We can all be thankful for access to good films that inspire, uplift, and edify. This post includes ten top redemptive Thanksgiving films that have historical, educational, and entertainment value for the Thanksgiving Season. These movies range from documentaries based on primary and autobiographical resources to dramas based on or inspired by history. They are appropriate for a range of ages and viewers. Thanks to digital platforms that stream movies, there is more free and cost-effective access to redemptive, insightful, enlightening film content.
Here are the top ten Thanksgiving films to enjoy this year, in alphabetical order:
- The American Heritage Series
- A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving / The Mayflower Voyagers
- First Freedom: The Fight for Religious Liberty
- Mayflower: The Pilgrims’ Adventure
- Monumental: In Search of America’s National Treasure
- The New World
- The Pilgrims
- Pocahontas: Dove of Peace
- Saints and Strangers
- Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale
#1 – The American Heritage Series
The American Heritage Series is a G-rated documentary series in which the forgotten and astonishing story of our nation’s founding is uncovered. This series reveals the providence of God, godly heroes, and the spiritual foundation on which the American nation has been built. In recent years, revisionist history has censored the core values of our American history. From the heroism of our founding fathers to the building of our nation’s monuments, this series inspires Americans to reclaim the godly, true story of our America. This film reveals our invaluable American Heritage.
This 25-part series is free to view with Amazon Prime Video.
#2 – A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving / The Mayflower Voyagers
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving / The Mayflower Voyagers is a delightful, G-rated Charlie Brown double feature in which the Peanuts gang celebrates Thanksgiving. Peppermint Patty invites herself and her friends over to Charlie Brown’s for Thanksgiving. With Linus, Snoopy, and Woodstock, Chuck attempts to host a traditional holiday feast. In this Emmy-winning film, dinner becomes a disaster when Snoopy and Woodstock serve toast and popcorn as the main dish. However, Marcie steps in and saves the holiday. In the end, Linus tells the history of Thanksgiving,
In the year 1621, the Pilgrims held their first Thanksgiving feast. They invited the great Indian chief Massasoit, who brought 90 of his brave Indians and a great abundance of food. Governor William Bradford and Captain Miles Standish were honored guests. Elder William Brewster, who was a minister, said a prayer that went something like this: ‘We thank God for our homes and our food and our safety in a new land. We thank God for the opportunity to create a new world for freedom and justice.’”
In The Mayflower Voyagers, the Peanuts gang reenact the first Thanksgiving. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving first premiered on CBS on November 20, 1973.
This double-feature movie is available on Netflix DVD.
#3 – First Freedom: The Fight for Religious Liberty
First Freedom: The Fight for Religious Liberty is a documentary about the historical foundations of American religious liberty. It covers the development of religious liberty from the Pilgrims and Puritans to the creation of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the First Amendment. This film is a PBS historical special filmed on historical locations. First Freedom: The Fight for Religious Liberty is the story of how the most basic of human freedoms was first codified in human history as an inalienable human right protected by law.
See further resources for this film on PBS. It can be viewed free with Amazon Prime Video.
#4 – Mayflower: The Pilgrims’ Adventure
Mayflower: The Pilgrims’ Adventure is an adventure drama based on the historical story of the Pilgrims on the Mayflower. In 1620, the Assembly of the Pilgrims decides to emigrate to young America because of the persecution they suffer by the English crown. This film focuses on the spiritual leadership of the Pilgrims’ pastor, William Brewster, as the Pilgrims suffer hardships.
In this made-for-television feature, most of the action is set aboard the Mayflower. It focuses on relations between the Puritans and the ship’s crew. This historical drama provides important details about the who, what, where, and why of the historical story. Reverend William Brewster is a Pilgrim Father and a veteran of relocating religious minorities to more hospitable places. Viewers come to understand how Miles Standish came to be an essential part of the Plymouth community and more.
This film can be viewed free on Amazon Prime Video.
#5 – Monumental: In Search of America’s National Treasure
Monumental: In Search of America’s National Treasure is a compelling PG-rated historical documentary. Viewers follow Kirk Cameron across Europe and the U.S. as he seeks to discover the people, places, and principles that made America the freest, most prosperous and generous nation the world has ever known. In this film, Cameron conveys the blueprint of America’s treasure as it is manifest in the National Monument to the Forefathers. This monument is a large 1889 granite structure in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The monument commemorates the Mayflower Pilgrims and depicts Faith pointing to God with an open Geneva Bible in the right hand and a star of wisdom.
This series and related resources are for sale on AmazonVideo. See the YouTube Channel, Monumental: In Search of America’s National Treasure, for more short videos on this topic.
#6 – The New World
The New World is inspired by the story of the English exploration of Virginia, the changing world, and love of Pocahontas. This PG-13 historical, biographical drama is directed by Terrence Malick and features Colin Farrell, Christopher Plummer, and Christian Bale. Malick has taken some fictional liberties with the story in this drama, which received an Academy Award for cinematography.
In a British expedition in Virginia in 1607, Capt. John Smith is captured by Native Americans. His life is spared thanks to Pocahontas, who is the daughter of the tribe’s chief. In this version, Smith, and Pocahontas fall in love to the dismay of the Native Americans and the British. Smith is sent away and his death is reported. After living with the English for a while and being tutored by an Englishwoman, Pocahontas is baptized and takes the Christian name Rebecca. She then marries John Rolfe in a Christian ceremony.
This film is available for rent or purchase on Amazon Video.
#7 – The Pilgrims
The Pilgrims is a PG-rated documentary movie written and directed by Ric Burns. It uses primary, autobiographical excerpts from the historical account of the early Plymouth Plantation colony. This documentary covers the rich history, origins, and critical first decade of the first permanent English colony in New England. The chronicle starts in Scooby, England, in the early 17th century. Reverend John Robinson leads a small band of Protestant evangelical Christians to separate from the church of England. They seek to live out lives of Biblical purity and simplicity. Facing imprisonment for disloyalty to the king and English church, they flee first to Leiden, Holland. Eventually, they undertake a difficult voyage across the Atlantic Ocean on a ship called the Mayflower.
After arriving in the New World in 1620, they set up a colony on a site where a native tribe, the Wampanoags, had died from a plague brought by Europeans. Half of them die during the first winter. In the spring, the sole plague survivor of the original village, Tisquantum, returns to help the newcomers grow enough food to survive. The Pilgrims bring in a good harvest and have a Thanksgiving celebration with some of the Wampanoags.
This movie is available for free to view with Amazon Prime Video or for purchase on Amazon.
#8 – Pocahontas: Dove of Peace
Pocahontas: Dove of Peace, a documentary produced by Christian Broadcasting Network, is based on the true story of an amazing young woman who becomes an ambassador between two nations. To produce this movie, producers have referred to accounts passed down through generations of Native American culture. They have examined English documentation to develop Pocahontas as authentically as possible with her own thoughts, insights, and faith for this drama.
Pocahontas, a Native American princess, meets Anglican Pastor Alexander Whitaker, who tells her about the Bible. Through Reverend Whitaker, Pocahontas becomes a Christian and wants to share the Good News with her people. Pocahontas also meets Englishman John Rolfe, whom she shows how to till the land. She falls in love with John Rolfe, not John Smith. Rolfe is captivated by her and seeks permission to marry her. Pocahontas is baptized by Whitaker and renamed Rebecca, which means mother of two nations.
This film is available online for a donation of $10. See the official website for this movie to access it.
#9 – Saints & Strangers
Saints and Strangers is a two-part historical drama film. It shows the real faith of the Pilgrims on their voyage aboard the Mayflower to the New World and their first year in America. This film authentically shows the bleak conditions below the Mayflower deck. It was a dark, cold and small space, originally intended only for animals and cargo. These deeply committed Christians were willing to sacrifice safety, comfort, and belongings for religious freedom.
During the 66 days of the brutal journey across the ocean, their faith is tested again and again by great cold conditions, illnesses, storms and more. When they reach their destination, their journey of endurance and faith is not over. It is just beginning, with continuing challenges that include complex relationships with Native Americans and others there for real-world objectives. Out of their struggles, the Pilgrims develop greater perseverance, commitment, and faith. It is unclear if there will be more episodes of this film, but it is possible to ‘add season to watchlist’ in Amazon.
This two-part series is available for purchase on Amazon Video for under $10.
#10 – Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale
Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale is a PG-rated Walt Disney drama inspired by the life of the historical Native American, Squanto. In the 17th century, Squanto is captured in the New World by visiting sailors who take him back to England. After a daring escape, Squanto ends up in the company of kind monks, who offer him sanctuary and teach him their ways. When soldiers ransack the monastery for Squanto, he is amazed at his new friends’ willingness to endure for him. He further learns that hate is vicious and unproductive. He learns the values of patience, finding good in people, serving God not greed, and laying down one’s life for others. He comes to understand that the greatest role of a warrior is as a peacemaker. Squanto eventually returns to America and risks his life for peace. He helps the Pilgrims survive in the early 1600s. Disney’s Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale gives a positive portrayal of Christian virtues: forgiveness, love for one’s enemies, helping those in need, and prayer.
This film is available for rent or purchase on Amazon Video.
Research films before you see them. Hold out for the best. What we see in movies affects our personal lives, our families, and our culture. Support the best of family and redemptive movies, so that more like them will be made. Choose and support the best that will affect us all positively for eternal good.
Enjoy the Thanksgiving Season and celebrate that for which we all can be grateful, including redemptive movies that display Christian character that our Lord has made possible.