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The Best Thanksgiving Movies, from ‘Planes, Trains, and Automobiles’ to ‘Addams Family Values’ to Eli Roth’s ‘Thanksgiving’

With the fourth Thursday of every November comes an opportunity to give thanks, as families across the United States gather around warm fires and hand-decorated tables to break seasonal bread. The festive tableau — loved ones pulled close by the promise of turkey, stuffing, sides, and pie — is synonymous with what little it seems still unites Americans these days. And yet, the actual experience of the divisive holiday (notorious for its deeply dubious history origins and penchant for forcing fun with problematic relatives) can be enough to send you fleeing from the dining room in a fit of stressed-out gravy sweats.

When you’re done navigating the metaphoric minefield that is kith and kin, why not find comfort in a different kind of holiday hearth? We’re talking about the glowing screens that (good for us, bad for us, or otherwise) keep cozy all year long. Whether you’re enjoying a festive holiday movie or something else, films help us feel grateful by romanticizing and reflecting on many of life’s experiences. Titles from Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.” to Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” remind audiences of the true meaning behind concepts such as home and family. But the best Thanksgiving movies help us feel gratitude with a keen eye for the thematic touchstones that make an otherwise generic story feel specific to this crispy November holiday.

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Plenty of romantic comedies have touched on Thanksgiving, from classics such as Spike Lee’s “She’s Gotta Have It” to Netflix’s more recent “Holidate.” Dramas too have latched onto the ample inspiration for family turmoil, including A24’s “Krisha”: a painful portrait of a reckless woman desperate to get back in the good graces of her family. As for animation, “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” still reigns supreme as the ultimate in bite-sized Thanksgiving festivities. But “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” and even “Chicken Run” are worthy considerations for a feature-length adventure.

With Eli Roth reuniting holiday and the horror genre with his slasher film “Thanksgiving” this year, we decided the refresh our look at the films that invoke the spirit of everybody’s second favorite winter holiday. Without further ado, IndieWire presents the 18 best Thanksgiving movies to watch in November 2023 — from the works of Spike Lee and Ang Lee to Nora Ephron and Jodie Foster. While some of these films explicitly take place on Thanksgiving, not all do. Some include only a handful of Thanksgiving scenes, and others evoke only the spirit of the season. You can thank us later.

With editorial contributions from Wilson Chapman.

[Editor’s note: This list was originally published in November 2022. It has since been updated.]

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