Movies about or featuring animals are almost always adorable in some way or fashion, especially if they’re cartoons or are done in a manner that depict the dog as some rascally misfit. Throughout history there have been many cinematic canines that have stolen the show, and yet only a few have ever gotten any real recognition.
Here are our picks for the top 20 dogs in movies:
20. Beethoven – Beethoven
Sometimes a dog is more than just the best friend. In the case of Beethoven, this dog is what the Ryce family absolutely needs to pull them closer together. Despite the obvious and vehement objections of the father, the wily St. Bernard is able to win over the entire family at one point. As a feel good movie Beethoven is one of the few that has endured since its creation, and has even spawned a few sequels.
19. Hooch – Turner & Hooch
Give credit to Tom Hanks for being a great actor, but there is always credit to be given to the costar, which is in this case Hooch, the irascible pet of a friend that is inevitably murdered. While Hanks’ character is straight-laced and fastidiously tidy, Hooch seems to make it point to trash his home and rearrange his life in order to make the two a little more compatible. He also proves to be the best ally that a man could ever have as he helps to track down his former master’s killer.
18. Dodger – Oliver & Company
Despite the film being based upon the small orange kitten that is the titular character, Dodger is the best friend that knows the streets and how to work every angle to his advantage. He’s the wise-cracking type that sticks his neck out for those he cares for, but doesn’t always care to open himself up to just anyone. In the end he and Oliver and the rest of the gang become good friends, but Dodger still remains a street dog, which suits him just fine.
17. Cujo – Cujo
If Jaws made people afraid of the water, Cujo made people mistrust St. Bernard’s not only for their size, but for the sheer ferocity that they can display when they’re good and mad. Keeping in mind that Cujo was a friendly dog before contracting rabies, it still stands to reason that a dog that size is bound to be a little intimidating. For all their size however, a great many St. Bernard’s are like big teddy bears, with teeth.
16. Benji – Benji
Benji is a classic tale that has for a long time been shelved largely due to the fact that it is quite simple and straightforward and not as popular with children as a cartoon could be. Many of those in their 20’s and 30’s can relate to Benji as they grew up with the stray canine and enjoyed his antics immensely. In the current day and age few people even remember Benji, but for a time he was one of the greatest canine stars in Hollywood.
15. Bolt – Bolt
Many dogs have played the part of the hero, but not many have starred in their own show. Of course, most dogs come to realize that they are just another actor playing a part too. Bolt is unfortunately not allowed to believe anything other than what he sees in regards to his show, which is in effect his life. When he starts realizing that real life is not what he thought however he soon comes to realize that what he thought was important is just a dream, and reality is something even better.
14. Charlie B. Barkin – All Dogs Go to Heaven
Fans of this film would no doubt agree that the premise was a little dark and the film itself was borderline when it came to being acceptable for children. However, there are more than enough comic elements in the movie to make it redeemable and conclude that it is in fact okay for kids. It might teach them a few tips and tricks of the adult world, but overall the characters, Charlie for one, are amusing and so over the top that they bring a sense of dramatic comedy to the film.
13. Gus – Iron Will
Sled dogs are at times notoriously loyal to one master and only one. They are raised, housed, and trained as a team, and are taught to be obedient to one master alone quite often, and don’t tend to shift their allegiance unless it’s deemed necessary. Gus was the lead dog of Will’s father, and as result did not wish to coexist with Will, until an alliance was needed between them to continue forward. While Will is credited for being tough as iron, Gus was the driving force that made his success possible.
12. White Fang – White Fang
Fans of the original book by Jack London either loved or hated the film adaptation. There is no real middle ground here, as the book is considered an absolute classic while the film is considered less than adequate to tell the gripping tale of this young wolf. From birth until maturity White Fang is forced to endure a wide variety of hardships, not the least of which is being thrown into a dog fight that he’s not expected to win. The challenges that White Fang overcomes are what make him a legend, but the film left a little to be desired.
11. Marley – Marley & Me
Dogs are family. No matter how they behave, how they act, or how much damage they do to one’s home, they are a part of the family, a part of the pack, and this film shows that in many different ways. Despite Marley’s supposed inability to behave, his family is still unwilling to part with him and takes on the increasing responsibility of picking up, cleaning up, and putting up with Marley. When the labrador finally gets old, feeble, and unable to go on, it is then their duty as a family to be there for Marley’s last moments.
10. Balto – Balto
Some dogs are born to be heroic, and others simply need the chance to show what they can do. Balto is the story of a half-wolf, half-dog that takes it upon himself to save a town in need when a necessary shipment of medicine goes lost in the wilderness between Seattle, Washington and Nome, Alaska. While the cartoon is not entirely true to the original story, the emotional impact is carried through as Balto and the sled team that delivered the medicine were successful in saving the townsfolk from a deadly diptheria epidemic. Also, in reality Balto was a Husky, unlike the character in the cartoon.
9. Lassie – Lassie Come Home
It’s almost safe to say that this could have been inspiration for Homeward Bound. Lassie is of course everyone’s favorite collie from the old TV show that many have forgotten. In this film Lassie is sold to a Duke after her owners fall on hard times and must sell what they can to survive. After escaping from the Duke however she crosses vast stretches of countryside, braving dangers and finding new friends along the way, to reunite with her family.
8. Copper – The Fox & The Hound
Sometimes friendship just isn’t enough, and sometimes it’s the only thing that matters. Copper and Todd are best friends when they’re little and don’t know any better. As the grow older however the stark realization that they’re bound to become enemies starts to sink in as Copper begins his training with his human to become a hunter. This spells trouble for Todd as eventually he has to come to grips with the fact that his best friend will soon become the end of him if he can’t let go.
7. Otis – The Adventures of Milo And Otis
The best buddy films are often so much cuter with animals. Milo and Otis were, in their day, one of the most popular cat and dog duos ever to hit the big screen. When Milo is set afloat downriver Otis sets out in determination to bring him back, undergoing a slew of adventures and always remaining just a few hours away from Milo. Throughout the film they encounter a wide variety of animals and manage to eke their way past several misadventures before they finally reunite. And if that wasn’t touching enough, they both wind up with mates and eventually have puppies and kittens of their own.
6. Tramp – Lady and The Tramp
The role of the Tramp is one that many films seem obliged to include largely because the wise-cracking, rough around the edges character is one that many people can identify with. Tramp is the average, casual, laid back character that knows his way around the streets and can’t help being the rapscallion that he is. While he knows that Lady is a high-born and high-brow member of society he still begins to feel something for her as the film goes on, no matter that he’s considered to be less than good enough for her. Sometimes true love isn’t dependent on societal status, as this film would indicate.
5. Chance -Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey
This is almost like Lassie Come Home times two, and a half. Chance is the young, determined, headstrong, and for lack of a better word, foolish dog that is accompanied by Shadow and their cat companion, Sassy. Chance likes to act while his companions like to think and go by experience, meaning that he’s bound to be less than safe most times and almost always bound to get into trouble of some sort. As the movie progresses however its shown that Chance does in fact mature a bit as he realizes that his carefree manner is not as useful as he originally thought. By the end of the film he’s learned how to act like a part of the group, and not just an individual.
4. Buddy – Air Bud
Best friend movies seem to be custom-made for dogs. They’re friendly, they’re touching, and most of all they have a well-defined point that can reach the audience. Buddy is originally seen to belong to a man that is anything but kind and is in fact quite cruel to Buddy. When the wily dog takes it upon himself to run away he eventually finds a young boy named Josh and, to the wonderment of his new friend, shows that he is quite the basketball player. While the premise and plot are geared for children it is still a pleasing and touching family film that can be enjoyed by anyone.
3. Pongo – 101 Dalmations
To be quite honest the honor of being mentioned should go to all of the dogs in this film, of which there are many. It doesn’t matter if it’s the cartoon version or the live action film, the dogs in 101 Dalmations are simply a kick to watch. Their increasingly amusing antics are hilarious and Pongo alone is a very important character to the plot and action of the film.
2. Toto – The Wizard of Oz
Now be honest, you didn’t think this name would be left out did you? Toto is one of the most famous dogs to ever grace the silver screen and is also one of the best known. Taking his place beside Dorothy in the wonderful land of Oz is only natural as he is the girl’s cherished pet and best friend. The mere fact that Toto is such a needed presence denotes his importance to the film. Let’s not forget after all that it was Toto that managed to unveil the wizard and show the companions just what lay behind the smoke and mirrors. Leaving Toto off of such a list would have been a MAJOR faux pas.
1. Old Yeller – Old Yeller
If you claim to not have cried when Old Yeller was shot then you might need to check and see if your heart is still beating. Sure he was a bit of a scoundrel, sure he could be feisty and yes, he was a bit of trouble. But Old Yeller was the epitome of what a true friend should be and what a real protector ought to be. His end came in a bad fashion there’s no doubt, but up until he contracted rabies from a wolf bite Old Yeller was anything but timid when it came to defending his family. Now let’s ask again, who cried when Old Yeller got shot? Yeah, that’s more like it.