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The best Thanksgiving movies of all time

Turkey Day tends to be the holiday Hollywood forgets, but we're a little more dedicated, so here's our list the best Thanksgiving movies.

Best thanksgiving movies: Chris Evans in Knives Out, cast of Little Women

At this time of year, families across the US are debating what the best Thanksgiving movies are as they try to agree on what to watch after the annual feast of turkey, mashed potatoes, and whatever else.

Thankfully the arguing can stop right now because we’ve compiled a list of the best movies, from a number of genres, that make for perfect viewing on Thanksgiving day. From the best science fiction movies, to the best drama movies, these are films that the whole family can enjoy, with plenty of variety.

The best Thanksgiving movies of all time: Christina Ricci as Wednesday Addams

Addams Family Values (1993)

Before Wednesday was a hit on Netflix (yes, we’re still eagerly awaiting Wednesday season 2), the Addams Family released two classic kids movies. Both are brilliantly macabre, capturing the offbeat spirit of this wonderfully weird family, but we’ve chosen Addams Family Values as the best of the bunch.

Why? Well, it’s the better movie, but also because it features Wednesday Addams’s bloodthirsty take on the first Thanksgiving, where the Native Americans turn the tables on the pilgrims. This is, really, a must-watch.

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Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

Released to coincide with Thanksgiving, 1986’s The Voyage Home is the fourth Star Trek movie, and the second to be directed by franchise legend Leonard Nimoy. Despite all that, the story is one that is self-contained enough that it can absolutely be watched separately from the rest, and your family really doesn’t need to have seen all the other movies or know all the lore to have plenty of fun.

So now that we’ve convinced you why you can watch it, here’s why you should watch it. The Voyage Home is about a family reconnecting, against a backdrop of adventure and retro fun. It also carries an environmental message too, and has more substance to it than simply being a crowd-pleasing romp (though it is also that, with the least serious tone of any film in the franchise).

You also don’t have to worry about an overly-menacing villain scaring the kids. There is no tangible villain here, other than a large probe, because this is all about hope and optimism, with space for plenty of laughs along the way.

The best Thanksgiving movies of all time: Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan

You’ve Got Mail (1998)

There’s something wonderfully comfortable about rom-coms, and who doesn’t want to be warm and cozy this time of year? In this regard, You’ve Got Mail ticks all the boxes. It’s funny, romantic, and even comments on the pitfalls of capitalism.

What really makes the romance movie work, though, is its two central actors, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. They’re both so lovable I challenge anyone not to fall in love with them watching this film. It’s a true classic in every sense.

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Knives Out (2019)

Another Thanksgiving release, Knives Out is – in a way – the ultimate family movie. On the surface, it’s fast-paced and entertaining enough to engage younger audiences and is sufficiently clever and unexpected enough to keep adults hooked too. It also has a distinctly autumnal feel, with a large majestic house filled with dark wood and antique-ish decor, and Chris Evans’ iconic cozy sweater.

Equally, if you find yourself wanting a reprieve from your own family’s flaws or arguments, this helps to put things into perspective, taking the word ‘dysfunctional’ to another level. Perhaps, when it’s done, you’ll look at your most irritating relative with a bit more patience.

Knives Out’s sequel, Glass Onion, is a worthwhile successor too, but doesn’t quite hit the same heights. Regardless, two hours of murder and deceit is more than enough for Thanksgiving.

The best Thanksgiving movies of all time The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Some people think Nightmare Before Christmas is a Halloween movie, and some people think it’s a Christmas movie. Let’s split the difference and call it a Thanksgiving movie.

In all seriousness, I’m a big believer that Nightmare can be enjoyed at any time between October 1st and December 25th. What else is there to say about this animated classic? It’s charming, it’s spooky, and the songs are great — but you already knew that. It deserves to be watched again, and again, and again.

The best Thanksgiving movies of all time Little Women

Little Women (2019)

Like Nightmare Before Christmas, Little Women can be thought of as a Christmas movie, but so much of it is set in the run-up to the festive season we think it’s OK to pop on a little earlier.

Greta Gerwig’s Little Women is a masterful adaptation with an incredible ensemble cast. Florence Pugh and Saoirse Ronan are probably the standouts, but this is as close to perfect as it’s possible for a movie to be.

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Home for the Holidays

Jodie Foster’s Home for the Holidays should have a much better reputation than it does. It really is an underrated classic, and should arguably be the defining Thanksgiving movie. It perfectly encapsulates the notion that going home to your family can, and often is, actually a deeply stressful experience, albeit an often necessary one. In that sense, it shows family gatherings as they really are, rather than the idealized version we so often see on screens.

Still (and perhaps it’s because of the realism and relatability), there’s a sense of comfort here. As you see the elements of your own experience and family reflected on the screen, it really evokes a warmth of feeling through its earnestness and honesty. The performances are a large part of this, of course, with Holly Hunter and Robert Downey Jr. doing especially good work as fractured siblings.

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Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

Imagine writing a list of the best Thanksgiving movies and not putting Planes, Trains and Automobiles on it. It’s the ultimate Thanksgiving movie, and if you disagree with us, then we’re sorry, but you are quantifiably wrong.

The comedy movie follows Steve Martin and John Candy on a road trip from hell as they desperately try to get home in time for Thanksgiving. It’s hysterically funny, bitterly sweet, and features one of the most heartbreaking turns in the history of cinema. Honestly, if you’re really stuck, forget the other picks. Just watch this. You won’t be disappointed.

That’s it on the best Thanksgiving movies. For more, read our list of new movies coming out through the rest of the year, or see our picks for the best Christmas movies.