Best Thanksgiving movies of all time

‘Home for the Holidays’ (1996) showcases the often hilarious reality of family dynamics during the holidays.

(Nov. 20, 2022) — 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.

It is important to 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 subgenre. As a result, we considered any movie that takes place over Thanksgiving or involves significant Thanksgiving scenes to be part of our “best of” list.

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 favorite Thanksgiving-themed films made the list.

You may also like: Best Clint Eastwood movies

#25. For Your Consideration (2006)

– Director: Christopher Guest
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.08
– IMDb user rating: 6.3
– Metascore: 68
– Runtime: 86 minutes

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.

#24. Alice’s Restaurant (1969)

– Director: Arthur Penn
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.12
– IMDb user rating: 6.2
– Metascore: data not available
– Runtime: 111 minutes

In this 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.

#23. What’s Cooking? (2000)

– Director: Gurinder Chadha
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.13
– IMDb user rating: 6.9
– Metascore: 57
– Runtime: 109 minutes

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 contend with generational gaps, sibling squabbles, and unexpected guests.

#22. The War at Home (1996)

– Director: Emilio Estevez
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.21
– IMDb user rating: 6.9
– Metascore: data not available
– Runtime: 123 minutes

When a Vietnam war hero named Jeremy comes home, he finds it difficult to return to his family and a “normal” small-town life. Played by Emilio Estevez, who also directed the film, 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 during the Vietnam war era, the movie also focuses on the similarities between family conflict and the struggles of war.

#21. Home for the Holidays (1995)

– Director: Jodie Foster
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.24
– IMDb user rating: 6.5
– Metascore: 56
– Runtime: 103 minutes

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 received a Young Artist Award nomination for her performance.

#20. Grumpy Old Men (1993)

– Director: Donald Petrie
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.27
– IMDb user rating: 7.0
– Metascore: 53
– Runtime: 103 minutes

Acting greats Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau shine in this 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, earning more than $70 million, and generated a sequel, “Grumpier Old Men,” in 1995.

You may also like: 100 best American movies of all time

#19. One True Thing (1998)

– Director: Carl Franklin
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.31
– IMDb user rating: 6.9
– Metascore: 63
– Runtime: 127 minutes

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.

#18. The House of Yes (1997)

– Director: Mark Waters
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.34
– IMDb user rating: 6.6
– Metascore: 54
– Runtime: 85 minutes

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 mentally unbalanced 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.

You may also like: 50 best WWII movies of all time

#17. The Humans (2021)

Beanie Feldstein and Steven Yeun in ‘The Humans.’

– Director: Stephen Karam
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.36
– IMDb user rating: 6.2
– Metascore: 78
– Runtime: 108 minutes

Stephen Karam adapted his own Tony-winning one-act play for this film, a psychological drama that centers around three family generations from Philadelphia meeting to celebrate Thanksgiving in the youngest daughter’s New York apartment—only to find, as the night draws on, that something strange might be happening in the apartment building. As the characters become more spooked and tensions build, each of them inches closer to desperation amid this strange and creepy atmosphere, leading them to reveal their biggest fears and secret elements of their personal lives to one another. With a remarkable cast that includes Amy Schumer, Richard Jenkins, Steven Yeun, Beanie Feldstein, Jayne Houdyshell, and June Squibb, the film ended up on various critics’ top 10 lists from 2021.

#16. You’ve Got Mail (1998)

– Director: Nora Ephron
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.42
– IMDb user rating: 6.7
– Metascore: 57
– Runtime: 119 minutes

While the focus of “You’ve Got Mail” isn’t centered directly around Thanksgiving, the story does take place during the holiday 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. Upon opening in December 1998, the film grossed more than $250 million worldwide.

#15. Pieces of April (2003)

– Director: Peter Hedges
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.42
– IMDb user rating: 7.0
– Metascore: 70
– Runtime: 80 minutes

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.

#14. The Big Chill (1983)

– Director: Lawrence Kasdan
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.46
– IMDb user rating: 7.1
– Metascore: 61
– Runtime: 105 minutes

When an old friend dies by suicide, a group of former college pals gathers over Thanksgiving weekend to reminisce about their younger years 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 three Oscars—Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress for Glenn Close, and Best Original Screenplay—and won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival in 1983.

#13. Nobody’s Fool (1994)

Jessica Tandy and Paul Newman in ‘Nobody’s Fool.’

– Director: Robert Benton
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.57
– IMDb user rating: 7.3
– Metascore: 86
– Runtime: 110 minutes

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. The film received Oscar nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor for Newman’s performance.

#12. Avalon (1990)

– Director: Barry Levinson
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.58
– IMDb user rating: 7.2
– Metascore: 68
– Runtime: 128 minutes

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 four categories, including Best Original Screenplay.

You may also like: Mistakes from the 50 best movies of all time

#11. Mistress America (2015)

– Director: Noah Baumbach
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.62
– IMDb user rating: 6.7
– Metascore: 75
– Runtime: 84 minutes

College student Tracy (Lola Kirke) is alone and lonely in New York City, so she seeks out her soon-to-be stepsister, Brooke (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.

#10. Krisha (2015)

– Director: Trey Edward Shults
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.65
– IMDb user rating: 7.1
– Metascore: 86
– Runtime: 83 minutes

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. For the film, Shults received various awards recognizing his achievement as a first-time feature director.

#9. Addams Family Values (1993)

– Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.70
– IMDb user rating: 6.8
– Metascore: 61
– Runtime: 94 minutes

In this sequel to the 1991 movie, “The Addams Family” all the beloved characters return as Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) weds crazy nanny Debbie (Joan Cusack), who plots to kill Fester and take his fortune. The film debuted in late November 1993, just in time for the holiday. To top it all off, the portrayal of Pocahontas by Wednesday Addams (Christina Ricci) in her camp’s Thanksgiving play sets the tone for the perfect, albeit twisted, seasonal movie.

#8. The New World (2005)

Colin Farrell and Q’orianka Kilcher as John Smith and Pocahontas.

– Director: Terrence Malick
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.71
– IMDb user rating: 6.7
– Metascore: 69
– Runtime: 135 minutes

Terrence Malick’s “The New World” stars Colin Farrell as John Smith, an English captain who becomes romantically involved with Pocahontas (Q’orianka Kilcher), the daughter of the Powhatan chief, in the early days of the Jamestown settlement in Virginia in 1607. Though the film does not depict a Thanksgiving gathering—and most Americans tend to think of the first Thanksgiving as the feast held in New England in 1621—the Jamestown colonists apparently held their own Thanksgiving festivities in 1619. Plus, much like the first Thanksgiving story, the film depicts some of the earliest historical encounters between European settlers and Native Americans. The film received an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography, and Kilcher received extensive recognition for her breakthrough film performance.

#7. The Ice Storm (1997)

Toby MacGuire in ‘The Ice Storm.’

– Director: Ang Lee
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.73
– IMDb user rating: 7.4
– Metascore: 72
– Runtime: 112 minutes

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, Joan Allen, Tobey Maguire, and Elijah Wood, the movie was nominated for several awards, and Weaver won a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress.

#6. The Daytrippers (1996)

– Director: Greg Mottola
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.74
– IMDb user rating: 7.0
– Metascore: 73
– Runtime: 87 minutes

The day after Thanksgiving, a woman named Eliza (Hope Davis) 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 and meet some interesting characters during their hunt for Eliza’s husband.

#5. Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

– Director: John Hughes
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.76
– IMDb user rating: 7.6
– Metascore: 72
– Runtime: 93 minutes

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-intentioned attempts to help bring 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.

#4. Scent of a Woman (1992)

– Director: Martin Brest
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.87
– IMDb user rating: 8.0
– Metascore: 59
– Runtime: 156 minutes

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 major accolades, including his first Oscar for Best Actor.

You may also like: Sequels that outperformed the original at the box office

#3. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

– Director: Woody Allen
– Letterboxd user rating: 3.95
– IMDb user rating: 7.9
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 107 minutes

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. Upon release in February 1986, the film became one of Allen’s biggest box office hits, grossing more than $35 million worldwide.

#2. Rocky (1976)

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

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 (Sylvester Stallone) 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 (Talia Shire) leave and go ice skating as their romance blooms.

#1. The Last Waltz (1978)

The final concert by The Band played on Thanksgiving day 1976.

– Director: Martin Scorsese
– Letterboxd user rating: 4.14
– IMDb user rating: 8.1
– Metascore: 88
– Runtime: 117 minutes

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 is considered by many to be one of the best concert movies of all time.

You may also like: Most widely watched but universally hated movies of all time

 This story, produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio re-published pursuant to a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.