Memorable pets from film history

Written by:
May 21, 2021
Universal Pictures

Memorable pets from film history

Indian author Ruchi Prabhu observes that “pets understand humans better than humans do.” Look no further than film to see the truth in Prabhu's sentiment: Who can resist Lassie’s loyalty, Toto’s tenacity, or the way the pixilated pets in “The Secret Life of Pets” fill up the screen? Adding a four-legged friend to a film elevates its appeal given these furry family members' uncanny connection to the center of our hearts.

Stacker created a fetching list of memorable pets that play significant roles in the plots of films that span decades, countries, and genres. Movies are organized by release date, from old to new, with IMDb and Metacritic data provided for popular and critical context.

Treat yourself and your favorite furry friend to a tour of 25 films that feature pets. You’ll find some of your favorites like Balto, Old Yeller, Charlotte, Wilbur, and the dotted Dalmatian pack. We salute the pets that light up our lives, and the directors and producers who helped make these movie pets stars of our screens.

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1 / 25
RKO Radio Pictures

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

- Director: Howard Hawks
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Metascore: 91
- Runtime: 102 minutes

Baby is a lost leopard that connects an heiress and a paleontologist in the screwball 1938 comedy starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Nissa was the real moniker of the lovely leopard in “Bringing Up Baby”. She was sweet—and a tad feisty—just like Baby, at one point lunging at Hepburn's dress when startled.

2 / 25
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

- Directors: Victor Fleming, George Cukor, Mervyn LeRoy, Norman Taurog, Richard Thorpe, King Vidor
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Metascore: 92
- Runtime: 102 minutes

The Cairn terrier named Toto that accompanied Dorothy on her journey through Oz played a vital role in Dorothy’s well-being. Who could forget when the Wicked Witch of the West shrilled, “I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog, too?” Toto was played by Terry, who earned $125 a week for her fetching role in the movie classic based on L. Frank Baum’s book series.

3 / 25
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

Lassie Come Home (1943)

- Director: Fred M. Wilcox
- IMDb user rating: 7.1
- Metascore: 78
- Runtime: 89 minutes

“Lassie Comes Home” illuminates the special bond between a dog and his family. When Lassie, the family’s beloved collie, is sold out of financial desperation during the Great Depression, she bravely faces a myriad of obstacles to rejoin them. The original Lassie, named Pal, was actually a boy—and his direct descendants, also all boys, have played the starring role ever since.

4 / 25
Walt Disney Productions

Old Yeller (1957)

- Director: Robert Stevenson
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Metascore: 84
- Runtime: 83 minutes

This touching story follows Travis, a teen aiding his family while his father is away, and the yellow dog he finds captures his heart. When Old Yeller saves the family from a wolf, the audience falls more in love with the dog which makes the tragic ending harder to watch.

5 / 25
Walt Disney Productions

One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)

- Directors: Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Wolfgang Reitherman
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Metascore: 83
- Runtime: 79 minutes

Disney’s beloved animated film features Dalmatian parents Pongo and Perdita and their 15 puppies. Drama unfolds when villain Cruella de Vil hires dognappers to steal the puppies to create a spotted coat.

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6 / 25
Argos Films

Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)

- Director: Robert Bresson
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Metascore: 100
- Runtime: 95 minutes

“Au Hasard Balthazar” follows donkey, Balthazar, and his journey through a heartbreaking life. The film illuminates how the donkey meanders through his life and his many, imperfect owners, teaching the audience a lessons in empathy and grace.

7 / 25
Hanna-Barbera Productions

Charlotte's Web (1973)

- Directors: Charles A. Nichols, Iwao Takamoto
- IMDb user rating: 6.9
- Metascore: 73
- Runtime: 94 minutes

Charlotte's Web" brings E.B. White's classic tale of a pig named Wilbur and a spider called Charlotte. The animated film shows how an unlikely friendship and a heart full of faith weave together to create a beautiful, yet bittersweet, ending.

8 / 25
Omni Zoetrope

The Black Stallion (1979)

- Director: Carroll Ballard
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Metascore: 84
- Runtime: 118 minutes

When a wild stallion and a young boy survive a shipwreck and are stranded on an island off the coast of North African, they form a special bond. After the pair is rescued, they go to America where the boy and a former jockey (Mickey Rooney) train the horse, named “The Black”, to compete in a race.

9 / 25
Brandywine Productions

Alien (1979)

- Director: Ridley Scott
- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Metascore: 89
- Runtime: 117 minutes

A crew from a commercial starship encounters an alien vessel and creature in space. The creature attacks one of the crew and terror unfolds in this classic horror film.

10 / 25
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

- Directors: Charles Crichton, John Cleese
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Metascore: 80
- Runtime: 108 minutes

One has to pay close attention to note the cameo appearance of the fish in “A Fish Called Wanda.” The plot revolves around the fish, and the fish is always being talked about, but it only appears at the beginning.

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11 / 25
Touchstone Pictures

Turner & Hooch (1989)

- Director: Roger Spottiswoode
- IMDb user rating: 6.2
- Metascore: 36
- Runtime: 97 minutes

Producers vetted 50 breeds to discover which breed would best pair with Tom Hanks to solve a murder and turn his life upside down in “Turner & Hooch.” Hooch, a rambunctious but lovable hound, was played by a Dogue de Bordeaux named Beasley and three other pups.

12 / 25
Walt Disney Pictures

White Fang (1991)

- Director: Randal Kleiser
- IMDb user rating: 6.7
- Metascore: 62
- Runtime: 107 minutes

Ethan Hawke plays Jack Conroy, in the family film, “White Fang,” who comes to Alaska to discover gold but instead finds a wolf-dog in need of rescuing. After he is nursed back to health, White Fang becomes best friends with Conroy and his friend.

13 / 25
Touchwood Pacific Partners 1

Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)

- Director: Duwayne Dunham
- IMDb user rating: 7.0
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 84 minutes

When a family goes on vacation and temporarily leaves a trio of pets including an American bulldog named Chance, a golden retriever called Shadow, and a feline named Sassy, with a petsitter far away from home, the pets think their family may be in danger. Their journey home is a visual delight in the stunning Sierras where the trio encounters surprises in their travels.

14 / 25
Warner Bros. Family Entertainment

Free Willy (1993)

- Director: Simon Wincer
- IMDb user rating: 6.0
- Metascore: 79
- Runtime: 112 minutes

“Free Willy” is a family-friendly film that features an orca named Willy and a 12-year-old boy named Jesse. Willy is an enchanting whale of a friend to Jesse who is adjusting to life in his new home as Willy meets the challenges of living in an aquarium.

15 / 25
Amblimation

Balto (1995)

- Director: Simon Wells
- IMDb user rating: 7.1
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 78 minutes

Fans of the movie “Balto” fell in love with the young Siberian husky that helps a team of sled dogs deliver life-saving serum to Nome from Anchorage, Alaska to help the community battling diphtheria. It was actually a 12-year-old husky named Toto that led the first leg of “The Great Race of Mercy.”

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16 / 25
Universal Pictures

Babe (1995)

- Director: Chris Noonan
- IMDb user rating: 6.8
- Metascore: 83
- Runtime: 91 minutes

Who doesn’t love Babe, the little piglet that circumvented being served for holiday dinner, instead ending up befriending a border collie called Fly? The film follows the friends as Babe learns how to herd sheep while trying to convince the other farm animals to accept his non-traditional place in the barnyard.

17 / 25
Castle Rock Entertainment

Best in Show (2000)

- Director: Christopher Guest
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Metascore: 78
- Runtime: 90 minutes

“Best in Show” features a menagerie of memorable canines, the most coveted is of course Winky, the winning Norwich terrier. Giving Winky a run for his money are a neurotic Weimaraner, a petite and posh Shih Tzu, and a blundering bloodhound.

18 / 25
Universal Pictures

Meet the Parents (2000)

- Director: Jay Roach
- IMDb user rating: 7.0
- Metascore: 73
- Runtime: 108 minutes

The main storyline of “Meet the Parents” is the hilarious vetting of a fiancé by his bride’s overprotective parents when they visit just before he plans to pop the question. The star of the show turns out to be a Himalayan cat named Jinxie whose disappearance adds to the chaos and comedy.

19 / 25
Pixar Animation Studios

Up (2009)

- Directors: Pete Docter, Bob Peterson
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Metascore: 88
- Runtime: 96 minutes

Dug, the squirrel-chasing, talking dog from Disney’s hit film, “Up”, charmed audiences with his lovable personality as he followed Carl and Russell on their journey. A spin-off series called “Dug Days” was created for a Pixar TV series on Disney.

20 / 25
CBS Films

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

- Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Metascore: 93
- Runtime: 104 minutes

Viewers of the Coen brothers’ 2013 film, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” may wonder what was the purpose of the orange cat that mysteriously shadows Davis throughout the movie. While some speculate that the cat may be Davis, others think it is as mysterious as its name and identity.

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21 / 25
Parts and Labor

The Witch (2015)

- Director: Robert Eggers
- IMDb user rating: 6.9
- Metascore: 83
- Runtime: 92 minutes

It was a dream job for the 210-pound billy goat named Charlie to play Black Phillip in the 2015 horror film, “The Witch.” But on the fourth day of making the movie, Charlie put his horns in the star’s rib so his role was subsequently outsourced to a puppet with the exception of one scene where Charlie was filmed while tethered to a leash.

22 / 25
Universal Pictures

The Secret Life of Pets (2016)

- Directors: Chris Renaud, Yarrow Cheney
- IMDb user rating: 6.5
- Metascore: 61
- Runtime: 87 minutes

There is a myriad of pixelated pets in Disney’s animated comedy, “The Secret Life of Pets.” Two of the main characters, a terrier called Duke and a mutt named Max, are polar opposites but unite in their mutual disdain for a bunny named Snowball who is galvanizing a cadre of lost pets for revenge.

23 / 25
Kate Street Picture Company,

Okja (2017)

- Director: Bong Joon Ho
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Metascore: 75
- Runtime: 120 minutes

What do you get when you combine a pig, a hippo, and an elephant into a giant fantasy animal? Director Bong Joon Ho brings the CGI-beast alive in “Okja,” where the super-pig is created to eradicate world hunger but steals the hearts of a young girl and the audience.

24 / 25
Access Entertainment

Game Night (2018)

- Directors: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein
- IMDb user rating: 6.9
- Metascore: 66
- Runtime: 100 minutes

Olivia, the 15-pound West Highland White Terrier featured in “Game Night,” also starred in “Widows” and “Insatiable.” Olivia (who is actually a male) will always be remembered for the scene in “Game Night” when Jason Bateman fails to clean the blood off of him.

25 / 25
Columbia Pictures

Once Upon a Time In Hollywood (2019)

- Director: Quentin Tarantino
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Metascore: 83
- Runtime: 161 minutes

Director Quentin Tarantino cast three different pit bulls, Sayuri, Cerberus, and Siren, as the loyal canine companion of stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Sayuri won the Palm Dog Award, which Tarantino retrieved in her honor, since Sayuri was unable to attend the event.

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