The 20 Best Movies and TV Shows to Watch on Thanksgiving When You’re Too Full to Do Anything Else
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It’s no coincidence that Hollywood releases so many blockbusters over the Thanksgiving weekend. Or that numerous TV shows dedicate special episodes to the big Turkey Day. It’s traditional to hit up the cinema after you’ve had your fill of turkey and stuffing, or to sprawl out on the couch and flick on the TV. If you’d rather skip the large communal auditoriums and stale popcorn this year, we’ve gathered the best Thanksgiving movies and TV shows you can enjoy from the comfort of your couch.
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Whether you’re planning to spend the Thanksgiving holiday hosting family and friends or having an intimate day in to celebrate, we’ve collected good Thanksgiving movies and the best Thanksgiving episodes of TV shows to help you chill post-dishes.
From comedy classics and animated favorites to a few memorable episodes, we’ve got something for all cinematic palates. Read on for the best Thanksgiving movies and TV shows to consume when you’re too full to leave the couch.
1. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)
Speaking of chaotic dinners, Planes Trains and Automobiles (starring Steve Martin and John Candy), will have you laughing until your stomach hurts. The story focuses on the life of advertising executive Neal Page (Martin), a guy who’s ready to fly home and spend Thanksgiving with the family. Instead, he finds himself on a disastrous cross-country road trip after crossing paths with a salesman (Candy).
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
2. Tower Heist (2011)
In Tower Heist, a group of working-class folks (led by Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller) attempt to steal from the Wall Street hustler who did them all wrong. So why is this a great Thanksgiving comedy of riches? The heist takes place in a New York City high-rise during the course of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
3. For Your Consideration (2005)
The hilarious Christopher Guest comedy chronicles the behind-the-scenes chaos of a fictional movie later titled Home for Thanksgiving. As the buzz of Oscar season approaches, several of the film’s stars, played by Catherine O’Hara and Parker Posey, get caught up in the excitement of it all. The hysterical Hollywood satire also stars Eugene Levy, Jane Lynch and Jennifer Coolidge.
For Your Consideration
4. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)
With a runtime of just twenty-two minutes, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is technically not a movie, but we will make an exception for this classic. Watching this Charlie Brown program during Thanksgiving is enjoyable for kids and adults alike. How could anyone turn down the imperfect but heartfelt dinner hosted by Peppermint Patty?
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
5. Cheers, ‘Thanksgiving Orphans’ (1986)
In the fifth season of this classic comedy, the gang actually got together outside the bar for a special event: Thanksgiving dinner at Carla’s (Rhea Perlman) house. As expected, the potluck quickly turned to chaos and a massive food fight ensued, making it one of the more slapstick episodes of the show’s run. It’s memorable because Norm’s wife Vera makes an appearance, although no one ever sees her face since it’s smeared with pie.
Stream 'Cheers' on Peacock
6. The Blind Side (2009)
The Blind Side shares the incredible true story of NFL star Michael Oher. As a teen, Oher lived in poverty and struggled to find security on the streets, but he quickly learned the true meaning of family when he was brought in by the generous Tuohy’s, led by Sandra Bullock. One of the most powerful scenes in the film happens when he joins the Tuohy family for Thanksgiving dinner. Warning: it might cue the waterworks.
The Blind Side
7. How I Met Your Mother, ‘Slapsgiving’
This show had tons of recurring gags to entertain us with over the years, but one of the best ones has got to be The Slap. In Season 3, the bet between Marshall and Barney reached its most ridiculous level yet when Marshall spent the entire Thanksgiving holiday taunting his friend about the third of eight slaps. It got to the point where Lily had to call off the entire thing just for a little help. Meanwhile, Ted and Robin proved (once again) how they would always be end game.
Stream 'HIMYM' on Hulu
8. Observe and Report (2009)
What happens the day after we give thanks? Well, we rush to the shopping mall for Black Friday sales. That’s why this obscure mall cop comedy is an ideal Turkey Day watch. The film stars Seth Rogan as a mall cop set on capturing a local flasher, all while hoping to date the girl at the perfume counter (played by Anna Faris).
Observe and Report
9. Friends, ‘The One With the Thanksgiving Flashbacks’
You could pick any of the Friends‘ Thanksgiving episodes for this list, but we went with Season 5’s gem of an installment, which is also one of the most iconic. Not only did the episode feature flashbacks from all six characters as they recalled their worst Thanksgivings ever, but it marked a very important milestone for Chandler and Monica: one in which she donned an actual turkey on her head.
Stream 'Friends' on HBO Max
10. The Oath (2018)
The Oath is a dark comedy set in the not-too-distant future. After American citizens are asked to sign a loyalty pledge to the current political administration, Chris and his wife, Kai, are soon visited by two eerie government agents who help turn what was supposed to a normal Thanksgiving into a roller coaster ride they surely won’t forget.
11. The Ice Storm (1997)
It may be best to wait until after you’ve tucked the kids into bed before watching this movie. The Ice Storm is about two middle-class families experimenting with casual sex, drinks and drugs during the Thanksgiving break. As a result, they find their lives stumbling out of control. So if you’re looking for a movie that will make Thanksgiving more exciting, this R-rated flick is a good choice.
The Ice Storm
12. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, ‘Talking Turkey’
The first season Thanksgiving episode of this Will Smith comedy hits you right in the feels because it’s all about coming together as a family and sharing a meal, no butlers or staff required. When Will’s mom joins the extended family for a turkey feast, she quickly realizes her son has become spoiled. So she sends all the help home and makes the kids put together their own menu, with disgusting (but heartwarming) results.
Stream 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air' on Peacock
13. Scent of a Woman (1992)
In Scent of a Woman, Frank (Al Pacino) is blind and difficult to get along with, but when a broke university student is desperate for money, he agrees to look after Frank during the Thanksgiving holiday. This movie shows us that there’s a lot to be grateful for.
Scent of a Woman
14. Pieces of April (2003)
If you’re looking to watch a Thanksgiving movie about an atypical Thanksgiving dinner, then Pieces of April is the right choice for you. The movie centers on a wayward daughter who invites her dying mother and the rest of her estranged family to her apartment for Thanksgiving. What’s the worst that can happen?
Pieces of April
15. Master of None, ‘Thanksgiving’
Sure, this series was Aziz Ansari’s masterpiece, but one of the most memorable episodes of the entire run came with the second season’s Thanksgiving episode. This poignant episode revolved around the Denise (Lena Waithe) character over the years during the holiday, as she came out to her family and was eventually accepted by them. It’s a bit of a tear-jerker, and it’s notable because in writing the episode, Waithe became the first Black woman to win a comedy writing Emmy Award.
Stream 'Master of None' on Netflix
16. Garfield’s Thanksgiving (1996)
No one loves to celebrate with food more than Garfield, but he finds he doesn’t get the chance when he learns that he must go on a diet . . . on Thanksgiving of all days. After you’ve set the Turkey Day tradition with A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, Garfield’s Thanksgiving is the perfect follow-up to create a family-friendly double-billing.
Garfield's Thanksgiving Season 1
17. Friendsgiving (2020)
This cheesy comedy came out over the pandemic and despite mediocre reviews, it’s definitely on-brand for Turkey Day. Malin Ackerman, a.k.a Mrs. Rom Com, stars in this film about a group of friends who plan for a quiet Thanksgiving away from it all, only to have their plans dashed by a chaotic, loud group of friends and family. It’s got a stacked cast, funny dialogue and it’s only an hour and a half, so by the time the tryptophan kicks in and you doze off, the movie will be over.
18. Home for the Holidays (1995)
There’s a good chance that your Thanksgiving won’t be as out of control as what Home For The Holidays presents. This movie tells the story of Claudia Larson (Holly Hunter), who after being laid off from her job, learns that her daughter will spend Thanksgiving with her boyfriend and that she’ll have to spend the holiday alone. Instead, she tests her luck and heads home for yet another chaotic dinner.
Home for the Holidays
19. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, ‘The Gang Squashes Their Beefs’
There’s no better time than the holidays to let bygones be bygones, which is why the Paddy’s Pub crew decided to wipe the slate clean in this Thanksgiving-themed episode. In it, they invite all of the people they’ve wronged over the years for the ultimate feast. But with hundreds of invites and tons of beefs to squash, things quickly go off the rails. Again.
Stream 'It's Always Sunny' on Hulu
20. Son-in-Law (1993)
Sit down and chill out with one of the funniest Thanksgiving comedies of all time. Pauly Shore stars as Crawl, your not-so-typical college student who’s majored in almost everything. After befriending Rebecca, a small-town college girl, Crawl joins her to spend Thanksgiving with her farm-living, country-loving family. Naturally, the two cultures quickly collide with hilarious consequences.
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