“Home for the Holidays,” starring, from left, Charles Durning, Holly Hunter and Anne Bancroft, is a quintessential Thanksgiving movie. (Courtesy Paramount)

“Home for the Holidays,” starring, from left, Charles Durning, Holly Hunter and Anne Bancroft, is a quintessential Thanksgiving movie. (Courtesy Paramount)

15 great Thanksgiving movies (and one turkey) to watch at home

.

While many families won’t be getting together during this pandemic Thanksgiving holiday, this batch of holiday-themed movies, both comforting and disturbing, should help. It runs the gamut from appetizers to pie, and even a carcass (see No. 16). Happy Thanksgiving!

A guide to viewing

Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, Disney+, Hulu: Paid subscription services

Tubi, Roku, Vudu Free, YouTube Free: Free to watch, but with ads

Hoopla, Kanopy: Free services, via public libraries, with limited number of checkouts per month

16. ThanksKilling (2009)

To start things off, here’s a bad holiday horror movie specifically designed to look like a bad holiday horror movie. A foul-mouthed, killer turkey puppet hacks up teens that venture too close to sacred indigenous ground. It runs only 70 minutes. A sequel, “ThanksKilling 3,” (not 2) was actually made. [Amazon Prime, plus Roku, Vudu, Tubi, all free with ads]

15. Addams Family Values (1993)

Written by Paul Rudnick, this superior comedy sequel is best known and best loved for its summer-camp sequence, in which precocious Wednesday (Christina Ricci) puts on a play about the first Thanksgiving, but puts her own Addams-style spin on it. [Rental, from $2.99 on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube]

14. She’s Gotta Have It (1986)

Spike Lee’s low-budget, black-and-white feature debut tells the story of Nola Darling (Tracy Camilla Johns), who juggles three lovers, each with different qualities, while refusing to compromise her happiness. She invites all three to a prickly Thanksgiving dinner truce that goes wrong. The movie was successfully remade as a Netflix series, also with a Thanksgiving sequence. [Netflix]

13. The Ice Storm (1997)

Possibly Ang Lee’s best film is set in the 1970s, during a time of “key parties.” A messed-up family filled with sexual and spiritual crises assembles for the holiday, when the titular storm provides a bitter, and sometimes beautiful, turn. [Rental, from $3.99 on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube]

12. Lady Bird (2016)

Greta Gerwig’s acclaimed, vibrant directing debut, about a young woman (Saoirse Ronan) caught between high school and college, contains a brief, but memorable Thanksgiving dinner, wherein Lady Bird manages to irritate her mother (Laurie Metcalf) by spending the holiday with a new boyfriend. [Netflix, Kanopy]

11. Art School Confidential (2006)

Terry Zwigoff’s vicious, underrated dark comedy — and, sadly, the last feature film he has completed to date — follows Jerome (Max Minghella) as he maneuvers art school, trying to become the next big thing. A trip home for Thanksgiving dinner, and the hilariously annoying/inane conversation therein, only gives him more impetus. [Hoopla, Tubi]

Alfre Woodard is among the ensemble cast of Gurinder Chadha’s “What’s Cooking?,” which follows four families on the holidays. 
Courtesy Trimark Pictures

Alfre Woodard is among the ensemble cast of Gurinder Chadha’s “What’s Cooking?,” which follows four families on the holidays.
Courtesy Trimark Pictures

10. What’s Cooking? (2000)

Directed by Gurinder Chadha, this soapy, sweet drama with a great cast follows four different families — one Jewish, one Vietnamese, one Black and one Latinx — as they deal with various dramas and cook their delicious-looking holiday feasts. [Tubi]

9. Pieces of April (2003)

April (Katie Holmes) and her boyfriend Bobby (Derek Luke) host Thanksgiving dinner for April’s intensely messed-up family in their cluttered New York apartment. Shot on digital video, the movie is grungy and cramped, but also intimate and sincerely touching. [Amazon Prime, Hulu]

8. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

Woody Allen’s masterful, novelistic movie is bookended by two Thanksgiving dinners, and follows the various adult dramas (and comedies) of sisters Mia Farrow, Barbara Hershey and Dianne Wiest (who won an Oscar) over the course of a year. [Rental, from $3.99, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube]

7. Rocky (1976)

One of the most inspiring examples of Hollywood lore has Sylvester Stallone writing and starring in a timeless story of a shaggy dog boxer getting a shot at the big time. Rocky’s first date, on Thanksgiving, with Adrian (Talia Shire) is still a delight. [Rental, from $1.99, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube]

6. Avalon (1990)

“You cut the toikey without me!” The third in Barry Levinson’s gorgeous, sentimental, deeply personal Baltimore series tells the story of various generations of an immigrant family, and how the American Dream changes for them. [Rental, from $1.99, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube]

5. Krisha (2016)

Trey Edward Shults’s bold, searing feature debut filled with nightmarish, pinwheel, slo-mo cinematography takes place at a deeply dysfunctional Thanksgiving dinner where Krisha (Schults’ real-life aunt Krisha Fairchild) arrives, barely holding it together, and causes a disruption that leads to the breaking point. [Hoopla, Kanopy]

4. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)

The ultimate Thanksgiving TV special, written by Charles M. Schulz, features jazz music by Vince Guaraldi, who also sings the weird, charming “Little Birdie” song. Peppermint Patty invites herself and some friends over for dinner, and it’s up to Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang to make food, and set up that pesky folding chair. [Apple TV+]

3. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

A wonderful, bustling, big-city Christmas movie about the real Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) taking a job at Macy’s and having to prove he exists. It opens at the Thanksgiving Day Macy’s Parade, where the parade-ending appearance of Santa starts the story. It won two Oscars for writing, and a third one for Gwenn. [Disney+]

Steve Martin, left, and John Candy appear in the Thanksgiving comedy classic “Planes, Trains & Automobiles.” (Courtesy Paramount)

Steve Martin, left, and John Candy appear in the Thanksgiving comedy classic “Planes, Trains & Automobiles.” (Courtesy Paramount)

2. Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)

John Hughes’ mismatched-pair, road-trip comedy with Steve Martin and John Candy is full of broad humor, but all of it is pitched just right. When the characters get home for Thanksgiving, the movie reveals its genuine kind heart. [Tubi]

1. Home for the Holidays (1995)

Jodie Foster’s chaotic, enormously lovely holiday get-together with Holly Hunter, Robert Downey, Jr., Anne Bancroft and more, moves like a screwball comedy, but quirky and grown-up and with moments of quiet reflection. The scene with Charles Durning watching his old home movies will lift your soul. [Roku]

Other Thanksgiving movies: “American Movie” (1999), “Antwone Fisher” (2002), “The Blind Side” (2009), “Boyhood” (2014), “Brokeback Mountain” (2005), “Deadfall” (2012), “The Doors” (1991), “Free Birds” (2013), “Four Brothers” (2005), “Funny People” (2009), “Grumpy Old Men” (1993), “The House of Yes” (1997), “Jack and Jill” (2011), “The Last Waltz” (1978), “The New World” (2005), “Nobody’s Fool” (1994), “Spider-Man” (2002), “Tower Heist” (2011)

Movies and TV

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Jeff Tumlin, director of transportation for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, said the agency’s fiscal situation is “far worse” than the worse case scenarios projected back in April. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA prepares for massive potential layoffs as budget crisis continues to build

More than 1,200 full-time jobs on the line as agency struggles to close deficit

Nicole Canedo looks at her City-issued Medical Reimbursement Account page on her computer outside her Berkeley apartment on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. Canedo has worked numerous retail jobs in The City and the MRA has helped her with health costs. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Millions left sitting in medical reimbursement accounts by city workers

Health officials looking at how to improve access, outreach as untapped funds reach $409M

Andrew Faulk wrote "My Epidemic." (Courtesy photo)
Doctor’s memoir a fitting remembrance for World AIDS Day

‘My Epidemic’ tells personal stories of men who died

(Shutterstock)
49ers to play next two home games in Arizona after county order

The San Francisco 49ers will play their next two games in Arizona… Continue reading

Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF moves into purple tier, triggering curfew and business shutdowns

San Francisco moved into the state’s purple COVID-19 tier Saturday, requiring The… Continue reading

Most Read