It doesn’t matter who you are or what your other interests in film may be, everyone loves a good dog movie. Even for those who prefer cats, there’s something about a classic film that shows the relationship between a boy and his dog or an animated movie full of canine pals or even a film about majestic and mysterious wolves that somehow always manages to draw us in. In honor of the recent release of the war dog drama, Max, we at Screen Rant managed to come up with our Top 25 Dog Movies to help you get back in touch with man’s best friend.
The films included can be any genre, but dogs must be a central part of the story. That’s all!
25 BEETHOVEN (1992)
A classic family comedy by director Brian Levant (The Flintstones) and starring Charles Grodin and Bonnie Hunt, Beethoven brought a lovable, St. Bernard into our lives who, as it turned out, ended up being an incredibly lucrative franchise. Eight other Beethoven films followed, as well as an animated television show, but the first film will always be the most memorable. Though it received mixed reviews from critics, the movie was a box office success and is still enjoyed by families and dog lovers today.
Interesting facts: The film was co-written by the late John Hughes, who actually used the pseudonym Edmond Dantés, the main character in The Count of Monte Cristo. It was also Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s film debut.
24 TURNER & HOOCH (1989)
Released by Touchstone Pictures in 1989, Turner & Hooch is easily one of the most essential buddy-cop movies––despite the fact that one partner is a dog. Though there are some sad moments, the film is a basically heartwarming story about a neat freak (Tom Hanks) warming to a slobbery dog in true Odd Couple fashion. Turner & Hooch also received mixed reviews while still doing well at the box office, and it has become a part of pop-culture history with a nod in television shows like Scrubs and Castle.
23 AIR BUD (1997)
As the tagline for the film states, “He sits. He stays. He shoots. He scores.” The story revolves around a lonely young boy who’s too shy to try out for the basketball team until he meets a golden retriever he names Buddy who has an uncanny ability to play the game. The movie was an enormous financial success (especially on its meager budget) and spawned a number of sequels and spin-offs, some of which starred Buddy’s puppies. America was also fascinated with the story of the real Buddy who was homeless until he was adopted by writer Kevin DiCicco.
22 OLIVER & COMPANY (1988)
In this Disney adaptation of the classic Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist, Oliver may be a cat, but Dodger pretty much steals the show. The street-smart and suave canine was voiced by Billy Joel, who sang one of the film’s most memorable songs, “Why Should I Worry?” Oliver & Company also includes a number of other memorable dogs like Cheech Marin’s Tito the Chihuahua and Bette Midler’s Georgette the poodle. Tim Disney, son of Roy. E Disney, was one of the film’s three writers, and its mixed critical reviews didn’t stop it from doing well with fans.
21 CUJO (1983)
If Beethoven made us love St. Bernards, Cujo gave us a Jaws-like fear of them. The title character is a sweet and gentle dog until a rabies-infected bat bites him on the nose. What ensues is the type of macabre horror moviegoers expect from Stephen King, upon whose 1981 novel the movie is based. Though the film version didn’t receive the kind of critical or box office success its producers would have liked, it did haunt audiences in the way many of the great horror movies are meant to: by making us deathly afraid of the familiar.
20 BENJI (1974)
On the surface, Benji seems to be a film about a dog attempting to communicate with humans in order to save trapped children, à la Lassie. However, the movie received a great deal of praise for its ability to tell a story through the eyes of a dog, and the mixed-breed pup Higgins who played Benji became one of the most famous animal actors of all time. The film’s financial and critical success led to four more movies, all of which debuted in theaters.
19 BOLT (2008)
Starring John Travolta (Pulp Fiction) and singer Miley Cyrus and released by Walt Disney Studios, Bolt is the story of a dog who stars in a television show and believes the powers his character possess are actually real. When he thinks his friend has been kidnapped, he strikes out to rescue her, and he soon learns about his true abilities. Critics were overall positive when it came to the film, although it did not perform as well in the box office as other Disney releases, debuting at number 3 on its opening weekend. The film was nominated for an Oscar but lost to Pixar’s WALL-E.
18 ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN (1989)
All Dogs Go to Heaven is a classic animated film for any dog lover. Though it is often dark and pretty wild (what was up with that alligator anyway?), director Don Bluth is known for having helmed some of the most incredible and memorable children’s films of all time after leaving Disney (such as The Land Before Time and The Secret of NIMH). The film can be enjoyed by children and adults alike, and despite it receiving mixed reviews from critics and little box office success, Charlie B. Barkin is still an essential part of the dog film canon.
17 IRON WILL (1994)
An adventure film about a man who enters a dog-sled race after his father’s accidental death leaves his family without the money to save their farm, Iron Will showcases both the tenacity and strength of spirit that humans and dogs possess. Will Stoneman and his team of dogs (led by Gus) face hardship, freezing temperatures, and physical exhaustion during their fight to win the race from Winnipeg to St. Paul. The film enjoyed moderate success as well as considerably good reviews and was distributed by Buena Vista Pictures, now simply called Walt Disney Studios.
16 WHITE FANG (1991)
This film, based on Jack London’s novel of the same name, starred a wolfdog named Jed who also appeared in several other movies like John Carpenter’s The Thing. The story revolves around an explorer and gold hunter (Ethan Hawke) who befriends a half-dog, half-wolf which a Native American tribe has dubbed White Fang. The man and dog lose each other several times throughout their lives but always somehow find one another again. White Fang was successful, both financially and critically, and has been in talks for a possible remake.
15 MARLEY & ME
This late '00s family film has become a favorite of dog lovers everywhere. Based on the memoir by NY Times columnist John Grogan, Marley & Me tells the story of John (Owen Wilson) and Jenny (Jennifer Aniston), a married couple who adopt a puppy named Marley as practice for children. Marley proves to be a disobedient handful of a dog - but that doesn't stop him from helping John, Jen, and eventually their two sons through the ups and downs of life. Aside from reminding us why a pet dog can truly become the nucleus of a family unit, Marley & Me's heartbreaking ending makes viewers want to grab their pups and hug them tight.
14 MY DOG TULIP (2009)
“Unable to love each other, the English turn naturally to dogs.” This sentiment, penned by late writer J.R. Ackerley, is the driving force behind the animated film My Dog Tulip. The film is based on Ackerley’s memoir about the strong bond he had with his dog Queenie (named Tulip in the book and movie). It is geared toward adults with its serious subject matter and cast featuring Christopher Plummer, Isabella Rossellini, and Lynn Redgrave. My Dog Tulip is warm and heartfelt and also explores a side of pet ownership that anyone with a dog will recognize with a laugh and a nod.
13 BALTO (1995)
Released by Universal Pictures, BALTO is the story of a wolfdog who helps to save children dying of diphtheria during a true event called the Great Race of Mercy (later celebrated with the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race). The film did not receive either positive critical reviews or box office success, but its strong sales when released on video caused it to spawn two sequels. Many children remember Balto (voiced by Kevin Bacon) as a real-life hero because of the film, and despite a few inaccuracies, it also provides a rather great history lesson.
12 LASSIE COME HOME (1943)
Lassie Come Home was the first of many films starring Pal, a Rough Collie who later took on the stage name of Lassie. The film, about a dog and a boy in Yorkshire, England whose love for one another allows them to find each other against all obstacles, was a huge hit for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Pal and his owner made a lucrative career from Lassie’s success, and the dog’s decedents even played the title character in the television series Lassie, launched in 1954. However, the original film is still the best of the bunch.
11 FRANKENWEENIE (2012)
One of director Tim Burton’s pet projects (pun intended) and based on a short film he created in 1984, Frankenweenie is a Frankenstein story with a twist. A boy resurrects his dog in the style of Victor Frankenstein but winds up having to do so for the other kids in the neighborhood which, of course, means chaos ensues. The film has a number of Burton’s frequently used actors including Martin Landau, Winona Ryder, Catherine O’Hara, and the late Christopher Lee. Although it didn’t open as strongly as some of Burton’s other films, the critical reception was largely positive, and Frankenweenie was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film.
10 MY DOG SKIP (2000)
My Dog Skip has an incredible cast (Frankie Muniz, Diane Lane, and Kevin Bacon, to name a few) and an enjoyable plot filled with comedy, drama, and historical significance - but the performances given by two Jack Russell Terriers (Moose and Enzo, who were actually father and son, respectively) give the film heart. The movie recouped its $7 million dollar budget on its opening weekend and went on to make over $35 million worldwide. But remember to grab your tissues because it isn’t without its tear-jerking moments.
9 EIGHT BELOW (2006)
Just four years after the film Snow Dogs was released and received generally negative reviews, Buena Vista Pictures also released Eight Below. The latter film’s story is more serious and centers around a pack of sled dogs that are left behind on a dangerous mission and later rescued by their owner. The cast includes Paul Walker, Jason Biggs, and four canine actors who also starred in Snow Dogs. While receiving better reviews overall and higher financial success than the earlier film, Eight Below deftly crafts a story that is focused half on the human characters and half on the dogs, while also bringing each narrative together in the end.
8 THE FOX AND THE HOUND (1981)
Another Disney animated film, The Fox and the Hound is the story of true friendship and how it can always go beyond our differences to the similarities we share at our core. While Tod and Copper become friends at a young age, the truth of whether or not foxes and hounds are “natural enemies” is used to make a statement about prejudice and society’s role in the hatred of one person by another. The film enjoyed financial success when originally released, though critical response was mixed. A sequel was released in 2006 that went straight to DVD, but the original film never fails to tug at our heartstrings.
7 THE ADVENTURES OF MILO AND OTIS (1986)
The Adventures of Milo and Otis is the one film dog lovers and cat lovers can agree upon. Though it presents us with another unlikely friendship between a cat named Milo and a dog named Otis, the live action aspect makes it fascinating and adorable when the two animals become separated and attempt to find each other once again. The film was originally released in Japan and later had a new narration track added by Dudley Moore for English-speaking audiences.
6 LADY AND THE TRAMP (1955)
Is there anything more romantic than this Disney love story about a Cocker Spaniel and a Mutt who fall for one another? The film was an incredible box office success when it was released in 1955 and contains one of the most memorable date scenes in cinematic history (if not, arguably, the most). Unfortunately, many critics panned it for its animation style, not realizing how large its scope would be in later years. Everything from The Simpsons to Queer as Folk has made reference the film, and our list wouldn’t have been complete without it.
5 BEST IN SHOW (2000)
Possibly the best of director Christopher Guest’s mockumentary-style films, Best in Show tells the story of several hopefuls who all want to help their dogs win the blue ribbon at the most prestigious dog show in the nation. The characters, and the dogs, will have you falling over laughing, but the best part is that you don’t have to go to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show every year to know someone (or somedog) who reminds you of them. The film’s received overwhelmingly positive reviews and won several awards, despite having a small box office opening and gross.
4 NEVER CRY WOLF (1983)
Never Cry Wolf is the story of a biologist who is left in the Canadian arctic alone to find out why the caribou population is dwindling (as it is thought to be caused by wolves over-hunting them). As it turns out, the wolves are actually the ones being hunted, and the biologist begins to learn more from them and the Inuit people of the area about survival and the land itself. The film has breathtaking shots of the landscape and the wolves in the story, and because of its critical success, Never Cry Wolf is actually credited with the foundation of Touchstone Pictures, Disney’s more adult-oriented production company.
3 HOMEWARD BOUND: THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY (1993)
Many of us will recall watching the first Homeward Bound film as kids, in which a cat and two dogs are left on a farm while their family takes a trip to San Francisco. The pets believe themselves to be abandoned and decide to find their humans, leading to a journey that truly is incredible. The film is narrated by Michael J. Fox as the American Bulldog Chance, and he and the other animals (a Golden Retriever named Shadow and a Himalayan cat named Sassy) speak to each other throughout the story. Everything about this movie is handled beautifully, from its plot to the animals’ voice overs to its happy ending. Because of its critical and box office success, the film was also followed by a sequel, Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco.
2 101 DALMATIONS (1961)
Glenn Close was great in the live-action remake, but our number two pick had to go to the original animated classic.The movie centers around the Dalmatians Pongo and Perdita and their fifteen puppies as well as their owners Roger and Anita. When the puppies are stolen by the evil Cruella De Vil who wants to make them into a coat, the parents go to rescue their babies––and a few others along the way. The film was based on a novel by Dodie Smith and adapted by Disney to enormous financial success. In fact, it has been re-released in theaters four times since its original launch and is still one of Disney’s most popular films.
1 OLD YELLER (1957)
The ultimate dog film, Old Yeller taught us the true highs and lows of owning and loving a pet: the responsibility they give you, the pain of their loss, and the memories that we would never trade. The film takes place in the late 1800s in Texas. Dog actor Spike, a Labrador Retriever/Mastiff mix, played the title character who is discovered by a boy named Travis on his farm. Travis does not like the dog at first but eventually warms to him when Yeller protects his younger brother from a bear. However, a rabies outbreak in the area leads to an ending that still makes viewers tear up, no matter their age. Another film that has become ingrained in popular culture, Old Yeller received critical praise upon its release and still tugs at the heartstrings of kids and adults everywhere.