Movies about dogs have a way of moving audiences in the most powerful ways. They can bring out strong emotions through unique and often heartbreaking stories. The most successful dog movies can create an incredibly memorable connection between viewers and the cute furry friends on-screen, despite how destructive they may be. These stories of loyalty, courage, and friendship cannot just be categorized as dramas or family films. They stand in their subgenre of movie-making with so many compelling tales to choose from nowadays. Every dog movie has its share of laughter, tears, and heartwarming moments that readers can return to again and again for comfort and joy.
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If you love dogs but don’t have one of your own, watching a movie about them can be an enjoyable way to spend your free time. There are many movies about dogs that people of all ages and backgrounds can enjoy. From emotional rollercoasters to adventure-filled journeys, here are the top 12 dog movies to watch with your friends or family.
Best 12 Dog Movies To Watch
Hachi: A Dog’s Tale
Director: Lasse Hallström
Writers: Stephen P. Lindsey, Kaneto Shindô
Stars: Richard Gere, Joan Allen, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa
Genres: Biography, Drama, Family
An actual tear-jerking movie, whether you are a dog lover or not. Based on a true story, this movie is about an Akita dog named Hachi and his owner Parker Wilson. Parker finds Hachi lost at a railway station and takes him home. Thereon, he tries different ways to bond with the dog.
Parker tries to teach Hachi to fetch a ball, but Akitas are hard to train. Parker’s wife and daughter are affectionate towards Hachi, and he is seen as no less than a family member. One day, the beloved dog follows Parker to the station. Parker is astonished by Hachi’s behavior and hands him over to his wife before departing.
On returning to the station, Parker sees Hachi waiting for him. Hachi’s daily routine is to wait at the station to receive Parker. One winter morning, before the train arrives, Parker throws a ball, and Hachi fetches it for the first time. A weirdly behaving Hachi keeps barking while the train carries Parker away.
Parker did not return as Hachi waited to receive him. A stroke stole Parker away from his family. While the rest of the family mourns Parker’s death, Hachi returns to the station the next morning, expecting Parker’s return. After Parker’s wife sells off the house, Hachi starts living with his daughter, Andy, and her husband.
He does not stop standing at the station awaiting Parker’s return. After an interview, his story goes viral, and people worldwide send their wishes. Ten years after Parker’s death, Hachi still waits for him at the station. Parker’s wife tells her grandson about Hachi. The scene rolls out with Parker calling Hachi, who runs to him and embraces each other. Hachi’s lifeless body lies at the station.
Marley & Me
Director: David Frankel
Writers: Scott Frank, Don Roos, John Grogan
Stars: Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Eric Dane
Genres: Drama, Family
A movie that every dog owner can relate to. As adorable as dogs can be, some can be quite the troublemaker. John and Jenny Grogan, a newlywed couple, shift to South Florida to escape the Michigan winter. Both start job hunting in news agencies as reporters.
At breakfast, John interprets Jenny’s indecisiveness in entering motherhood. He consults his colleague, who advises him to adopt a labrador dog to test their readiness. The next day, John surprises Jenny with a pack of Labrador pups at a shelter that she finds adorable. One of the pups raises Jenny’s interest. The new puppy is named Marley.
While Jenny is on a business trip, the enthusiastic and energetic Marley gives John a hard time. Marley grows a lot within a few months and is an uncontrollable menace. He is admitted to a dog obedience program but gets kicked out after dry-humping the instructor’s leg. Not getting any bright ideas, John starts writing about Marley’s misadventures in his news column.
The column becomes popular among readers. The couple previously decided to conceive a child, but months later, it found that Jenny had a miscarriage. To lighten the grieving Jenny’s mood, John decides on a honeymoon trip. They hire a young woman to care for Marley while they are gone. When the couple returns, they find the house in a complete mess.
Nine months later, the couple conceived their son Patrick. On her second delivery, Jenny decides to be a stay-at-home mom. With their growing family and Marley’s non-stop chaos, Jenny gets exasperated and lashes out at John when returns from work. A few years later, they decide on a child, and nine months later, they have a daughter, Colleen.
Dissatisfied with his job, John accepts a better job offer and moves to a rural place in Pennsylvania. The family notices the aging Marley’s energetic persona fading. One rainy night they find Marley lying under a tree. The doctors tell them that his stomach is twisted and will continue. When Marley suffers the second time, too old for surgery, John decides to get him euthanized.
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The movie ends with the family saying their goodbyes next to Marley’s grave and John realizing Marley’s contribution to the Grogan family.
Director: Frank Marshall
Writers: David DiGilio, Toshirô Ishidô, Koreyoshi Kurahara
Stars: Paul Walker, Jason Biggs, Bruce Greenwood
Genres: Adventure, Drama, Family
It is a movie about eight sled dogs who try to survive the blazing cold of the Antarctic. With a new take on screening the interactions among the dogs, the film tries to convey the unity and undying loyalty of dogs in the most challenging times.
The movie starts with Jerry Shepard and his friend Charlie with the eight sled dogs at an American base in Antarctica. Jerry, a guide, is assigned to assist Dr. Davis McLaren in finding a meteorite from Mercury. Aware of the risk, Jerry reluctantly agrees after his senior convinces him.
On their way, McLaren almost dies after getting stuck in a crack but is rescued by Jerry with the help of the dogs. While camping, they are informed of an approaching storm and to abort the search. On McLaren’s request, Jerry gives him half a day to find the meteorite. On their return trip, The dogs run at full speed and barely make it to the base on time.
They quickly board a plane, and a disheartened Jerry has to leave his dogs behind. As the storm approaches, all but the eldest dog manage to break from their leash. The dogs, starving for the past two weeks, tactfully hunt and eat gulls. After one of the remaining dogs gets severely wounded, they stay by his side. The next morning, the wounded dog dies.
One of them decides to stay back while the others move on. They reach an uninhabited Russian base and feed on the stocked foods. The dog, who decided to stay back, wanders and finds a dead orca’s carcass occupied by a vicious leopard seal. Others return and join him.
With one dog acting as a distraction, the others seek the opportunity and start feasting on the orca. The leopard seal returns and bites the leader’s leg. Others fight off the seal, but the leader is immobilized. After traveling some distance, the tired leader lies down.
Meanwhile, Jerry has tried many ways to rescue his dogs but failed. Finally, with Dr. McLaren’s funding, they return to the base. Coincidentally, the remaining dogs return to the base as well. They reunite with their owner with hugs and licks. One of the dogs guides Jerry to their wounded leader, and Jerry carries her back.
Director: Stephen Herek
Writers: Dodie Smith, John Hughes
Stars: Glenn Close, Jeff Daniels, Joely Richardson
Genres: Adventure, Comedy, Crime, Family
It is a live-action adaptation of the 1961 Disney animated movie One Hundred and One Dalmatians and Dodie Smith’s 1956 novel of the same moniker. A comedy movie with some elements of animation and a simple plot, 101 Dalmatians is perfect entertainment for young children.
The movie starts with a London-based video game designer Roger Dearly and his pet Dalmatian Pongo. In another part of London lives Anita Campbell, a fashion designer at House of de Vil, with her female Dalmatian Perdita. One day, Pongo sees Perdita during a walk. Charmed by her beauty Pong runs after her while dragging Roger on his bicycle. Pongo catches up to Perdita.
After playing for a while, when it’s time to part ways, Perdita, who is now interested in Pongo, runs after Pongo. The little romance between both the dogs and humans ends in a cheerful marriage. Cruella de Vil, the owner of House of de Vil, has an insatiable obsession with animal fur.
Since she laid her eyes on Anita’s croquis, inspired by Perdita’s black and white patches, she has been craving Dalmatian skin. Cruella’s henchmen, who were spying on the Dalmatian couple, inform her that Perdita is pregnant. She makes a sudden visit to the Dearlys to see the pregnant Perdita. She returns weeks later to offer a hefty amount in exchange for the 15 newborn puppies. She immediately faces rejection, to which she swears for revenge.
One evening, when the owners and their dogs go on a walk, Cruella’s henchmen break in and steal the 15 puppies. The pups are locked up with the rest stolen 84 Dalmatian pups at Cruella’s old country estate. Kipper, an Airedale Terrier who noticed the kidnapping, follows the henchmen to the estate. Kipper stealthfully helps all the pups escape.
Shortly, Cruella arrives and finds the pups missing. Disappointed, she takes it upon herself to find the puppies. With the help of some animal friends, the puppies and Kipper manage to beat down Cruella and her henchmen. The police who suspected Cruella of the kidnapping arrive just in time and arrest the criminals. Earlier, Pongo and Perdita were informed by other dogs about the estate.
After the rescue, they finally reunite with their pups. The police requested the Dearlys to adopt the remaining 84 puppies who didn’t claim. Roger’s new Dalmatian game design earns him millions. The movie ends with Dearlys and their newborn daughter in a huge mansion yard filled with Dalmatians.
Isle of Dogs
Director: Wes Anderson
Writers: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman
Stars: Bryan Cranston(voice), Koyu Rankin(voice), Edward Norton(voice)
Genres: Animation, Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Sci-Fi
With an uncanny and humorous art style while capturing a more fever-dream atmosphere. It is a stop-motion animated film set in the futuristic Japanese city of Megasaki. A brief narrative explains the generational hatred of the Kobayashi family (cat lovers) for the dogs.
In 2038 Megasaki, Kenji Kobayashi, from the house of Kobayashi and the current mayor, announces the outbreak of the canine flu. He further institutes the exile of stray and pet dogs to the landfill island of Trash Island. Professor Watanabe, who is against exile, promises to deliver a flu serum. He needs to be better received by the majority.
The mayor signs and initiates the dog exile program. Within six months, the conditions of the dogs have worsened critically because of the unhygienic environment of Trash Island. With their leader Chief, a group of five dogs fights and scavenge for trash food. The mayor’s 12-year-old nephew, Atari Kobayashi, reportedly hijacked an aircraft. He crashes and lands on Trash Island.
Chief and his group approach Atari. The boy communicates with the dogs through a translator. He reveals to be looking for his bodyguard-dog, Spots, the first to be deported to Trash Island.
The plot proceeds with Atari, assisted by the dogs, finding Spots. Back at Megasaki, few students take notice of the conspiracy of the authority after Professor Watanabe is food-poisoned for successfully creating the flu serum. The film beautifully executes the unwavering attempts of the youngsters to stop the corrupt politicians and free the dogs from the island and the flu. A mutual loyalty between dogs and owners in the truest sense.
Director: Robert Stevenson
Writers: Fred Gipson, William Tunberg
Stars: Dorothy McGuire, Fess Parker, Tommy Kirk
Genres: Adventure, Drama, Family, Western
A Walt Disney production based on the 1956 novel of the same name, Old Yeller is a classic tear-jerker of the 90s. The plot revolves around Old Yeller, a Black Mouth Cur, and the Coates family. While the father is away, Travis, the family’s elder son, sets off to work in the cornfield. There, he encounters Old Yeller.
Old Yeller is well-known for stealing meat and grabbing hens from coops. Not so fond of the dog, Travis tries to chase him away, but his younger brother Arliss opposes and insists on domesticating the dog. The mother allows and convinces Travis to accept Old Yeller. While feeding a bear cub, Arliss faces hostility from the mother bear.
Old Yeller manages to frighten the mother bear away, saving Arliss. Thereon, Travis has a change of heart and develops a soft spot for the mutt. One day, Old Yeller’s actual owner arrives looking for his dog. Arliss requests him to let the dog stay with them, to which the owner agrees. Before leaving, the owner notifies Travis of the spreading of rabies.
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One day, the farm cow Rose collapses and foams at the mouth, indicating the infection. Travis euthanizes her before burning the corpse. A rabid wolf attacks the family while Yeller tries to fend it off. Travis runs outside with a rifle and shoots the wolf, but not before it bites Yeller’s neck. Katie proposes to euthanize Old Yeller over suspected infection, but Travis disagrees. He quarantines Yeller in a corn crib.
One night, when Arliss tries to free Yeller, the dog tries to attack him. In time, Katie shuts the door, and Travis is convinced that Yeller is infected. Travis reluctantly shoots Old Yeller dead. The film gets a reassuring ending when Travis accepts the puppy sired by Old Yeller. The Coates family gets a new pet dog, Young Yeller.
Director: Joe Camp
Writer: Joe Camp
Stars: Peter Breck, Deborah Walley, Patsy Garrett
Genres: Adventure, Family, Romance
A “Delightful family comedy starring the cuddly dog star Higgins” in the 70s classic Benji. There have been new spin-offs in the last two decades, but the old-school Benji gives a faint sense of retro and nostalgia. The stray dog Benji has become the town’s favorite with his social skills. He often visits the Chapman residence to see the young siblings, Paul and Cindy.
Mary, their housekeeper, occasionally gives Benji treats without the father, Dr. Chapman’s notice, who dislikes stray dogs. After befriending a white female dog, later named Tiffany by Mary, Benji takes her to his house, an abandoned building on the outskirts. Things get troublesome for the brown doggo when he finds three criminals who have established his house as their hideout to carry out their evil deeds. With the Chapman siblings being victims of kidnapping, will Benji successfully lead the police to the criminals and their bad mastermind leader?
Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey
Director: Duwayne Dunham
Writers: Sheila Burnford, Caroline Thompson, Linda Woolverton
Stars: Michael J. Fox, Sally Field, Don Alder
Genres: Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Family
A millennial favorite and the anthropomorphic remake of the 1963 adventure comedy The Incredible Journey. A corny and cynical touch of the 90s in an adventurous trek of three pets sprinkles the perfect amount of oddball humor in 1992’s Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey.
Laura Burnford and Bob Seaver, a newlywed couple, temporarily relocate with Laura’s three children to San Fransisco for work purposes. Sadly, their pets, Chance, a bulldog; Sassy, a Himalayan cat; and old Shadow, a golden retriever, are left in the care of Laura’s college friend Kate.
The sudden disappearance of their owner frightens the pets from getting abandoned. Under no supervision, the three pets decide to travel and find their owners. Chance, Sassy, and Shadow travel through the Sierras and encounter life-threatening situations but shall all be in vain? Simultaneously, the worried owners, who have learned of their pets’ disappearance, look for them in the same location where the trio wanders. A great reunion awaits all of them, or does it not?
Director: Ericson Core
Writer: Tom Flynn
Stars: Willem Dafoe, Julianne Nicholson, Christopher Heyerdahl
Genres: Adventure, Biography, Drama, Family, History
Based on the 1925 serum run to Nome, Walt Disney’s Togo is a biopic of musher Leonhard Seppala and the heroic Siberian husky Togo. After a diphtheria outbreak in Nome, the city council has fallen into despair. The antitoxin serums to be delivered are stuck due to harsh and furious blizzards. At the town hall, musher and breeder Leonhard Seppala alert others of the approaching storm.
Initially refusing to deliver the antitoxin because of the life-threatening risk, Seppala changes his mind after seeing the bedridden children in the hospital. With all hopes instilled in his lead dog Togo, Leonhard sets out in the deadly weather to fetch the serum. The timeline pans between the current events and the events from twelve years ago when Togo was a pup.
The backstory shows how Togo was a delinquent among the pack and had the “heart of a survivor.” Throughout puppyhood, Togo had shown his extraordinary intellect and sense of leadership. Although Leonhard tried to sell him off because of his mischievous nature, Togo somehow found a way back home.
At present, piercing through the winter storm, Togo and his pack challenge the wrath of nature. Successfully bringing back his owner and the pack alive before collapsing due to exhaustion earned Togo little recognition because of a misunderstanding. Two years before passing away in 1929, Togo sired multiple puppies expanding the Seppala Siberian bloodline. Today, Togo is recognized as the heroic dog of Nome and for having the most extended leg in the relay of 1925.
The Secret Life of Pets
Director: Chris Renaud
Writers: Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio, Brian Lynch
Stars: Louis C.K.(voice), Eric Stonestreet(voice), Kevin Hart(voice)
Genres: Animation, Adventure, Comedy, Family
Good for Universal to have one up against other 3D animation studios with The Secret Life of Pets series. A mix of recklessness, fluffy, fun, and adventure solely dedicated to pet lovers. Max, a small Terrier, enjoys his pet life with owner Katie in a New York apartment. Almost every day, Max awaits Katie’s return from work and, other times, interacts with his pet neighbors.
One day, like almost every other day, Max sits in front of the door, waiting for Katie. To Max’s horror, Katie has adopted another dog, Duke, who is hefty and hairy. Uncomfortable with the new house member, Max consults his neighborhood cat. He is advised to prove to Katie that she needs only one dog. The turn of events leads to Max blackmailing Duke, who does not appreciate it.
During a walk through the neighborhood, Max and Duke get caught up in a mess with a litter of stray cats and are captured by Animal Control. Favorably, a stranger white rabbit frees them after crashing the Animal Control vehicle, but not before demanding their cooperation. Claiming to have killed their owner in front of all the Flushed Pets (disowned and mistreated pets), Max and Duke find themselves in a tight spot and need to escape.
Directors: Byron Howard, Chris Williams
Writers: Dan Fogelman, Chris Williams
Stars: John Travolta(voice), Miley Cyrus(voice), Susie Essman(voice)
Genres: Animation, Adventure, Comedy, Crime, Drama, Family, Sci-Fi
Bolt is family entertainment and a relief from the usual sentimental trope in most pet movies. The uniqueness of the plot is greatly admired, and the animation remains current. Bolt, a white Swiss Shepherd pup, and his owner 12-year-old Penny is currently shooting an episode of a hit television series, ‘Bolt.’
The film portrays a dog (played by Bolt) who tries to protect his owner (Penny) with genetically altered superpowers. His nemesis Dr. Calico has held Penny’s father (in the show) prisoner and demands the formula that gave Bolt his powers. Through special effects and props, Bolt can superspeed, superstrength, laser eyes, and bark that creates shockwaves.
As naive as it sounds, Bolt thinks he has superpowers, and the production crew keeps it that way to capture his natural reactions. With the end of an episode in suspense, Bolt thinks Penny is still in danger. Seeing an opening in his on-set trailer, Bolt escapes and starts looking for Penny. Seeing the natural world confuses Bolt and makes him anxious.
Believing he has superstrength, Bolt tries to break through a glass window. Instead, he bonks himself unconscious, falls inside a carton box, and gets deported to New York. On gaining consciousness, Bolt is surprised to see his powers not working and concludes that Dr. Calico was behind all of it. Filled with doubts, questioning reality, and accompanied by a cat and a hamster in a ball, Bolt has to make his way back to Hollywood.
A Dog’s Purpose
Director: Lasse Hallström
Writers: W. Bruce Cameron, Cathryn Michon, Audrey Wells
Stars: Josh Gad(voice), Dennis Quaid, Peggy Lipton
Genres: Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Family, Fantasy
This movie is a masterpiece in its own right and stands as a weighty and eye-watering example of speciesism, a behavior disregarded to its fullest. It is more enjoyable contrary to most hysterical critics, if viewed as a message to humanity.
In this movie, there is no one specific dog but a single conscious. A feral pup questions life’s purpose. It is sent to a pound and later euthanized. The puppy is born as Red Retriever, and in this life, it is named Bailey. It spends its time growing up with its owner Ethan.
Once again, its life sadly ends with euthanization, and it is reborn as a female German Shepherd named Ellie. Diligently serving as a search dog for the police force, she is admired by her owner Officer Carlos. This time she gets shot dead by a kidnapper while protecting Carlos, who mourns her death. In its fourth lifetime, it is a male Corgi named Tino.
His owner, Maya, a college student, is lonely and interested in getting into a relationship. Tino tries the tricks he learned from past lives to cheer Maya up. Through their dogs, Al, Maya’s collegemate, and Maya bond. After Al’s dog is put down, Tino enters depression. Once again, it is reborn as a mixed breed. He is adopted by Wendi and named Waffles.
Wendi’s boyfriend is not at all happy about the adoption. As Waffle grew bigger, Wendi lost interest in him. Waffle spent most of the time chained to a tree. Wendi’s boyfriend takes Waffle far away, leaving him to fend for himself. Wandering, Waffles reunites with his first owner Ethan on a cornfield farm. The movie ends with a narration of a dog’s true purpose: to “have fun and help others have fun.”
Here are the top 12 dog movies curated for children and pet lovers. I hope some of these appeals to your taste and give you a wonderful experience. Some of them are genuinely emotional and will deepen the bond with your dog. While movies like Togo and Benji showcase the loyalty of dogs, others like Hachi and A Dog’s Purpose will make you cherish your “good boy/girl.”