Photograph: Courtesy Paws Inc."Garfield's Thanksgiving"

The best Thanksgiving movies for kids the whole family will love

Essential viewing to pair with your turkey and pumpkin pie


Thanksgiving gets short shrift in the American popular consciousness, and from an adult perspective, it’s not hard to see why. It involves a high-stress dinner and the obligation of hosting those annoying relatives who typically get disinvited from other holiday gatherings. For kids, though, it’s quite awesome. First of all, there’s no school. It all kicks off with a televised parade in the morning, then there’s football in the street, followed by a massive dinner where you’re actually encouraged to overindulge. And hey, Uncle Jimmy is here, pulling quarters from behind your ear! 

Really, what could be better? How about capping the evening with a fun, family-friendly movie? Here are 12 great Thanksgiving movies appropriate for the little ones on this upcoming Turkey Day, to serve either as a nightcap or as a distraction during dinner prep.


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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. 

2. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1965)

True to the holiday itself, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving falls a distant third in the pantheon of Peanuts holiday specials, well behind It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Christmas. But it still has everything you want from Charles Schulz’s precocious cartoon crew: a message about togetherness, a history lesson on the holiday and, of course, Charlie trying – and failing – to kick a football. Rated G.


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. 

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.


5. Free Birds (2015)

In this animated adventure, Owen Wilson voices Reggie, a turkey who’s probably a bit too smart for his own good. He knows why his flock is getting fattened up, and he’s determined to halt their terrible fate – by, uh, going back in time to the first Thanksgiving and getting his species off the menu. It’s something like an American version of Chicken Run, and while not quite as good, Wilson plus Woody Harrelson as Reggie’s rebellious best friend Jake make for a fun vocal tandem. Rated 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.


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


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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