Thanksgiving Movies: 9 Films that Remind Us of The Reasons We Give Thanks

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As the holiday season draws near, it brings with it all its nostalgic charms and traditions. And everyone globally pauses to express their gratitude for their existence, well-being, and kinship. Amid festive reunions, thoughts will naturally turn to the anticipated feasts and the company we’ll keep.

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Here is a selection of movies that serve as poignant reminders of what truly matters. These cinematic experiences encourage us to ponder the significance of our familial ties and friendships.

The late 90s brought us the comedy-drama “Soul Food,” a movie that put the family at the heart of its narrative. In the film, family ties are tested and stretched by life’s various challenges, yet the family matriarch, Mama Joe, strives to maintain unity through the ritual of Sunday dinners. Her passing marks a turning point as the family’s unity wanes under the weight of secrets and internal conflicts. But in time, they rediscover their bond. It is through the gathering and sharing of soul food that they come together, mending the frayed connections. “Soul Food” is a cinematic testament to the power of traditions to unite us and the stronger forces of shared memories and love that sustain us. Director George Tillman Jr. beautifully illustrates that it’s not merely traditions that bind us but rather the rich tapestry of relationships and love woven through them.

“The Nutty Professor” showcases one of cinema’s most outrageous families, The Klumps, with Eddie Murphy taking on multiple roles to bring this unique clan to life. Echoing themes from “Soul Food,” it’s the dining table that becomes the centerpiece for the family’s raucous interactions, filled with laughter and candid conversations. Yet, beneath the hilarity of their gatherings, the film highlights a bedrock of support. As the protagonist, Professor Sherman Klump, embarks on a journey of personal and professional discovery, grappling with his scientific breakthroughs and romantic entanglements, his family’s support is constant.
Through thick and thin, even when Sherman’s endeavors lead to socially awkward situations, The Klumps stand as a testament to familial love and acceptance. Their presence offers him an unconditional sense of belonging and affirmation, celebrating him for who he truly is, regardless of his mishaps or successes. This serves as a heartwarming reminder that among life’s greatest blessings is a family’s love and acceptance.

Crooklyn” is a poignant narrative about the dynamics of a more traditional, nuclear family navigating the trials and joys of life in a portrayal that mirrors the vibrancy and challenges of Brooklyn. The film stars Alfre Woodard and Delroy Lindo as the parents, who are the anchors for their children, often imparting wisdom and life lessons around the family dinner table— a recurring motif that serves as a focal point for family connection, much like in “Nutty Professor” and “Soul Food.”

As with many family tales, “Crooklyn” doesn’t shy away from depicting the harsher realities of life, including the vulnerability that comes with unexpected loss. The film gracefully tackles the theme of resilience as the children are thrust into premature adulthood, a narrative thread that echoes the experiences of many young people growing up all too soon.
“Crooklyn” is a tender reminder of the impermanence of life and the value of every moment we share with our loved ones. It is a cinematic prompt for viewers to hold close and appreciate those around them while they can.

“The Best Man” and its sequel, “The Best Man Holiday,” delve into the complexities of friendships that transcend traditional bonds and become as significant as family ties. “The Best Man” sets the stage, revealing the roots of friendship, the deep-seated issues, and the misunderstandings that test their relationships. “The Best Man Holiday” revisits these friends years later, demonstrating that despite life’s ups and downs, the connections that truly matter endure.

“The Best Man Holiday” particularly emphasizes the power of reconciliation and the joy of rekindled relationships. The friends come together, celebrating the highs and facing the lows in unison, embodying the essence of their chosen family — a theme that resonates deeply with anyone who has found kinship in friendship.

The poignancy of Mia’s death is indeed a central, heartrending moment that gives the film its emotional depth. Monica Calhoun’s character brings to the fore the indiscriminate nature of mortality, a narrative element that starkly reminds us that life does not play favorites. Her passing catalyzes reflection on the part of the characters and the audience alike, urging a renewed appreciation for every shared moment.

“Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins” presents a comedic yet insightful look at familial relationships, especially when success and personal change create a divide between a person’s past and present. The film, starring Martin Lawrence as Roscoe, explores the tensions that arise when a family member moves away and achieves fame, only to return and confront the life and people he left behind.
The Jenkins family is a tapestry of vibrant personalities, and their interactions with Roscoe are colored with the complexity and friction that often accompany a homecoming. The film underscores the idea that family dynamics are rarely straightforward and that love within a family can be expressed in unconventional and sometimes challenging ways.

Throughout his visit, Roscoe grapples with the duality of his identity — the person he has become versus the person his family remembers. It’s a universal theme: pursuing individuality often clashes with familial expectations. Yet, as Roscoe discovers, the core of the family is a constant and often unconditional love, not predicated on one’s achievements or societal status but on a shared history and inherent bond.
“Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins” reminds us that families, in all their messy glory, are resilient. They can serve as our grounding force and a reminder of where we come from. This story highlights that acceptance and love from family may not always come in the forms we expect or desire, but it’s present and persistent, often waiting for us just as we left it.


“Almost Christmas” is a heartwarming story that captures the complexity of a family’s first holiday season without their beloved matriarch. This film highlights the often-underrepresented role of the patriarch, with Danny Glover’s character, Walter, providing a strong center around which the family’s drama and humor orbit. Unlike many portrayals that cast fathers in a stoic light, Walter’s range of emotions is a breath of fresh air, offering a more nuanced take on the male head of the family.

Like “Crooklyn,” this film pays tribute to the fortitude of a parent facing the daunting task of bringing a family together after profound loss. “Almost Christmas” delves into the deep-seated issues that can simmer between siblings and how shared grief can either widen these rifts or catalyze reconciliation.

The movie traverses the familiar territory of family discord and the trials that can chip away at sibling bonds, echoing themes from “Soul Food.” Yet, it’s the power of unity and the healing potential of shared memories that drive the narrative forward. The laughter and trials of the family showcase their growth and the individual and collective journey toward finding a new equilibrium. At its core, “Almost Christmas” illustrates that the spirit of togetherness and the legacies left by those we’ve lost can serve as a guiding light and a means of solace.

Steel Magnolias is a tragic story reflected beautifully in the original and the remake. The remake was done in 2012 with Queen Latifah, Dola Rashad, Phylicia Rashad, Jill Scott, Adepero Oduye, and Alfred Woodward. Steel Magnolias is a multilayered narrative. It is, on one layer, the story of a family dealing with life and the pains and joys of trying to find a balance between the two. But on another layer, it touches on the nuances of friendship or, more specifically, sisterhood and what makes such so essential in our lives. Life can be unfair, as we see with the sickness and death of Shelby. This is especially tragic given that she is living her dream, one she never thought would be. But Steel Magnolias is more than about the tragedy. It’s about the blessing of having people to lean on when life rocks you to the core. That is indeed something to give thanks for.

“Claudine,” featuring the talents of Diahann Carroll and James Earl Jones, stands as an iconic film from 1974 that shines a spotlight on the realities of single motherhood, an often-underrepresented topic during that era. Diahann Carroll’s Claudine is not just any character; she embodies a professional, a caregiver, and a mother, juggling the immense responsibilities of her world with grace and tenacity.

The film paints a portrait of a woman who is deeply respected and admired by her children, portraying her struggle not just with the challenges of daily life but also with the complexities of love and its various manifestations. “Claudine” tackles the search for romantic love, familial love, and the love of self, exploring the spaces where these intersect and the impact they have on the characters’ lives. “Claudine” invites its audience to recognize the strength and beauty in the resilience of the human spirit, especially within the dynamics of family and the pursuit of a better life against all odds.

Madea’s Big Happy Family is a 2011 film from the imagination of the creative actor, writer, director, and film magnate Tyler Perry. While there is much to say about Perry’s contribution, this focuses on family and its importance. Those who have watched this film understand that Madea’s big happy family wasn’t entirely happy, at least not as one may imagine. But regardless, they were family. Suffice it to say, much of it was an exaggerated look at families; however, it wasn’t far from an accurate representation of the dynamics seen in some households.

Madea’s Big Happy Family” is, at its heart, an ode to the often-overlooked matriarchs who hold their families together. Through Loretta Devine’s portrayal, the film honors the silent strength of maternal figures who fight private battles with dignity and grace for the sake of their loved ones. It’s a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by those who lead with love and the debt of gratitude we owe them. The movie encourages viewers to recognize and cherish the quiet warriors in their lives—the steadfast anchors who weather personal storms to foster unity and uphold family legacies.

“The Color Purple,” adapted from Alice Walker’s poignant novel, made its cinematic debut in 1985, providing a window into the intricacies of life in the South during an era long past. The film’s narrative is anchored in the life of Celie, a young Black girl who confronts the brutalities of her existence in a time rife with social and racial injustice.

Through Celie’s journey, audiences are confronted with the harsh realities of her world—the cruelty, the systemic oppression, and the relentless challenges she faces. Yet, amidst this adversity, “The Color Purple” also uncovers the profound and often redemptive beauty that can emerge from the human spirit. The film illustrates that while Celie may not have been born into privilege or a nurturing family environment, she forges bonds of sisterhood and friendship that prove her salvation.

The relationships Celie develops, particularly with her sister Nettie, Sophia, and the singer Shug Avery, are portrayed as lifelines—vital connections that offer love, acceptance, and hope. “The Color Purple” thus underscores the essential role that friendship and chosen family can play in one’s survival and healing. It’s a testament to the idea that even when life seems overshadowed by darkness, there are beacons of light and hope in our connections with those who understand, support, and uplift us.

People hold a spectrum of emotions about Thanksgiving, each with their own interpretation and ways to honor the day. There is no right or wrong way in which to observe. However, the season’s essence lies in its symbolic meaning – a period carved out for expressing thankfulness. It’s an opportunity to acknowledge our fortunes, from the glaringly evident to the often neglected. These films use a potent blend of storytelling, eliciting tears, inciting frustration, provoking laughter, or bringing about joy, a presentation of profound content to relay a message. They serve as poignant reminders of many things in life that are truly worth celebrating.

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