It’s blockbuster season and the Summer movie is back! We love movies, but we love dogs more than anything around here—so when we see dogs in movies, that’s a real treat. If you’re in the mood for some canine cinema, check out some of our favorites below. A nice movie on your couch with the AC on might be just what you need to get through the dog days of Summer.
- Lady and the tramp (1955)
We wanted to start off with a true classic. Lady and the Tramp is a love story between a posh American Cocker Spaniel and a gritty mutt (with some terrier in him, it appears). This film is a Disney movie of its era through and through, with the charms of musical swells and hand-drawn animation. The scene behind Tony’s Italian restaurant is memorable for the adorable and deliciously adventurous spaghetti kiss, but the film is filled with endearing supporting characters like Tony and Joe. A great comfort movie with a happy ending fitting for a romance. You can stream this film on Disney+.
- My Dog Tulip (2009)
Another love story of sorts, this film is an adaptation of J.R. Ackerley’s 1956 memoir of the same name. The film was adapted, directed, and animated by Paul Fierlinger with backgrounds and characters painted by his wife, Sandra Fierlinger—and the film gives the impression of a true labor of love. My Dog Tulip chronicles the 15 year relationship between Ackerley and his beloved dog Tulip. Though it’s animated, the film delves into sophisticated themes of loneliness, connection, and the changes we encounter in life. If you’re looking for true companionship between a dog and their person, this movie is for you. This film might take some more digging to find a copy, but the tender relationship between Ackerley and Tulip is worth searching for.
- Frankenweenie (2012)
This Tim Burton film flips the classic “boy and his dog” story upside down. A young boy, Victor Frankenstein, resurrects his beloved bull terrier, Sparky, in a parody of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Frankenweenie is creepily heartwarming in the way only Tim Burton can pull off. The plot veers into the horrific when Victor’s classmates attempt to resurrect their own pets, causing grotesque undead pets to run amok. But at its core, this film is about the undying love we have for our pets. If you want to watch a surprisingly tender parody of both Frankenstein and Steven King’s Pet Sematary, Frankenweenie is the film for you. You can stream this film on Disney+.
- Isle of Dogs (2018)
Wes Anderson’s Japan-inspired Isle of Dogs is a stop-motion animated adventure marked by Wes Anderson’s visual style and almost childlike perspective. The film tells the story of a canine influenza outbreak which caused the mayor of fictional Japanese city, Megasaki, to banish all dogs to an island. A human character named Atari crash lands on the island in search of his beloved dog Spots. In addition to Anderson’s use of bright colors and wide, symmetrical shots, the film benefits from its animation style, which gives a charming, almost tactile sense to the events portrayed. The film manages to explore themes of language barriers and marginalization while retaining its youthful style. You can stream this film on Disney+.
- The Secret Life of Pets (2016)
Do you wish Pixar’s Toy Story was about pets instead? Well, this film is about as close as you can get to that. The Secret Life of Pets tells the story of Max, a Jack Russel Terrier, who ends up on the streets after a run-in with a gang of former pets. The film prioritizes the perspective of pets and humanizes them to give a humorous outlook on the lives of pets and their relationships with humans. It’s light fare, but sometimes we don’t need to cry our eyes out. You can stream this film on Peacock TV.
- The Art of Racing in the Rain (2019)
Based on the 2008 novel of the same name, this film tells the story of Enzo, a Golden Retriever whose human, Denny, is a professional racecar driver. The film chronicles Enzo’s life from puppyhood to old age as well as Denny’s relationship and family troubles. This is a “prepare to cry” film for dog lovers as every one of us can understand the mutual love between person and dog and the inevitable pain of loss. This is a film that forcibly tugs on heartstrings, so be sure to watch it only if you’re in the mood for that. You can stream this film on Disney+.
- One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
Another Disney classic, One Hundred and One Dalmatians is based on a 1956 children’s book of the same name. This Disney film cemented Cruella de Vil as the vilest villain in dog film canon. There’s no empathizing with a woman who wants to turn puppies into fur coats, so de Vil has been absolutely irredeemable in audience’s eyes for over 60 years. Expect the standard Disney fare with this film: fluid animation, charming supporting characters, a happy ending. If you haven’t seen this film, give it a watch to understand just why everyone hates Ms. De Vil. You can stream this film on Disney+.
- Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)
Wallace & Gromit is a stop-motion animation series that centers around the zany and dim inventor, Wallace, and his silent but deeply intelligent dog, Gromit. The Curse of the Were-Rabbit continues that dynamic while also serving as an homage to Hammer horror films and other old-school monster movies. The plot centers around a mysterious, vegetable-eating rabbit that is terrorizing the community and Wallace and Gromit’s attempts to perform humane pest control. It turns out, though, that the culprit might be closer than the pair could have imagined. Expect witty British humor (the pair’s pest control company is called “Anti-Pesto” for example), clever animation, and a classic monster movie plot. You can stream this film on Peacock TV.
- Must Love Dogs (2005)
This romantic comedy based on a 2002 novel of the same name follows Sarah, a 40-something divorcee and dog-lover who struggles to reenter the dating scene. John Cusack and Diane Lane are cast to be noticeably middle-aged so the film can explore mid-life angst and the stilted, often awkward interactions that occur between two guarded people who secretly long for a romantic connection. Sarah’s dog acts as a catalyst between the two main characters, as dogs often do. Give this film a watch if you’re susceptible to the two lead actors’ charms (N.B. the writer of this article is a fan of both actors). You can rent or buy this film with Amazon Prime Video.
- Best in Show (2000)
We’ve saved the best (in show) for last. This film is directed by Christopher Guest and features an ensemble cast familiar to his fans. In another movie, actors like Eugene Levy and Fred Willard would receive special praise for their characters, but in this case every single cast member knocks it out of the park and their collective dynamic is hilarious. The plot is simple: dogs and their owners travel to Philadelphia to compete in the annual Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show. The film pokes fun at the pomp and circumstance of the affair as well as the eccentric personalities one is bound to encounter at some point as a dog lover. The real trick this film pulls off is lampooning these personalities without being mean-spirited or talking down, and it’s a trick only accomplished due to the chemistry among the ensemble cast. Give this one a watch to have a good-natured laugh at the often extravagant and bizarre nature of competitive dog shows and fervent dog lovers like ourselves. You can stream this film on Hulu.
We hope this gives you a movie or two to add to your list. With any luck, one of your pups will watch along with you and perk up when a dog comes on screen (or bark if a cat or a squirrel dares to take up screentime). When it’s this hot, a movie can serve as a nice distraction, a journey you can go on without braving the heat. Like any journey, the presence of dogs makes everything a bit more enjoyable.