Because people are terrible and dogs are the best.
Real talk: People are the absolute worst. On the flip side, though, dogs are the absolute best, so when the worst-ness of humans starts to really wear on you, the best antidote available is joyously rolling around while being cuddled and kissed by a dozen fluffy puppies. If you don’t have access to a dozen puppies every time the woes of the world weigh you down (IF ONLY, right?), watching a movie about a dog is…well, not the next best thing, but an acceptable—and, more importantly, attainable—alternative at the very least.
But “dog movies” is a big category (as it should be—see earlier, totally factual statements about dogs being the absolute best). So, if you need a little guidance about where to get started, don’t feel bad. And, if you need no guidance whatsoever (because dogs), but just want to indulge in some internet self-care in the form of reading about dogs and watching trailers for movies about dogs (because dogs), that’s also a totally valid reason to be here.
Below, you’ll find a list of some of the best dog movies to watch when you need a little pick-me-up. But dog movies aren’t one-dimensional. Like the dogs they’re about, these movies are multi-faceted and more complex than they get credit for, so this list has move than just feel-good dog movies. It also has funny dog movies, animated dog movies, and, of course, sad dog movies—because dogs are there when you need to feel better and they’re also there when all you really need is a good cry.
Just to make good on that whole “there are sad dog movies in this list” promise, let’s start with Marley & Me. The ending will wreck you and is not for the faint of heart.
This movie’s plot is delightfully ridiculous, even by animated film standards. Literally, it’s about a tween TV star who plays an action hero on TV opposite her real-life pet dog, Bolt. The weirdly-method director of the series is convinced that Bolt really believing he’s a super-powered dog is the key to the show’s success and therefore all of the stunts are staged to happen in real time around the Bolt, who genuinely thinks he’s a genetically-enhanced super dog. Which is cool—until Bolt gets lost in the real world and realizes he’s just a normal doggo whose main superpowers are cuteness and puppy dog eyes.
Think you love dogs? It’s nothing compared to the love that the doggiest of dog people (aka dog show people) feel. Not only is this movie hilarious and chock full of furbabies, but it also happens to be a mockumentary classic, if you care about that kind of thing.
Prefer your dog movies quirky and with some cool, indie flare? Then Wes Anderson’s stop-motion, dystopian dog movie, Isle of Dogs, is the dog movie for you.
This is pretty much the most classic “sad dog movie” and on a scale of “one glistening tear” to “sobbing” it’s the loudly crying emoji, at least.
Sounder, based on the Newbery Medal-winning novel of the same name, tells the story of the Morgans, a family of Black sharecroppers in the South during the Depression who search for food with the help of their hunting dog, Sounder. When the Morgan patriarch, Nathan, is arrested and imprisoned for stealing food to feed the family, Sounder accompanies Nathan’s son, David, on a difficult, life-changing journey.
The movie that proves dogs aren’t just better and nicer and funnier than humans, but they’re better at romance too. If you haven’t at least thought about trying to recreate the iconic spaghetti scene with someone, you’re lying.
We love our pets, but sometimes we wonder if it’s possible that they really love us back or if we’re just fooling ourselves. Homeward Bound is the movie that reaffirms your belief that your pets do love you back—and that they would do literally anything to be with you.
If you need a movie that will remind you about the life-changing power of dogs, you don’t need to look any further than As Good as It Gets. Jack Nicholson won an Oscar for his role as a novelist suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder whose world is turned upside down (in a good way) when he has to care for his neighbor’s dog.
You might remember this cartoon as the movie that totally skewed your perception of puppy litter sizes and set you up for disappointment in the real world. Or you might just remember it as a fun, classic Disney movie. Either way, it holds up.
A cute dog and Milo Ventimiglia? Honestly, could you want anything more from a movie? Because we sure couldn’t.
This dog movie comes from the reliably-weird brain of Tim Burton so it’s very “dogs, but make it creepy.” In the movie, a young science wiz uses his skills to reanimate his best friend—a Bull Terrier named Sparky.
Disney+ wasted no time getting into the original dog movie game. In December 2019, Togo, a biopic about Leonhard Seppala, who led a team of sled dogs across the harsh Alaskan tundra in 1925, dropped on the service.
Oh, did you think Up was about a lonely old widower bonding with a lonely young boy while on an adventure in a flying house? Then you clearly forgot that the film’s main antagonist is an explorer who has spent years developing collars that allow dogs to speak in robotic, human voices. And that Dug is the most quintessential dog who has ever dogged in all of cinema. We’re calling it: Up is a dog movie.
Dogs are known as man’s best friend, but they’re also great BFFs for pretty much any species. Just watch “Best of Friends” montage from this movie over and over and feel your body flood with warm fuzzies.
Dogs aren’t just great friends for humans and foxes. They also make great friends for dolphins and Steve Guttenbergs, as this movie clearly proves.
Movie dogs are heroes, but real-life dogs are also heroes. Sometimes, real-life dogs are such heroes that they then become movie dogs. You probably didn’t realize this when you saw the movie as a kid, but Balto is loosely based on the true story of a real dog named Balto, who made a heroic run to Nome, Alaska to deliver life-saving serum to children infected with diphtheria.
If you’ve ever looked at a dog and thought, “how did a wolf become this adorable fluff monster?” then check out Alpha. The 2018 movie sets out to answer that question with the fictional tale of a young man who befriends an injured wolf during the last ice age, ushering in the beginning of the ever-important Dog Age.
When it comes to “just a boy and his dog” stories, My Dog Skip is a pretty classic pick. This movie exists in the middle of the Venn-Diagram of “heartwarming coming-of-age movies” and “sad dog movies,” so prepare for literally all of the feels.
If you ever watched Toy Story and thought “this is good, but it would be even better if all the toys were urban house pets,” then this movie was tailor-made for you. And if you never had that thought, but like silly set pieces about dogs (and cats and even some bunnies), then watch it anyway.
If you watched movies like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day and thought “good, but needs more dogs,” then Dog Days, which tells the stories of the intertwining lives of several seemingly-unrelated dogs and their owners, is going to be your jam.
If you’ve ever swiped right on someone primarily for the chance to meet their dog, then a dog-themed rom-com is probably right up your alley. And Must Love Dogs is the quintessential dog-themed rom-com.
Plenty of movies have explored the healing power of a dog on a stressed family, but Benji did it so well it’s endured as a family favourite for decades and even spawned a Netflix remake in 2018.
This family movie about talking dogs stars the voice talents of George Lopez, Andy Garcia, and Drew Barrymore and centres on a lady Chihuahua named Chloe who gets dognapped in Mexico and has to escape with the help of Delgado, a German Shepherd, and Papi, a spazzy little male Chihuahua with a big crush on Chloe.
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