There haven’t been many furry stars on the silver screen as the Marvel universe and action-adventure movies have been dominating for the past decade or so. However, we want to move the limelight, even if briefly, onto the four-legged actors that you might have missed. You will find that our recommended dog-themed movies can break your heart and make you laugh sometimes in the span of a single movie so feel warned.
OLD YELLER (1957)
If you are wondering why we put such an old film as our number one that is because the movie really appreciates the bond between a man and their dog. There are no villains in funny suits or greedy lawyers looking to evict a family and their dog or a crazy lady trying to snuff the life out of a litter of dogs. The movie Old Yeller is about a family of five that live in the countryside. The story begins with the father Jim Coates leaving to work on a cattle trail somewhere in Texas. The father leaves his oldest son Travis to take care of the field and the house. His younger brother Arliss and his mother Katie are left to care for the house and the adjacent fields. The family starts noticing that food goes missing and they soon find the culprit who turns out to be a stray dog. Travis vows to never like the dog but he slowly warms up to him and the movie follows the bond they develop.
We like the movie primarily for the warm and fuzzy feeling it conveys. We are not going to spoil the story for you, the trailer for the movie can be found on YouTube and you can stream the movie on Disney+, Amazon Prime, and Roku. If you want to see reviews then check the glowing reviews over at RottenTomatoes.
LASSIE COME HOME (1945)
This is another timeless classic that we feel should grace any list of films starring amazing dogs. Although the movie might feel very distant in time we wanted to include it because it focuses on a family that had to make an impossible decision - sell their dog so they can have money and put food on their table. You might ask – well who would sell their dog this way?
The movie is set in a Set in Depression-era Yorkshire, England, Mr. and Mrs. Carraclough are hit by hard times and forced to sell their collie, Lassie, to the rich Duke of Rudling. Mr. and Mrs. Carraclough’s son named Joe grows depressed over the loss of his precious companion. Lassie is shipped by the duke off to his home in Scotland where the dog is freed by the duke’s grandmother who sees the dog is very sad and lethargic due to losing her family. The movie follows Lassie as she tries to go home and faces many perils like dog catchers, and a violent storm, but also finds love and a warm home two times as her journey continues.
“Lassie Come Home” has a remake from 2020 which was produced in Germany and might fit modern audiences better but I believe the original movie should be the one you watch first. The trailer for the 1945 masterpiece can be found here, at the time of writing the classic version is only streamed on Vudu, Apple TV, and Amazon Prime. The reviews for this classic can be found on RottenTomatoes.
“Togo” is the untold true story of a dog sled team that had to deliver medicine to a remote city called Nome in the Alaskan tundra. The movie is set in the winter of 1925 when the strength, courage, and determination of one man, Leonhard Seppala, and his lead sled dog, Togo are tested to their limit. The movie follows the life of Togo under the care of Leonhard and culminates with their epic journey across Alaska to save lives. The sled team ran the longest and most arduous portion of The 1925 Serum Run to Nome. They battled snow storms, avalanches, and icebergs so they could finish their mission.
You might be familiar with The Serum Run event if you have watched another classic called “Balto” from 1995 which is an animated film followed by two movies called “Balto: II Wolf Quest” from 2002 and “Balto III: Windows of Change” from 2004 which did not garner as much attention as the first one. These stories are connected since both Togo and Balto worked to deliver medicine to a remote town. However, Balto and his handler Gunnar Kaasan received the majority of the praise for the run since they did the last leg.
The movie about Togo and Leonhard can help you understand the efforts and struggle involved in this epic achievement that went largely unnoticed by the general public. You can find reviews on RottenTomatoes and you can watch the movie on Disney+ only. The trailer for "Togo" can be found on YouTube.
MEGAN LEAVEY (2017)
The movie is based on the life of a young Marine corporal – Megan Leavey – who creates a uniquely strong bond with an army dog named Rex who she trains. Although Rex is deemed too aggressive for military duty he becomes a trusted partner to Megan. Their teams clear thousands of bombs on their deployment in Iraq and make roads safe for their unit until an improvised explosive device injures both of them. A big portion of the movie follows Megan’s attempts to adopt Rex and bring him home to the US.
The story of Megan and Rex is truly inspiring and teaches us about the life-changing impact our dogs can have. Some may perceive dogs as simply animals that are suited to guarding property and livestock. However, we decided to include the movie because it depicts Rex as an indispensable companion to a person who sacrificed her body and life to protect others. The film explores real-life subjects with a sensitive, uplifting drama whose honest emotion is sure to reach the hearts of many. You can watch it on Vudu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and Netflix. The reviews for the film can be found on RottenTomatoes and you are welcome to check the trailer on YouTube.
The movie is similar to the one listed above, however, this time we are following the story of two former Army Rangers who are paired against their will on a road trip. Briggs and Lulu (a Belgian Malinois) travel down the Pacific Coast to get to a fellow soldier's funeral on time. The movie is described as a buddy comedy where we are made to witness the misadventures of the pair. You are bound to laugh most of the time but still feel the impact of how Briggs is trying to recover from war and how hard it is to open your heart. The main protagonist does not want to keep Lulu straight away and is actually transporting the dog as part of a deal he made with his former captain. Slowly but surely Brigs and Lulu create a strong bond and they become life partners.
We don’t want to say too much since we don’t want to spoil the fun for you. You are welcome to stream the movie on Vudu, Amazon Prime, Paramount+, Apple TV, and Netflix. The trailer can be found here and there are great reviews on RottenTomatoes.
HACHIKO: A DOG'S STORY (2009)
The film is an American drama and a remake of Kaneto Shindo's 1987 Japanese film Hachikō Monogatari. The original film told the true story of an Akita dog named Hachikō who lived in Japan in the 1920s. This 2009 version begins with a boy named Ronnie who is narrating to his class that his hero is his grandfather Parker Wilson's dog Hachi. The story narrated by Ronnie reveals the undying love and loyalty of Hachi that the Akita dogs are famous for. Hachi was found at the train station by Ronnie’s grandfather who took care of the dog whenever he used the train station. Hachi was accepted into Parker’s home and spent many years there until one faithful day when Parker died of a heart attack and never got home.
You may have already heard the story of the Akita dog that waited for his owner at the train station for years after his owner died. This movie can reveal a lot about the patience, dedication, and perseverance that only dogs have which is why we decided to include it in our list. If you are into reviews check RottenTomatoes and the trailer here. You can find “Hachi” on Netflix, Prime Video, Vudu, and Apple TV.
RED DOG: TRUE BLUE (2016)
The movie tells the story of an 11-year-old boy named Mick who strikes up a friendship with a scrappy part-Dingo dog named Blue. The boy and the dog grow up on a cattle farm in the Western Australian territories. They are separated when Mick is sent to a boarding school but soon he returns home when a bush fire threatens his ranch. The movie is a timeless coming-of-age story about a boy and his faithful dog. You can feel the bond that Mick and Blue create and you might shed a few tears thanks to the amazing cinematography. Most of the movie was shot in the Pilbara region of Australia which is famous for its vivid landscape that has all kinds of hues of red and brown.
You can find the trailer for the movie here and you can refer to reviews on RottenTomatoes here. The movie can be streamed on Netflix and Amazon Prime. It is worth noting that this movie has a predecessor from 2011 called "Red Dog" which you can find on Vudu, Amazon Prime, and Apple TV.
The movie brings us back in time and explores the primal connection between a man and his canine. The movie does not pose as a historical drama but is an emotional exploration of how a wolf saves the life of a young boy and makes us a part of their adventure. IMDB’s curators provided a great description that reads: The movie is an epic adventure set in the last Ice Age, Alpha is a fascinating, visually stunning story that shines a light on the origins of man's best friend.
Both the boy and the wolf are left for dead by their tribe/pack and they have to help each other if they wish to survive. The entire movie is a story about perseverance, establishing a strong bond with your canine, mutual trust, and letting go of your fear. You may want to know that the "wolves" in the film are a mixture of real wolves, and wolf-dog hybrids (a breed of dog called a Czechoslovakian wolf-dog). We recommend this movie because it can help us understand what the bond between a human and his dog can be and that you need to open your heart if you want to have a reliable partner in your life.
The movie is a remake of the popular 1974 movie of the same name. It's a family-friendly movie about the love between a stray dog named Benji and two children who lost their father. Benji lives on the streets and finds food and water wherever he can. One day Benji meets a boy named Carter who tries to feed him strawberries but Benji is afraid and does not know if Carter is dangerous. The dog follows Carter home and appears at the window to his room where Carter lives with his sister Frankie. The pair welcome Benji inside their home. The dog lives for a while there until he is discovered by the mother who is startled by Benji’s bark and makes the children return Benji to the streets.
We don’t want to reveal too much of the story but we will say that it has a happy ending despite the rather depressing start of the movie. We decided to include the movie here because it shows us how a dog from the streets can have an amazing impact on the life of children and that every dog deserves a home and a loving family. Reviews of the movie are available on RottenTomatoes and you can find the trailer here. The movie can be streamed on Netflix, Apple TV, and Amazon Prime.
A DOG'S PURPOSE (2017)
We decided to end the list with a fitting title. The movie follows the life of a devoted dog from his first-dog perspective. The movie is narrated by a dog whose voice is Josh Gad. The movie encompasses several lives that the dog has with different people while being reincarnated into different shapes and sizes. The journey allows us to follow the philosophical search for meaning and purpose of a dog in a wide and dynamic world. The main topics the movie includes are – why food tastes better in the trash and what is the point of this journey in life and how bacon fits in all of this.
Most of the critics at RottenTomaotoes describe the movie as follows: A Dog's Purpose offers an awkward blend of sugary sentiment and canine suffering that tugs at animal-loving audiences' heartstrings with shameless abandon. One of the audience reviewers (Dennis Shwartz) decried the movie as — a manipulative dog-friendly drama. You can read more reviews at RottenTomatoes and you can watch the full movie trailer here.
Whatever your experience with the movie might be we are particularly fond of the conclusion that the dog reaches at the end which is: If I can get you licking and loving, I have my purpose.