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Courtesy of Relativity Media/Turkey's Films LLC.

The best best Thanksgiving movies for families with kids

Essential viewing to pair with your turkey and pumpkin pie

Edited by
Andy Kryza
Written by
Hannah Doolin
Allie Early
Danielle Valente
Oliver Strand

Thanksgiving is a day for binges, both culinary and cinematic. For many, the holiday means pounding through every Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings movie while the house fills with the smell of roasting turkey and baked pies. But curiously, there aren't an awful lot of movies actually set during Thanksgiving.

Christmas movies are a dime a dozen, but a good Turkey Day film is as rare as a holiday meal where Uncle Rick doesn't start talking politics. Rarer still is a family-friendly Thanksgiving movie (Planes, Trains & Automobiles is way more R-rated than you remember). But fret not: We’ve plated them all up right here. Polish off your third helping and find a comfy spot to enjoy classics like A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and newfound holiday flicks like Free Birds, any of which should be entertaining enough to get the kids settled and Uncle Rick to stop spitting conspiracy theories. 

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Thanksgiving movies for kids

In this ’90s take on our favorite spooky clan, we learn that the Addams family has actually expanded to include young baby Pubert. Wednesday and Pugsley are less than pleased with his arrival. That's when their new babysitter—who’s eyeing Uncle Fester's big bucks—decides to enroll the kiddos in summer camp. Obviously, it's not the children’s cup of poison. Camp Chippewa is the location of the famous Thanksgiving play scene that goes awry at Wednesday’s direction, giving Kill Bill a run for its (stage) blood-gushing money. You know we’re in for trouble the minute Wednesday, who stars as Pocahontas says, “Wait. We cannot break bread with you.” Rated PG-13. 

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1965)
Photogrpah: Courtesy American Broadcasting Company/CBS

2. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1965)

Something we all can agree on: Charlie Brown specials do not get old. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving takes its place in the trio of great Peanuts holiday movies along with It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Christmas. This Emmy-winning story has all the Thanksgiving essentials: football (kick the ball, Charlie Brown), a holiday feast and, of course, the oddly adult-free but adult-like conversation among the Peanuts. Rated G.

Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow (2015)
Photograph: Courtesy Sergei Bachlakov

3. Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow (2015)

In this new-ish addition to the holiday movie canon, we follow the Emmersons, who are en route to Aunt Cly's for a festive celebration. Tim and Annie are less than thrilled with her small town. However, their interests are piqued when they hear the legend of the howling hoodoo.That's when they decide to hold the second helping of stuffing and go out to uncover the truth about these mythical creatures, which were created by the legendary Jim Henson Company and recall the delightful goblins of Labyrinth (sorry, no Bowie this time). Rated PG. 

Garfield’s Thanksgiving (2017)
Photograph: Courtesy Paws Inc.

4. Garfield’s Thanksgiving (2017)

Thanksgiving is all about indulging, and it’s certainly the most inappropriate time to start thinking about healthy eating... especially when you’re as enamored with food as Garfield. Our favorite hungry cat is looking forward to the most magnificent eating day of the year, but his plans come to a screeching halt when his owner decides it’s the perfect day to begin a new diet. Talk about bad timing! It’s a special that will inspire you to make a place for lasagna on the Thanksgiving spread. Not Rated.

Free Birds (2015)
Photograph: Courtesy of Relativity Media/Turkey's Films LLC.

5. Free Birds (2015)

Reggie (Owen Wilson) is the smartest gobbler in his flock—and a smart you-know-what. He knows his pals are just being fattened up for Thanksgiving, but they don't particularly care because, well, you know what they say about turkeys. As luck would have it, Reggie meets up with Jake (Woody Harrelson), who has a magic doorknob that leads them to a time machine that takes them back to the very first Thanksgiving. Think of this as a holiday cousin to Chicken RunRated PG.

When a boy from a poor neighborhood is taken in by a wealthy Tennessee woman, life changes for both of them. Thanks to Leigh Anne Touhy (Sandra Bullock) and her family, Michael “Big Mike” Oher (Quinton Aaron) is given an opportunity to put his athleticism and protective instincts to use on the football field, eventually becoming a first-round NFL draft pick. The movie plays hard and fast with the truth and leans a bit heavily into the white-savior tropes, but a Thanksgiving Day scene when Big Mike causes the family to pause and appreciate their meal and one another is particularly touching—one that might even convince your family to flick off the game for a while next year. Rated PG-13.

Dora the Explorer: Dora's Thanksgiving Day Parade (2012)
Courtesy Nickelodeon/Viacom International Inc.

7. Dora the Explorer: Dora's Thanksgiving Day Parade (2012)

Make the holiday extra memorable this season by tuning in as Dora swoops in to help—with some guidance from your little sidekicks. Our leading lady is ready to enjoy the Thanksgiving parade, but when the Pirate Piggies accidentally float away, it's go time. Will she be able to save Turkey Day from a disaster? The short film is best paired with a dessert viewing of the live-action adventure released in 2019. Not rated. 

8. Alvin and the Chipmunks - Alvin’s Thanksgiving Celebration (2008)

Think you can handle Alvin, Simon and Theodore’s super high-pitched voices for a little over an hour? If you're up to the challenge—and let’s face, it, you'll do anything for those kiddos of yours—you might stream this animated gem (and hey, it's not the live-action Squeakquel). Believe it or not, Dave is getting married in Alvin’s Thanksgiving Celebration, and it’s not working out as planned. With the Chipmunks, when does it ever? Not rated

  • Film
  • Comedy

Family dysfunction is as essential to Thanksgiving as pumpkin pie and gravy (not together, though). This Jodie Foster-directed comedy brings all the light squabbling to the table, with an ensemble featuring Robert Downey Jr, Holly Hunter, Claire Danes and Anne Bancroft delivering laughs and heart in tale about a middle-class Thanksgiving reunion. The drama, innuendo and profanity mean that this is best enjoyed by older kids, but consider it a good middle ground between kiddie fare and the R-rated delights of Planes, Trains & Automobiles.

  • Film

A group of four supersmart dinosaurs—a tyrannosaurus rex, a triceratops, a hadrosaur and a pterodactyl±are brought forward in time to New York City and set out for the Museum of Natural History. A bot named Louise agrees to help them get there. The problem? They're dinosaurs, and it's hard to hide in Manhattan. That is, unless it's Thanksgiving and there's a parade of gigantic creatures making its way down the streets. Rated G

Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving (1999)
Image: Walt Disney Television

11. Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving (1999)

This direct-to-video flick is worth unearthing when the season of pumpkin pie is near. Go on an adventure in the Hundred Acre Wood with Pooh, Piglet, Tigger and the rest of the gang as they sleuth for Thanksgiving dinner ingredients to see if they can find everything they need to make the day perfect. Not Rated

  • Film
  • Drama

The reigning king of Christmas movies, Frank Capra’s poignant fable stars Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, a man with big ambitions (and a bigger heart) who defers his dream of leaving small-town Bedford Falls, but makes personal sacrifices that create a staggering ripple effect of inspirational goodwill on earth—a great message for young viewers watching at home. He even helps an angel get his wings. It's the perfect way to close out Turkey Day—and get the kids excited for Santa. Rated G. 


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