Not everyone likes football

What TV Shows and Movies to Stream on Thanksgiving

Besides The Crown and the Mandalorian.

By Emma Schkloven

We’ve finally accepted it: The holidays will look different this year.

There’ll be no large gatherings around the table, no Turkey Trots with thousands of others, and no massive family reunions. Although it may not seem like it at first glance, this could actually be a good thing, as Covid-19 cases are surging all over the country, including here in Houston.

And besides, did you really want to argue over the election with your Aunt Shirley when you could be chilling in front of the TV in food-baby bliss? (It's okay to admit that you kind of were looking forward to catching up with her—and even the political bickering—after all these months of staying home.) Your Thanksgiving may be a much smaller affair this time around (the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has already urged people to stay home, for fear of super-spreader events), but the streaming options are endless. And whether you’re looking for something to enjoy while mid-turkey coma, want to welcome Santa a bit early, or plan to pretend the holidays don’t exist this year, we’ve got something for you.

Here’s what to stream …

John Candy, left, and Steve Martin in Planes, Trains and Automobiles

If You're Not Having the Traditional Family Thanksgiving:

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

Quite possibly the greatest Thanksgiving film ever made, this classic comedy sees an uptight executive (Steve Martin) and an annoyingly upbeat salesman (John Candy, who makes us laugh until we nearly wet our pants and then cry with every viewing) as unlikely travel companions trying to make it home for the holidays. Need more of a reason to see it? Martin says it’s his favorite film he’s worked on. Plus, the pillow gag is still a classic.

Stream it on Amazon.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)

Based on the 2008 historical novel of the same name, a London writer (Lily James) forges an unbreakable bond with the members of a book club that formed on the small island of Guernsey, located in the English Channel, during its WWII German occupation. While this film doesn’t take place during Thanksgiving (it’s set in the UK, for goodness' sake), it will make you thankful for all the people in your life.

Stream it on Netflix.

Addams Family Values (1993)

The rare sequel that—we're gonna say it—is better than the original, Barry Sonnenfeld's 1993 followup sees Uncle Fester (a truly perfect Christopher Lloyd) settled back into his weird and kooky family and looking for a love like that of his brother and sister-in-law, Gomez and Morticia Addams (Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston), but in all the wrong places. The results are a fantastic ode to the value of family, featuring Wednesday (Christina Ricci) at summer camp and Julia, Huston, and Lloyd outdoing each other in every scene. In case you need a reminder there are families out there weirder than your own while trapped inside the house with no escape, watch this. Or if you just miss your own weirdos. Of course, it also features the best Thanksgiving play ever performed.

Stream it on Amazon Prime, VUDU, and Google Play.

Home for the Holidays (1995)

Enjoy your turkey with a side of someone else’s family drama, for a change. This Jodie Foster-directed dramedy is stuffed with talent, featuring a perfect-as-always performance from Holly Hunter heading to her parents' house for Christmas; Anne Bancroft, never missing a morsel of opportunity for everything from humor to pathos in the script; and even a pre-Iron Man Robert Downey Jr., reminding us that yeah, he's been this good all along. Also Steve Guttenberg pops up and fights Dylan McDermott. Intrigued? Go check it out. "Nobody means what they say on Thanksgiving, Mom. You know that. That's what the day's supposed to be all about, right? Torture."

Stream it on Amazon Prime, VUDU, and Google Play. 

Free Birds (2013)

Two turkeys travel back in time to 1621 to remove their feathered brethren from the original Thanksgiving menu and change history forever. This animated flick is perfect for the kiddos … and adults who really want to hear Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson play time-agent turkeys. And who doesn't?

Stream it on Hulu. 

Forest Whitaker as Jeronicus Jangle.

If You’re Ready to Go Full-On Christmas a Bit Early:

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

The perfect transition from Turkey Day into the Christmas season, this classic story of a department store Santa named Kris Kringle, and the no-nonsense mother and daughter who come to believe in him, starts off with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, with an emphasis on the power of kindness and the willingness to believe, even just a little, in magic. Featuring acclaimed performances from Maureen O'Hara, Natalie Wood, and Edmund Gwenn (who won an Oscar for his role as Kringle), this beautiful film is perfect for starting your Christmas off right. If you don't melt when Wood pulls Gwenn's beard, the courtroom scene will get you. 

Stream it on Disney+, Amazon Prime, VUDU, and YouTube. 

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)

Meet the newest addition your annual Christmas watch list. This big-hearted musical follows eccentric toymaker (Academy Award-winner Forest Whitaker) who, after being betrayed by his apprentice (Emmy-winner Keegan-Michael Key), finally finds new inspiration with the help of his granddaughter (scene-stealing newcomer Madalen Mills). Oh, did we mention it also stars Tony-winner Phylicia Rashad? With elaborate costumes and sets and original songs by EGOT winner John Legend, among others, this fantasy adventure is covered in sparkly Christmas tinsel from head to toe.

Stream it on Netflix.

The Great British Bake Off: Holidays (2019)

No shows gives us the warm and fuzzies quite like the lovable The Great British Bake Off. So thank heaven the new season is back to add some powdered sugar snow to our holidays. This year’s special (technically, it’s from 2019—the new season drops on December 4) sees the return of four previous contestants, as well as the cast of hit comedy Derry Girls. Who’ll make the better treats? Our money’s on the amateur bakers.

Stream it on Netflix.

The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special (2020)

A spoof on the epically bad 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special, these 45 minutes of animated fun also see characters from the franchise helping Chewbacca celebrate "Life Day,” the series's equivalent to Christmas. But similarities to the original special end there as Rey travels through 40-plus years of cinematic history, reliving some of the films’ most iconic moments gloriously re-created out of Lego-y goodness. And yes, Baby Yoda makes an appearance … but sans his favorite alien egg snacks. Too soon?

Stream it on Disney+.

A Christmas Story (1983)

Come on, you had to know this one would be here! Bob Clark's modern classic focuses on bespectacled 9-year-old Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley), who wants just one thing for Christmas: "an official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle, with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time." Unfortunately, his parents, and even Santa, aren't too keen on his request, fearing he'll—say it with us—shoot his eye out. This nostalgia-soaked comedy, based on American humorist Jean Sheppard's semi-autobiographical book, has got everything from school-yard brawls, to horrid bunny PJs, and, of course, that infamous leg lamp. Try not to love it, we triple-dog dare you. 

Dolly Parton's Christmas on the Square (2020)

We always knew Dolly Parton was an angel, and now we have proof. When a Scrooge-like businesswoman (Christine Baranski) returns to her small hometown, intent on ruining Christmas with a wave of mass evictions, our angelic country star drops by to change her mind through song. And those 14 original songs feature music and lyrics from Dolly herself, of course.

Stream it on Netflix, beginning November 22.

Kurt Russell, center, as coach Herb Brooks in Miracle.

If You’re Looking for that Feel-Good Fun without the Holiday Decorations:

Inside Pixar (2020)

This new documentary miniseries introduces you to the people taking creativity to infinity and beyond at the animation studios that brought Toy Story, Up, and Coco to life. Not only do the Pixar creatives talk about past projects, they offer glimpses into upcoming ones as well. 

Stream it on Disney+.

Hunt For The Wilderpeople (2016) 

Long before he directed Thor: Ragnarok and Oscar-winner Jojo Rabbit, Taika Waititi directed this spirit-lifting indie gem about a delinquent tween (Deadpool 2’s Julian Dennison) and his foster father (Sam Neill), who become subjects of a national manhunt after getting lost in the New Zealand wilderness. Based on Barry Crump’s book Wild Pork and Watercress, Waititi’s film showcases his offbeat wit and unique stylization behind the camera while managing to be as funny and charming as it is poignant.

Stream it on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.

Voices of Fire (2020)

Another docu-series, this project sees Bishop Ezekiel Williams, uncle of Pharrell Williams, and his superstar nephew as they travel around Hampton Roads, Virginia, assembling the most talented and diverse gospel choir of all time.

Stream it on Netflix.

Miracle (2004)

Based on one of the most inspiring stories in sports history, this film chronicles the U.S. hockey team’s triumph over the unbeatable Soviet Union at the 1980 Olympics. Framed against the sociopolitical backdrop of the Cold War, this underdog story is equal parts lovable and patriotic.  

Stream it on Netflix, Disney+.

The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019)

Before you panic, this Dickens adaptation lacks all the stuffiness you’re used to seeing in a British period piece. Why? It likely has everything to do with director Armando Iannucci, the man behind HBO’s Veep. Iannucci’s retelling of the semi-autobiographical classic is wildly comedic and exuberantly heartfelt, proving the staying power in these 170-year-old words. Plus, it boasts a seriously talented cast, including Dev Patel as the titular Copperfield, Game of Throne’s Gwendoline Christie, and Hugh Laurie (yup, pill-popping, cane-wielding Dr. House), among other familiar faces.

Rent it on VUDU, Apple TV, and Google Play.

Over the Moon.

Image: Courtesy Netflix 

If You’ve Decided the Holidays are #Cancelled This Year:

Queen’s Gambit (2020)

Who knew chess could be so exciting? Based on Walter Tevis’s 1983 novel of the same name, this seven-part series follows orphan chess prodigy Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) as she works to become the best player in the world while battling addiction. With stylish production values, and fast-paced, high-action gameplay, Queen’s Gambit makes anyone who ever said, “chess isn’t a real sport,” eat their words.

Stream it on Netflix.

What the Constitution Means to Me (2020)

Yeah, we know you’re probably sick of politics, but don’t write this one off. A finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Heidi Schreck’s one-woman show examines our country’s founding document, as well as the people it leaves out, while recounting her personal teenage experience of partaking in Constitutional debate contests. Equal parts witty, uproariously funny, and intensely critical, this taping of the former Broadway hit offers some much-needed hope for the future while reflecting on the U.S.’s checkered past.

Stream it on Amazon Prime. 

We Are the Champions (2020)

This new docu-series delves into the wild and wonderful worlds of niche competition, highlighting everything from dog dancing, to cheese rolling and yo-yoing. Each episode focuses on a different one of these wholly oddball sports, while also delving into the lives of the people working to become champion chile-pepper eaters, frog jumpers, and fantasy hairstylists. Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

Stream it on Netflix.

Come Away (2020) 

J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland get the ultimate mashup in this new fantasy film about two young siblings finding magic and adventure, even as their family faces tragedy in the real world. David Oyelowo and Angelina Jolie star as the parents of these two young dreamers in this sort-of prequel to the classic fairy tales, which just so happens to be the live-action directorial debut of Brenda Chapman (Disney-Pixar’s Brave and DreamWorks Animation’s The Prince of Egypt). Fans of Pan’s and Alice’s adventures can also enjoy a rousing game of “spot the reference” throughout the film.

Rent it on Amazon Prime, VUDU, and Google Play.

Over the Moon (2020)

Featuring beautiful animation, this Disney-esque movie follows a young girl as she builds a rocket ship, flies to the moon, and meets a galactic goddess in this retelling of an ancient Chinese myth. By the way, if the songs remind you of Hamilton, that’s probably because Phillipa Soo (Elizabeth Schuyler) stars as the moon goddess, Chang’e.

Stream it on Netflix.

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