There’s no greater love than love from a canine. If romances used to fuel cinema, then the timeless tale of man’s best friend surely helped keep it alive. Be it a story of survival like Cujo, or a saga of loss and remembrance like Hachiko, dogs on screen are the next best thing since…..well, since film itself. So here are some of the best dog movies — charming, funny, feel-good and ridiculously happy, that will tug at your heart. Their furry lovableness lends itself easily to narratives of friendship, love and affection. In fact, the genre has proven to be one of the most bankable in cinema, both in terms of audience appeal and artistic integrity. No wonder so many feel-good movies have to do with dogs changing the lives of their owners, usually for the better.
If you’re feeling blue, a dog film will surely lift you up. In fact, the dogs in question may just steal the limelight from under their co-stars’ noses.
1. 101 Dalmatians (1961)
101 Dalmatians is based on the novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith. It centers around an abducted litter of dalmatian puppies that must be rescued before it is used up for the cruel antagonist’s devilish fashion statement. One of the most famous dog movies, it’s still among Disney’s finest. Heavily witty, enough to arouse a scare and brilliantly animated, the film is a treat for the senses. Its later live-action adaptation was made in the year 1996, following which a sequel 102 Dalmatians released in 2000.
2. Marley and Me (2008)
Marley and Me is based on the 2005 memoir of the same name by John Grogan. The film follows a newlywed couple’s journey after they get themselves a neurotic dog. Directed by David Frankel and starring Jennifer Anniston and Owen Wilson in lead roles, the film is a true depiction of a real-life story, which encapsulates a family’s trials and tribulations while raising a puppy that’s as adorable as unruly and difficult to deal with. A comedy-drama in its true right, the film will also make you cry and want to hug your pooch a little longer.
3. A Dog’s Purpose (2017)
‘Every dog happens for a reason’, reads the film’s poster. Well, find us someone who’d disagree. The fact of the matter is, that one can’t go wrong with a movie that centres around a dog that’s out on a journey to look for his true purpose in life. Travelling from one owner to the next, it finds several purposes for each one of them. This dog movie makes us empathise with the creature as well as revel in his many adventures, bringing some happiness in the morose lives of humans. The film is based on a book of the same name by Bruce Cameron, and packs a hefty emotional punch.
4. Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (2009)
One of the saddest dog movies, it revolves around a college professor who bonds with a stray dog. He carries him home, developing a bond that results in a striking loyalty between the two. It is an adaptation of the Japanese film Hachikō Monogatari (1987). It told the real story of the Akita dog by the name of Hachiko, who lived in Japan. The film premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival and was critically very well received. Richard Gere brings a wonderful sense of levity and warmth to this heartbreaking tale of two strays finding a home with each other.
5. Isle of Dogs (2018)
Following a young boy’s quest into finding his lost dog, this stylised animated feature by Wes Anderson is one of the best in the genre, with a talented voice cast including the likes of Bryan Cranston and Edward Norton. The director places us in the dogs’ perspective, making us view the world in their way. This unique perspective works wonderfully, making us sympathise with those who are usually used for their emotional appeal. Despite being a tale about gut-wrenching cruelties caused by humanity on animals, the film is infused with bits of unique humour. Besides being one of the best dog movies, the film’s political and humanist undertones regarding animal cruelty cannot be ignored.
6. Old Yeller (1957)
The sheer perfection with which this story is crafted will melt your heart. You might think it as just another stray dog story, but it’s more layered than you’d realise. What is guaranteed is that you’d find yourself weeping throughout the emotional graph of the film. With naturalistically believable performances, this quintessential boy-dog film tells heart-wrenching mini-stories with unflinching conviction. One of Hollywood’s finest in the genre, this film arguably set the template for those that followed it.
7. Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)
This film is a remake of The Incredible Journey (1963), which was in turn based on Sheila Burnford’s eponymous 1961 novel. It follows a bunch of pets travelling through rugged terrains in order to reach their respective homes and masters. Despite encountering several hurdles along the way, what keeps the bunch of animals going is their strong love for the humans. A heart-warming tale based on the love between a master and a pet, the film is to be watched with the family.
8. Lady and the Tramp (1955)
Another Disney film on the list. You might think, haven’t we had enough already? No, most definitely not. The film is based on the Cosmopolitan magazine story titled Happy Dan, The Cynical Dog by Ward Greene. It revolves around the story of a female American Cocker Spaniel by the name of Lady, who falls in love with a streetwise downtown Mutt by the name of Tramp. Using the medium of animation to tell an unconventional story of love between two dogs, the film also fuses the musical genre with the romance film. We have this film to thank for the iconic spaghetti moment between the two titular leads as well.
9. Beethoven (1992)
Directed by Brian Levant, this film centers around a Saint Bernard who comes to be named Beethoven by his family as he barks to Beethoven’s symphonies. His (mis)adventures with the veterinarian form the crux of the film. The film hailed the beginning of the Beethoven film series, which produced eight films in totality. It also went on to inspire an animated TV series. With a fairly simple plot, the film’s messaging against animal abuse is potent and powerful. Beethoven is streaming on Netflix.
10. Best In Show (2000)
A slightly different dog film than the usual mushy ones, this one is a mockumentary-comedy. A spoof of American Dog shows, the film portrays a slightly colourful bunch of five entrants who compete with each other to win pride for their masters. Writer-director Christopher Guest succeeds massively at his offbeat venture, and his keen eye for improv comedy leads to an overall workable venture. The film was critically acclaimed and exceptionally received, despite it performing poorly at the box office.
11. The Secret Life of Pets (2016)
This film revolves around canine rivalries and jealousies. When the owner takes in a stray dog by the name of Duke, his pet terrier is extremely uncomfortable. Capturing the subtle nuances of insecurities in the world of animals, this dog movie is a remarkably sensitive treatment of the subject at hand. It premiered at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival. The best dog movie of 2019, The Secret Life of Pets 2 is streaming on YouTube.
12. The Adventures of Milo and Otis (1989)
Do you also fight a lot with your cat lover friends? Well, you can now ask them to watch this film for all the answers! Milo, the cat and Otis, the dog become friends, only to get separated. It is about their journey of finding each other again. The film was shown during the film market at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival. It was an instant hit in Japan, where it was made. Later it was adapted for the English speaking audiences with a narration by Dudley Moore.
13. The Fox and The Hound (1981)
Loosely based on the eponymous novel by Daniel P. Mannix, the film follows the story of Tod (a red fox) and Copper (a hound dog), who struggle to preserve their friendship despite the hardships their environment entails. Making larger statements on the society using simplistic characters, this film also serves more as a social commentary than a dog film. It is truly brilliant in its portrayal of the preconceived idea of the naturalistic rivalry between two species.
14. Eight Below (2006)
A remake of the Japanese drama film by the name of Antarctica (1983), this film follows a pack of sled dogs who, when left behind on a dangerous mission, form the crux of the plot. The film is well crafted, as it braids together the parallel running narratives of the humans and the animals involved in the plot, together. It will move you and draw you into its effortless narrative, whilst taking you onto an adventure that you wouldn’t have witnessed before. Uplifting, moving and effective, Eight Below is one of the best dog films out there.
15. Frankenweenie (2012)
Is Disney the flag-bearer of dog films? Well, we wonder too! This 3-D stop motion film effortlessly blends horror with comedy to deliver a mind blowing story. Besides being a remake of director Tim Burton’s earlier film of the same name, this film is also a homage to the classic Frankenstein (1931) alongwith Mary Shelley’s eponymous book. Now, to dilute all this trivia with a gist of the story, the dog is the monster, but is he? Things change when he finds someone willing to love him, no matter what. The film came to be nominated for an Academy Award, a BAFTA award and a Golden Globe award. It was very well received, both by the audiences and the critics.
16. Lassie Come Home (1943)
Another classic dog-boy narrative, this puppy movie revolves around an inseparable pair which goes through the trials and tribulations only to emerge stronger out of it. It is based on the novel Lassie Come-Home by Eric Knight. The dog starring in the film, Pal, went on to become extremely famous and even ended up securing his future generations with the same kind of fame, starring in the TV series Lassie.
17. Turner and Hooch (1989)
An essential watch in the buddy-cop category, this film is a heartwarming tale of a police investigator developing a compassionate friendship with his dog. Starring Tom Hanks in the lead role, this film relies on his shoulders. It may not be among Hank’s best but it is still fondly remembered by dog lovers for its depiction of the unlikely bond that develops between a dog and the officer.
18. All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989)
Directed by Don Bluth, the film helms together elements of darkness and comedy, romance and drama to achieve the desired effect. It tells the story of Charlie B Barkin, and his journey between the ends of heaven and earth. With lessons in kindness, empathy and compassion, the film makes for a decent family watch. Despite the seemingly dark subject matter, what the film does is bring people closer through a wonderfully cathartic story.
19. Bolt (2008)
Another one of Disney’s best dog movies, Bolt stars John Travolta and Miley Cyrus in lead roles. Well, you might have heard people deem their dogs as superheroes, this is an actual superdog story. It revolves around a TV star-dog named Bolt who goes on a journey to rescue his human Penny. Bolt is an ode to a dog’s simplistic charms, sharp abilities and loyalty towards their ‘humans’. It came to be nominated for several awards including Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film.
20. Cujo (1983)
If you think Saint Bernards are anything like Beethoven from the eponymous film, you might be sadly mistaken. Our protagonist Cujo will make your fear his entire brethren in this dog movie. Based on Stephen King’s book of the same name, the film follows the journey of an otherwise cheerful St. Bernard, who lands himself in trouble after a rabid bat bites him. Upon contracting the disease, Cujo‘s macabre self is unleashed. Cujo is one of those rare ones that fuse the seemingly ‘cute’ with the gory.
There we are! That’s a bunch of options to pick from our dog movies list. We hope these puppy films allow you some quality bonding time with your pets, except for Cujo, of course. There’s something deeply loving and timeless about the way these movies tap into our collective love and affection for dogs. Pet owners and not, you’ll find yourselves teary-eyed with these films. Designed to tug at your heartstrings, these films may make you laugh, maybe even cry. But they will always retain a special place in our hearts. Which are your favourites on the list? Let’s talk in the comments below. Share your favourites! We bet all these movies on dogs will make you cuddle and pamper your pooch a little more.