The Five - Animal-Led Movies
Written by Jose Castaneda
Compiled by Jose Castaneda and Okechi Apakama
Hello and welcome to another edition of “The Five.” Today’s list features the latest and greatest animal actors that have pawed, swam and slithered into our film-loving hearts. Due to the short nature of our list (and to avoid a nine-hour heated debate over Disney’s track record), we decided not to include any fully-animated films into our consideration. Also, while we would love to include flicks like Life of Pi and Jaws on the list, we concluded that the animals must be sentient and well-rounded in order to be considered. Finally, CGI animal films are included in our list because who doesn’t love a dash of human expression?
Honorable mentions: Charlotte’s Web, Mowgli and Cats & Dogs
5. Air Bud (1997)
Air Bud centers on the story of Blue, a golden retriever who is cast out to the perils of the dog pound after his previous owner becomes dissatisfied with his performance at a child’s birthday party. On the way to the pound, Blue’s kennel falls out of the truck and he becomes homeless. Meanwhile, newcomer Josh (Kevin Zegers) becomes the manager of his middle school basketball team after shying away from trying out or making friends. Soon after, Josh meets Blue while he is practicing in a makeshift basketball court. Josh renames him “Buddy” and brings him home after he discovers Buddy’s talent for shooting hoops. Air Bud remains as a constant staple in pop culture’s book of beloved animal movies. The film’s childish charm, memorability and ability to make the audience ignore physics and the overall plausibility of a dog’s ability to play basketball earn it a spot on our list.
4. Stuart Little (1999) and Stuart Little 2 (2002)
This pair of films tells the story of the unorthodox relationship between Stuart Little, an anthropomorphic little white mouse, and his new adopted family. The movies also focus heavily on the strained and dynamic relationship between Stuart and his brother George (Jonathan Lipnicki). These charming films connected with families as they touch upon relatable themes through a fantastic scenario. They are filled with humor and amazing visual effects that earned Stuart Little a visual effects Oscar nomination, which is no small feat.
3. Scooby-Doo: The Movie (2002)
This film showcases the first live-action adaption of the Hannah-Barbera animated series, Scooby-Doo. The movie picks up on the Scooby-Doo gang after years of solving mysteries. The team disbands after its members become fed-up with the tropes imposed on them during the animated series (Daphne is tired of getting kidnapped and Velma is never credited for her ideas). After a couple of years, the members of Mystery Inc. unknowingly reconvene when they are all separately invited to solve a mystery on the popular (and aptly-named) vacation spot of Spooky Island. The gang decides to come back together for another adventure when trouble arises on the resort. While this film was not critically well-received, it offered a fun and campy story that served as a spot-on translation of the animated series. The visual effects that rendered Scooby-Doo were great for the era in which the movie was released. This movie is worthy of any amount of Scooby Snacks and if you’re even considering watching it, please Doo.
2. The Jungle Book (2016)
The Jungle Book retreads the path that the 1967 animated original cleared for it. It follows the story of Mowgli (Neel Sethi), an orphan boy who is forced to leave his home after he is pursued by the steely and dangerous tiger, Shere Khan (Idris Elba). Mowgli is guided in his journey by a multitude of animal compatriots, including the brown bear Baloo (Bill Murray) and the black panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley). While Jon Favreau stays true to the origin of the story, he contributes his own directional voice and direction. The stunning visuals, great voice cast and a fresh retelling of a beloved story give this film a spot on our list.
1. Babe (1995)
This film follows Babe, the smart orphaned pig who is adopted by a border collie after he is brought onto a farm. The film follows the various animals of the farm and their mishaps and adventures, while mainly focusing on Babe and his newfound ability to herd sheep. The film tackles themes and subjects that overshadow the film’s G rating. While the main character of Babe gave the movie its spot on this list, we have to commemorate all of the 48 pigs that played the role of Babe during production. In addition to being a timeless classic, Babe was also nominated for seven Academy awards including best picture, best director and best visual effects. If Babe hasn’t already infiltrated your list of top five animal-led movies, then it will be bacon its way there soon.