For many, Thanksgiving is an opportunity to gather with friends and loved ones and be thankful for what we have — and of course, to enjoy delicious food! While spending some quality time with the turkey and pumpkin pie, why not put on a great movie? Even the weeks leading up to the holiday can be an opportunity to curl up with a blanket and turn on a festive film. From dramas to comedies, there are a ton of great movies to watch in November and on Thanksgiving Day.
Food & Family: Great Movies to Watch in November
Whether you’re looking for a film to watch on Thanksgiving Day or looking to get into the holiday spirit, check out our favorite fall and Thanksgiving-related movies. (For a full list of movies about food and family, click the link below!)
Pieces of April (2003)
Every family has issues, but no matter how heated such a conversation gets at your Thanksgiving table, it probably won’t be as weird as the dysfunctional family in Pieces of April. This comedy-drama is about April Burns, a young woman living in Manhattan with her boyfriend. Although she’s opted to stay away from family matters, April invites them for Thanksgiving dinner, including her mother, who now has breast cancer. Despite plenty of things going wrong, they still end up having dinner and appreciating the importance of family.
Pieces of April premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was well-received by critics. It earned several awards nominations and won many, including nearly a dozen Best Supporting Actress awards for Patricia Clarkson’s performance.
The Joy Luck Club (1993)
The Joy Luck Club tells stories of mothers and daughters, more specifically, four Chinese immigrant mothers and their daughters, who were all born in America. The mothers are a part of the “joy luck club,” an organization they created for a sense of community, where they speak Chinese and play games. Throughout the film, their daughters, who have never had an interest in the club, begin to learn more about their heritage and their mothers’ previous lives before coming to America.
Flashing from present to past, the film successfully navigates the complex relationships between mothers and daughters.
Scent of a Woman (1992)
This classic film brings Al Pacino and Chris O’Donnell together for Thanksgiving. Pacino stars as the gruff Lt. Col. Frank Slade, a former Army Colonel. Now blind, Slade convinces Charlie, his caretaker, to spend the week of Thanksgiving with him to enjoy everything that life and New York City have to offer. As they wine and dine through the city, Charlie discovers the joys of living life in a bold, exciting way while uncovering Slade’s real objective for the week.
The film is an incredible coming-of-age story, and Pacino shines as the stubborn yet charming Colonel. Just before the new year, Scent of a Woman is a great reminder to appreciate everything you have and live life to the fullest.
Lez Bomb (2018)
Audiences rejoyced the 2020 holiday release of Happiest Season, a story about a woman bringing her girlfriend home for the holidays. The film Lez Bomb, released in 2018, tells a similar story but takes place around Thanksgiving. The movie, which stars and was directed and written by Jenna Laurenzo, is about a girl who plans to come out to her family during Thanksgiving. However, her plans change when her friend Austin shows up, and her parents mistake him to be her boyfriend.
The film is one of many LGBTQ holiday movies you should stream this season.
Planes, Trains, & Automobiles (1987)
An iconic American comedy film, Planes, Trains, & Automobiles stars comedy legend Steve Martin as Neal Page, an anxious marketing executive just trying to get home for Thanksgiving. But after a run-in with a goofy curtain ring salesman named Del Griffith (John Candy), what should have been a two-hour trip ends up taking three days.
After accidentally ending up in Wichita, the duo is forced to work together to arrive home in Chicago before Thanksgiving. The humor in the film often comes from Neal losing his temper while Del makes things worse by making mistakes that make their adventure even longer. This is one of those must-watch Thanksgiving-themed films where, if you haven’t seen it, now is definitely the time!
Soul Food (1997)
Soul Food is a wonderful movie for anyone who wants to watch a film about family and food. After the matriarch of their family passes away, the Joseph family slowly falls apart. The film is told through the perspective of Ahmad (Brandon Hammond), Big Mama’s grandson, who feels it is his responsibility to keep the family together. At the risk of losing their Sunday dinners, but more importantly, their family home, the family must pull together and overcome inner conflict.
Starring Vivica A. Fox and Vanessa Williams, Soul Food is a reminder of togetherness and the complications that can come with being a close-knit family. While the film doesn’t take place during Thanksgiving, the focus on family is what makes it one of the best movies to watch in November.
Grumpy Old Men (1993)
Looking for a Thanksgiving movie that will have you and the family laughing together? If so, Grumpy Old Men is the perfect romantic comedy-drama film that stars Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, two legendary actors, real-life best friends, and Academy Award winners. They play two retired and single old men who live next door to each other in Minnesota.
Despite being childhood friends, they started resenting each other when one “stole” the other’s high school sweetheart and married her. Now, they insult and pull cruel jokes on each other while sharing their mutual love of ice fishing. Their feud becomes more intense when an attractive elderly woman moves in across the street, which they fight to attract as Thanksgiving comes around.
Grumpy Old Men was a surprise hit that grossed $35 million above its budget. The film was praised for avoiding political and social issues while still delivering a funny experience.
The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014)
The Hundred–Foot Journey, starring Manish Dayal, Om Puri, and Helen Mirren, is a heartwarming film about culture, tradition, family, and food. After an Indian family moves to France to open a restaurant, they find stiff competition across the street in the form of a traditional, Michelin-star French restaurant. The patriarch of the family (Puri) finds himself toe-to-toe with the prim Madame Mallory (Mirren), who insists that her French cuisine is superior to his traditional Indian dishes. Hassan (Dayal), the family’s eldest, finds himself stuck in the middle.
If you love cooking and Indian food, this film will definitely get your stomach growling.
Addams Family Values (1993)
While this may not be considered a Thanksgiving movie, it has two excellent components: a loving family and a hilarious Turkey Day-themed play. The film depicts a scene where Pugsley, dressed as a turkey, and Wednesday, dressed as a Native American Indian, share the truth about the origins of the holiday – much to the horror of the preppy counselors of their summer camp.
Again, not a traditional Thanksgiving weekend film, but the choice to include a scene that touches on the background of the Native American Indians and Pilgrims provides a welcomed alternative to other Turkey Day stories.
Home for the Holidays (1995)
Home for the Holidays is another one of those films that teach us that even the most divided families can realize the value of being together. In this film, a single mom named Claudia Larson (Holly Hunter) loses her job and flies to Chicago to spend Thanksgiving with her parents in Baltimore.
Chaos ensues when family members with contrasting opinions share the dinner table. This includes a highly-conservative sister, spoiled nieces and nephews, the eccentric Aunt Gladys, and more. As tensions rise, the festivities get out of hand. But in the end, this film reiterates the themes of family union, peace, and thankfulness that sometimes come only through hard-won effort — but are always worth it.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)
While this isn’t technically a movie, this beloved family TV special is a must for every holiday season. The episode aired in 1973 and brings the Peanuts gang together for dinner. Peppermint Patty invites herself and her friends over to Charlie Brown’s for a Thanksgiving feast. Only, he hasn’t prepared one. The friends do their best to muster all the traditional trappings of the holiday — with the help of Lucy, Snoopy, Woodstock, Marcie, Franklin, and Linus.
A classic that people of all ages can enjoy, this episode is only 30 minutes long, which is exactly the perfect length to wait between the turkey and the pumpkin pie.
More Fantastic Movies to Watch in November
Alice’s Restaurant (1969)
The Big Chill (1983)
She’s Gotta Have It (1983)
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Son in Law (1993)
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
The Brothers McMullen (1995)
The Ice Storm (1997)
One True Thing (1998)
You’ve Got Mail (1998)
What’s Cooking? (2000)
Remember the Titans (2000)
Autumn in New York (2000)
Sweet November (2001)
Antwone Fisher (2002)
Funny People (2009)
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Julie & Julia (2009)
Tower Heist (2011)
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Free Birds (2013)
Black Nativity (2013)
Mistress America (2015)
Almost Christmas (2016)
Little Women (2019)
The Farewell (2019)
Knives Out (2019)
The Turkey Bowl (2019)
The Humans (2021)
Happy Holidays from NYFA
Whether your Thanksgiving traditions involve watching a favorite film, playing football, eating turkey, or something entirely different, we at the New York Film Academy wish a very happy holiday to you and yours. Did we miss any? Let us know!