One thing you find when you actively seek out Thanksgiving movies, is that there aren’t many Thanksgiving movies. Christmas and Halloween have cornered the holiday movie market, but Thanksgiving (arguably the holiday in which outside entertainment is needed the most, if only to silence your Uncle Rick’s musings about a recount) is woefully overcook — I mean, overlooked.
Luckily, we have TV. The holiday of bird-centric feasts has thrived on the small screen through the years.
Of course, this Thanksgiving looks a little different. We’re in the midst of a pandemic, rendering many unable to have the family-filled gatherings of years past. So, arguably, escapism is more important this year than ever.
These movies and TV episodes may not provide you with the Thanksgiving of your dreams (most are actually far from it), but hopefully they will bring the spirit of the season — no oven required.
She’s Gotta Have It (1986)
If your Thanksgiving mood is “empowered woman feasts while her three lovers reveal their myriad insecurities,” this is the film for you. Plus, it’s Spike Lee’s very first feature, so you can cross it off that mental movie list you carry around. Empowerment, turkey, and productivity (sort of)? Can’t lose.
The O.C., “The Homecoming” (2003)
This isn’t just a great Thanksgiving episode, it’s a pivotal chapter in O.C. history. Summer and Anna compete for Seth; Ryan introduces Marisa to Chino (and his brother, who’s in jail); Kirsten and Sandy host last-minute guests; the song “Orange Sky” plays soulfully during a car ride … The sheer number of storylines packed into 43 minutes is aspirational.
If your Thanksgiving plans include getting drunk at home with your roommates, Thankskilling is a good place to … end. I would not recommend watching this sober, or even tipsy — this is intoxicated viewing at its finest. Think: The Room … if Tommy Wiseau were a killer turkey.
Felicity, “Thanksgiving” (1998)
This episode has it all: special guest star Jennifer Garner (in glasses!), college freshmen ditching their families in the name of friendship, and late ‘90s sweaters.
Pieces of April (2003)
Katie Holmes with red hair plans to host her estranged family for Thanksgiving, all she needs is a working oven. Cinema.
Master of None, “Thanksgiving" (2017)
This Emmy-winning episode follows Dev and Denise through decades of shared Thanksgivings, focused through the lens of Denise’s relationship with her family after she comes out. It’s 34-minutes long, but the episode’s scope and depth of emotion make it feel like a feature-length film.
Like many of the films on this list, Holidate is not your typical Thanksgiving movie — but there is a Thanksgiving scene, and (spoiler) it involves an overcooked bird, so it’s essentially canon.
Gossip Girl, “Blair Waldorf Must Pie” (2007)
What better time than Thanksgiving to learn that your crush’s mom once dated your dad?? Xoxo.
Happiest Season (2020)
Technically, this is a Christmas movie (there are just so damn many!), but it’s coming out on Thanksgiving week and centers on unhealthy family dynamics, so we will make an exception.
Friends, “The One With All the Thanksgivings” (1998)
The beloved sitcom has a number of notable Thanksgiving episodes, but season 5’s flashback episode takes the, er, pie. Putting an entire turkey on your head has never been so romantic — or, if this episode unlocked a fear you never knew you had: terrifying.
Funny People (2009)
Friendsgiving but one of your friends is actually your boss, and also a famous comedian. Can’t relate? Live vicariously through one of Judd Apatow’s more thoughtful films.
If you thought you were having a bad Thanksgiving, just wait … Trey Edward Shults’s debut feature, starring his real-life aunt Krisha Fairchild, is an anxiety-provoking series of familial catastrophes that will have you calling your third cousin to apologize for stealing her Princess Diana Beanie Baby when you were five.
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