Family-Friendly Movies to Watch in Time for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude and get-togethers. American families eat until their stomachs distend, drink to excess, and reflect on all that they’re thankful for. Sharing quality time with loved ones and reminiscing on the preceding year is just a fraction of what Thanksgiving stands for. With the national holiday just a week away, there’s no better time to gather the children and the in-laws and settle down with these family-friendly movies.

Rise of the Guardians (2012)

Directed by Peter Ramsey, Rise of the Guardians tells a coming-of-age story about Jack Frost. It recalls his origins – the life he lived before receiving his magical powers. While arguably a Christmas movie, the collection of holiday-themed characters makes it a suitable choice for a Thanksgiving flick.

Rise of the Guardians stars the ensemble cast of Chris Pine, Jude Law, Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin, and Isla Fisher. It features well-known seasonal characters such as Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy, and Sandman. When the boogeyman, Pitch Black, threatens to engulf the world in darkness and banish the feel-good holidays, the guardians enlist the help of Jack Frost.

The Washington Post‘s Michael O’Sullivan also gave the film a positive review and said, “Thoughts become things. That’s the message of Rise of the Guardians, a charming if slightly dark and cobwebbed animated feature about how believing in something makes it real, or real enough.”

Rise of the Guardians is a compelling story about finding yourself and standing up for your beliefs. It ranks highly for unmissable family-friendly movies and can be streamed by renting or purchasing on Vudu, Google Play, Amazon Instant Video, and iTunes.

Zootopia/Zootropolis (2016)

Zootopia, known in the UK as Zootropolis, was directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore. Set in an anthropomorphic city known as Zootopia, the story follows an unlikely partnership between a rabbit police officer, Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), and a red fox con artist, Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman).

Not specifically a Thanksgiving movie, but Zootopia is all about “you can be anything.” You need to work hard to become anything you want to be. However, the Thanksgiving concept does tie in nicely; Judy achieves her dreams and for that, she is exceedingly grateful.

IGN reviewer Eric Goldman said, “Zootopia is a wonderful example of how Disney, at its best, can mix its past and present together in a very cool, compelling way. It takes the classic animation trope of animals walking, talking, and acting like humans, but gives it a modern spin. In terms of its humour and animation style and also in its themes, which are meaningful and fascinatingly topical.”

Zootopia/Zootropolis was the second-highest-rated film of 2016, making it a critically acclaimed and commercially successful family-friendly movie. It can be streamed on Disney+ with a stable internet connection and monthly subscription.

Meet The Robinsons (2007)

Meet The Robinsons, directed by Stephen Anderson, is an unquestioned national treasure of a Walt Disney movie. Interestingly, it is loosely based on the children’s book, A Day with Wilbur Robinson by William Joyce. Furthermore, Meet The Robinsons stars the collective talent of Jordan Fry as Lewis, Wesley Singerman as Wilbur Robinson, Stephen Anderson as Bowler Hat Guy, and Nicole Sullivan as Franny Robinson.

As far as Thanksgiving movies go, they are few and far between, but the main takeaway from the national holiday is the importance of togetherness. Meet The Robinsons tells the heartwarming tale of Lewis, an aspiring inventor, and orphan, who finds his place and purpose amongst an eccentric family.

Wilbur Robinson, a mysterious boy from the future, arrives in the present day and claims to be retrieving a stolen time machine. Wilbur and Lewis join forces to thwart the evil plans of “The Bowler Hat Guy” as his existence depends on Lewis’ survival. Throughout the movie, the “keep moving forward” motto takes center stage. It implies that failure should never block the path to success. However, the true value of Meet The Robinsons lies in its strong message of acceptance and belonging.

Danny Minton of the Beaumont Journal said that “The Robinsons might not be a family you want to hang out with, but they sure were fun to meet in this imaginative and beautiful 3-D experience.” If nothing else, this wacky family will make you think twice before complaining about your own.

Meet The Robinsons falls under the category of family-friendly movies that trigger the waterworks. It can currently be streamed on Disney+ with a stable internet connection and monthly subscription.

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs (2009)

family-friendly thanksgiving movies

Thanksgiving is all about gorging on as much food as possible. Therefore, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a perfect choice to satisfy that hunger. Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, its concept is loosely based on the 1978 children’s book of the same name by Judi and Ron Barrett.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs stars Bill Hader as Flint Lockwood, a wannabe inventor. Hader co-stars alongside Anna Faris as Sam Sparks, a weather intern, and Flint’s love interest. Additionally, its star-studded cast includes the likes of Neil Patrick Harris, James Caan, and Bruce Campbell. The premise revolves around Flint’s latest invention, a machine that can convert water into food. When the machine develops sentience and creates food storms, Flint and Sam must destroy the invention and save the world.

Again, while not explicitly linked to Thanksgiving, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs features a massive influx of food, one of the key components to a successful Thanksgiving celebration. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs may as well be included with Thanksgiving movies, since its general concept of overeating and worshipping food is halfway there.

Rotten Tomatoes, the review aggregator, stated in its critic consensus that “Quirky humor, plucky characters, and solid slapstick make this family comedy a frenetically tasty time at the movies.”

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a family-friendly movie to sink your teeth into. It can be streamed on Hulu or Netflix.

Coco (2017)

family-friendly thanksgiving movies

Coco, co-directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina, was released in 2017 to wide praise for its animation, voice acting, music, and visuals. It stars the talented voices of Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt and Alanna Ubach.

Rather than Thanksgiving, Coco is inspired by the Mexican holiday, Day of the Dead. The multi-day holiday involves family and friends gathering to pay respects and to remember friends and family members who have died. While Day of the Dead has a more solemn tone than Thanksgiving, its concept still revolves around celebrating family members and friends – in life and death. Besides, the celebration is not solely focused on the dead, as it is also common to give gifts to friends.

Coco‘s plot focuses on twelve-year-old Miguel, who is accidentally transported to the Land of the Dead. Therein, seeks the help of his deceased great-great-grandfather – a talented musician – to return home. He hopes to lift the ban on music implemented by his living relatives.

Its themes may be of Mexican origin, but Coco bears a striking resemblance to Thanksgiving movies. Its themes are inclusive, informative, and give family-friendly insight into national holidays celebrated globally. Robert Abele of TheWrap praised the film, saying: “If an animated movie is going to offer children a way to process death, it’s hard to envision a more spirited, touching and breezily entertaining example than Coco.”

Coco can be viewed on Disney+ with a stable internet connection and monthly subscription. Alternatively, it can be enjoyed by renting or purchasing on Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Instant Video, and iTunes.

The Incredibles (2004)

family-friendly thanksgiving movies

There may never be a more iconic super-powered family than The Incredibles. This 2004 Pixar Studios gem is a golden oldie in the animated world. Another family-oriented flick, The Incredibles was directed by Brad Bird. It stars the voices of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Spencer Fox, and Jason Lee.

Set in the 1960s, The Incredibles follows Bob and Helen Parr, a superhero couple known as Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl. They hide their powers following government laws and attempt to live a quiet, secluded life with their three children. Bob Parr’s desire to relive the superhero days ends in the entire family facing an imminent threat.

As previously mentioned, Thanksgiving is all about family and all about gratitude. The Incredibles teaches audiences about family values, accepting oneself, and showing appreciation for the family that they were given – no matter how strange. While not grouped with Thanksgiving movies, The Incredibles is an “incredibly” thought-provoking family-friendly movie about food-for-thought themes similar to that of the turkey-gobbling holiday.

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three-and-a-half out of four, writing that the film “alternates breakneck action with satire of suburban sitcom life” and is “another example of Pixar’s mastery of popular animation.”

The Incredibles can be streamed on Disney+ with a stable internet connection and monthly subscription.