mall. The movie features a ton of fun slapstick comedy, which is amusing for both kids and adults. And if you can’t enough of the Segway-riding Paul Blart, all you have to do is queue up the sequel, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.
Written, directed, and starring comedian Ike Barinholtz, this unique black comedy is packed with hilarious actors, including Tiffany Haddish, John Cho, Carrie Brownstein, and Nora Dunn. Taking place in a not-so-distant-future, it’s about how a politically divided family reacts when the government asks them to sign a loyalty oath to the president. They have until Thanksgiving Day to make their decision, which throws the family’s holiday celebration into total disarray. As far as Thanksgiving movies go, this one gets major points for its originality!
Calling all old-school Pauly Shore fans! This wacky comedy from 1993 is all about a Thanksgiving break gone awry when a young college student brings her new boyfriend/fiancé home for the holidays. That new love interest is a party animal named Crawl (played by Pauly Shore), who is not at all what the South Dakota farming family were expecting. While this movie is a bit clunky at times, it ultimately delivers on the laughs. And it includes a humorous and heart-warming family Thanksgiving dinner scene.