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Ranking the All-Time Thanksgiving Classic Films

Paramount Pictures // Youtube

Ranking the All-Time Thanksgiving Movie Classics

From White Christmas to It’s a Wonderful Life, there’s no shortage of Christmas movies, Halloween movies, and even New Year’s Eve movies. But Thanksgiving movies? That’s something you rarely see playing on the Hallmark channel. Still, a number of notable films have been centered around Turkey Day, from Steve Martin classics in the ‘80s to romantic comedies of the early 2000s. While you mash the potatoes and bake the pumpkin pie this year, why not cue up one of these classic Thanksgiving movies to set the mood?

While Netflix might not (yet) have a category dedicated to this fall holiday, Stacker has you covered. Aggregating and weighting reviews from various sources, including IMDB, Metacritic, and Rotten Tomatoes, we created our own “Stacker Score” to rank the top Thanksgiving movies of all time. To make the list, movies had to be either focused on Thanksgiving or have a memorable Thanksgiving scene and be popular enough to receive a minimum of 1,000 user ratings on IMDB. If two movies tied, Stacker gave the higher ranking to whichever film had more ratings on IMDB.

This holiday season, don’t skip straight from Friday the 13th to Frosty the Snowman—give a little love to the Thanksgiving movies that often go unappreciated. Whether you’re a fan of goofy comedies, coming-of-age dramas, or heartwarming family films, there’s something for every sensibility on our list of the top 22 classic Thanksgiving movies.


#22: Free Birds

Stacker Score: 43.25
IMDb Rating: 5.9
Metascore: 38
Tomatometer: 17%

The premise of this cartoon sounds a little hokey—two turkeys from opposite sides of the tracks travel back in time to the first Thanksgiving to save their feathered brethren—but Free Birds gets a boost from the star power of its leads. Owen Wilson voices Reggie, a streetwise bird who realizes his fellow fowl are headed toward eventual slaughter, while Woody Harrelson plays Jake, an anti-Thanksgiving fanatic who drags Reggie along on the harebrained mission to “change the main course of history.” Though the animated film packs in plenty of puns and far-fetched plot points, celebrity cameos from George Takei and Amy Poehler give Free Birds a little more appeal.


#21: The Prince and Me

Stacker Score: 48.25
IMDb Rating: 5.9
Metascore: 47
Tomatometer: 28%

Meeting a prince, falling in love, and living happily ever after: it’s something that countless little girls dream of. The Prince and Me follows two college students—Paige (Julia Stiles), a hardworking student and no-nonsense type of gal, and Eddie (Luke Mably), a Danish prince attending an American university in secret so he can have a real college experience. It’s not exactly love at first sight, though: it’s only after a semester as chemistry lab partners that Paige offers to bring Eddie home to her parents’ farm for Thanksgiving. Eddie is predictably charmed by the down-home American customs and the two share their first kiss after a tractor race.


#20: The Oranges

Stacker Score: 49.50
IMDb Rating: 5.9
Metascore: 46
Tomatometer: 34%

The Oranges takes its name from West Orange, New Jersey, where the Ostroff and Walling families live. David Walling (Hugh Laurie) and Terry Ostroff (Oliver Platt) play the patriarchs of their respective clans. David is estranged from his wife and often sleeps in his office; Terry’s wife Cathy pretends like he’s not even there. Everything seems normal until Terry’s daughter Nina (Leighton Meester) comes home for Thanksgiving from San Francisco. Brokenhearted over her fiance’s recent betrayal, Nina finds a confidant in David and the pair start an affair. As in most families, secrets don’t remain secret for long, and the Ostroffs and Wallings must learn to deal with the consequences.


#18: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

Stacker Score: 56.25
IMDb Rating: 6.3
Metascore: 53
Tomatometer: 46%

This Ang Lee film based on the novel by the same name follows 19-year-old Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn), a private who becomes a national hero after footage of him trying to save his staff sergeant in a firefight in Iraq goes public. Billy and his squad get shipped home for a publicity tour during Thanksgiving—something that you’d think would be full of warm and fuzzy feelings. Instead, Billy feels tormented by the contrast between the public’s view of war and what really happens. In flashbacks, we see the realities of conflict: senseless killings, wounded innocents, and losing people you love.


#15: Home for the Holidays

Stacker Score: 63.25
IMDb Rating: 6.6
Metascore: 56
Tomatometer: 65%

Claudia Larson (Holly Hunter) doesn’t exactly have her life together. She’s 40, single, and just made out with her (soon-to-be) ex-boss. Plus, her teenage daughter plans to spend Thanksgiving with her boyfriend, leaving Claudia to deal with the rest of her family by herself. How will she survive Turkey Day with her crazy sister Glady (Geraldine Chaplin), completely boring sister Joanne (Cynthia Stevenson) and equally lackluster husband (Steve Guttenberg), mischievously gay brother Tommy (Robert Downey Jr.), and her parents (Anne Bancroft and Charles Durning)? Expect plenty of twists and turns as we unravel the complicated relationships and family dynamics.


#14: Funny People

Stacker Score: 63.75
IMDb Rating: 6.3
Metascore: 60
Tomatometer: 69%

When famous comedian George (Adam Sandler) finds out he has a rare form of leukemia with an 8 percent chance of survival, he realizes he doesn’t have a single close friend he can tell. George decides to hire struggling stand-up comic Ira (Seth Rogen) as his personal assistant, joke writer, and possible future caretaker. 

One of the movie’s most touching scenes is the Thanksgiving toast George makes while joining Ira and his friends for Thanksgiving dinner, urging them to cherish their friendship and shared time together.


#13: Addams Family Values

Stacker Score: 68.00
IMDb Rating: 6.6
Metascore: 62
Tomatometer: 78%

This 1993 film starring the macabre Addams family includes all the usual hijinks: flaming arrows, falling arrows, double crosses, and attempted murder. Children Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) and Wednesday (Christina Ricci) are immediately suspicious of the seemingly sweet nanny Debbie (Joan Cusack) who their parents hire to care for the newest member of the Addams family. It turns out that they have good reason to be worried: Debbie persuades the Addams parents to send the kids off to a bland, WASP-y summer camp so she can seduce their uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) and kill him off for his money.

As you might expect, Wednesday and Pugsley don’t exactly fit in at Camp Chippewa: they have a disastrous run that culminates in the camp’s deeply prejudiced Thanksgiving play where Wednesday leads the Native American characters in a rebellion.


#12: The War at Home

Stacker Score: 68.25
IMDb Rating: 7.1
Metascore: n/a
Tomatometer: 60%

James Duff adapted his play Home Front for the big screen in The War at Home, a drama that follows Vietnam veteran Jeremy Collier (Emilio Estevez) after he returns home from the war. His parents Bob (Martin Sheen) and Maurine (Kathy Bates) are staunch conservatives who live in a tidy, clapboard house in a traditional Texas suburb. Still struggling with graphic flashbacks to his time on the front, Jeremy becomes increasingly angry and lashes out at his family, with his rage reaching a painful crescendo on Thanksgiving.


#11: Tadpole

Stacker Score: 68.25
IMDb Rating: 6.2
Metascore: 71
Tomatometer: 78%

Fifteen-year-old Oscar Grubman (Aaron Stanford) returns home from boarding school for Thanksgiving weekend with one goal: winning the heart of his one true love. There’s only one problem, his one true love is his stepmother Eve (Sigourney Weaver).

She’s not exactly receptive to his advances, but her friend Diane (Bebe Neuwirth), on the other hand, seduces Oscar when he sneaks into a local bar. After an awkward sexual encounter with Diane, Oscar confesses his feelings to Eve over a tense round of tennis, leaving the unusual pair to grapple with their confusing family situation on the last day of the Thanksgiving holiday.


#9: The Vicious Kind

Stacker Score: 68.75
IMDb Rating: 7.0
Metascore: 65
Tomatometer: 70%

This family drama comes to a head over the Thanksgiving break. Caleb Sinclaire (Adam Scott) picks his brother Peter (Alex Frost) and new girlfriend Emma (Brittany Snow) up from college immediately after breaking up with his own long-term girlfriend. Wary of relationships, Caleb at first warns Peter not to let Emma get too close so he won’t get hurt. The situation becomes a little more complicated when Caleb starts to develop a crush on Emma. As Caleb’s feelings toward his brothers’ first love grow, he must decide whether to protect his brother’s heart or act on his infatuation with Emma.


#8: Down and Out in Beverly Hills

Stacker Score: 72.00
IMDb Rating: 6.1
Metascore: 82
Tomatometer: 84%

The members of the Whiteman family are a mess—a fact that’s most apparent during the film’s Thanksgiving scene. Though they’re rich and live in a huge mansion in Beverly Hills, Barbara (Bette Midler) and Dave Whiteman (Richard Dreyfuss) are no longer happy with their marriage. He’s taken up with the maid; she’s only interested in making it to her yoga and aerobics classes. Daughter Jenny (Tracy Nelson) is suffering from an eating disorder, while son Max (Evan Richards) struggles with his sexuality.

Meanwhile, a homeless man, Jerry Baskin (Nick Nolte), is tired of living on the streets and decides to drown himself in the Whiteman’s pool. Dave pulls Jerry out just in time and invites him to stay with the family while gets back on his feet. Little do they know that Jerry’s presence will change their lives forever.


#7: Pieces of April

Stacker Score: 74.00
IMDb Rating: 7.1
Metascore: 70
Tomatometer: 84%

Pieces of April follows April Burns (Katie Holmes), the eldest daughter in a highly dysfunctional family, in her quest to host the perfect Thanksgiving dinner in her Lower East Side apartment. Her mother Joy (Patricia Clarkson) has breast cancer and might not be around for another holiday. Of course, everything doesn’t exactly go according to plan: April’s oven breaks and she’s forced to beg her neighbors for help. Meanwhile, her boyfriend Bobby (Derek Luke) is desperate to find a suit to borrow to impress April’s family.

On the road from suburban Pennsylvania, April’s family has issues of their own: Joy needs to stop frequently for bathroom or smoke breaks, they hit an animal and various family members get into arguments. And that’s all before they even arrive in New York City.


#6: Miracle on 34th Street

Stacker Score: 74.50
IMDb Rating: 7.9
Metascore: n/a
Tomatometer: 61%

Most people think of Miracle on 34th Street as a Christmas movie, but the classic film actually begins on Thanksgiving Day in the famed Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

When the actor playing Santa turns out to be drunk, Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) offers to step in. He’s such a natural that event director Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara) hires him to play Santa Claus in the department store for the rest of the holiday season. But he might be too good at his job: Kris speaks to a Dutch girl in her native tongue flawlessly, helps shoppers find the best deals at competitors’ stores, and insists through it all that he is the real Santa Claus. When skeptics attempt to have the older gentleman committed, it takes teamwork, trust, and a little holiday magic to save the day.


#5: The Ice Storm

Stacker Score: 76.50
IMDb Rating: 7.5
Metascore: 72
Tomatometer: 84%

This family drama takes place in suburban New Canaan, Connecticut on the weekend after Thanksgiving in 1973. Two families—the Hoods and the Carvers—grapple with substance abuse, sexual promiscuity and moral deterioration in the aftermath of Watergate. The drama reaches a boiling point when an ice storm—the worst in decades—hits the town.


#3: Planes, Trains & Automobiles

Stacker Score: 79.00
IMDb Rating: 7.6
Metascore: 72
Tomatometer: 92%

Everything that can go wrong does go wrong when Neal Page (Steve Martin) tries to get home to Chicago for Thanksgiving. First, he can’t hail a cab to the airport; then, when he finally gets to the terminal, his flight is delayed and eventually diverted to Wichita, Kansas.

Neal meets the annoyingly chipper shower curtain ring salesman Del Griffith (John Candy) along the way and the unlikely pair decide to try to make their way home together. Their journey contains travel mishaps and plenty of bickering, culminating in a heartwarming conclusion.


#2: Krisha

Stacker Score: 81.25
IMDb Rating: 7.1
Metascore: 86
Tomatometer: 97%

This gut-wrenching tale of a now-sober addict attempting to rejoin her family after decades away won the Grand Jury prize at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival. Writer and director Trey Edward Shults based the story on his family’s real-life experience with addiction, even casting his aunt Krisha Fairchild as the lead and other family members as supporting characters.

Desperate to show her family that she has finally changed, Krisha takes on the most important task at Thanksgiving dinner: roasting the turkey. But can she pull it off and regain their trust? The frenzied score, dizzying camera angles, and painfully raw performances give Krisha a realness that you just don’t find in many films.


#1: Hannah and Her Sisters

Stacker Score: 85.75
IMDb Rating: 8.0
Metascore: 90
Tomatometer: 93%

Woody Allen tells the story of three sisters Hannah (Mia Farrow), Lee (Barbara Hershey) and Holly (Dianne West) in the 12 months between two Thanksgivings. Though they come from a show business family, Hannah is the only one of the sisters who actually found success as an actress.

Still, her life isn’t perfect: her husband Elliot (Michael Caine) has been having an affair for months. Meanwhile, Holly has a problem with cocaine and keeps borrowing money from Hannah to fund her catering business and faltering writing career. And we haven’t even mentioned their parents’ issues. The film’s structure doles out these revelations bit by bit, painting a vivid picture of the complex family dynamic before they all sit down for the second Thanksgiving.

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