I feel like every year we go from Halloween right to Christmas. Don’t get me wrong I love Christmas! However, I feel like we totally skip over Thanksgiving. When I was trying to find movies about Thanksgiving with my kids, I noticed that Thanksgiving doesn’t have a lot of movies that revolve around it. Yes, there are a lot of historical inaccuracies that are traditionally told when it comes to the Native American perspective of Thanksgiving. I figure it’s my job to teach my kids what those inaccuracies are, so they don’t grow up believing lies. I still want to enjoy a season of gratitude with my kids… even if it means explaining false historical perceptions at times. So, I came up with a few movies to watch that are for the season of Thanksgiving.
November is also Native American Heritage Month. President George H.W. Bush officially declared November American Indian Heritage Month in 1990. So, I have included movies that also relate to Native Americans. I tried to pick out movies that weren’t blatantly racist. I even talked with Native Hope (https://www.nativehope.org), an incredible group dedicated to building bridges of hope for Native Americans through storytelling, for some ideas. Are they all historically perfect or completely unbiased movies? Probably not, but I did my best. Tell me what you think.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)
A classic Charlie Brown Movie about Charlie Brown having Thanksgiving with his friends.
This is America, Charlie Brown: The Mayflower Voyagers(1988) (G) (Prime)
Charlie Brown and his friends are voyagers on the Mayflower. For the time, they tried their best to make it accurate I think.
Free Birds (2013) (PG)
This one is a about Turkey’s who are trying to escape being on the Thanksgiving menu. Kind of reminds me of Chicken Run.
An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving (2008)
This is a Hallmark movie I haven’t seen yet. I might try watching it someday. It’s based off of a short story about a widow and her three kids who are struggling when one of the kids contacts their estranged grandma. I imagine there is eventually some reconciliation within the family.
Holiday Engagement (2011)(Prime) (Netflix) (G)
This one is a romantic comedy about a girl who gets dumped right before Thanksgiving. She has already told her family her fiancé was coming to dinner and is afraid to tell them they broke up. So, she hires an actor to pretend to be her fiancé for Thanksgiving dinner.
Winnie The Pooh: Seasons of Giving (1999) (G)
This movie includes more than just Thanksgiving because there is a mix up in the calendar! However, Pooh and friends finally realize it has been November the entire time.
A Family Thanksgiving (2010) (G)
I haven’t seen this Hallmark movie either. It appears to be a movie about a woman who enters an alternate reality, finding herself as a mother of two kids.
Native American movies:
Smoke Signals (1998) (PG-13)
This one is a contemporary Native movie with two characters that are total opposites. Victor tries to forgive his deceased father and must go collect his fathers ashes. To do so the nerdy Arnold must come with him. It’s funny and touching.
Dances With Wolves (1990) (PG-13)
A civil War lieutenant gets stationed out west and befriends wolves and Native Americans. Not everything is completely accurate, but I think it does a great job showing the conflicts that occurred in the “old west”.
The Cherokee Word For Water (2013) (PG)
I haven’t seen this one, but it’s about a Cherokee woman who helps a small town with a Native American population work Togo bring running water to their community.
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002)(G)
While this is technically an animated movie about a horse, it also delves into conflicts of the American West. Spirit, a wild horse, is captured by both the United States Army and the Lakota. Not sure how historically accurate it is, but it does include types of conflicts that Native Americans have faced historically.
I know this movie is most definitely not historically accurate. For its time though, I think the movie works for a movie about Native Americans to a young audience. It’s the story about Pocahontas, an Algonquin woman, and an English man, John Smith. When I was a kid watching this movie I basically saw it as two cultures colliding and two people trying to build bridges instead of walls.
Recommendations from Native Hope
I haven’t personally seen any of these movies so I am summarizing he plots that I read with added IMDb links. These are movies that were suggested to me from Native Hope as movies that would not portray Native Americans in a demeaning way.
Powwow Highway (1989) (R)
Looks like a road trip movie that explores modern tribal life. They face real world issues on their journey to save one of the characters sister from injustice.
Thunderheart (1992) (R)
Sounds like this movie is based off of actual events that occurred. An FBI agent ,with Sioux heritage works to solve a murder case that no one else in the FBI cares about honestly solving.
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (2007) (TV-14) (prime)
This movie is a TV movie based of Dee Browns book. It covers the historical battle of Little Bighorn (also known as the Battle of the Greasy Grass).
Wind River (2017) (R) (Netflix)
This one is about a murder investigation of a young woman on a Wyoming reservation.
Dreamkeeper (2003) (NR) (Prime)
This is a miniseries about a grandpa who is a storyteller and wants to go to a Pow Wow in Albuquerque. He is too old to drive and wants his grandson to take him.
Woman Walks Ahead (2017) (R) (Prime)
This is about a woman in the late 1800’s who travels to the Dakotas to paint a portrait of Sitting Bull.