Upon a Google search for “Thanksgiving movies,” one looking to get into the holiday spirit will be bombarded with an array of movies—few of which are actually about the holiday.
Meaning that if “Garfield’s Thanksgiving” doesn’t hit the spot, actual films about Thanksgiving can be hard to come by.
Whether they’re movies with only one related scene, movies where the word is barely uttered, or movies that just feel Thanksgiving-y, articles boasting the “Top Thanksgiving Movies” are often a stretch.
Most results are movies that simply involve family and thankfulness, or perhaps feature a turkey—or are just set in fall and aren’t spooky, so can’t be considered Halloween movies.
Because there are so few options, the criteria for a movie being Thanksgiving-themed becomes looser than other holidays. Just because a movie is about family, doesn’t mean it should be considered a Thanksgiving movie.
It can be hard to find things to watch that aren’t football or the National Dog Show for those who choose to celebrate Thanksgiving. After all, the “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” only lasts about three hours. How are the remaining hours supposed to be spent, if not with a movie?
However, few films make the cut to be movies that actually celebrate the holiday. More Thanksgiving films would be in the best interest of both families looking for holiday entertainment, and for Hollywood. It’s a popular tradition to watch movies on Thanksgiving, and therefore makes sense that families would look for something with a holiday theme. Many simply skip to the next holiday, overseeing Thanksgiving as a whole—and who can blame them? They have no other choice.
However, because of this tradition, Thanksgiving movies, just like films for Christmas and other winter holidays, could become a profitable business.
Then what does make a Thanksgiving movie? For starters, it has to actually take place on or around Thanksgiving. It also has to be obvious that it’s on Thanksgiving, or in the season—it can’t just be something happening in the background. If one five-second scene takes place in November, it doesn’t necessarily apply. If a turkey is eaten, it doesn’t mean it has any relation to the holiday whatsoever.
Beyond that, however, any preference can come down to the individual viewer. Criteria for a real, true Thanksgiving movie isn’t hard to meet: it just has to actually be about Thanksgiving.
There are a few quality Thanksgiving movies, for those looking for them.
“A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” is a well-known option, and one of the only actual Thanksgiving movies. It can be enjoyed with family, and only has a thirty-minute run time, so can be watched between the parade, football, and the dog show if needed.
“Planes, Trains and Automobiles” is a comedy set on Thanksgiving, where two men try to make it home to celebrate the holiday with their families.
“You’ve Got Mail,” a romantic comedy that, while being more loosely related to the holiday (only one scene is set on Thanksgiving), is another good option.
“Miracle on 34th Street,” though typically seen as a Christmas movie, begins at Thanksgiving and is a heartfelt film for any holiday.
This will be Margaret Korte’s first year on ECHO staff. She made several contributions while taking journalism class her freshman year.