Best Thanksgiving movies of all time

Published 7:00 am Friday, November 19, 2021

New Line Cinema

Best Thanksgiving movies of all time

When one thinks of holiday movies, the first thing that springs to mind is most likely Christmas. With new releases every year at both the box office and on streaming services, as well as all those classic favorites we know and love, there’s no shortage of Christmas movies to add to your watch list. But amid all that Yuletide cheer, Thanksgiving shouldn’t be forgotten—and there are quite a few movies that align with turkey day, many of which can be an enjoyable addition to seasonal traditions.

Stacker analyzed data from Letterboxd, IMDb, and Metacritic to rank the highest-rated Thanksgiving films of all time. To determine which movies would qualify, our experts surveyed the history of film, comprehensive film databases, and legitimate editorial compilations of Thanksgiving movies.

At Stacker, we recognize that genre is meant to help describe and communicate the vibe of a film, not to serve as a limiting factor on what films can and cannot be. There are no hard and fast rules that define a Thanksgiving movie, and we agree that leaning into more open interpretations of what fits in certain fringe genres is best practice for developing a pool of films that represent all possible expressions of a particular sub-genre. As a result, we considered any movie that takes place over Thanksgiving, or involving significant Thanksgiving scenes, to be part of our “best of” list.

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Only feature films were considered (sorry, “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”), and each film had to be watched by at least 1,000 Letterboxd users. Films are ranked by Letterboxd scores, with initial ties broken by IMDb user ratings and secondary ties broken by Metascore. Letterboxd scores are out of five, IMDb scores are out of 10, and Metascores are out of 100.

Keep reading to see if any of your favorites made the list.

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Universal Pictures

#25. Funny People (2009)

– Director: Judd Apatow
– Letterboxd user rating: 2.99
– IMDb user rating: 6.3
– Metascore: 60
– Runtime: 146 min

Starring Adam Sandler as a comedian with financial success but no real friends, the movie “Funny People” builds on themes of family, connection, and love. When his newly hired employee invites him home for Thanksgiving, Sandler’s character, “George,” makes a toast during Thanksgiving dinner that ends up being surprisingly heartfelt, and the scene remains an iconic holiday movie moment.

Shangri-La Entertainment

#24. For Your Consideration (2006)

– Director: Christopher Guest
– Letterboxd user rating: 2.99
– IMDb user rating: 6.3
– Metascore: 68
– Runtime: 86 min

One of Christopher Guest’s famed mockumentaries, “For Your Consideration” is the story of a group of actors just finishing production on a movie called “Home for Purim.” They find out the movie is generating some Oscar buzz, which, in their excitement, leads to some over-the-top behavior. Studio executives get involved as well, renaming the movie “Home for Thanksgiving” because the original title is deemed “too Jewish.” Of course, it all comes to nothing when only one of the actors is even nominated and they must all return to their normal lives.

Because Entertainment

#23. What’s Cooking? (2000)

– Director: Gurinder Chadha
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.07
– IMDb user rating: 7.0
– Metascore: 57
– Runtime: 109 min

This British/American dramedy tells of four diverse families celebrating Thanksgiving in their own ways, with stories that are all somehow intertwined. As each family prepares its meal, combining traditional American turkey with specific cultural dishes, the families also struggle with generation gaps, sibling squabbles, and unexpected guests.

Elkins Entertainment

#22. Alice’s Restaurant (1969)

– Director: Arthur Penn
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.13
– IMDb user rating: 6.3
– Metascore: null
– Runtime: 111 min

An adaptation of the 1967 folk song “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” written by Arlo Guthrie, Guthrie plays himself—a drifter who connects with friends for Thanksgiving. Things go sideways when they all decide to take a load of trash to the dump, only to find the dump closed. They toss the trash off a cliff, which leads to police involvement, criminal records, and a host of other problems. Combining both comedic and more solemn moments, the movie touches on relationships between friends and family, as well as the impact of the 1960s counterculture on society at large.

Paramount Pictures

#21. Home for the Holidays (1995)

– Director: Jodie Foster
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.20
– IMDb user rating: 6.6
– Metascore: 56
– Runtime: 103 min

Based on a short story by Chris Radant and directed by Jodie Foster, this movie showcases the often hilarious reality of family dynamics during the holidays, when a woman decides to spend Thanksgiving with her dysfunctional family. While the movie wasn’t considered a commercial success, Foster was praised for her directorial work, and actress Claire Danes was nominated for a Young Artist Award for her role.

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John Davis

#20. Grumpy Old Men (1993)

– Director: Donald Petrie
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.22
– IMDb user rating: 7.0
– Metascore: 53
– Runtime: 103 min

Acting greats Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau shine in this 1993 holiday comedy about feuding friends who both become romantically interested in their new neighbor, played by Ann-Margret. Things only get worse when their love interest spends Thanksgiving with another man, and the other two men take rivalry to new heights as they try to impress the neighbor. The movie was a surprise hit, with total earnings of more than $70 million, and generated a sequel, “Grumpier Old Men,” in 1995.

Monarch Pictures

#19. One True Thing (1998)

– Director: Carl Franklin
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.24
– IMDb user rating: 7.0
– Metascore: 63
– Runtime: 127 min

Based on the novel by Anna Quindlen, and loosely based on her own life experiences, “One True Thing” is a movie about a young woman, played by Renée Zellweger, who comes home to care for her terminally ill mother, all while trying to navigate their fractured relationship during what will be their last Thanksgiving and Christmas together. Meryl Streep, who plays Zellweger’s mother, was nominated for both an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her role in the film.

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Motion Picture Corporation of America (MPCA)

#18. The War at Home (1996)

– Director: Emilio Estevez
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.25
– IMDb user rating: 7.0
– Metascore: null
– Runtime: 123 min

A Vietnam war hero comes home, finding it difficult to return to “normal” small-town life, as well as to his place within his family. Played by Emilio Estevez, who also directed the film, the main character of Jeremy deals with PTSD and long-held resentment toward his father (Martin Sheen, Estevez’s real-life father) for not helping him evade the draft. It culminates at Thanksgiving dinner when Jeremy appears in his uniform and ends up pulling a gun on his father in anger. Playing off themes of estrangement and the Vietnam war era, the movie also focuses on the idea of family conflict being similar to the stresses of war.

United Artists

#17. Pieces of April (2003)

– Director: Peter Hedges
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.26
– IMDb user rating: 7.0
– Metascore: 70
– Runtime: 80 min

Katie Holmes shows off her acting chops in this funny and charming off-beat movie about a young woman trying to make her first Thanksgiving dinner for her estranged family, as they all deal with her mother’s cancer diagnosis. Holmes’ hard-edged character earnestly tries to prepare a turkey, seeking out her less-than-enthusiastic neighbors for help when her oven quits working. While the meal doesn’t go exactly as planned, the family all ends up around the table together, finding a thread of connection despite their differences.

Warner Bros.

#16. You’ve Got Mail (1998)

– Director: Nora Ephron
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.28
– IMDb user rating: 6.6
– Metascore: 57
– Runtime: 119 min

While the focus of “You’ve Got Mail” isn’t centered directly around Thanksgiving, the story does take place during the holidays and has become a much-loved classic. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan star as two people involved in an online romance; not knowing each other’s true identities as business rivals, they end up falling in love. The movie opened in December 1998 and grossed more than $250 million worldwide.

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Bandeira Entertainment

#15. The House of Yes (1997)

– Director: Mark Waters
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.32
– IMDb user rating: 6.6
– Metascore: 54
– Runtime: 85 min

This dark comedy tells of a young man bringing his new girlfriend (Tori Spelling) home to meet his family for Thanksgiving, not anticipating that his psychotic twin sister (Parker Posey) might not be too thrilled about it. Financed by Spelling’s father’s company, Spelling Entertainment, the film debuted to mediocre reviews and failed to make back its modest $1.5 million budget. But it did go on to have a bit of a cult following, and Parker Posey garnered Special Jury Recognition at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival.

Alliance Communications Corporation

#14. The Daytrippers (1996)

– Director: Greg Mottola
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.33
– IMDb user rating: 6.8
– Metascore: null
– Runtime: 87 min

The day after Thanksgiving, a woman named Eliza finds what she thinks is a love note to her husband while cleaning her house. She shows it to her mother, setting off a crazy chain of events in which her entire family decides to drive to New York to confront the husband and find out the truth. Along the way, they discover some equally surprising truths about their relationships with each other, as well as meeting some interesting characters during their hunt for Eliza’s husband.

Paramount Pictures

#13. Addams Family Values (1993)

– Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.46
– IMDb user rating: 6.7
– Metascore: 62
– Runtime: 94 min

In this sequel to the 1991 movie, “The Addams Family” all the beloved characters return as Uncle Fester weds crazy nanny Debbie, who plots to kill Fester and take his fortune. The film debuted on Nov. 19, 1993, just in time for the holiday season, and Wednesday’s portrayal of Pocahontas in her camp’s Thanksgiving play sets the tone for the perfect, albeit twisted, seasonal movie.

Columbia Pictures

#12. The Big Chill (1983)

– Director: Lawrence Kasdan
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.46
– IMDb user rating: 7.2
– Metascore: 61
– Runtime: 105 min

When an old friend dies by suicide, a group of former college pals gathers over Thanksgiving weekend to reminisce about who they were and who they have become. While the story centers around the death of a loved one, it is also a heartwarming reminder about how sometimes the family we have is the one we create. The film was nominated for multiple Oscars, a Golden Globe, and a British Academy of Film and Television Arts award (BAFTA), and won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival in 1983.

TriStar Pictures

#11. Avalon (1990)

– Director: Barry Levinson
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.50
– IMDb user rating: 7.2
– Metascore: null
– Runtime: 128 min

The third in a series of semi-autobiographical films by director Barry Levinson, Avalon explores a Jewish family’s integration into American culture. The family can’t seem to connect, which culminates on Thanksgiving when their Uncle Gabriel, played by Lou Jacobi, arrives late for dinner to find they’ve started without him. His outrage—”You cut the turkey without me?”—leads to more drama, estrangement, and loss. “Avalon” was critically acclaimed and was nominated for Oscars in several categories, as well as for Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Original Score.

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Hoody Boy Productions

#10. Krisha (2015)

– Director: Trey Edward Shults
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.55
– IMDb user rating: 7.2
– Metascore: 86
– Runtime: 83 min

Starring writer-director Trey Edward Shults’ real-life aunt, Krisha Fairchild, “Krisha” is the story of a woman struggling with addiction, who attempts to reconnect with her family by preparing Thanksgiving dinner for them. The movie was adapted from a short film Shults also wrote and directed, and debuted in 2015 at the South by Southwest Film Festival. It received critical acclaim and has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 95%.

Capella International

#9. Nobody’s Fool (1994)

– Director: Robert Benton
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.57
– IMDb user rating: 7.4
– Metascore: 86
– Runtime: 110 min

Paul Newman plays an aging hustler living in a small town who tries to navigate love and relationships as he comes to terms with where his life has ended up. The movie takes place over the holidays, starting with Thanksgiving, and highlights the loneliness of both Newman’s character and those around him. Newman was nominated for an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award for his role in the film.

Fox Searchlight Pictures

#8. Mistress America (2015)

– Director: Noah Baumbach
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.61
– IMDb user rating: 6.7
– Metascore: 75
– Runtime: 84 min

College student Tracy, played by Lola Kirke, is alone and lonely in New York City, so she seeks out her soon-to-be stepsister, Brooke, played by Greta Gerwig. The two become friends and try to gain financing for a restaurant Brooke wants to open, which ultimately leads to a falling out and betrayal. When Tracy finds herself alone again on Thanksgiving, she ends up reconnecting with Brooke and the two spend the holiday together, discovering a tenuous bond they didn’t know existed.

New Line Cinema

#7. The New World (2005)

– Director: Terrence Malick
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.68
– IMDb user rating: 6.7
– Metascore: 69
– Runtime: 135 min

A dramatic retelling of the first Thanksgiving, “The New World” stars Colin Farrell as Capt. John Smith, who becomes romantically involved with Native American Pocahontas, played by Q’orianka Kilcher. The movie was released on Dec. 25, 2005, and Kilcher’s performance earned her an American Latino Media Arts (ALMA) Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture.

Universal Pictures

#6. Scent of a Woman (1992)

– Director: Martin Brest
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.71
– IMDb user rating: 8.0
– Metascore: 59
– Runtime: 156 min

When student Charlie Simms (Chris O’Donnell) takes a job over Thanksgiving weekend to help care for a woman’s blind uncle (Al Pacino) he finds it to be a much bigger task than he had imagined. Pacino’s portrayal of retired Army ranger Frank Slade garnered huge accolades, and Pacino won both an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Actor.

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Paramount Pictures

#5. Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

– Director: John Hughes
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.74
– IMDb user rating: 7.6
– Metascore: 72
– Runtime: 93 min

Probably one of the most well-known Thanksgiving movies to date, “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” takes Steve Martin and John Candy on a wild comedic ride as Martin’s character tries to get home for Thanksgiving, while Candy’s well-meaning help brings nothing but disaster. The film marked director John Hughes’ first attempt at making a movie geared more toward adults than the teen movies he was known for, and while it wasn’t a huge commercial success, it has remained a holiday classic.

Fox Searchlight Pictures

#4. The Ice Storm (1997)

– Director: Ang Lee
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.76
– IMDb user rating: 7.4
– Metascore: 72
– Runtime: 112 min

Set in 1973 during Thanksgiving weekend, “The Ice Storm” tells of two disconnected families that become enmeshed in sexual experimentation and drug use, all of which ultimately leads to tragedy. Starring Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Christina Ricci, and Elijah Wood, the movie was nominated for several awards, and Weaver won a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress.

Orion Pictures

#3. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

– Director: Woody Allen
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.97
– IMDb user rating: 7.9
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 107 min

This Woody Allen movie follows a family over two years, starting and ending with Thanksgiving dinner. While Hannah (Mia Farrow) deals with her husband’s infatuation with her sister, Lee (Barbara Hershey), the third sister, Holly (Dianne Wiest), repeatedly fails at every career she tries. Opening on Feb. 7, 1986, it was one of Allen’s biggest box office hits, grossing more than $35 million worldwide.

Chartoff-Winkler Productions

#2. Rocky (1976)

– Director: John G. Avildsen
– Letterboxd user rating: 4.01
– IMDb user rating: 8.1
– Metascore: 70
– Runtime: 120 min

While “Rocky” might not be considered a quintessential Thanksgiving tale, the conflict that takes place at the Thanksgiving table during the film is a reminder of the difficulties of family gatherings. When Rocky attends Thanksgiving dinner at his girlfriend Adrian’s house, she and her brother get into an argument that leads to the turkey being thrown outside. Rocky and Adrian leave and go ice-skating as their burgeoning romance blooms.

FM Productions

#1. The Last Waltz (1978)

– Director: Martin Scorsese
– Letterboxd user rating: 4.05
– IMDb user rating: 8.2
– Metascore: 88
– Runtime: 117 min

Directed by Martin Scorsese, “The Last Waltz” is a documentary about a farewell concert the musical group The Band performed on Thanksgiving Day in 1976. Playing live songs interspersed with interviews and studio segments, it features many big-name artists, such as Eric Clapton and Neil Diamond. The film maintains a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is considered by many to be one of the best concert movies of all time.

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