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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 around the corner, and with it family, turkey, movies and hopefully plenty of wintry good vibes. We can’t help with the turkey – you’re on your own there – but we can make a few suggestions of films to keep the little people in your brood occupied while you dust off the board games and catch up on Uncle Chuck’s latest predictaments.

And because you don’t need us to tell you that Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings are evergreen viewing options at this festive time of the year, this selection of kid-friendly films digs into some of the lesser-visited corners of the streaming world. There aren’t too many on-screen Thanksgivings out there, because while Hollywood loves a good family Christmas, it’s rarely had much urge to recreate the late November (avoid sharing the grown-up joys of Planes, Trains & Automobiles with the children). But there are a few goodies like A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving to keep them out of trouble.


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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

Sure, it’s a Christmas film first and foremost but Thanksgiving can make a claim to it, too, because it captures something essential about the spirit of the holiday: that family means nothing without the old man there to make terrible dad jokes and get in trouble for cheating at Scrabble. (It’s possible we’ve misread Frank Capra evergreen classic.) Regardless, this story of one ordinary Joe’s fall and rise is full of goodwill and joy for all ages. It’s the perfect way to close out Turkey Day – and get the kids excited for Santa. Rated G.


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