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Top Dog Movies

January 17, 2009

Let’s face it: there’s a reason they call dog ‘man’s best friend.’  The loyalty and affection is unparalleled in the animal kingdom – and it’s a lot easier to train a dog than a goldfish.  There are a lot of dogs in need of homes these days, and a number of movies that show the joy of rescuing a pet, like Hotel for Dogs, opening January 16th.  In honor of the movie’s positive message, we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite movies featuring top dogs (and the occasional cat).



From out of the Disney vault comes The Ugly Dachshund, the story of a Great Dane who thinks he’s a wiener-dog.  The poor gentle giant is constantly harassed by his doxie “sisters,” and blamed for all their wrong-doings.  Fortunately the ugly dachshund becomes a beautiful Dane and even takes home a few blue ribbons in the local dog show.  For anyone who’s ever felt like the underdog, this one’s for you.



John Hughes must love dogs.  Before 101 Dalmatians the screenwriter (best known for his Brat Pack movies) penned this tale about a St. Bernard under the pseudonym ‘Edmond Dantes.’  While the original deserves its own place in the howl of fame, Beethoven’s 2nd wins best in show for featuring four roly-poly puppies. There’s nothing quite as adorable as watching puppies outwit really, really stupid bad guys.



Featuring Michael J. Fox as the voice of Chance, the young, accident prone American bulldog, Sally Field as the appropriately named Sassy, and Don Ameche as the stately and mature golden retriever Shadow, pets who think they’ve been abandoned set out across the country to find their people.  With a smart script that tickles parents and children alike, this talking animal movie shows us the world from a dog’s point of view, and tugs at the heartstrings with the obvious devotion between pets and owners.  Though you know the three amigos will be reunited with their humans by the end, you can’t help but hold your breath in that last moment just before Shadow comes over the hill.


101 DALMATIANS (1996)

The live-action version of the 1961 animated classic is a must for any dog-lover.  Who could forget the epic ‘Twilight Bark,’ somehow even more stirring when performed by real dogs.  Forget the human actors, forget the plot – it’s hard to resist one hundred and one spotted Dalmatians.  Hugh Laurie plays a henchman, looking like an English Daniel Stern.  A bone must be thrown to Glenn Close for her wonderfully manic performance, bringing the enduring Disney villainess Cruella DeVil to life. Generations of children are hard pressed to think of anything more terrifying than a woman in a fright wig who wants to make a coat out of puppies.


AIR BUD (1997)

There’s nothing like the enduring story of a boy and his dog – it’s a classic for a reason.  When Buddy crawls out of the bushes to eat that first cup of tapioca pudding, your heart breaks at the sight of him, dirty and still wearing his circus rags.  Which makes his transformation into the Michael Jordan of golden retrievers all the more inspiring. The effect he has on his human counterpart is even better.  Who isn’t a sucker for a dog that can make a basket?


SNOW DOGS (2002)

Setting aside Cuba Gooding Jr.’s epic fall after his Oscar win, this movie is not about dialogue or acting ability: it’s about the beautiful Huskies who mush their way across the Alaskan wilderness.  Clever and handsome, it’s fun to watch this pack of wolf-cousins tear it up.  You’ll come away from the film with a real appreciation for the sled dogs’ work ethic.


LASSIE (2005)

No dog movie list would be complete without that champion of Collies, Timmy’s staunch protector, Lassie.  She always saves the day, and manages to look good doing it.  Not only that, she can communicate danger without speaking English.  Even though “she” was really a “he” most of the time, you know the bloodline’s good – every movie or TV Lassie is a descendant from the original, a Collie named Pal.



The trailer with the musical number was awful, bordering on Michael Jackson-creepy, but the movie itself is a surprisingly fun adventure.  It’s easy to forget the main characters are dogs; everyone’s met a Chloe in Beverly Hills.  The movie actually tackles topical issues like the importance of dog adoptions, and the horrors of dog-fighting, remaining hopeful rather than depressing, and shines a light on the waste of treating small pooches like fashion accessories.


What are some of your favorite mutt movies?  Tell us in the comments, and don’t forget to see Hotel for Dogs.  For every ticket purchased, Pedigree will make a donation to help shelter dogs.


-written for Starpulse

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