A Thanksgiving Film Favorites List To Be Thankful For

Thanksgiving, the time for plentiful food, family gatherings, and reminiscing over your blessings and what you’re thankful for. With the family all under the roof again, or just the craziness of the holidays in general, there’s bound to be chaos and mayhem in one form or another.

Some of my favorite Thanksgiving movies outline what the holiday is all about, and exaggerate certain situations to make them the comedies, or dramedies, that they are. Even if the holidays get a little crazy, they usually create some memories that audiences ultimately love to tell.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop (2009) 

Paul Blart being chased by thugs in a mall while riding a Segway

Though the heist takes place on Black Friday, I still consider this a Thanksgiving-themed movie. Paul Blart’s dream is to be a police officer, but because he fails at the academy, he takes a job as a security guard at a fictional mall. His big break to prove himself comes when the mall is taken over by a band of criminals.

Paul’s comedy derives from his corny humor and his clumsy tendencies, but nonetheless he cares about those around him and takes his job seriously. Not everyone would have risen to the challenges that he did, but he saved the day—the day after Thanksgiving no less, when most people are still overstuffed from the day before and aren’t usually up for moving around much.

The Wizard of Oz (1939) 

The Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, Dorothy and the Tin Man huddled together in a green room, about to meet the powerful Wizard of Oz

Not typically a Thanksgiving movie, but ever since a family friend introduced the idea that the 1939 classic was indeed a movie to watch during Thanksgiving, I can’t get the idea out of my head. It’s become something I associate with the month of November.

I suppose in a way it makes sense—Dorothy was running away from home, but she realizes all she would be leaving behind and learns a valuable lesson in what she should be thankful for. With all the fun characters and memorable songs, it’s a perfect addition to my Thanksgiving watchlist.

The Blind Side (2009) 

Michael and Leigh Anne sitting on a sidewalk together and talking, with Michael looking at Leigh Anne

Based on a true story, Michael Oher’s life is forever changed when he’s taken in by the Tuohy family. One of the first acts of kindness that Leigh Anne shows is getting Michael off the street and offering him a place to stay for the night, which ends up being permanent in more ways than one.

Later, she invites him to spend Thanksgiving with her and her family. Part of what Thanksgiving is about is including as many people as you can and ensuring everyone gets a good meal and people to spend the holidays with. Leigh Anne’s offer made all the difference in Michael’s life, and Michael had a lot to be thankful for thanks to the Tuohy family.

Tower Heist (2011) 

Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, and Gabourey Sidibe sitting around a table in an apartment as their characters in Tower Heist

I remember watching this with my family back in the day shortly after its release. The image that stayed with me was Ben Stiller’s character, Josh, and the rest of his team pulling off a heist with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade going on just outside, as the heist itself took place on Thanksgiving Day.

Now, that’s quite a Thanksgiving for the books, and in the process, Josh, alongside other Tower employees, managed to receive compensation for their lost pensions because of the heist. Though Josh has to serve some time in prison, he still achieved his goal. Compared to organizing a heist, cooking Thanksgiving dinner seems easy-peasy.

Rocky (1976) 

Rocky and Adrian ice skating together, both looking down, in Rocky

I recently watched this, and was again reminded that the movie actually begins around the Thanksgiving holiday. Paulie cruelly throws out the turkey Adrian had been cooking, but the bright side of that awful ordeal is that Adrian and Rocky went on their first date, in which Rocky arranged for them to ice skate, just the two of them. It’s one of the most romantic movie scenes, at least in my book.

After that, Thanksgiving was undoubtedly a special time for Rocky and Adrian. Not only did they have each other to be thankful for, but also the upcoming fight against Apollo Creed in Rocky’s career that would propel him to stardom. Thanksgiving initially looked bleak for the both of them, but as it turns out, the Thanksgiving they went ice skating together was probably one of their best, if not the best.

Home for the Holidays (1995) 

Claudia hiding in her jacket while her parents talk to her as they're driving in the car in Home for the Holidays

Claudia returns home for Thanksgiving solo in Baltimore, leaving her daughter behind in Chicago, who plans to spend the holiday with her boyfriend. Claudia’s lost her job and made out with her boss, and isn’t in the best of moods when she arrives home.

The entire family has their moments, breakdowns and all. Claudia’s brother Tommy secretly married his boyfriend, Claudia’s aunt professes her longtime love for Claudia’s father, and fights break out between family members more than once. It’s about an imperfect family, coming together to celebrate the holiday anyhow, and ultimately trying to make the best out of things, making it both heartfelt and bittersweet.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973) 

Charlie Brown with Sally, Snoopy, Peppermint Patty, Linus, Franklin and Marcie all sitting at a table in Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

Since childhood, I’ve been watching the Charlie Brown specials every holiday. It’s a family tradition, courtesy of my mom. In this special, Charlie Brown is once again thwarted by Lucy and fails to kick the football before she pulls it away, but that turns out to be the least of his problems.

Poor Charlie Brown usually gets the shaft, and that’s clear when Peppermint Patty invites herself and a few friends over to Charlie Brown’s for a Thanksgiving meal. When his meal isn’t up to her standards, poor Charlie Brown suffers the wrath of Peppermint Patty, though she later apologizes when Marcie points out that Patty had invited herself and the others over without warning. Plus, Charlie Brown and his sister were already due at their grandmother’s for Thanksgiving; their grandmother later invites Charlie Brown’s and Sally’s friends too, in a sweet gesture. It’s a combination of friends and family, with classic Charlie Brown mixed in.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) 

Neal and Del walking down a snowy street while carrying a trunk between them in Planes, Trains and Automobiles

This is my favorite Thanksgiving movie of all time. There’s too much comedy going on to really focus on the horrible time Neal and Del are having as travelers, trying to get from New York City to Chicago in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.

One awful thing after another occurs, from robbery to delays to a car fire, and Neal especially is at his wit’s end. Given the memorable scene in which Neal loses it with the kindly agent at the rental car agency, audiences understand why Neal loses his mind since he’s been through Hell. Still, the film offers its heartfelt moments in which Neal and Del bond, becoming good friends, and Del is given a place to go for Thanksgiving. Neal remembers he has a lot to be thankful for, and extends his hospitality to Del, a meaningful gesture that makes for the perfect ending to the film.


Thanksgiving is a time for food and spending it with the people you love, but in-between the craziness of the holidays, it’s nice to take a break and just watch a holiday-themed movie, whether it’s just you or your entire family. The movies are reminders that the holidays don’t have to be perfect; all that matters is that you do your best and have a good time in the process.

Written by Kacie Lillejord

Kacie is a freelance writer versed in various forms. She loves pop culture, screenwriting, novels, and poetry. She has previously written for The Daily Wildcat, Harness Magazine, Cultured Vultures, and Screen Rant, with 25YL being her newest writing venture.

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