If there’s one thing we love, it’s dog movies.
Have you ever noticed how much we all light up at the sight of a dog?
It doesn’t matter if we’re passing one walking down the street, seeing a puppy sticking his head out a car window, or even looking at a picture of a dog—we love seeing man’s best friend.
One of the best ways to remember the joy of these beautiful animals is watching them on film. There have been so many great depictions of our furry friends on screen.
So plop down with your pet, or dream about having one of your own, and stick one of these dog movies in for a guaranteed fun afternoon.
Best Dog Movies
The Secret Life of Pets (2016)
Illumination Entertainment made its name with the highly successful Despicable Me franchise, and their latest film, The Secret Life of Pets, has the same surprising, original charm. The original trailer alone offers a bunch of laughs as we see pets going wild the moment their owners leave the house: a dachshund uses a blender on the kitchen counter to give himself a back massage, a bird does flight simulations with a floor fan, and a poodle rocks out to heavy metal.
It’s almost impossible not to smile.
The basic concept of pets having their own adventures behind our backs isn’t entirely new (see the high-concept Cats & Dogs, which features more ninja cats than you can count), but The Secret Life of Pets delivers so well on its premise that it really stays with you.
In the film, our pets deal with dramas as complicated as our own when they’re alone, and they struggle with very human emotions.
The main character, a little terrier named Max, becomes instantly jealous of a new dog his owner brings home one day, and most of the emotional plot of the film centers around the two of them slowly learning to deal with one another.
The rest of the movie includes some delightfully wild escapades, including a maniacal bunny who has not taken kindly to his life of being “owned,” and wants to upend the whole system of pets. That’s a tough sell for the animals who dearly love their human friends, and the way all these threads come together is thrilling, hilarious, and sweet.
The Fox and the Hound (1981)
It’s hard to pick a favorite from Disney’s offerings when they’ve brought so much personality, attitude, and emotion to dogs with mere pencil sketches for decades.
They have plenty of classic movies about a dog on hand: Lady and the Tramp (1955), a classic romance between a prim cocker spaniel and a mutt, One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), based on the novel by Dodie Smith, featuring one of Disney’s most ruthless (and glamorous) villains, and Oliver & Company, an animal take on Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist.
But of all the Disney classics, none seems as emotionally rewarding as The Fox and the Hound, the story of Tod (a fox raised by a lonely widow as a pet) and Copper (a hound dog pup brought up by a bitter, often cruel hunter) and their unlikely friendship.
For one thing, the film is beautifully animated, despite it being made in the middle of a budget slump at the studio. The movement in The Fox and the Hound feels absolutely natural and grounded.
Most people remember the sweet childhood sections of the film best, but it’s the later moments that really knock you out. The way Tod and Copper grow apart feels earned, yet heartbreaking, and the film acknowledges that they’re fundamentally different but very capable of looking out for one another when it comes down to it.
There’s the older hound, Chief, who rounds out the cast and makes this a great film about the complexity of the relationship between humans and animals.
Marley & Me (2008)
Get out your tissues for this one.
Very sensitive dog lovers may have a hard time watching a dog getting older and all the heartache that can come with that, but this film is a great depiction of the life-changing experience of adopting a dog and allowing him to become a dear friend.
Based on the popular memoir by John Groban, Marley & Me takes us through thirteen years of life with Marley, an ill-behaved Labrador retriever adopted by a young couple longing for a child and struggling to settle into their new hometown.
The film does a great job balancing Marley’s outrageous hijinks with sincere, realistic moments as the family (man, wife, and dog) grows closer to one another through the ups and downs of life.
This film made Marley one of the most famous dogs in movies, so if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re really missing out on something special. This movie hits right in the sweet spot of a great, feel-good story that doesn’t shy away from life’s disappointments and sorrows.
Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)
Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey is a remake of a much older film, The Incredible Journey, which was made in 1963.
Homeward Bound manages to be a great road trip tale that just happens to feature pets as the main characters.
The movie shows us three animals’ quest to reunite with their owners, finding their way through the deep wilderness to get there. We’ve seen this template in plenty of movies, and what they all have in common is a heroic story as old as the Odyssey.
It’s a guaranteed adventure with lots of opportunities for the characters to bond with one another, overcome obstacle after obstacle, and figure out what’s worth fighting for along the way.
And with a star-studded cast that includes Michael J. Fox and Sally Field voicing the main characters, you’ll find plenty to enjoy in this absolutely heartwarming adventure.
What are your favorite dog movies?