A young Roddy McDowall lends a shoulder to his beloved dog Lassie in the first of the Lassie films, "Lassie Come Home" 1943.

Best dog movies of all time

February 11, 2021
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Best dog movies of all time

If there's one animal nearest and dearest to the collective heart of mankind, it's the canine, which has been a staple in cinema for more than a century. In fact, the trend dates all the way back to 1905, when a male collie named Blair starred in the British short film, "Rescued by Rover." True to its name, the film follows Rover as he helps in the recovery of a kidnapped baby. Good boy, Rover!

On the heels of Blair came a female collie named Jean, widely considered to be the first true canine movie star. A number of famous dogs would emerge in Jean's wake, including Rin Tin Tin, who was popular enough to have a book written about him decades after he passed away. Of course, it's the films and franchises themselves that truly endure and continue to enrapture new generations. After all, a movie like "Old Yeller" might seem dated in terms of style, but emotionally speaking, it's as poignant now as ever.

All this talk of dogs in film might lead one to wonder: what are the most popular dog movies of all time? Like a well-trained canine, Stacker is here to heed the call. Stacker compiled data from Rotten Tomatoes on all dog movies and ranked the top 50 according to the Tomatometer, with the freshest movie sitting at #1. To qualify, the film had to have canines that were prominently featured characters, if not the focus of the film. Ties were broken by number of critic reviews and further ties broken by audience score. Data is current up through Jan. 31, 2021.

Without further ado, here are the best dog movies of all time.

#50. Cujo (1983)

- Director: Lewis Teague
- Tomatometer: 63%
- Audience score: 45%

Based on a horror novel by Stephen King, this 1983 film centers on a dog named Cujo, who turns deadly after contracting rabies. Playing the title role were at least five separate canines, while a mechanical dog was employed for certain scenes. Despite the film crew's precautions, one of the dogs accidentally bit a stunt-woman during filming.

#49. Dog Days (2018)

- Director: Ken Marino
- Tomatometer: 63%
- Audience score: 76%

Five interconnected stories see humans brought together by their canine companions in modern-day Los Angeles in this rom-com. The canine cast features a pug, a pit bull mix, and a Chihuahua, while the human cast is equally impressive with Nina Dobrev, Vanessa Hudgens, and Finn Wolfhard.

#48. Hachi: A Dog's Tale (2009)

- Director: Lasse Hallström
- Tomatometer: 64%
- Audience score: 84%

Richard Gere stars alongside a faithful Akita dog in "Hachi: A Dog's Tale," based on the true story of a famously loyal canine. In the film, Gere plays a college professor who takes home an abandoned dog, naming it Hachiko. After failing to find the dog's original owner, the professor adopts Hachi for good. Before this 2009 version, there was a similar 1987 Japanese movie called "Hachi-ko."

#47. White Fang (1991)

- Director: Randal Kleiser
- Tomatometer: 65%
- Audience score: 63%

One among many big-screen adaptations of Jack London's famous novel published in 1906, this 1991 version stars Ethan Hawke as a Yukon gold hunter named Jack. The prospector and the wolf-dog, White Fang, forge a bond after a string of unfortunate events befalls them both. The dog, Jed, also played one of the dogs in John Carpenter's "The Thing."

#46. Lady and the Tramp (2019)

- Director: Charlie Bean
- Tomatometer: 65%
- Audience score: 51%

After Disney's string of box office successes turning '90s animated hits into live-action remakes, "Lady and the Tramp" is the latest, but certainly not the last, classic film to be updated. The remake uses real, adorable dogs to portray Lady, the classy cocker spaniel, and Tramp, the goofball mutt with schnauzer leanings, training them to look longing at each other and move food around plates, then relying on computer animation to blend the dogs with the film's reality. The film received mixed reviews and, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was not released in theaters, but instead became the first Disney remake to go directly to its streaming platform, Disney+.

#45. 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure (2002)

- Director: Jim Kammerud
- Tomatometer: 67%
- Audience score: 41%

While the original "One Hundred and One Dalmatians" eventually spawned a live-action remake, a sequel to the remake, and a future spinoff—"Cruella," an origin story with Emma Stone playing the fur-obsessed villain, was delayed due to COVID-19 but may stream in 2021 on Disney+—the first time Disney revisited the "Dalmatians" in animation was later, in 2002. "101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure" picks up one year after the events of the original movie, and centers on the adventures of Patch, one of the puppies, who dreams of bigger things than life on the Dalmatian ranch. Cruella de Vil once more seeks to turn the family into a coat.

#44. The Shaggy Dog (1959)

- Director: Charles Barton
- Tomatometer: 68%
- Audience score: 48%

In this black-and-white Disney film, a teenage boy has a strange problem on his hands: He occasionally turns into a sheepdog. It's the result of a powerful curse, which can only be broken by a feat of bravery. In the meantime, the transformations seem to occur at the most inopportune of moments.

#43. I Am Legend (2007)

- Director: Francis Lawrence
- Tomatometer: 68%
- Audience score: 68%

This post-apocalyptic film based on the 1954 book of the same name stars Will Smith as Dr. Robert Neville. His faithful canine companion Sam, played by two German shepherds named Abbey and Kona, remains his character's only connection to life before a deadly virus brought about the downfall of humanity. Will Smith was so smitten with his co-star Abbey that he asked her trainer if he could keep her but was turned down.

#42. Shiloh 2: Shiloh Season (1999)

- Director: Sandy Tung
- Tomatometer: 70%
- Audience score: 62%

In this follow-up to the original, Shiloh's abusive owner is upset that the dog is with his new owner, Marty. Based on the popular book series, the film features Frannie the dog who also played Shiloh in the first film. The third and final Shiloh film, "Saving Shiloh," was released in 2006.

#41. The Fox and the Hound (1981)

- Director: Ted Berman
- Tomatometer: 70%
- Audience score: 78%

Representing the first Disney movie to feature animation from artists Tim Burton and Brad Bird, "The Fox and the Hound" starts out innocently enough, but grows into something far more dramatic. The film opens by depicting the carefree childhood friendship between its two main characters. However, as the characters grow older, they grow further apart and eventually find out that they're supposed to be enemies.

#40. White Fang 2: Myth of the White Wolf (1994)

- Director: Ken Olin
- Tomatometer: 71%
- Audience score: 47%

In this sequel to the 1991 original, White Fang helps an ancient Alaskan tribe. Fang is played by Jed, a wolf malamute hybrid who died in 1995 at the age of 18. The film marked Ken Olin's feature film directorial debut.

#39. Eight Below (2006)

- Director: Frank Marshall
- Tomatometer: 72%
- Audience score: 79%

In this gripping tale of survival, two Antarctic explorers are forced to leave their sled dogs behind after a brutal snowstorm. As the dogs search for scraps in the wilderness, their trainer (Paul Walker) goes to extremes in order to rescue them. The movie is based on a previous Japanese film, which was based on a true story.

#38. The Secret Life of Pets (2016)

- Director: Chris Renaud
- Tomatometer: 72%
- Audience score: 62%

In the spirit of movies like "Toy Story," this 2016 animated comedy shows audiences what pets are up to when the owners aren't paying attention. At the heart of the film is a terrier named Max (voiced by Louis C.K.), who takes an immediate dislike to the slobbery stray dog his owner brings home. Max must put his domestic problems on hold, however, when he discovers that an evil bunny has assembled a vengeful army of lost pets.

#37. Shiloh (1996)

- Director: Dale Rosenbloom
- Tomatometer: 73%
- Audience score: 64%

This 1996 family drama spawned two sequels. The film takes place in the American south and centers on a young boy who must save a beagle named Shiloh from an abusive owner. Both the movie and the book were reportedly inspired by true events.

#36. My Dog Skip (2000)

- Director: Jay Russell
- Tomatometer: 73%
- Audience score: 68%

Adapted from the bestselling memoir by Willie Morris, this film takes place in 1940s Mississippi and stars Frankie Muniz as young Willie. In the film, Willie suffers from extreme shyness and struggles to connect with others. That all changes when he's given a puppy named Skip, whose outgoing personality proves to be contagious.

#35. Wiener-Dog (2016)

- Director: Todd Solondz
- Tomatometer: 74%
- Audience score: 41%

Few (if any) contemporary directors are more subversive than Todd Solondz, which makes 2016's "Wiener-Dog" an acquired taste, to put it mildly. The film centers on the adventures of its title character, an unassuming daschund who gets passed around from owner to owner. Needless to say, this one is not for the faint of heart, or even the average dog lover.

#34. A Boy and His Dog (1975)

- Director: L.Q. Jones
- Tomatometer: 76%
- Audience score: 63%

Despite the rather mundane title, 1975's "A Boy and His Dog" is an edgy, sci-fi film that takes place in an apocalyptic wasteland, and depicts the adventures of a young man (Don Johnson) and his telepathic canine. Together, the two friends scavenge for food and wander into an underground society, where carnal desire and deadly deception await.

#33. Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders (2000)

- Director: Jim Stenstrum
- Tomatometer: 80%
- Audience score: 58%

Scooby and the gang face alien invaders in this direct-to-video release. The film is based on the Saturday morning cartoon, which was created by Hanna-Barbera in 1969 and has been a mainstay ever since. Scooby, whose full name is Scoobert, is a Great Dane.

#32. The Adventures of Milo and Otis (1986)

- Director: Masanori Hata
- Tomatometer: 80%
- Audience score: 74%

This feature film has become a classic and focuses on the adventures of a cat and dog, Milo and Otis, respectively. The two grow up on a farm together and get separated, spurring them to find each other in the often scary and dangerous wilderness. The film has been plagued with allegations of animal cruelty.

#31. White Fang (2018)

- Director: Alexandre Espigares
- Tomatometer: 80%
- Audience score: 74%

Variety reviewer Guy Lodge called Oscar-winning director and animator Alexandre Espigares' film a "ravishingly designed new take on the old Jack London chestnut." The movie features animation with a textured, oil-painting style, winning over animation enthusiasts. Paul Giamatti and Nick Offerman both make voice appearances at the beginning of the film. 

#30. Alpha (2018)

- Director: Albert Hughes
- Tomatometer: 80%
- Audience score: 71%

Set 20,000 years ago during prehistoric times, this film focuses on the relationship of a boy struggling to survive in the wilderness after being injured and a wolf abandoned by his pack. The wolves in the film were a combination of CGI, real wolves, and wolf hybrids. The film depicts the first canine-human bond.

#29. Baxter (1990)

- Director: Jérôme Boivin
- Tomatometer: 83%
- Audience score: 84%

This dark French film features a bull terrier who finds that he is unhappy with his boring elderly companion. In a search for the perfect owner, Baxter becomes dangerous and demented. Based on the 1977 American novel, "Hell Hound," the story is told from the dog's perspective in voice-over narration.

#28. Red Dog (2011)

- Director: Kriv Stenders
- Tomatometer: 83%
- Audience score: 80%

This tale of an affable red dog who brings people together while searching the Australian outback for his owner is based on a true story. Koko, who played Red Dog in the film, won Best Dog in a Foreign Film at the 2012 Golden Collar Awards.

#27. As Good As It Gets (1997)

- Director: James L. Brooks
- Tomatometer: 85%
- Audience score: 86%

This Oscar-nominated film stars Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt and features Jill the dog as Verdell. Melvin, a persnickety curmudgeon finds himself caring for Verdell when his gay artist neighbor is attacked and hospitalized. Jill the dog bunked with Nicholson at his Hollywood home during shooting.

#26. Wendy and Lucy (2008)

- Director: Kelly Reichardt
- Tomatometer: 85%
- Audience score: 67%

A young woman, played by Michelle Williams, travels to Alaska to find work in her beat-up car along with her faithful companion, Lucy. When she gets caught stealing, she loses Lucy and must search for the dog. Director Kelly Reichardt used her own pet for the part of Lucy.

#25. Benji (2018)

- Director: Joe Camp
- Tomatometer: 86%
- Audience score: 55%

Not to be confused with the 2018 remake, 1974's "Benji" introduced audiences to a heroic dog who helps save two kidnapped children. To say the movie was popular would be an understatement, as it not only launched a number of film sequels and TV specials, but a short-lived TV series and video game as well. Benji was also the subject of two separate documentaries.

#24. Oddball (2015)

- Director: Stuart McDonald
- Tomatometer: 87%
- Audience score: 62%

This Australian family film features a Maremma sheepdog named Oddball who helps protect a penguin sanctuary from nasty foxes. Based on a true story, the real-life Oddball only spent a few weeks on the island guarding penguins but was the impetus for a penguin-protection program using other Maremma sheepdogs.

#23. Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)

- Director: Duwayne Dunham
- Tomatometer: 87%
- Audience score: 71%

When remaking 1963's "The Incredible Journey," Disney decided to give the animals their own voices. Furthermore, "Homeward Bound" takes place in California, whereas the original film took place in Canada. Nevertheless, the initial premise remains intact: A trio of pets travel across hostile lands to reconnect with their owners, overcoming all odds.

#22. Megan Leavey (2017)

- Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
- Tomatometer: 87%
- Audience score: 82%

Based on a true story, this 2017 film centers on a marine named Megan Leavey and her dog, Rex, who forge an unforgettable bond during the Iraq War. Megan and Rex's partnership is threatened when a deadly explosion tears them apart. After receiving a Purple Heart and being honorably discharged, Megan goes to great lengths to reunite with her dog.

#21. Frankenweenie (2012)

- Director: Tim Burton
- Tomatometer: 87%
- Audience score: 70%

Filmmaker Tim Burton remakes one of his own short films with 2012's "Frankenweenie," this time using stop-motion animation. The movie also pays tribute to the story of "Frankenstein," substituting a dog for the monster. This was the first stop-motion animated feature to be converted to 3D.

#20. Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (1998)

- Director: Jim Stenstrum
- Tomatometer: 88%
- Audience score: 78%

The Mystery Gang has parted ways since the days of their popular TV series. This sets the stage for a reunion on Moonscar Island, which is rumored to be haunted by a pirate ghost. As the gang investigates, they start to wonder if maybe this time the supernatural threat is real.

#19. Lassie (1994)

- Director: Daniel Petrie
- Tomatometer: 88%
- Audience score: 56%

After Lassie's owner dies in a truck accident, a family of city dwellers who've relocated to the country adopts her. The ever-loyal Lassie shows them the lay of the land and helps them to adjust to country living. "Lassie" marked the feature film debut of actor Michelle Williams.

#18. White God (2015)

- Director: Kornél Mundruczó
- Tomatometer: 88%
- Audience score: 71%

Mixed-breed dogs revolt against their human tormentors in this dramatic tale of a girl, Lili, and her dog, Hagen. After Hagen is set free in the streets because he is a mixed breed, the film's perspective shifts from the girl's to the dog's. The more than 200 dogs featured in the film were from local shelters.

#17. The Incredible Journey (1963)

- Director: Fletcher Markle
- Tomatometer: 89%
- Audience score: 77%

Before the remake and its sequel, there was this original 1963 classic. It tells the story of two dogs and a cat who lose their owners while on vacation, then make the arduous journey home. While the animals' respective thoughts aren't vocalized in this version, actor Rex Allen did provide voice-over narration.

#16. Sounder (1972)

- Director: Martin Ritt
- Tomatometer: 89%
- Audience score: 77%

Based on the 1969 young adult novel by William H. Armstrong, the film tells of an African American sharecropper family in the 1930s. After the father is arrested for stealing to feed his family, his son tries to find him at a prison camp. Accompanying him is the loyal family hound, Sounder.

#15. Bolt (2008)

- Director: Chris Williams
- Tomatometer: 89%
- Audience score: 74%

In this animated film from Disney, a canine TV star named Bolt (voiced by John Travolta) thinks that the storylines from his show are real and that he possesses the same superpowers as his fictional counterpart. In the wake of a cliffhanger episode, Bolt escapes from the studio and wanders off to save his co-star, Penny, from a threat that doesn't actually exist. Along the way, he makes some friends and soon discovers that he does not in fact have any superpowers.

#14. My Dog Tulip (2010)

- Director: Paul Fierlinger
- Tomatometer: 90%
- Audience score: 69%

This animated tale from the U.K. focuses on the friendship that blossoms between a man and the German shepherd he rescues. Based on a book of the same name that documents author J.R. Ackerley's real-life relationship with his dog, Tulip, the cast includes the voices of Christopher Plummer, Lynn Redgrave, and Isabella Rossellini.

#13. Isle of Dogs (2018)

- Director: Wes Anderson
- Tomatometer: 90%
- Audience score: 87%

Legendary auteur Wes Anderson wrote and directed this stop-motion animation film, which takes place during a dog flu outbreak in Japan. In response to the pandemic, all dogs are sent to Trash Island. Consequently, a young boy journeys to the island to reunite with his beloved canine, Spots. Loosely inspired by the works of Akira Kurosawa and Hayao Miyazaki, the film features voice contributions from Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Bryan Cranston and Edward Norton, among others.

#12. White Dog (1982)

- Director: Samuel Fuller
- Tomatometer: 92%
- Audience score: 73%

Exploring racial themes by way of a relatively sordid premise, 1982's "White Dog" centers on a vicious German shepherd that's been trained by racists to attack Black people. It's ultimately up to a black dog trainer named Keys (Paul Winfield) to deprogram the murderous canine. The film is based on a fictionalized memoir of the same name.

#11. Togo (2019)

- Director: Ericson Core
- Tomatometer: 92%
- Audience score: 95%

Willem Dafoe stars in this Disney film about Togo, a heroic sled dog, and the 1925 serum run. Based on a true story, the film drew praise for both its human and canine stars. Time magazine voted Togo "The Most Heroic Animal of All Time" in 2011.

#10. Snoopy, Come Home (1972)

- Director: Bill Melendez
- Tomatometer: 93%
- Audience score: 84%

In this Peanuts classic that focuses on Charlie Brown's dog, Snoopy, the gang all try to figure out where Snoopy has gone. They discover he went with Woodstock to find his former owner, who is in the hospital, and reached out to him in a letter. The film documents Snoopy's journey across the country and all the times he encounters "No Dogs Allowed" signs.

#9. Lady and the Tramp (1955)

- Director: Clyde Geronimi
- Tomatometer: 93%
- Audience score: 80%

Brimming with iconic scenes involving Siamese cats and spaghetti kisses, Disney's "Lady and the Tramp" centers on the budding romance between a spoiled cocker spaniel and a streetwise mutt. The story spent years in development before finally arriving on the big screen, getting saved from the chopping block at one point by Walt Disney's own brother, Roy. Nowadays, the movie endures as a true animated classic.

#8. Lassie (2005)

- Director: Charles Sturridge
- Tomatometer: 93%
- Audience score: 64%

A family loses Lassie to a duke after they find they must sell her. The duke moves hundreds of miles away with Lassie, who must escape and find a way back to her family. The British film continues with the tradition of all the Lassie films that preceded it by featuring a direct descendent of the original collie to play the loyal canine on-screen, Pal.

#7. Lassie Come Home (1943)

- Director: Fred M. Wilcox
- Tomatometer: 94%
- Audience score: 76%

Hollywood's most celebrated dog-based franchise kicked off in 1943 with "Lassie Come Home," in which the beloved collie travels great distances to reunite with her family. Even though Lassie was supposed to be female, she was played by a male stunt dog named Pal. Needless to say, the film spawned an enduring array of sequels, radio specials, and TV movies.

#6. Best in Show (2000)

- Director: Christopher Guest
- Tomatometer: 94%
- Audience score: 89%

Mockumentary legend Christopher Guest turns his satirical eye toward dog shows in this 2000 comedy. Arguably true to life, the film follows a number of quirky dog owners as they prepare for a national competition, and maintain borderline unhealthy relationships with their respective pets. To prepare for the film, Guest and producer Karen Murphy visited the Westminster Dog Show, and even sent the principal cast members to a dog handler for training.

#5. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)

- Director: Steve Box
- Tomatometer: 95%
- Audience score: 79%

When the annual vegetable growing contest is threatened, Wallace and his canine companion, Gromit, decide to solve the mystery behind what's been going on in the gardens of their English village. This animated feature boasts a distinguished cast of voices including Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter.

#4. Heart of a Dog (2015)

- Director: Laurie Anderson
- Tomatometer: 96%
- Audience score: 64%

This film from media artist Laurie Anderson tells about the life and loss of her beloved terrier, Lolabelle. Anderson was the wife of musician Lou Reed until his death in 2013, and some of his music even appears in the film. In a review for The Wall Street Journal, Joe Morgenstern notes, "A dog is at the heart of this film, but there's room for all manner of extraordinary insights about finding love and giving love, being canine and being human."

#3. Umberto D (1955)

- Director: Vittorio De Sica
- Tomatometer: 97%
- Audience score: 93%

A lonely, elderly man attempts to live on his government pension while caring for his beloved dog. He eventually loses his apartment and his dog, who is thrown into the pound. This Italian film is believed to have been a favorite of legendary film director Ingmar Bergman.

#2. 101 Dalmatians (1961)

- Director: Wolfgang Reitherman
- Tomatometer: 98%
- Audience score: 76%

The 17th animated film from Walt Disney Studios is all about Dalmatians...101 of them to be exact. That's how many puppies Cruella De Vil needs to make her new fur coat. Getting in Cruella's way are a Dalmatian couple and their human owners. Making a few cameos are characters from another dog-centric Disney film, "Lady and the Tramp."

#1. Old Yeller (1957)

- Director: Robert Stevenson
- Tomatometer: 100%
- Audience score: 79%

One of the most iconic dog movies of all time, "Old Yeller" follows a young boy as he begrudgingly adopts a stray mutt that wanders onto the family property. Together, the two undergo a series of adventures, and soon enough, they've developed a profound connection. It all culminates with an ending that's as impactful now as it was more than six decades ago.

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