For most of us, Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that we love and hate in equal measure. On the one hand, it’s nice to see all those family members who you haven’t seen since last year. On the other hand, drama and stress are always distinct possibilities.
But there is one way to enjoy the good parts of Thanksgiving (namely shared family time) without risking the bad parts (heavy discussions that lead to infighting and bad blood): sit down and watch a movie together!
Thanksgiving isn’t really a “movie holiday” — Christmas has that on lockdown — but there are several fitting films on Netflix that you can all enjoy together. Need ideas? Here are some of the best movies with that all-important universal appeal currently available to view.
NB: These films aren’t necessarily family-friendly or suitable for all ages. So please use common sense and check the age ratings before sitting down to watch any of them.
1. Stardust (2007)
To win his true love’s heart, wide-eyed Tristan Thorn journeys to a forbidden realm to retrieve a fallen star that has taken human form.
I’ll admit right off the bat that I have a bit of a film-crush on Stardust. I first watched it during one of the darker periods of my life and it was one of the few things that managed to lift me up and put a smile on my face, even if it was for just a few hours.
I bring that up because that’s the kind of film this is: a happy, feel-good fantasy adventure that’s appropriate for the youngest of kids yet packed with enough wit and humor for adults to enjoy. Don’t be turned off by the lackluster title — Stardust is the kind of family movie that you’ll watch again and again.
2. The Princess Bride (1987)
This cult classic comedy-romance follows a peasant farmhand as he battles bumbling outlaws and an evil prince to win the hand of his one true love.
If you enjoyed Stardust, then you’ll love The Princess Bride. Just read the two synopses and you’ll instantly spot a few similarities between these two films. In fact, if you ask around, you’ll hear a lot of people say that Stardust is basically a spiritual successor to The Princess Bride — that’s how similar they are in terms of wit, humor, and tone.
The Princess Bride is often cited as the better of the two, but it is a bit dated so today’s kids may prefer the flash and modernity of Stardust instead. Then again, this film has one of the most climactic moments in all of cult film history, so don’t miss out.
3. The Little Prince (2015)
He taught her about imagination, loneliness, and love. She’ll always remember to see with her heart.
From the director of Kung-Fu Panda comes this lovely family film that was adapted from a novella. It’s a tough movie to describe, and I find it easier to talk about how it made me feel than to talk about the movie itself — in a word, The Little Prince is delightful.
The animation is beautiful, the characters are charming, and the story is delicate. It all adds up to an experience that’s surprisingly moving, and even though it isn’t the most groundbreaking film of all time, it’s certainly memorable.
4. Zootopia (2016)
When an otter mysteriously disappears from the animal city of Zootopia, a rabbit police officer teams up with a fast-talking fox to set things right.
I went into Zootopia without knowing a single iota of what this film would be about, and it surprised me how satisfied I felt by the time the credits rolled. This family-friendly movie will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions, and remind you of the importance of both family and friendship.
Plus, it’s funny. You know, laugh-out-loud funny. Wait-what-did-he-say-I-didn’t-hear-him-I-was-laughing-too-hard funny. Okay that might be a slight exaggeration, but seriously, this film will put your whole family in a good mood. Watch it!
5. Mean Girls (2004)
Cady joins her new high school’s most powerful clique — but there’s hell to pay when the ex-boyfriend of the clique’s leader wants to be Cady’s guy.
Written by Tina Fey, Mean Girls isn’t just a smart and funny look at the social pecking order of girls in high school, it’s the story of a student who matures and rises above the trappings of said pecking order. As such, it’s a great watch for teenagers.
Mean Girls is intelligent, hilarious, and with a solid cast — many of whom went on to do bigger and better things, so if you’ve never seen this film before, you’ll also get to experience the joy of seeing all these actors and actresses at a time before they blew up.
6. Clueless (1995)
Meddlesome Beverly Hills high school student Cher gets more than she bargained for when she gives a fashion-challenged student a makeover.
Here we have another film about cliquey girls in high school, though this one is specifically a modernized take on Jane Austen’s Emma. It’s smartly written, and even takes a few jabs at the teen film genre as a whole, which should be fun for you if you consider yourself a film buff.
All in all, Clueless is one of the best romantic comedies currently on Netflix.
7. Adventures in Babysitting (1987)
When teenaged Chris Parker agrees to baby-sit for the Andersons after her boyfriend stands her up, it’s hardly the boring night she expected.
Netflix has recently been slashing out a major chunk of its catalog in favor of original content, but it’s nice to know that you can still stream and watch certain classics. Adventures in Babysitting is the first of such classic recommendations in this post.
Charming performances, relatable characters, lightweight humor, and boatloads of entertainment — often likened to Home Alone, Adventures in Babysitting truly is an adventure that’ll spare any Thanksgiving day of boring.
8. Forrest Gump (1994)
Forrest Gump, a friendly, simpleminded man, finds himself in the middle of nearly every major event of the 1960s and 1970s.
Forrest Gump is one of the most recognized films of all time, partly because it has so many quotable lines. If you’ve never seen this film before, get on it right now. You’ll be surprised at how many popular quotes started here!
But more than that, it’s charming on the outside with a deeper, darker core than you might expect. The story is honest and thought-provoking, marked by a bittersweet message. In short, it’s a compelling watch that’s suitable for “grown up” families.
9. Good Will Hunting (1997)
When professors discover that an aimless janitor is also a math genius, a therapist helps the young man confront the demons that are holding him back.
I’d put Good Will Hunting up there in the Top 10 best drama films of all time. Not only is the acting superb across the entire cast, and not only does it have one of the most touching climaxes you’ll ever see, but the underlying message itself is deeply hopeful and even restorative.
Because it’s a true drama, Good Will Hunting ventures into some heavy topics throughout, so it isn’t the best film for a let’s-party-tonight kind of Thanksgiving. But if your family wants to watch something a bit more contemplative, this is the perfect pick.
10. Top Gun (1986)
Tom Cruise plays a hotshot pilot who struggles to balance life, responsibility, and a love affair while competing in the Navy’s fighter-weapons school.
Top Gun may not be an intellectual or otherwise deep movie, but who cares about any of that on Thanksgiving when everyone is stuffed full of turkey and battling the onset of food coma? Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity for a fun, action-packed feature, and Top Gun delivers.
And it’s not like Top Gun is a bad movie. Not at all. It certainly has enjoyable moments, and it’s even more fun if you watch it with the right crowd.
11. Rent (2005)
Based on Puccini’s opera “La Boheme,” this musical follows a group of scrappy bohemians who face true love, drug addiction, and AIDS in New York City.
It rarely works out when a Broadway musical or play is adapted into a movie, and success is even rarer when the source of adaptation is an opera — but Rent should be considered as one of the exceptions. Critics didn’t like it much, but regular moviegoers did.
Ultimately, if you’re into live theater, or if anyone in your family is, then you might want to skip this one. It’s best for those who have never seen Rent in person.
12. Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
In this remake of the holiday classic, Dorey Walker and young daughter Susan befriend a department store Santa Claus who claims he is the real deal.
As it involves Santa Claus, Miracle on 34th Street is actually more of a Christmas movie than a Thanksgiving film — but it’s so fantastical and lovely that it’s the perfect watch for a family get-together.
And Christmas is right around the corner anyway, so it’s a great way to usher in the holiday season. Out with Thanksgiving, in with Christmas!
13. Kristy (2014)
Opting to stay on campus over the Thanksgiving holiday, coed Justine and a handful of friends find their break violently disrupted by a sadistic gang.
If your family is the kind that loves to watch horror, consider treating them to Kristy — one of the only horror films to take place on Thanksgiving. The premise is about a cult of killers, so it’s more like a thriller than a true horror. No ghosts, demons, or eldritch abominations here.
What Movies Do You Watch Over Thanksgiving?
If you don’t like these movies, then you have some other options for Thanksgiving. For example, turn on one of these Slow TV shows and leave it running in the background while you chat with family members, play board games, etc. Or use these tools to find shows and movies that you’ll love.
And as we mentioned above, the end of Thanksgiving means that Christmas will be right around the corner — so prepare yourself with our list of best Christmas movies on Netflix.
Which movies do you normally watch with your family on Thanksgiving? Let us know in a comment down below, even if said films aren’t available on Netflix!
Image Credits: Bochkarev Photography/Shutterstock