Different dog owners have varying ideas of how to spend quality time with their canine friends.
Many dog owners love the idea of frolicking in the yard enjoying the game of fetch together. Others prefer going on group dog walks in the neighborhood as a way of helping their adorable furballs socialize with strangers. There’s also a category of pet parents who love to cruise with their dogs in their SUVs, taking in the sights.
But while all these activities can help keep your dog entertained as you bond together, none of them compares to the thrill of watching a movie together. And much less if the movie in question has a dog as the protagonist. This experience truly hits differently. So, if you’re looking for a fantastic way to spend fun time with your pooch this weekend without leaving the comfort of your home, we’d recommend looking in the direction of a dog movie.
Fortunately, Hollywood isn’t short of dog-themed films. But the challenge usually lies in sifting through the hundreds of canine movies to find one that ticks the boxes in terms of being entertaining, educating, and sobering. Well, that won’t be a problem anymore.
To help you narrow down your search, we’ve collated the 9 best dog movies of all time. The films on this list range from the classics to the very contemporary. And as you shall find, each movie has several object lessons that can help every dog owner relate even better with their canine housemates.
1. Lassie Come Home
Release Year: 1943
Breed of Protagonist Dog: Rough Collie
Lassie Come Home is a 1943 feature film starring Roddy McDowall as Joe Carraclough and his beloved dog, a rough collie named Lassie. The events in this movie unfold in the wake of the Great Depression.
Having been battered by the harsh economic times, Joe’s parents pile pressure on him to sell his dog to the Duke of Rudling (played by Nigel Bruce). After a few intrigues, Joe reluctantly cedes ownership of his canine friend.
But as Lassie tries to settle in his new home in a lavish Scottish estate, the Duke’s granddaughter (Elizabeth Taylor) soon realizes that the dog is terribly missing his former owner. Taylor hatches a plot to have Lassie escape, after which the dog embarks on a long and treacherous journey of reconnecting with her owners.
2. Old Yeller
Release Year: 1957
Breed of Protagonist Dog: Mastador (Mastiff/Labrador Retriever crossbreed)
Old Yeller is one of the oldest dog movies to have been produced by Walt Disney. The 1957 drama film stars an ensemble of actors, including Tommy Kirk, Dorothy McGuire, Fess Parker, and Kevin Corcoran. The movie is set in post-Civil War Texas and follows a runaway dog named Old Yeller, who wreaks havoc in one of the fields owned by Jim Coates (Fess Parker) and his wife Katie (Dorothy McGuire).
Jim sets off on a cattle drive while his wife and two sons Travis (Tommy Kirk) and Arliss (Kevin Corcoran) remain behind on their Texas ranch. Old Yeller emerges from nowhere and begins to cause damage to one of the family’s fields.
Initially, Travis tries to drive Old Yeller away. But he and his mother Katie eventually warm up to the dog after he saves Arliss from a bear attack. Travis and Old Yeller become bosom buddies. But as they grow old, concerns begin to emerge about a possible rabies outbreak.
3. One Hundred and One Dalmatians
Release Year: 1961
Breed of Protagonist Dog: Dalmatian
One Hundred and One Dalmatians is an animated adventure comedy film and another dog-themed movie on this list that’s produced by Walt Disney. The film is based on Dodie Smith’s 1956 novel ‘The Hundred and One Dalmatians.’
Fed up with his bachelor-dog life, Dalmatian Pongo spies on Perdita. Through his spying activities, Pongo manages to have his master, Roger, meet Perdita’s owner, Anita. Roger and Anita fall in love and marry. The family subsequently adopts Pongo and Perdita, who also become husband and wife.
The union between Pongo and Perdita gives rise to 15 adorable puppies. Anita’s old school friend Cruella De Vil requests to buy the pups so he can use their furs to make coats. But when Roger declines her offer, Cruella hires a dreaded criminal gang to steal the pups. It’s now up to Pongo and Perdita to secure their bloodline.
4. Turner & Hooch
Release Year: 1989
Breed of Protagonist Dog: Dogue de Bordeaux (French mastiff)
This is probably the best dog-themed movie featuring Tom Hanks (if not the only one worthy of mention).
Turner & Hooch stars Tom Hanks as Detective Scott Turner and a French mastiff dog named Beasley. Having diligently discharged his detective duties in a boring and sleepy California town, Detective Turner hopes to leave the uninspiring town and work in the big city.
However, Turner’s life turns around following the death of his friend, a junkyard proprietor named Amos Reed (John McIntire). The detective adopts Reed’s dog, who later plays an instrumental role in helping him solve the murder.
5. Air Bud
Release Year: 1997
Breed of Protagonist Dog: Golden Retriever
Dogs have a way of helping rekindle our dwindling hopes in life. And that’s precisely what a golden retriever named Air Bud does in this 1997 sports comedy film.
High schooler Josh (Kevin Zegers) is distressed following his father’s death. He moves to a new home in Washington State but struggles to adjust to his new realities.
However, Josh’s life takes a turn for the better after he signs up to be the manager of his school’s basketball team and discovers that a stray dog he took in is amazingly gifted at the sport. Air Bud joins the basketball team and turns its fortunes around, until his former owner Norm Snively (Michael Jeter) shows up with the hope of reclaiming him.
Release Year: 2002
Breed of Protagonist Dog: Great Dane
It’s almost impossible to discuss the best dog movies of all time without making reference to the iconic 2002 film, Scooby-Doo. This is a film that needs no introduction, at least not to folks in their 30s, 40s, and even 50s.
Scooby-Doo centers around Mystery Incorporated, a group of crime-solving young adults that includes Fred (Freddie Prinze Jr.), Shaggy (Matthew Lillard), Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Velma (Linda Cardellini), and Scooby-Doo. The team is summoned to Spooky Island and tasked with investigating a series of paranormal activities.
Scooby-Doo also stars Isla Fisher and the legendary Rowan Atkinson, making it a must-watch.
7. Eight Below
Release Year: 2006
Breed of Protagonist Dog: Alaskan Malamutes (Buck and Shadow) and Siberian Huskies (Max, Maya, Dewey, Truman, Shorty, and Old Jack)
There’s something about the frozen icescapes of Antarctica that makes this continent top on most travelers’ bucket list. Antarctica has also inspired the creation of numerous movies, including this 2006 dog-themed survival drama thriller.
The plot in Eight Below revolves around three members of a scientific expedition – Jerry Shepard (Paul Walker), Cooper (Jason Biggs), and an American geologist (Bruce Greenwood) – who’re forced to abandon their sled dogs and leave in a hurry following a devastating accident.
However, a guide who loved the dogs is determined to go back and save them, much to the displeasure of his colleagues.
8. Red Dog: True Blue
Release Year: 2016
Breed of Protagonist Dog: Australian Kelpie
Red Dog: True Blue is a 2016 Australian family comedy film starring Jason Isaacs, Bryan Brown, and Levi Miller. The film is a prequel to the 2011 movie, Red Dog. It tells the story of an 11-year-old boy who becomes friends with a scrappy dog who later grows up to become an Australian legend.
Red Blue: True Blue is all about love, friendship, and the undying connection between man and canine. It’s also a great watch if you’re into adventure movies.
And we really have to give it to the filmmakers for creating such a seamless transition between Red Dog: True Blue and its 2011 prequel.
9. Pets United
Release Year: 2019
Breed of Protagonist Dog: The Blue Heeler (Australian Cattle Dog)
Pets United pretty much sums up what this movie is all about. The film chronicles the exploits of unusually friendly pets, including cats and dogs, who unite in a noble cause to stop a villainous city mayor and his evil robot.
Pets United stars a stray street-smart dog named Roger and a pampered cat called Belle. Roger and Belle team up to lead a pack of other pets in stopping Robo City mayor from taking over the city using his villainous army of robots.
The pets are initially skeptical about their mission. But when they fully understand what’s at stake, they’re ready to go out of their way to save their city from imminent destruction.
There go our top nine best dog-themed movies of all time. Do you have a film you think we ought to have included in the list? Let us know in the comments section below.