Let’s face it, 2020 has been a pretty trying year for most of us. As we approach Thanksgiving this year, it might be a good and healthy thing for both our personal sanity and the holiness of our family life if we all worked to try and reorient ourselves a little toward gratitude for the good things we do have.
So instead of just looking forward to the turkey, cranberry sauce and exorbitant amount of dessert items (or is that just my family?), here are five solid movies and TV shows suitable for family viewing that put a good emphasis on gratitude.
While I’m not personally the world’s biggest Winnie the Pooh fan, this is a really good little cartoon to help younger kids get a glimpse of just what is important about Thanksgiving.
The storyline features an attempt at a perfect feast, the disastrous (and kid-hilarious) ruination of the perfect feast, and the conclusion that the togetherness of their party is something to truly be thankful for.
The 70-minute movie also includes a silly segment on Groundhog Day and one on Christmas, as well as some songs that littles are sure to love.
Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving is currently streaming on Disney+.
This one has nothing to do with Thanksgiving the holiday, but quite a bit to do with the virtue of gratitude.
Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable is a documentary about a young surfer whose arm was bitten off by a shark (the movie Soul Surfer from 2011 was based on this true story).
This documentary shows a young woman who chose to remain grateful for her life, rather than dwell on the sufferings of losing her arm. It’s rated PG and might be kind of intense for younger kids, but older kids are likely to find it interesting and inspiring.
Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable is currently available on Amazon Prime Video and Netflix.
I’ve often found that classic old movies can be ideal for kids who are just starting to outgrow cartoons but are still too young for the type of things that often find their way into more grown-up modern films.
The classic Disney movie Pollyanna fits perfectly into this category -- maybe a touch cheesy for us grownups, but pretty enjoyable for kids starting to age out of cartoons.
If you haven’t seen it before, this is a movie that is literally about being thankful for the good, rather than focusing on the negative things in life.
Pollyanna is currently available on Amazon Prime, Disney+ and a few other platforms.
Secret Millionaire (2008)
This one is a reality series about millionaires who hide their identity and visit impoverished neighborhoods in order to give and make a difference in the lives of others.
The series is probably best for older kids, as it does contain a little language and some disturbing images of poverty that could be a bit much for young viewers. A lot of the material shown in the series can spark deep discussions with older kids about being grateful for what we have and about what it truly means to be charitable.
The first 19 episodes of Secret Millionaire are available for free on ABC.com and the ABC streaming app (and the rest can be rented). It's also on Amazon Prime.
No Thanksgiving-y list would be quite complete without A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. This 25-minute animated special follows Charlie Brown trying unsuccessfully to cook a big Thanksgiving meal for his friends.
When Peppermint Paddy insults Charlie Brown’s lame food, Marcie tells everyone that they should all be thankful that they are together, just like the Pilgrims were thankful.
And lest you think that Charlie Brown is only for little kids, you might be surprised to find some legitimately funny moments even as an adult. This one is truly a family classic.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving didn't air on commercial-network TV this year, because Apple TV+ gobbled it up (turkey pun intended), but it did air Nov. 22 on PBS. It's now free to watch on Apple TV+ from November 25-27.