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Best Thanksgiving movies of all time

  • Best Thanksgiving movies of all time

    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.

    Compiling data from Letterboxd, an online film database and cinephile community, as well as IMDb, and Metacritic, Stacker set out 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 all legitimate editorial compilations of Thanksgiving movies.

    At Stacker, we 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 sub-genre. As a result, Stacker considered any movie set at Thanksgiving, or involving 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.

    Here, take a look at our list of some of the best Thanksgiving movies to watch this season.

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  • #25. Funny People (2009)

    - Director: Judd Apatow
    - Letterboxd user rating: 2.99
    - IMDb user rating: 6.3
    - Metascore: 60
    - Runtime: 146 min

    Starring Adam Sandler as a comedian with financial success but no real friends, the movie “Funny People” builds on themes of family, connection, and love. When his newly hired employee invites him home for Thanksgiving, Sandler’s character, “George,” makes a toast during Thanksgiving dinner that ends up being surprisingly heartfelt, and the scene remains an iconic holiday movie moment.

  • #24. For Your Consideration (2006)

    - Director: Christopher Guest
    - Letterboxd user rating: 2.99
    - IMDb user rating: 6.3
    - Metascore: 68
    - Runtime: 86 min

    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.

  • #23. What's Cooking? (2000)

    - Director: Gurinder Chadha
    - Letterboxd user rating: 3.07
    - IMDb user rating: 7.0
    - Metascore: 57
    - Runtime: 109 min

    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 struggle with generation gaps, sibling squabbles, and unexpected guests.

  • #22. Alice's Restaurant (1969)

    - Director: Arthur Penn
    - Letterboxd user rating: 3.13
    - IMDb user rating: 6.3
    - Metascore: null
    - Runtime: 111 min

    An 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.

  • #21. Home for the Holidays (1995)

    - Director: Jodie Foster
    - Letterboxd user rating: 3.20
    - IMDb user rating: 6.6
    - Metascore: 56
    - Runtime: 103 min

    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 was nominated for a Young Artist Award for her role.

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  • #20. Grumpy Old Men (1993)

    - Director: Donald Petrie
    - Letterboxd user rating: 3.22
    - IMDb user rating: 7.0
    - Metascore: 53
    - Runtime: 103 min

    Acting greats Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau shine in this 1993 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, with total earnings of more than $70 million, and generated a sequel, “Grumpier Old Men,” in 1995.

  • #19. One True Thing (1998)

    - Director: Carl Franklin
    - Letterboxd user rating: 3.24
    - IMDb user rating: 7.0
    - Metascore: 63
    - Runtime: 127 min

    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.

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  • #18. The War at Home (1996)

    - Director: Emilio Estevez
    - Letterboxd user rating: 3.25
    - IMDb user rating: 7.0
    - Metascore: null
    - Runtime: 123 min

    A Vietnam war hero comes home, finding it difficult to return to “normal” small-town life, as well as to his place within his family. Played by Emilio Estevez, who also co-produced the film, the main character of 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 and the Vietnam war era, the movie also focuses on the idea of family conflict being similar to the stresses of war.

  • #17. Pieces of April (2003)

    - Director: Peter Hedges
    - Letterboxd user rating: 3.26
    - IMDb user rating: 7.0
    - Metascore: 70
    - Runtime: 80 min

    Katie Holmes shows off her acting chops in this funny, charming, and 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.

  • #16. You've Got Mail (1998)

    - Director: Nora Ephron
    - Letterboxd user rating: 3.28
    - IMDb user rating: 6.6
    - Metascore: 57
    - Runtime: 119 min

    While the focus of “You’ve Got Mail” isn’t centered directly around Thanksgiving, the story does take place during the holidays 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. The movie opened in December 1998 and grossed more than $250 million worldwide.

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