A new animal movie comes out every week (at least it feels that way) and often stars or features dogs. Many are forgotten, but a few greats like Lady and the Tramp, Benji, Lassie and Old Yeller endure. Certain characters stick around like memories of old friends, or perhaps like that crazy neighbor down the lane. For your consideration, a look at the greatest cinematic canines of all time:
Brinkley, the Golden Retriever, from You’ve Got Mail
Brinkley was not the star of the rom-com classic with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, but he did play an integral supporting role as Joe’s (Hanks's) wingman and nearly constant companion. He’s the subject of many of the film’s eponymous emails, as well as Joe’s sidekick while he waits - often in vain - for AOL to tell him he’s “got mail!” Not insignificantly, Brinkley was the character to appear to Kathleen (Ryan) first, in the final scene of the film - spoiler alert! - when Joe’s true identity is finally revealed to Kathleen.
Toto, the Cairn Terrier, from The Wizard of Oz
Tiny as he was plucky, Toto helped Dorothy to get out of (and into) trouble in one of the greatest young adult classics of all time. Whether riding in a basket or being swept off by unlikely tornadoes, Toto and Dorothy’s relationship was as intimate and committed as any great on screen romance.
Marley, the Yellow Lab, from Marley & Me
More than a baker’s dozen Labradors represented Marley over his 14 years of life in this film, which was adapted from a novel. These Marleys played Marley, a real life incorrigible but much beloved Yellow Lab who wreaked havoc on one young couple’s marriage (and upholstery...and window dressings). Marley & Me chronicles a tale that, for couples with large unruly breeds, is easy to sympathize with.
Jed, the Wolf-Dog, from The Journey of Natty Gan (Jed also played the wolf in White Fang!)
A young girl, Natty, sets out on a solo cross-country trek to find her father who’s gone off for work in depression era 1930s. Along the way Natty develops a deep bond with a feral wolf-dog. In the dramatic climax of the film, after much danger and near miss encounters, Natty reunites with her father. At the same time, she must come to terms with the reality of the wolf-dog’s wild nature, and must release her friend and protector to pursue his natural inclinations.
Hooch, the French Mastiff, from Turner & Hooch
Big, slobbery, destructive, impossible to control. These characteristics will resonate much more strongly with large breed owners than the perfectly passive and docile portrayals large pooches have had in other films. Like any great comedy following the accidental-and-reluctant-relationship model, Turner & Hooch brings the audience from “yikes!” to “awww...” in 90 minutes flat. Not for nothing, Hooch’s presence is the catalyst in Turner’s life for a great human romance along the way.
Uggie, the Jack Russel Terrier, from The Artist
One of the best rescue stories of our time, real life Uggie was saved before he was nearly sent off to the pound by his second set of owners. He was, apparently, a very rambunctious and wild puppy. He was trained as an actor, and has appeared in several big ticket films including Water for Elephants. In the critically acclaimed silent film, The Artist, he plays a pivotal role as an actor in not only the movie, but also the movies within the movie! He’s the true hero of The Artist, saving the lead actor’s life at just the last moment by escaping a fire and seeking out a policeman.
Falkor, the Luck Dragon, from The Never Ending Story
We know: Falkor isn’t a dog, he’s a luck dragon. That doesn’t change the fact that in the film canine characteristics have been applied with a heavy hand, and that his face has been rendered as a clear lab-puggle cross...or something like it. Whether he self-identifies as a dragon or not, he takes part in the adventures of the story’s characters the way any beloved childhood dog might - helping to guide them, to keep them from harm, and to fight for them when necessary. For these reasons, we feel comfortable classifying Falkor as one of the greatest cinematic dogs of all time.
Mother Teresa, the Newfoundland in Must Love Dogs
We’ve met the forty-something movie before: a divorcee with a floundering or non-existent love life. What set Must Love Dogs apart from other similarly predictable rom-coms was the patient and loyal Newfoundland, Mother Teresa, whose approval of a new love would be just what the main character Sarah (Diane Lane) needed to press on with her post-divorce love life. Sometimes our dogs know us better than we do.
Otis, the Pug, from The Adventures of Milo and Otis
Not even James Bond’s danger fueled track record can rival the tally of risky adventures and near disaster escapes that Otis racked up during his adventures. And what a lucky guy to have as loyal and devoted a leading lady as Milo, an orange tabby cat. Originally a Japanese cinematic confection, The Adventures were Westernized and remade in the late ‘80s, and were narrated by Dudley Moore. Otis and his lifelong companion, unable to mate due to their mismatched species, nevertheless spent their lives growing happily old, together in a barn.
Who is your favorite movie dog? Let us know in the comments below!