The eternal goal for Thanksgiving Day: Find some neutral talking points that won't set anyone off before the turkey is carved. Now that you've cleared the path of dinner time land mines, hurdle number two is maintaining the peace after the dishes have been cleared. Fortunately, we've done the hard work for you in that regard. Behold: Thirty non-snooze-worthy Thanksgiving movies to watch during that awkward time after dinner when everyone's full and tipsy, but not ready to go to bed yet.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)
The quintessential Thanksgiving film is a John Hughes (Ferris Bueller, The Breakfast Club) flick that's one of his best, even if there are no cool teens involved. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is a road story about two ill-matched travelers who are forced to band together to make their way cross-country to get home for Thanksgiving. In classic Hughes fashion, the screwball rapport between Steve Martin and John Candy drives the movie, and there's a lot of heart and (non-dad-joke) humor to go around.
You've Got Mail (1998)
Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan star in the classic rom-com You've Got Mail. Aside from its overall wholesomeness, the film's autumn setting in '90s New York City makes you feel like it's Thanksgiving no matter what time of the year it actually is. (Plus, it does include a scene that takes place on Turkey Day, so there's that!)
The premise: Two rival booksellers start a relationship online in the age of dial-up without realizing they know each other IRL. Inevitably, you'll end up reminiscing with the family on the days that you all argued about mom being on the phone for too long when you wanted to use the internet. We recently made our Gen-Z coworkers watch the rom-com classic in honor of its 20th anniversary, and they loved it.
Pieces of April (2003)
Dawson's Creek-era Katie Holmes, we hardly knew ye. This very seasonal movie finds itself in New York City, which is a great option for food and Seamless–obsessed busybodies who don't cook. A Pippi Longstocking-ed rebel named April tries to round up her estranged family in the city after her mother is diagnosed with terminal cancer, but oven troubles and her lack of cooking know-how threaten to derail the day.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)
You've probably cut the cord on cable, but that doesn't mean you can't still indulge in the TV classics you remember from back in the day. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving will wash you in happy nostalgia vibes, guaranteed.
The Oath (2018)
For many people, Thanksgiving is as much about awkward family conversations and/or intense blowups over politics (what with the holiday's convenient post-election timing and all) as it is about good food and gratitude. The Oath, about a couple navigating the holidays amid news that citizens are being asked to sign a loyalty oath to the president, takes the political anxiety part of Thanksgiving and shines a bright, hilarious light on it.
Knives Out (2019)
A movie doesn't have to be about Thanksgiving specifically to capture the vibe of the holiday and 2019's hilarious murder mystery Knives Out proves that. The movie, about a big family vying for their part of the family inheritance after the patriarch's shocking death, will remind you why your relationship with Thanksgiving (and, TBH, with your own family) is sometimes a love/hate one.
If you don't always (0r even ever) spend Thanksgiving with your biological family, you're not alone. Lots of people spend the holiday with their closest friends—a.k.a. the family they chose. Friendsgiving is the comedy we've all been waiting for to celebrate that version of the Thanksgiving tradition.
Turkey Hollow (2015)
If you've always thought the thing Thanksgiving was really missing was a magical, whimsical family adventure movie (complete with Jim Henson puppets), then your wish was granted back in 2015 when Turkey Hollow was released.
Tower Heist (2011)
This 2011 comedy heist movie, about a group of average workers who decide to steal their retirement funds back from the billionaire who stole them in a Ponzi scheme, includes a scene during the iconic Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.
Lez Bomb (2018)
This 2018 comedy is a modern Thanksgiving story about a woman who brings her girlfriend home for the holidays, but continues to face troubles in her efforts to come out to her family.
In this critical darling (it won the Grand Jury and Audience Awards at the 2015 South-by-Southwest Film Festival), a woman chooses Thanksgiving as the day to return to the family she abandoned years earlier.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop (2009)
In addition to being a day about family and gratitude, Thanksgiving also marks the beginning of the more commercial time of the year: holiday shopping season. Paul Blart: Mall Cop follows the titular mall employee's exploits as he prepares for the busiest shopping day of the year, Black Friday (which just so happens to be the day after Thanksgiving).
House of Yes (1997)
Prefer your holiday movies with a healthy helping of dark comedy? Then try House of Yes, which features a standout performance from Parker Posey as the Jackie O-obsessed twin sister of the protagonist, who just wants to introduce his girlfriend to the family on Thanksgiving.
Grumpy Old Men (1993)
Your family Thanksgiving probably has its own grumpy humans, but this '90s comedy classic will put their bad attitudes in perspective—and give you a chance to laugh at another family's hilarious Thanksgiving moments.
Garfield's Thanksgiving (1996)
Who better to star in a Thanksgiving special than one of the most famously food-obsessed cartoon characters of all time, right?
Curly Sue (1991)
If you need a movie that will remind you of the true meaning of Thanksgiving, this heartwarming (and underrated) John Hughes classic about a little girl and a homeless man who con people into giving them food and shelter is a worthy addition to your watch list.
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
This holiday-themed drama focuses on a very complicated and unfortunately love triangle that emerges when Hannah's husband falls for her sister, Lee while Lee's ex-husband pursues a relationship with Hannah's other sister, Holly.
The Big Chill (1983)
It's never not a good time to rewatch The Big Chill, but if you're looking for an excuse to rewatch the classic—about a group of old friends who reunite after the death of a member of their group—the Thanksgiving flashback scene makes it perfect November viewing.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
You probably think of Miracle on 34th Street as a Christmas movie, but don't forget that it actually begins on the day of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, meaning it deserves a spot on your Thanksgiving movie queue.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
There's a longstanding, ongoing debate about whether The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Halloween or Christmas movie, but there's also a subset of people who think the best solution is to split the difference and consider it a Thanksgiving movie. If you agree (or just always feel in the mood for some Tim Burton creepiness), add it to your watch list for the season.
Watching Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) make it up and down those steps will be even more inspiring after you just stuffed yourself with turkey and mashed potatoes. Can't forget the iconic Thanksgiving dinner date night scene between Rocky and Adrian, which will put you in your feels and the Thanksgiving spirit. (Plus, you'll want to re-watch the classic before Creed II is released on November 21.)
Funny People (2009)
Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill...what better trio is there to spend Thanksgiving with? The actors star together in Judd Apatow's Funny People, a film about a comedian diagnosed with leukemia who uses comedy to cope. Don't let the plot get you down though—the movie is completely hilarious and your parents will love it too.
Free Birds (2013)
Sometimes you just need turkeys with the voices of Owen Wilson and Amy Poehler to comfort you in these stressful times. Escape from reality by watching Free Birds, an animated movie in which Reggie the turkey tries to safely escape his Thanksgiving fate. Things take an interesting turn when the president decides to pardon him and he lands in an even unlikelier situation.
The Blind Side (2009)
Grab a box of tissues for everyone (yes, including your teenage cousin who refuses to acknowledge that he has feelings) and prepare for some tears with this emotional pick starring Sandra Bullock and Quinton Aaron (based on a true story!). When the Tuohys take in a homeless teen (Aaron) and become his legal guardians, he realizes his potential as a student and football player—but not without plenty of ups and downs. Keeping up with the holiday's "thankful" theme and all, the movie's guaranteed to make the whole family appreciate each other.
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Although this one's not explicitly a Thanksgiving movie, Fantastic Mr. Fox is a phenomenal family-friendly fall option (the cider! the cute animals! the food scenes!), and will keep you laughing through dessert. The lovable stop-motion Wes Anderson flick gathers a crowd of notable voice actors (Meryl Streep, George Clooney, and Bill Murray, to name a few) in a tale of a chicken-stealing fox who finally gets caught on a farm raid. After he escapes, three local farmers plot to end him by digging him out underground, so Mr. Fox enlists the whole community in an escape mission to save their lives.
Eat, Drink, Man, Woman (1994)
From director Ang Lee, Eat, Drink, Man Woman is one of the best movies ever made (in our humble opinion), about three unmarried daughters who live with their chef father. Though their lives are diverging and they're outgrowing their traditional upbringing, they can count on one thing: an elaborate weekly dinner, thanks to which, they stay up-to-date on each other's lives.
The Addams Family Values (1993)
This year, relive the macabre hijinks of the Addams Family while simultaneously witnessing the epic Thanksgiving takedown (and impressive history lesson) pulled off by Wednesday Addams. It's lighthearted enough for everyone to enjoy, and doesn't require a full attention span in case you need to steal away for another slice of pie.
The Ice Storm (1997)
What the "celebrities falling" gallery is to your life, this movie is to every family who thinks they're dysfunctional. The catharsis of watching the Hood family prepare for Turkey Day during the Vietnam War era will make everyone feel better about their own weird relatives. Plus, the dramatic '70s climate makes for a classically unhinged movie. "Teen angst! Adultery! Suburban malaise! Hating on the president!"—the gang's all here, except this time it's not unfolding directly in your own life.
Home for the Holidays (1995)
Another dysfunctional family flick for the books is this film, which stars a baby-faced Robert Downey Jr., a My So Called Life-era Claire Danes, and Holly Hunter, as estranged family members who navigate family politics and unearthed secrets as they gather for Thanksgiving dinner. It's definitely one to bookmark if you loved the Christmas movie The Family Stone. Fun fact: The movie was directed by Jodie Foster.
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Kayleigh Roberts is a freelance writer and editor with more than 10 years of professional experience. Her byline has appeared in Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, The Atlantic, Allure, Entertainment Weekly, MTV, Bustle, Refinery29, Girls’ Life Magazine, Just Jared, and Tiger Beat, among other publications. She's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.
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