If there’s one thing that every film critic in the world can agree on, it’s that the dog is always the best character.
Why should you bother with the rest of the cast — why not just watch a movie about the dog? If you’re looking for an adorable way to spend a Saturday night, the dog movies on this list will keep you on the edge of your seat.
After all, that makes it easier for you to pet the dog curled up at your feet.
The 20 Best Dog Movies of All Time:
1. Up (2009)
While not technically a movie about dogs, “Up” is filled with wonderful canine performances. The movie follows an elderly man who uses thousands of balloons to uproot his home in search of one last grand adventure — accidentally bringing a young boy along for the ride.
Together, the two will encounter amazing sights, evil adventurers, and a lovable (if dimwitted) mutt named Dug. This is the rare movie where the first 10 minutes will make you cry — but if you can make it past that, you’re in for the ride of your life.
2. Old Yeller (1957)
This one’s a classic for a reason — and if you teared up at the mere mention of the name Old Yeller, then you’ll understand why. Based on the award-winning book of the same name, “Old Yeller” is the story of a young boy growing up in post-Civil War Texas. His only friend is a mischievous Labrador named Old Yeller.
Old Yeller earns his keep by defending the boy and his family from all manner of danger. It’s probably best if you find out what happens in the end on your own.
3. Best in Show (2000)
If you’re a dog lover who’s never experienced the insane glory of a Christopher Guest mockumentary, then “Best in Show” is the perfect introduction. It looks at five handlers who are preparing their dogs for the fictional Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show, including the incredible lengths that they’ll go to in order to win a fairly meaningless contest.
Are the owners quirky, lovable, and completely out of their minds? Absolutely — and watching their ridiculous antics never gets old.
4. Lady & the Tramp (1955)
Bringing a baby home can be chaotic for your entire household, and your dogs aren’t exempt from the pandemonium. That’s the backdrop against which “Lady & the Tramp” is set, as it depicts a Cocker Spaniel named Lady whose pampered existence is upset by the arrival of a squalling baby.
Lady ultimately runs away from home (due in no small part to the troublemaking influence of two Siamese cats), only to find out that life on the streets is no picnic either. Fortunately, she has the assistance of a streetwise mutt named Tramp to show her the ropes.
5. 101 Dalmatians (1961)
This beloved Disney movie is about a family who accidentally finds themselves in possession of 101 spotted dogs. As you might expect, a litter that big is sure to draw attention, including the interest of the evil Cruella de Vil (but with a name like that, can you really blame her for being bad?).
Filled with adorable dogs, “101 Dalmatians” will make you wish you had over 100 puppies in your home as well — but then you’ll remember how hard it is to raise just one puppy and quickly change your mind.
6. Benji (1974)
Like Lassie, there have been multiple iterations of “Benji” to reach the big screen, but we’d stick with the original 1974 version. When a small-town doctor’s two children are kidnapped, it’s up to a lovable mutt named Benji to rescue the kids and save the day.
This flick was shot on a shoestring budget but ended up being one of the biggest hits of the year. It seems that just like its titular character, the movie is a lovable underdog that people ultimately find irresistible.
7. Lassie (2005)
There have been several “Lassie” movies made over the years, but we believe the 2005 version is the pick of the litter. Starring Peter O’Toole, Peter Dinklage, and a gorgeous Collie, it’s the story of a dog who keeps returning to the family that can’t afford to keep her.
Eventually, Lassie is given to a wealthy family 500 miles away — but to her, that’s only a slight inconvenience. She must then make the dangerous journey back to her real family, fighting evildoers and braving the elements along the way.
8. Alpha (2018)
Set in the Upper Paleolithic era, “Alpha” is a dog movie unlike any other on this list. Keda, a young hunter-gatherer, is abandoned by his tribe, who mistakenly believes him to be dead. While trying to reunite with his family, he’s attacked by wolves — one of which he injures in the fight.
Instead of killing the wolf while he has the chance, Keda slowly nurses it back to health, earning the animal’s trust in the process. Once they’re both fully healed, they’ll have to face incredible danger to see their respective families again.
9. White Fang (1991)
Yet another sled dog movie, “White Fang” is an adaptation of the famous Jack London novel. This film is about a young gold prospector who moves to Alaska, where he soon befriends a wolfdog named White Fang.
The movie, like the book, is often brutal, but it’s ultimately an uplifting tale about the ways in which human and animal can come together in the unlikeliest of ways.
10. Eight Below (2006)
We’re not sure what it is about sled dogs that makes for such compelling cinema, but “Eight Below” is another worthy entry into those ranks. It’s about a pack of sled dogs that has to be left behind on Antarctica in unforgiving conditions until their devoted handler can return to rescue them.
Despite being a Disney movie, this film has quite a bit of heavy action and drama, so it may be a bit much for very small children. One thing’s for sure, though: After this, you’ll never look at leopard seals the same way again.
11. Isle of Dogs (2018)
“Isle of Dogs” is a Wes Anderson stop-motion animation film about a pack of banished dogs that must find a cure for a lethal canine flu. Along the way, they’ll battle an authoritarian politician, an evil henchman, and a whole pack of terrifying robot dogs.
This film is notable for its deadpan sense of humor and all-star voice cast, which includes the likes of Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, and Scarlett Johansson. It may be a little grown-up for kids, though, so save it for date night.
12. Togo (2019)
Based on a true story, “Togo” centers on a sled dog who must lead his musher on a dangerous run through horrific conditions in order to deliver life-saving diphtheria anti-toxin to Nome. Togo demands to lead the team despite concerns that at 12 years of age, he might be too old to make the journey.
This film can be seen as a companion piece to “Balto,” a movie that earned an honorable mention here, as both dogs were integral parts of the same life-saving supply run.
13. Beethoven (1992)
If “Marley & Me” seems destined to make you cry, “Beethoven” offers you the opportunity to watch a dog that may be even more destructive than your own pup. It’s a tale as old as time: the story of a dad who absolutely refuses to get a dog, insisting that he hates them, only to end up being the member of the family who adores the pooch the most.
Fair warning, though: If you let your kids watch this movie, they’ll demand that you get them a St. Bernard puppy.
14. Marley & Me (2008)
“Marley & Me” is one of those movies that’s incredibly up front about the fact that it’s going to make you cry at some point. The story of a couple who adopts a dog as a test to see if they’re ready for children, this pic will take you through the entire emotional rollercoaster that comes with adopting a pup.
Starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston, “Marley & Me” was a surprise hit, although we think its success was eminently predictable. After all, it starred a Labrador, a breed that’s unfailingly popular with American pet lovers.
15. Scooby-Doo (2002)
This (mostly) live-action adaptation of the beloved cartoon is full of surprisingly intelligent comedy, thanks to a script co-written by future “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn. In “Scooby-Doo,” the titular dog and his human companions must come together to solve spooky goings-on at a mysterious island resort.
This movie is fun for the whole family, but then again, you can’t go wrong putting on the old animated version either.
16. Homeward Bound (1993)
If you’re an American kid of a certain age, you can probably remember having watched “Homeward Bound” in school every time your teacher needed a much-needed break. The story of two dogs and a cat who seek their owner after mistakenly believing that they’ve been abandoned, it’s full of thrills, laughs, and near-misses with bears and mountain lions.
Above all, though, it’s a tale that reminds us that our dogs will never stop loving or looking for us, no matter what stands in their way.
If you have a Golden Retriever like Shadow, you may also like: The Best Collars for Golden Retrievers – Reviews & Top Picks
17. All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989)
While we don’t really appreciate being reminded that all dogs have to pass on at some point, it’s at least reassuring to know that Paradise is waiting for them on the other side. “All Dogs Go to Heaven” is about a mutt who foregoes his trip to the afterlife to take care of unfinished business on Earth.
It’s an engaging tale that has the voice talents of Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Loni Anderson, and more, but it may be a bit intense for really young kids. Still, it’s a great way to help little ones adjust to the loss of a beloved pet.
18. Megan Leavey (2017)
“Megan Leavey” is the true story of a Marine corporal who worked as a K9 handler for a bomb-sniffing dog during the Iraq war. In 2006, both Megan and her dog, Rex, were injured when an IED went off while they were on patrol.
Megan and Rex’s journey was fraught with danger, but it only served to bring them closer together. If you want a film that highlights the incredible bond that can be forged between a human and dog in times of crisis, this is it.
19. The Fox & the Hound (1981)
For many of us, “The Fox & the Hound” was our first introduction to the fact that movies had the power to make us cry. The story of an unlikely friendship, it tells the tale of a fox named Tod and a hound dog named Copper as they try to remain buddies even while the outside world tries to tear them apart.
It’s heartbreaking in multiple places, but it’s also a fun and musical romp that’s sure to make you smile.
20. John Wick (2014)
While not traditionally something you’d consider a dog movie, “John Wick” does a great job of highlighting how quickly — and irrevocably — we can become attached to our canine companions. The titular character never wanted a dog, but once he got one, he was willing to do anything in the world for that mutt — including murdering the entire Russian mob.
It’s a rousing action flick that’s sure to keep you riveted the entire time, and it’s especially notable for introducing the phrase “gun-fu” into the cinematic lexicon. It’s also a good reminder as to what we’d do to anyone who does anything to one of our dogs.
Conclusion: Best Dog Movies
We believe that the 20 movies on this list represent the cream of the crop when it comes to canine-themed films. However, if you didn’t see your favorite listed here, give us time — we just might not have seen it yet – but let us know below so we can get onto it!
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Featured Image Credit: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock