En español | Ah, Thanksgiving! Is there any holiday more iconic when it comes to families and food? While Christmas may have cornered the market on holiday-themed movies, Thanksgiving has its fair share of Hollywood classics and family favorites to ring in the season. Our new watchlist below has a lot in common with a perfectly planned feast: some meaty dramas, a few salty and tart characters, plenty of sweetness, with some treats thrown in for the little ones at the kids table. And be sure to stock up on the snacks and side dishes we've paired with each film before you start streaming.
The Movie: Friendsgiving (2020)
The plot: Best friends Molly (Malin Åkerman) and Abby (Kat Dennings) are all set to spend a low-key Thanksgiving together until the invite list begins to spiral out of control. Soon, the table is surrounded by Molly’s Swedish mother (Jane Seymour, 70), new and ex-lovers, mutual friends (Aisha Tyler, 51, and Deon Cole), children, potential suitors and a “shawoman” (Chelsea Peretti). As the wackiness begins to reach a boiling point, magic mushrooms make an appearance, leading to the arrival of three imaginary “fairy gay mothers,” played by Wanda Sykes (57), Margaret Cho (52) and Fortune Feimster.
The dish: ’Shrooms — but maybe opt for stuffed or sautéed, instead of psychedelic.
The Movie: Paul Blart: Mall Cop (2009)
The plot: Last November, Slate.com writer Karen Han declared this slapstick-heavy Kevin James (56) action vehicle an official Thanksgiving movie, dubbing it a “suburban spin on Die Hard.” It’s Black Friday, and the mild-mannered, Segway-riding security guard must take on a gang of burglars who disguise themselves as Santa’s Village employees and plan to rob $30 million from the New Jersey mall where he works. Critics turned the film into a punchline, but it ended up grossing $183.3 million worldwide and even spawned a sequel.
The dish: A leftover turkey sandwich filled with mashed potatoes and stuffing is the ultimate way to carbo-load before a Black Friday shopathon — or a Black Friday crime-fighting mission.
The Movie: Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
The Plot: In this John Hughes odd-couple classic, uptight marketing executive Neal Page (Steve Martin, 76) tries desperately to get home to his family for Thanksgiving after a business trip. Along the way, he keeps coming into contact with an annoying but lovable fellow traveler, the shower curtain ring salesman Del Griffith (John Candy). A series of mishaps — including a blizzard and a burglar — leave them bonding and bickering, crisscrossing the Midwest on various modes of transportation.
The Dish: The tiny airplane bottles of international liquor Neal and Del share in the motel.
The Movie: Pieces of April (2003)
The Plot: Get the tissues ready. In this heartfelt dramedy, April (Katie Holmes) cooks Thanksgiving dinner in her Lower East Side apartment in an attempt to reconcile with her estranged parents, Jim (Oliver Platt, 61) and Joy (Patricia Clarkson, 61), who is dying of breast cancer (Clarkson was nominated for an Oscar for the role). When her oven breaks, April turns to the neighbors in her building to help her get the meal on the table in time.
The Dish(es): Sweet potato soup with buttered pecans, herbed oyster stuffing, giblet gravy, lemon-rosemary green beans, sautéed red Swiss chard with garlic, hickory nut ice cream and maple pumpkin pie — the gourmet menu of neighbors Eugene (Isiah Whitlock Jr., 67) and Evette (Lillias White, 70) that puts April's canned cranberry sauce to shame.
The Movie: Free Birds (2013)
The Plot: Okay, this computer-animated movie is admittedly a bit bizarre, but if you need to entertain the grandkids while you're baking pies, they're certain to gobble-gobble it up — pun intended. Reggie (Owen Wilson, 52), a domesticated turkey who is pardoned by the president, teams up with wild turkeys Jake (Woody Harrelson, 60) and Jenny (Amy Poehler) to time-travel back to the Plymouth Colony in 1621 to keep their kind off the first Thanksgiving menu. George Takei, 84, lends his voice as S.T.E.V.E., the artificial intelligence in their egg-shaped time machine.
The Dish: Tofurkey.
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The Movie: What's Cooking? (2000)
The Plot: Featuring a sprawling ensemble that includes Alfre Woodard (68), Julianna Margulies (55), Joan Chen (60) and Kyra Sedgwick (56), this L.A.-set dramedy follows four different families (Vietnamese, Jewish, Black and Latino) as they celebrate Thanksgiving in their own unique ways. The menus — which include fresh tortillas, macaroni and cheese, and marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes — may all be different, but you'll be happy to know that generational gaps and political squabbles cross all cultural divides.
The Dish: The chili-paste-rubbed turkey that causes the Vietnamese daughter to ask, “Why do you want to make the turkey taste like everything else we eat?"
The Movie: Addams Family Values (1993)
The Plot: Leave it to the creepy, kooky crew to poke a hole in a great American tradition. In this film sequel, Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) are sent off to a summer camp, where the counselors, Gary (Peter MacNicol, 67) and Becky (Christine Baranski, 69), try to break the kids of their macabre habits. They cast the siblings in a Thanksgiving pageant — Wednesday as an apocryphal Pocahontas, Pugsley as a turkey — but things take a turn when Wednesday delivers a blistering monologue about Native American history, stages a coup, burns down the set and escapes in the camp van.
The Dish: The apple Wednesday shoves in the bully's mouth before attempting to burn her at the stake.
The Movie: Tower Heist (2011)
The Plot: When he loses his pension in a Ponzi scheme masterminded by Wall Street businessman Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda, 85), luxury apartment building manager Josh Kovaks (Ben Stiller, 55) hatches a plan to break into Shaw's penthouse and steal back the money. He enlists his coworkers, a petty criminal (Eddie Murphy, 60) and a bankrupt investor (Matthew Broderick, 59) to pull off the heist of the century during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The Dish: Revenge — best served cold.
The Plot: Jodie Foster, 58, directs this sweet comedy that proves that you can go home again — though if you do, you might wind up watching your dad spray your brother and brother-in-law with a hose as they fight on the front lawn. When she finds out that her daughter (Claire Danes) has decided to skip Thanksgiving, single mom Claudia (Holly Hunter, 63) flies back to Baltimore to spend the holiday with her parents, played by Anne Bancroft and Charles Durning. When friends, in-laws and siblings arrive (including Robert Downey Jr., 56, as her younger brother Tommy), secrets are revealed, punches are thrown and the turkey is dropped in someone's lap.
The Dish: Sweet potatoes — dotty Aunt Glady (played by Charlie Chaplin's daughter Geraldine Chaplin, 77) will only eat the ones she made.
The Movie: Jim Henson's Turkey Hollow (2015)
The Plot: Following Yuletide classics like The Muppet Christmas Carol and Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, the Jim Henson Company set its sights on a new holiday with this family-friendly Lifetime movie, with a story first conceived by Henson back in 1968. When a divorced dad (Jay Harrington) takes his family to the town of Turkey Hollow for an unplugged Thanksgiving with his eccentric Aunt Cly (Mary Steenburgen, 68), the kids set out into the woods and meet a musical quartet of furry puppet monsters called Squonk, Zorp, Burble and Thring. Rapper Ludacris narrates this quirky tale you'll want to share with your grandkids.
The Dish: Rock candy, as a nod to the rock-eating monsters.
Watch it: Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow on Amazon Prime
The Movie: Scent of a Woman (1992)
The Plot: Al Pacino, 81, earned his only Oscar — so far! — for this surprisingly sentimental buddy movie, in which prep school student Charlie Simms (Chris O'Donnell, 51) is hired to look after blind, alcoholic, tango-dancing veteran Frank Slade (Pacino) to earn some money over Thanksgiving break. During a particularly awkward holiday dinner, Frank's nephew Randy (Bradley Whitford, 62) reveals the shocking way Frank lost his eyesight — but we won't spoil it for you.
The Dish: "John” Daniels whiskey; as Frank explains it, “He may be Jack to you, son, but when you've known him as long as I have …”
The Movie: A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)
The Plot: This Emmy-winning TV special is as comforting as buttery mashed potatoes, with memorable moments including Linus’ prayer about the First Thanksgiving, Lucy yanking the football out from under Charlie Brown for the umpteenth time, and Woodstock and Snoopy pulling the wishbone. And even the Peanuts gang isn't safe from a little dinner table bickering: Peppermint Patty gets annoyed by Charlie Brown's rather unconventional menu.
The Dish: C.B.'s DIY feast, which includes buttered toast, pretzels, popcorn, jelly beans and an ice cream sundae.
Watch it: A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving on Apple TV+
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Nov. 18, 2020. It has been updated with additional movies and links where you can stream the films on this list.
Nicholas DeRenzo is a contributing writer who covers entertainment and travel. Previously he was executive editor of United Airlines’ Hemispheres magazine and his work has appeared in the New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, Sunset and New York magazine.