In order to model the dynamics of thin films of mixtures, solutions, and suspensions, a thermodynamically consistent formulation is needed such that various coexisting dissipative processes with cross couplings can be correctly described in the presence of capillarity, wettability, and mixing effects. In the present work, we apply Onsager's variational principle to the formulation of thin film hydrodynamics for binary fluid mixtures. We first derive the dynamic equations in two spatial dimensions, one along the substrate and the other normal to the substrate. Then, using long-wave asymptotics, we derive the thin film equations in one spatial dimension along the substrate. This enables us to establish the connection between the present variational approach and the gradient dynamics formulation for thin films. It is shown that for the mobility matrix in the gradient dynamics description, Onsager's reciprocal symmetry is automatically preserved by the variational derivation. Furthermore, using local hydrodynamic variables, our variational approach is capable of introducing diffusive dissipation beyond the limit of dilute solute. Supplemented with a Flory-Huggins-type mixing free energy, our variational approach leads to a thin film model that treats solvent and solute in a symmetric manner. Our approach can be further generalized to include more complicated free energy and additional dissipative processes.