All right, pound puppies and hooch hounds–Hollywood has long been a town that caters to our love of the dog. From the friendly to the ferocious, dogs have played a role in more movies than you can shake a stick at. But who has time to watch them all (when you can be out going for a walk)? Here then is what we consider the top-ten list of movies that have so gloriously “gone to the dogs”. You can howl about the order of this list all you want., but all of these films left an impression on us moviegoers and helped cement the view of the canine in our popular culture:
10. Cujo (1983)
The “Jaws” of the dog world, the name still conjures up shivers for many. Cujo tells the story of a rabid dog that attacks and kills the people of a small American town. Based on the Steven King book of the same name, Cujo made staying in your car with the windows rolled up a national pastime. Check the movie out–especially the creepy scene where Cujo waits patiently for his meal to exit their automobile. He may not be Lassie, but this mean St. Bernard has become synonymous with a vicious, beastly dog, 25 years after the film was released.
9. Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)
Kids love this one–two dogs and a cat get separated from their family and must journey cross the country to reunite. Full of celebrity voices and political correctness, this family stuff never ceases to please. Not one of the best dog movies at all, but even a gruff old mutt like me gets choked up when Shadow (voiced by Don Ameche) comes bounding over the hill after you think he is dead. I can feel myself getting misty-eyed already.
8. The Incredible Journey (1963)
This is going to make a lot of young dog lovers mad, but the old, grainy Disney original vastly outshines the Michael J. Fox remake–which is a hokey, cheese factory. No talking animals with famous voice-overs, the original is just lots of footage of dogs fighting bears and a wonderful story of animal friendship. In the days before cruelty to animals was a crime, there was a king of the animal movie–and his name was Disney. Too bad this one isn’t available anymore commercially. Thank goodness for eBay.
7. Turner and Hooch (1989)
I am sorry, but critics be damned–a mastiff, Tom Hanks and that girl from Law and Order makes for one heck of a dog movie. A cheesy cop killer storyline while the dog slobbers on everything. I mean everything. Watch the movie for nothing else than the canine star’s drooling problem. Oh yeah, and academy-award winner Hanks is doing comedy in this one, long before he was Forest Gump.
6. 101 Dalmatians
No, not the live action versions, though the movie gets points for spawning live action versions decades after the original was released. The movie itself is a fine treat for the kids–but the real scene stealer is Cruella DeVille–she’s the fashion-conscious villainess who made a puppy-fur coat the “it” item.
5. White Fang (1991 )
Not one of the best movies, to be sure, but Jack London’s tale is still the definitive dog story in American culture. Full of savage fighting, wolves and plenty of snow–White Fang is a great story, and if the movie version gets one person to read the book (and “Call of the Wild” of course), then Jack London won’t be rolling over in his grave. As a side note, look for a young Ethan Hawke in this film, hamming it up for the camera. The dog’s acting is much better.
4. Benji (1974)
In the 1970’s, there was disco, polyester and Benji. This film (which became a rerun staple on TV in the 1980’s) is the story of America’s dog hero–he’s a scruffy mutt who loves the kids and gets the bad guys. My kind of dog. Maybe it’s just nostalgia, but I miss that little fur ball (*sniff*), America needs more dogs like him. As a side note–don’t check out the sequel “Benji: The Hunted”. It stinks worse than old dog breath.
3. Best in Show (2000)
This is really not a dog movie, but a movie about people who love dogs. A hilarious faux-documentary from Christopher Guest (Spinal Tap, Waiting For Guffman), “Best in Show” follows several different dog owners on their way to the Westminster Dog Show–gay dog owners, good old Southern boys, obsessive compulsive yuppies and rich and eccentric debutantes all make their stories known. A dry and satiric comedy in which the dogs are the most sane animals in the movie, anyone who has ever been to a dog show will be howling at this one.
2. Old Yeller (1957)
Many people consider this film to be the “definitive” dog movie (I know my dad does), but here is why it isn’t the alpha male of this dog pack–this movie does not stand the test of time. Those of you who argue, go back and watch it again. See, it just isn’t as good as you remember it. Sure, it still beats the pants off most of this list, but the writing, special effects and acting just aren’t as good as you hope. Still, Old Yeller fights the bear, gets into mischief, saves the kids, gets rabies, gets shot with a shotgun and fathers some children (a good life for a dog), but this classic just can’t beat our number one film…
1. Lady and The Tramp (1966)
Yes, it may be animated, but no movie has ever become part of our American subconscious like this Disney classic. Yes, Lassie and Old Yeller may be more famous as individual dogs–but they don’t hold a candle to the famous pasta-eating scene. Try and find a more popular movie with dogs as the main characters. Be sure and stick around for the rat killing scene–it still is filled with suspense, even if I have seen it 30 times. From eight to eighty years old, this movie holds up as the decades roll by. Besides, it’s got my favorite Disney song in it–the pound-dog jam, “He’s A Tramp”.
Now that you’ve seen our favorites, what are yours?