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A Movie Buff's Guide To The Ultimate Thanksgiving Movie Marathon
Culture & Entertainment

A Movie Buff's Guide To The Ultimate Thanksgiving Movie Marathon

Thanksgiving is the ideal occasion to unwind, indulge, and enjoy movies with loved ones. Therefore, for your inevitable movie marathon, we have curated a selection of comedies, dramas, and thrillers to keep you and your family entertained. With so many fantastic Thanksgiving films to pick from, the ones on this list are guaranteed to bring you joy and tears through empathy and compassion. These films will serve as a mirror to your daily life and lighten the mood of the holidays, whether they bring back memories of your own family, your in-laws, or your friends.


The top 15 movies that you should watch this holiday season are listed in no particular order. Though they don't all revolve around Thanksgiving as a theme, they do involve family and chosen family. Some of them will make you think of the dysfunctional family you may be trying to avoid (The Temptations and Soul Food), the political arguments that everyone can't help but talk about (The Oath and Remember the Titans), or the chaos that has been created in your chosen family (Dreamgirls and Friendsgiving). Whichever movie you choose, you'll be able to appreciate the various families that are reflected throughout the list.

15 Movies To Watch on Thanksgiving That Focus on Family & Chosen Family Dynamics

Soul Food (1997)

What a crazy, dysfunctional family the Josephs are. From the opening scene to the rolling credits of the movie Soul Food, this family screams "red flag" brightly and boldly during the holidays. Yet, we can't help but watch their madness. Every Sunday, the family gathers for dinner adorned with soul food and inevitable family antics. However, the Joseph family experiences turmoil when "Big Mama" Joseph (Irma P. Hall), the family's matriarch, goes into a coma following a diabetic episode and limb amputation procedure.

From there, Ahmad (Brandon Hammond) observes his mother, Maxine (Vivica A. Fox), aunts Teri (Vanessa Williams) and Bird (Nia Long), and other family members as they attempt to keep up with the long-standing custom of Sunday dinners while falling back on old grudges, family rivalries, and a possible life without "Big Mama."

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)

I'll give you one guess, but it's not Morgan Freeman, I promise. In a way, the 1967 romantic comedy Guess Who's Coming to Dinner was both ahead of its time and right on time. The renowned Sidney Poitier and Katharine Houghton portray an interracial couple who want to be married far too soon in this once-controversial romantic comedy classic. Joey Drayton brings her fiancé, the exceptionally talented Dr. John Prentice, back to her parents' house following a Hawaiian vacation. However, the sole issue is that Joey is white, and John is Black.

Their parents are taken aback to learn that their children plan to marry someone of a different race when they get to dinner. Consequently, the families discuss the challenges surrounding their son and daughter's nuptials and how they can possibly disband it.

The Wiz (1978)

Diana Ross. Michael Jackson. Mabel King. Richard Pryor. Nipsey Russell. Lena Horne. Ted Ross. All in one musical. That’s it. That’s the selling point. Those names alone should be a good enough reason for you to ease on down that yellow brick road. You’re welcome.

The Oath (2018)

The Oath captures just how frustrating it is to realize that you and your family have become so distant since your previous visit, just as you are going home for the holidays. And your family just won't stop talking about politics, even if there's an unwritten taboo about it. Your elderly uncle is bringing up something offensive with pride. The things your grandma is saying are inappropriate or no longer relevant in your culture. Your mom and dad are always discussing the wrong side of politics. Furthermore, your aunt won't stop talking about the candidates she supported and how America is rapidly going to hell in a handbasket. It's a mess. A hot mess, and it doesn't appear to be getting easier anytime soon.

This film depicts what happens when a family is so devoted to the past that they allow it to ruin the present. Chris and Kai (Tiffany Haddish) promise in the oath not to swear allegiance to the U.S. in exchange for tax breaks. Black Friday is the deadline, and it's a politically fraught Chris who pours over the news of The Oath while concentrating on getting through the holiday with his family. Nevertheless, when the police arrive the day after Thanksgiving, the family finds that they have to make a decision on how to keep their family safe and avoid going to jail.

Black Nativity (2013)

Although this is a Christmas movie, as you and I both know, very few people have watched it, and it hasn't even been a part of our holiday traditions. This movie is the awkward in-between, much like Thanksgiving, unlike Home Alone or This Christmas. But it doesn't mean it's not entertaining to watch. Black Nativity, which stars Jennifer Hudson, Angela Bassett, and Forest Whitaker among its star-studded ensemble, centers on Langston, a teenage boy from Baltimore raised by a single mother, as he visits New York City to celebrate Christmas with his estranged cousins, the Rev. Cornell Cobbs and his wife Aretha.

Langston quickly discovers, although, that Cobbs has severe guidelines, and he refuses to abide by them. Rather, he embarks on a voyage of return to his mother, discovering the significance of religion, healing, and family in the process.

The Temptations (1998)

Say it with me: "Ain't nobody coming to see you, Otis." And in a way, he is right, we’re all here for The Temptations. Even though it's dreadful, the tale of the original The Temptations is worth knowing, especially if you're with family. Why? Well, because The Temptations were a family unto itself and, prior to their notoriety, a fraternity that encouraged one another to pursue their own goals. They were the band that was Motown's greatest success story; they went on to become platinum-selling vocalists and had the whole world in the palm of their hands. However, a cocktail of conceit, cocaine addiction, and strained relationships ultimately brought them to an end.

With this four-hour miniseries, it’s easy for families to understand what happens when they stop considering one another and begin living selfishly for themselves.

Four Brothers (2005)

To put it plainly, this film shouldn't work. The casting director chose two musicians (Tyrese Gibson and André 3000), an actor who was not well known (Garrett Hedlund), and Marky Mark, who was a combination of the two but on the well-known side of things. With a cast like that, Four Brothers just shouldn't work, but strangely enough, it does. This film is all you could ask for in a Thanksgiving movie since it depicts the lengths individuals can go to in order to show an unconditional act of love. These foster brothers come home to seek justice—pardon, retribution—for their mother's murder after learning of her death. Local police are pursuing them throughout this time as they are aware that they are going home for more than just a funeral.

Is this the best film you have ever watched? Not at all? However, it's amusing, and you will be pleased to watch people relate to each other so well, even if they have to commit several crimes to do so.

Black Friday (2021)

Black Friday is, in my opinion, the Seinfeld of films. The film is enjoyable even though it doesn't really have a purpose—everything simply happens as they go about their ordinary lives. In the film Black Friday, the action takes place on Thanksgiving night, when irate workers at toy stores reluctantly show up for work in order to open the store at midnight on the largest shopping day of the year. The narrative abruptly changes course as a meteor carrying an extraterrestrial parasite hits Earth.

This gang of outcasts, led by longstanding employee Ken and store manager Jonathan, eventually find themselves in conflict with throngs of Black Friday consumers who have been transformed into hideous beasts determined to go on a deadly spree.

Knives Out (2019)

It is easy to gripe about family members around the holidays and even threaten to murder them if they have irritated you too much. However, it is rarely carried out or genuinely intended. In Knives Out, this is a different story. In this film, the very problematic Thrombey family comes under suspicion when it is discovered that crime author and family member Harlan Thrombey's death was caused by unexplained circumstances. To find the truth, renowned detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) must sort through a maze of falsehoods and red herrings in this dark comedy.

Finding the ideal harmony between dark comedy, drama, and humor, this movie is an excellent choice for a family viewing experience.

Friendsgiving (2020) 

Friendsgiving: I'm not sure who came up with the phrase, but my entire soul yearns to give Leslie Knope, the legendary character from Parks and Rec, all the credit. Leslie emphasizes the value and beauty of friendships in her Friendsgivings, demonstrating how the holiday is an excellent alternative to the custom of spending the day with close and extended family, which is sometimes draining and toxic. However, in spite of its lovely idea, this Friendsgiving is not that.

Friendsgiving, also called Dinner With Friends, demonstrates how sometimes the family we choose may be just as offensive as the family we were born into. Molly and Abbey (Malin Åkerman and Kat Dennings), together with their group of close friends, throw a dysfunctional and chaotic Thanksgiving meal in this comedy from 2020. Demonstrating how even the family we choose may occasionally be questionable and blatantly obnoxious.

Chicken Run (2000)

Unexpectedly, this film still holds up. I recall thinking this movie was the oddest thing I had ever seen or experienced when I watched it for the first time as a child. The jokes were beyond me. I was unaware that it made a communist allusion and missed all the innuendos. Thus, the sheer brilliance of this film delighted me greatly when I saw it as an adult. The narrative of Chicken Run centers on a group of hens destined for a life of egg-laying on a Yorkshire farm. The hens believe a flashy American rooster is capable of showing them how to fly to freedom.

August Osage County (2013)

What a disaster this family is.

There is a cruel mom who is hooked to prescription drugs. A daughter who is addicted to being anywhere else. The lovebird cousins. A father who has suddenly vanished and a strained couple who no longer understand one another. This movie is exactly how I see a horrible Thanksgiving going. A toxic, codependent, manipulative family forced to survive time together without murdering one another. In the beginning, you sympathize with the characters, but around halfway through, you start to think that maybe they deserve each other. It's a comedy about tragedy and how terrible it can get. That being said, this is advantageous for those who become irritated with their own families quickly during holidays. After all, you will have a greater appreciation for your family after witnessing the devastation that this one brings to one another.

Remember the Titans (2000)

Na na na na na na na na hey, hey, hey, goodbye...

I can't exactly say what it is about Remember the Titans that makes it so special. It could be the brotherhood Gerry and Julius have for one another. It could be the fierceness and compassion Denzel Washington brings to Coach Boone. It could be the hilarity brought by singing "Sunshine" in a high-pitched voice. It could be the genuine smiles created from hearing "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" being sung by big football players. It could even be that it is based on a true story.

Whatever the case may be, this film is unique and ideal for the Thanksgiving holiday because it exemplifies the beauty that arises from putting aside differences and embracing your chosen family. This film explores the importance of human connection. A breath of fresh air, this masterpiece shows individuals truly choosing to love one another unconditionally, in spite of their differences and upbringings.

Left side. Strong side.

Dreamgirls (2006)

I was forced to listen to the school choir sing several arrangements of "Family" from this musical during my whole time in high school. They played it at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and any other occasion when they needed to jog our memories that we were a family and not just a group of people compelled to know one another by virtue of our shared school zone and residential communities. And although that was a nice message to deliver, I think they completely misunderstood it. It was comical how the group first used this song to manipulate listeners by singing about being a family before betraying their, let's face it, somewhat conceited and demanding friend.

This musical is ideal for the occasion since it depicts the dysfunction that our chosen families may also create in us, particularly if we are unable to learn how to properly connect with one another. This family is turbulent and frequently causes harm to one another for sport, but in the end, they demonstrate how, with time and when we put our egos aside and realize that we are family, we can find our way back to one another and support one another no matter what. Plus, who wouldn't want to hear Jennifer Hudson and Beyoncé give performances of a lifetime?

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Fantastic Mr. Fox is a superbly written and beautifully animated movie that addresses the issue of greed. Following twelve years of idyllic bliss, Mr. Fox betrays his wife by raiding the fields owned by Boggis, Bunce, and Bean, their human neighbors. His marriage, his family's life, and the lives of his animal companions are all at risk when he gives in to his primal cravings. Mr. Fox must use his innate cunning abilities to overcome the farmers attempting to drive him and his group deep below.

This movie is ideal for the occasion since it emphasizes the importance of contentment and gratitude for what you already have rather than always yearning for more. This film ultimately demonstrates that you will never be content if your wants exceed what you now have.

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Featured image by DjelicS/Getty Images

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