This might be an odd way to begin a list of Thanksgiving films on Netflix but the title of this list is sort of misleading (see, I'm calling out myself for clickbait!). I say this because there really aren't too many Thanksgiving themed films for kids that are on Netflix. A more appropriate title would've been, "Films For Kids to Watch on Thanksgiving," but the title I chose seemed to have a snappier ring to it.
So given that dilemma just what is this list? Thanksgiving is more than just a cozy (hopefully), crowded house that is filled with people eating turkey. The idea seems to be greater than that. Thanksgiving is about giving thanks for all that we have in our lives. Regardless of how good or bad our lives must be, we ARE alive and there is something to be said for that. So the films in question, while maybe not being "Thanksgiving Films" that are centered around the holidays, are tied to it in a greater, thematic sense.
The films on this list capture the spirit of Thanksgiving. Lilo & Stitch is all about family and sticking together through thick and thin. Gnome Alone is a gnomtastic take on the American Classic Home Alone. Yes, that is a Christmas themed film but overall it's a film about really appreciating what you have. Lastly, a movie like Pochantas is a gentle reminder that perhaps this holiday that we are celebrating, needs to take into account a whole group of people who were/are marginalized because of it.
At its core what this list seeks to do is help young people build up their holiday memories. No matter how much YouTube or quick content our young friends devour, the majority of what will shape their memories of youth is still movies. The films on this list, while being fun, whimsical, and filled with different themes and ideas, will help guide young people on this journey. What are our lives if not old experiences and new experiences colliding to give us perspective on our future experiences?
So sit back and enjoy "12 Thanksgiving Films For Kids On Netflix". This list goes in a lot of different directions. If you think about it so does the holiday. What starts off as way to give thanks and show appreciation for the people around us, ultimately gives way to rank consumerism, and the worst of the American shopping experience known as Black Friday. Think of this list as a companion that will help you and your family stay clear of all that.
There are going to be history buffs and others that will balk at the inclusion of Pocahontas on a list of Thanksgiving films. They will see its inclusion as odd and possibly even insensitive. This wasn't my intention and many apologies right now if you feel offended. It just seems that given how this list is meant for kids we should keep the movies fairly kid friendly. This tale of Pocahontas and the love she has for Captain John Smith is a great Thanksgiving lesson. Netflix has to be aware of this otherwise why else leave it on the platform? The father of Pocahontas wants her to marry a warrior that's native to their tribe. John Smith's soldiers want to plunder the gold of Pocahontas and her people. Somehow amidst all of this love prevails, and in these times this is a lesson all people (not just kids) need.
Peter Rabbit has his plans for the veggies from the garden of Mr. McGregor upended when Mr. McGregor passes away. Suddenly, a new person takes over the house (and garden) and Peter and his family have to get even more creative in getting the food they covet. However, something unexpected happens when the new owner meets a woman who changes everything. Okay, how Thanksgiving is this tale? Learning to love someone and respect their property, and also realizing that love can soften even the hardest of hearts. Many thanks to Netflix for giving the kids of the streaming world a vehicle whereby they can see that people and animals (live action and CGI) can indeed grow and change.
How about that title, huh? The story of Gnome Alone is pretty darn amazing, too. Chloe wants to have an amazing high school life. As she strives for this she discovers that the garden gnomes around her house need her help on an amazing mission. Working together despite differences? Can you say Thanksgiving movie for all time? So much of the Thanksgiving holiday is predicated on the idea that different personalities have to tolerate one another on this special day. We don't talk politics, we don't bring up religion, we just share time together as human beings. That idea, even though Gnome Alone is an animated film, is the core and life's blood of this movie. So, fire up the hor d'oeuvres, put that turkey in the oven, and sit back and enjoy the wonderful people around you no matter what. Also... watch Netflix, too!
Who doesn't love a good dog story around the holidays, right? The Stray is about a dog named Pluto who makes an entire family believe in miracles. This pup shows a young boy that life gets better, he helps two parents find love again, and Pluto's mere presence simply helps other miracles happen. Okay, I realize that this Netflix offering sounds schmaltzy, milquetoast, and about as paint by numbers as these sorts of films can get. However, this is the holiday season! Around Thanksgiving we especially need films like this. They remind us of the the deeper strengths of the human condition. They allow us to examine our own frailties and they make a fine viewing experience for the entire family. If you're looking for a 90 minutes of "being off electronics time," The Stray might be the way for your kids to go!
A Wrinkle in Time
Oprah, Reese, and Director Ana DuVernay, what more could you need for your Thanksgiving meal? Cloaked in intergalactic space travel, A Wrinkle in Time might seem like a sci-fi FX fest but I assure you it is not. This film is, at its core, a story of family and sticking together when it matters most. When Meg's (Storm Reid) dad disappears she is allowed to cross space and time to find him by Oprah, Reese, and Mindy Kaling. What ensues is the adventure of many lifetimes and the kind of film that never stops giving life lessons. Netflix has a way of keeping people entertained and A Wrinkle in Time certainly checks this box. With its deft storytelling, rich themes, and strong performances, the film really captures the Thanksgiving spirit of acceptance, loyalty, and love.
Okay, I get that this film would work even more perfectly if it was called "Turkey Run." That said, Chicken Run is what we've got and it more than works to underscore the themes and ideas on Thanksgiving. Okay, Rocky the rooster and Ginger the hen are over being on the farm. So they lead a mission to break free and live life on their own terms. Isn't that what Thanksgiving is about? Cherishing the sanctity of life and doing everything you can to preserve it. I understand that that theme isn't always associated with this holiday. Many Native Americans sadly suffered due to the events surrounding it. Let's not also forget that Mel Gibson voices Rocky and he has had his own issues with people that are different from him. Perhaps that makes Chicken Run resonate all the more? With all the hate and division happening in the world, maybe this film ultimately shows us how we can achieve our better selves?
This 26 minute gem could very well be the Rudolf? of it's generation. Thanksgiving is all about, well... giving. In fact the name is implied in the very title of the holiday. The idea that it is better to give than receive (though more associated with Christmas it still applies here) is very much on display throughout this short. Queen Poppy discovers that some friends of hers don't have a holiday, so she elicits some help and decides to create one for them. The idea is simple, quick, and easy to digest. Netflix has become a master content provider due to its ability to create just that. There is a warm appeal to this story that seems to be saying nobody should ever be excluded from anything.
The Water Horse
Angus MacMorrow (Alex Etel) is a young boy with nary a friend and a lot of time on his hands. He finds an egg that eventually opens and produces a being the likes of which the world has never seen. Angus loves his pet but the problem is that it's big, different, and just the kind of thing to catch the eye of the government. So naturally it has to be protected and Angus is just the chap to make that a reality. With a solid story, dazzling special effects, and amazing visuals, The Water Horse is the kind of story that underscores the theme of the holidays. Thanksgiving means many things to many different people. To some its about family, to others it's about consumerism, but one thing we can all agree on is that it's a special time. Movies like The Water Horse make us happy that we have Netflix around for the Holiday season.
This update of the film from 1937 is from 2015 and it is a grand experience even now. Heidi follows a young girl who gets orphaned and sent to live with her mean grandpa in the Swiss Alps. These two don't see eye to eye on many things but over time that changes, and both characters come to understand how much they love and need one another. Heidi is a standard barer for the fish-out-of-water tale of a young girl finding her way and helping an old soul in the process. All young kids may not have had this experience, but every adult knows what it's like to start off on shaky ground with someone and then have things turnl into a special bond. And if you've never experienced this, Heidi around Thanksgiving time will make you realize the possibilities.
If you're one of the rare few who doesn't know the story of Benji, know that Netflix was the perfect platform to bring this film out. Okay, at about this point in the list you're probably wondering how I tie Benji into Thanksgiving. Well, considering that Benji is the quintessential family film and Thanksgiving is all about family, it's pretty easy to see the parallel that I am drawing. Basically, the determined dog has been rebooted here to save another family when some young people find themselves in dangerous times. Alright, this is Benji we're talking about so Netflix isn't really going to re-invent the wheel too much. What they have done is created a fun tale that keeps the heart and soul of the 1974 original, all while showing that family bonds can survive any kind of update.
The NeverEnding Story
The story of Bastian (Barret Oliver) finding his way through a fantastical world populated by people like Atreyu, The Childlike Empress, Falkor, and Teeny Weeny is the stuff of 1980s legend. This film has hung on to become a true cult classic even though it went out of its way to be a mainstream release. With it's story of togetherness, bonding through hardship, and never giving up, The NeverEnding Story might be the most Thanksgiving movie on this Thanksgiving list. It is rich with strong visuals, a fun storyline, and the sort of movie moments that make us happy we can share these kinds of films with a whole new generation of children. Netflix has made this movie available for a very long time and I have no doubt that it will continue to be so. It is imminently watchable and re-watchable and that's just what the content provider craves.
Lilo & Stitch
Talk about a Thanksgiving movie! Lily &Stitch is a fun, family tale about a Lilo. She takes in a dog that she thinks is a stray and eventually realizes that that it is an alien. Of course, Lilo has fallen in love with her new pal Stitch and there's no way she's going to give it up. Stitch also realizes how much Lilo cares and the two of them decide to fight back against other aliens sent to earth to take Lilo away. Wow, the threads of Thanksgiving are endless in this story that shows that two characters from different backgrounds can always find common ground. The idea of a family is very strong here, and those ideas are also very much front and center when it comes to celebrating Thanksgiving.