The Best Thanksgiving Movies and TV Episodes to Watch to Avoid Your Family

Friends, How I Met Your Mother, Buffy and more TV shows will be there to hang out with to avoid spending time with your family this Thanksgiving

By Tierney Bricker Nov 27, 2019 11:00 AMTags

"Can someone vacuum before they arrive?"

Chances are you've heard one of your parents make that request if you are home for Thanksgiving, a time filled with Turkey, stuffing yourself with stuffing, pumpkin pie and a whole lot of awkward small talk with family members you see about as often as you go to the dentist. "I know, I can't believe it's been so long." "Yes, I'm still single." "No, I haven't watched Ray Donovan." And let's not even get started on when politics inevitably comes up two or three wine bottles later...

And that's why you need comfort food. No, we're not talking about the feast you're waiting to dive into, we're talking about comfort food for your soul that only a TV show or movie can provide. So if you're looking for a reason to avoid your family this holiday week, we've rounded up some of our favorite Thanksgiving-themed episodes of shows like Friends, Gossip Girl and more, as well as a few movies, for you to hunker down with as you avoid Aunt Karen.

Best & Worst Thanksgiving Sides, Ranked

So grab some food, barricade your door, fire up your streaming service of choice and let's binge-watch, spending time with our chosen family: our favorite movie and TV characters. 

TV Episodes to Watch


Friends: Of course, the iconic NBC sitcom, which turned 25 this year, is infamous for its annual Thanksgiving episodes, delivering 10 near-perfect holiday installments in its 10-year run. It's hard to pick just one (and we've done the ranking to prove it), so we're going to suggest three: season five's classic "The One With All the Thanksgivings" for the delightful flashbacks  and the first "I love you" for Chandler and Monica (who is wearing a turkey on her head, natch), season six's "The One Where Ross Got High" because it's the group's dynamic at its very best, season eight's "The One With the Rumor," aka the one where Brad Pitt makes his iconic guest appearance as one of the founders of the "I Hate Rachel Club" in high school. (Listen, if he can attend her 50th birthday bash post-divorce, we can highlight his ep!) (Where to watch: Netflix.)

How I Met Your Mother: Another sitcom about a close-knit group of friends with a penchant for nailing Thanksgiving episodes, fans could always count on HIMYM to deliver the goods. But the best outing is season three's ‘iconic "Slapsgiving," which gave us the third (and arguably best) slap in Marshall and Barney's ongoing slap bet. Gather around the piano and sing it with us: "Ya just got slapped"! (Where to watch:  Hulu.)

Mitchell Haddad/CBS Photo Archive via Getty Images

Gilmore Girls: What better way to nurse your food coma than by watching Lorelai and Rory go on a Thanksgiving dinner-crawl, hitting four feats in one day in season three's "A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving"? (Where to watch: Netflix.)

Master of None: For a more poignant take on the holiday episode, look no further than this Emmy Award-winning outing, which focused on Denise, Dev's BFF, with the show using flashbacks to her Thanksgiving experiences over the years to show Lena Waithe's character slowly coming to terms with her sexuality and her relationship with her family. (Where to watch: Netflix.)

TV's Funniest Thanksgiving Episodes
The CW

Gossip Girl: Another show that loved to make an annual event out of Turkey Day was Gossip Girl, beginning with "Blair Waldorf Must Pie!" the season one standout that gave us flashbacks of old Serena, Dan and Serena sort of realizing they could've been siblings, and, most importantly, gave viewers insight into Blair's struggle with an eating disorder. Season two's serving is skippable, but season three's offering, "The Treasure of Serena Madre," is a fun one thanks to a classic awkward family dinner from hell when Serena has to pass the butter to Maureen aka the wife of the man she's hooking up with. (Oh hey, Aaron Tveit as creepy congressman Trip!)  Leave it to S to always ruin Thanksgiving. (Where to watch: Netflix.)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "It's a sham, but it's a sham with yams. A yam sham." If you're only going to do one big Thanksgiving episode, you might as well do it right, like BtVS' season four holiday-themed outing, "Pangs." Desperate to give the Scooby gang the perfect Thanksgiving, Buffy goes full-Pilgrimzilla, Slayer duties (and lack of cooking skills) be damned. Alas, everything goes awry when Xander releases a vengeful native American Spirit, resulting in Spike becoming a vampire dart board. Oh, and there's a doozy of a mic drop reveal in the final moment. (Where to watch: Hulu.)


This Is Us: Two words: Pilgrim Rick! Leave it to the NBC hit to hit us right in the feels, especially on Thanksgiving. In this season one episode, we see the origin of the Pearson family's Pilgrim Rick hat, with a flashback revealing the family's holiday unexpectedly sent in a roadside motel. It all ties beautifully together with the present, as we see the Big Three still struggling with the loss of Jack. Of course, it can't always be warm and fuzzies, as Randall (aka "Thanksgiving dad is a hot dad") learns a shocking secret Rebecca had been keeping from him his entire life. (Where to  watch: Hulu.)

Movies to Watch

While TV shows tend to favor a Thanksgiving episode, with the timing syncing up quite nicely with November sweeps, film tends to overlook the middle child of the fall holidays, carelessly jumping from Halloween to Christmas. Still, there are a few worthy options to check out.

Turkey Drop: Thank you Freeform for answering our prayers and delivering an adorable rom-com-gone-sort-of-wrong. And bonus points for setting it during a college freshman's (charmingly played by Olivia Holt) first trip back home, which is ripe for drama, especially when we learned what "turkey drop" means: when your H.S. sweetheart dumps you during Thanksgiving break. Enter: her brother's hot BFF.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles: C'mon, it's the definitive and defining movie in the limited Thanksgiving movie genre. And it's hilarious, with knockout performances by Steve Martin and John Candy still making us laugh over 30 years later. (Where to watch: Amazon.)

Paramount Pictures

Home For the Holidays: This underrated gem of a movie will make you wonder why the hell you hadn't heard of it as soon as the end credits roll. Starring Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., Dylan McDermott and a young Claire Danes, the 1995 movie was Jodie Foster's second outing as a director and captures that odd catch-22 you can only understand once you've moved away from your family and return for the holidays, immediately falling back into your old familial patterns and behaviors. (Where to watch: Amazon.)

Addams Family Values: Wait, before you protest and say the 1993 dark comedy is a Halloween movie, hear us out. We're counting this one because of the play Wednesday and Pugsley Addams are forced to take part in at Camp Chippewa, which is about the first Thanksgiving. Yes, a summer camp is performing a play about Thanksgiving for some reason, but you do you, Gary and Becky Granger! Playing Pocahontas, Wednesday decides to rewrite the tale to bloody and vengefully hilarious results. Plus, there's also the so-f--ked-up-it's-funny "Turkey Day" song, with Pugsley, dressed as turkey, singing, "Eat us 'cause we're good and dead!' (Where to watch: Amazon.)


Pieces of April: So long, Joey Potter! Katie Holmes earned rave reviews for her turn in this 2003 indie movie about a girl who invites her small town family to her Lower East Side apartment in NYC. As you can imagine, s--t gets messy. Patricia Clarkson delivers a stellar performance as April's mom, which earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Also, remember "The Thong Song"? Yeah, Sisqo is in this movie, too. So that happens! (Where to watch: Hulu.) 

What's Cooking: What happens when you bring four families with their own traditions and heritages—Vietnamese, Latino, Jewish, and African American—together under one roof? DRAMA but multiplied by four. Kyra Sedgwick and Julianna Margulies star in this 2000 film. (Where to watch: for purchase on iTunes or Amazon.)