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A good movie has a hero that you can get excited about. And what could be nicer than fighting for a dog that will save the day? Dogs in films can elevate the protagonists as well as the audience. You can bring tears to even the toughest of critics.
With everything going on in the world, curling up next to your favorite viewing device and making your heart beat faster is a refreshing pause. It can be a story of a child and a dog, a journey of survival and self-discovery, or the story of a kind hearted puppy breaking down the walls of a cynical man.
And while these are all films that focus on canines, that doesn’t mean they lack star power too. From comedy powerhouses like Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, and Catherine O’Hara (among others) to modern movers like KJ Apa to legitimate legends like Jack Nicholson, these films have tons of faces that you’ve seen and loved countless times over time have years.
Whether you’re in the mood to break out the tissues or looking for a canine laugh, these films have a bit of everything. From old classics to Disney animations, you’ll find 22 films in which one or more dogs is a central character.
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Marley and me (2008)
The famous tear sac that proves how strong the relationship between dog and owner can be. That is, on top of the mess a little puppy can bring into the lives of two people trying to raise a family.
Best in Show (2000)
Everything is fair in love and competition dog shows when hundreds of determined owners from across the country arrive with their dogs to take part in the prestigious Mayflower Dog Show.
Scooby and his gang have undoubtedly made some enemies over the years. So when they’re mysteriously brought in to investigate a series of paranormal incidents at the spring break hotspot Spooky Island, it looks like their past is coming back to bite them. Deceptively written by Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn!
Turner and Hooch (1989)
After his friend is killed, Scott Turner (Tom Hanks), a reluctant and uptight small-town detective, inherits his rowdy dog Hooch. When Hooch proves useful in solving the murder case, Turner sees him as his ticket to the city detective.
101 Dalmatians (1996)
Who Wants To Hurt Puppies? Cruella de Vile (Glenn Close), a villain so hideous that she has her own history of origin, would do it. This live-action remake is worth seeing just for Closes bad laugh and a wild dog chase through a busy London park.
Air Bud (1997)
A film and television empire began with just one boy and his golden retriever, who has a natural talent for high school basketball.
Isle of Dogs (2018)
Set in the star-studded Wes Anderson cinema universe, this story follows a quirky hero who goes on an adventure to rescue even more eccentric dogs. It takes place in a somewhat plausible world where all dogs are forced to quarantine on a rubbish-filled island after a flu outbreak.
This time the dog is not the hero, but the one who needs to be rescued. It follows a young boy determined to save a beagle named Shiloh who is abused by its owner.
The Purpose of a Dog (2017)
Like many people, this dog is only looking for its purpose in life. So what if it takes multiple lives and owners to do this?
Lady and the Tramp (1955)
A classic Disney romance story of Tramp, a stray dog with nothing to lose and lots of charm to give, who meets Lady, a cherished pooch who got lost on the wrong side of town. In order to bridge the class differences, all that seems to be needed is a common plate of spaghetti and meatballs.
Because of Winn-Dixie (2005)
A small Florida town is brought together by a cute young girl and her special bond with an orphaned dog, whom she names after the grocery store where she finds him – Winn-Dixie.
Lassie Come Home (1943)
When hard times hit the Carraclough family, they are forced to sell their collie named Lassie to a wealthy family. Lassie doesn’t want any of this and escapes, embarking (no pun intended) on an epic journey home through the UK.
From Tim Burton’s point of view, this film follows Victor Frankesntein as a young boy. When his beloved pup dies, he does what any mad scientist who was about to create monsters would do: bring him back to life.
Old Scream (1957)
It’s a time-honored growing up, boy meets dog, history takes place on the old frontier. A brave dog comes to a family ranch uninvited and wants to stay. As the family familiarizes themselves with Old Yeller, threats from neighbors put his life at risk.
Benji is a stray dog whose heroic moment comes when he saves two children from kidnapping. How can the parents ever repay him? Maybe by taking him in?
Eight Down (2006)
In a failed expedition, Jerry Shepard (Paul Walker) and his eight sled dogs must survive Antarctica while they wait to be rescued. Sounds simple enough.
Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (2009)
This remake of a Japanese movie believed to be based on a true story follows a college professor (Richard Gere) who finds an abandoned dog and takes it home. He has no idea what he just signed up for.
Wendy and Lucy (2008)
Wendy (Michelle Williams) is on her way to Alaska with her dog Lucy to start a new life. Everything comes to a halt when her car breaks down and she lacks the funds to fix it. After a series of unfortunate events, the two are separated and Wendy is sent on a solo tour to find Lucy.
The Art of Dancing in the Rain (2019)
For those who cried during Marley and Me, the same studio wants to move you to tears again as a man starts a family with his dog by his side. This time, however, there is the added commentary from the dog’s inner monologue.
As Good As It Can Be (1997)
If a single waitress with a sick child (Helen Hunt) and a soulful artist neighbor (Greg Kinnear) can’t warm the heart of this lonely writer diagnosed with OCD (Jack Nicholson), then the neighbor’s dog will.
Here John Hughes finds his precocious, misunderstood protagonist in the form of a St. Bernard. Watch a heartwarming movie about a man who falls for the charm of the drooling family dog.
What if a dog (voiced by John Travolta) who has spent his entire life in front of a television – and trained to believe that everything is real – runs free?
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