In this time of social distancing and self quarantine and shelter in place, what better time to kick back on the couch with your pooch and have a Netflix party. I may be a bit biased here but my all-time favorite dog movie right now is the sled dog move Togo but you can’t watch it on Netflix so it doesn’t count but if you finished Marley & Me and seek more films about dogs, we will indulge you. Though considered to be the holy grail of films featuring man’s best friend, there’s a lot more beyond Marley & Me in the cinematic universe that center on our canine companions. Beware, though: some of them may be too heartbreaking to watch. Heck, all of them probably are.
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Hello and welcome to Dog Works Radio. I am Michele Forto, the lead trainer at Alaska Dog Works. On today’s show we are going to take a look at the best movies on Netflix right now. In the new normal of the coronavirus and what my husband is hash tagging Captain Trips after the flu like plague from the Stephen King book, The Stand, we know times are tough. Right now you are probably self-quarantining with your family and your dog and you are looking for something to take your mind off of the barrage of media reports. Let’s get started!
Dog films are always sad (even if the endings aren’t) because dogs are some of the most wonderful, loyal, and loving little creatures in the world. They will never give up on you no matter what. Sure, they might go on a temper tantrum or two on certain occasions. Or convulse and go on a wild rampage, ruining precious house furnishings in the process.
But they’ll never leave your side. And frankly, these eccentricities are why we love them — they’re unpredictable, wacky, and always up for an adventure. Yet eerily enough, dogs are deftly able to pick up on our emotions. In this sense, dogs are our true ride-or-dies, and that’s not up for discussion. To see them being their dog selves on cinema is a gift.
Below is a list of films about dogs. It’s far from a definitive list, though. Rather, these films are the best ones you’ll be able to stream on Netflix right now. Although, who are we kidding — there aren’t bad films about dogs. Granted, often they’re cheesy and filled with easily digestible sermons about the human condition. But, come on! Dogs! What’s not to love?
More: Netflix Party lets friends have movie nights while social distancing. Here’s how it works
From feel-good flicks to downright heartrending stories, below are the best films for all of you dog lovers out there. Make sure to have plenty of tissues at the ready, because we all know these are guaranteed to turn on the waterworks.
Chances are if you love watching dog movies, you’ve already stumbled upon this really popular gem of a movie. Released in 1974, which by today’s standards means it’s a proper classic, we follow a homeless, scruffy dog who rescues a pair of children from their kidnappers. If you’re still not sold on the film after reading that, we seriously encourage you to have your heart checked stat.
All kidding aside, though, Benji is one of the must-watch items in the great pantheon of dog movies that’ll melt your heart, not once but multiple times. To be fair, though, the list is super long.
Benji, here referring to the titular character, made a mark on everyone’s hearts decades ago for his wit, indelible brightness, and the myriad ways in which he navigates the world. You can relegate it as nothing more than the cliched “dog saves the day” fare all you want, but there’s no denying just how utterly adorable this whole film is.
Bonus: it’s also one of the first movies to feature a golden mutt, here played by renowned canine actor Higgins. Yes, canine actors are a thing. And yes, that’s the most precious, most delicately heartrending thing you will read today. The film in question might just be the Netflix reboot of the original classic, but it’s still delightful as ever.
Director: Brandon Camp – Screenplay: Brandon Camp, Joe Camp – Cast: Gabriel Bateman, Darby Camp, Kiele Sanchez – Run Time: 1h 27m
This film tells the true story of a stray dog named Pluto, who comes out of nowhere radically changes the Davis family, who are neck-deep in various troubles. Unkind as fate is to this lovable crew, Pluto wanders in like a glimmer of hope, there, hopefully, to help the Davis’s rethink friendship, family, and love.
Pluto does a slew of amazing feats in just a short span of time. At one point, he manages to save a toddler’s life. Then the next moment, he brings comfort and companionship to a nine-year-old boy. As if that’s not impressive enough, he also saves a marriage and even helps a father and his son tie loose ends and reconnect.
Pluto, rightfully described as not just a guard dog but a guardian angel, proves that sometimes, it’s up to our furry friends to help us navigate the choppy waters of human life and its plethora of tribulations. Indeed, they’re just dogs. A raucous amalgamation of snout and fur and wagging tongues. Beyond their instinct for adventure, play, and bonding, however, lies a special quality of loyalty, friendship, and love. In other words, dogs are the best, and this film hones that point even further.
Director: Mitch Davis – Screenplay: Parker Davis, Mitch Davis – Cast:Michael Cassidy, Sarah Lancaster, Connor Corum – Run Time: 1h 32m
HOTEL FOR DOGS
Call it contrived, call it immature, call it brain-dead. Heck, call it whatever bad thing you can think of. Hotel For Dogs isn’t exactly an Orson Welles cinematic masterpiece, which prides multidimensional facets of life layered through the lens of American sensibilities. There’s none of that here, so don’t go in expecting that from Hotel For Dogs.
If you’re not much troubled by this film not being Oscar-worthy, then step right up. Want a simple, feel-good, popcorn-friendly flick? This is for you. In Hotel For Dogs, we Andi and Bruce as they try to find a new home for their dog, Friday, after their new guardians forbid them from having a pet.
With luck, they stumble upon an abandoned hotel. Thanks to Bruce’s genius, they manage to transform the hotel into one made specifically for our canine friends. Soon after, though, neighbors start getting suspicious about mysterious barks in the area. As the threat of losing a home for dogs looms large, Andi and Bruce do all they can to keep anyone from discovering their little operation.
The cutesy factor in this one might be a bit too on the nose, even for some kids, but nevertheless, it doesn’t fail to make our hearts fuzzy with awe. And maybe that’s because the animals featured here are trained actors instead of bland CGI digital puppets.
Director: Thor Freudenthal – Screenplay: Jeff Lowell, Robert Schooley, Mark McCorkle – Cast: Emma Roberts, Jake T. Austin, Lisa Kudrow – Run Time: 1h 40m
Originally in French but dubbed by a stellar cast that includes Nick Offerman, Rashida Jones, and the always-lovable Paul Giamatti, to name a few, White Fang is an animated feature based on Jack London’s seminal classic of the same name.
We’re in Yukon Canada during the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush, following a loyal wolfdog as his curiosity leads him to an adventure of a lifetime. In his journey, he manages to serve three distinctly different masters, each of whom teach him important lessons on morality, redemption, and love.
London’s novel, published in 1906, is a well-known classic tale that’s been translated into over 89 languages. We’re not sure if it’s fair to call this film the definite adaptation of London’s phenomenal source material, but it’s a remarkable attempting at bringing those pages to life. Although the pacing is adjusted to suit shorter attention spans, it still honors the episodic delights of its source material. The visual splendor deserves special mention, too. If anything, it’s an expertly sublime screen translation of the original.
At its core, though, White Fang, both the novel and this film, remains a powerful, affecting story of a journey like no other.
Director: Alexandre Espigares – Screenplay: Philippe Lioret, Serge Frydman, Dominique Monfery – Cast: Raphaël Personnaz, Virginie Efira, Dominique Pinon – Run Time: 1h 25m
Another one of the animated films in this list, Balto centers on a sled dog who led the mission of mercy for Alaskan children in 1925. The heroic titular character of the film’s namesake, voiced here by Kevin Bacon, is an outcast half-wolf who risks his own life to prevent a deadly epidemic from ravaging Nome, Alaska.
With great courage and fortitude, Balto sets of on an ambitious mission leading a dog team on a 600-mile trip across the alaskan outback in order to fetch medical supplies for his townspeople. If you must know, Balto was actually inspired by a true story, which in turn inspired the Iditarod dog sled race.
Some reviewers have called Balto blandly heroic as a character, while some regard the whole film as half-hearted and melodramatic. Granted, it’s no White Fang in its meditation on journey and self-actualization. But come on, now! Let’s give these adorable dogs a break. Often rambly and sometimes packed with unnecessary elements, Balto is far from perfect. Still, though, it’s got a pretty huge heart underneath all the fluff, and if you’re patient enough, you’re going to hear it beat and enjoy this simple, heartwarming tale.
Director: Simon Wells – Screenplay: Cliff Ruby, Elana Lesser, David Steven Cohen, Roger S.H. Schulman – Cast: Kevin Bacon, Bob Hoskins, Bridget Fonda – Run Time: 1h 18m
One of the more serious entries in this list, White God is a cinematic masterpiece that just so happens to feature dogs. Lots and lots of them, actually. We square in on a young Lili who’s forced to give up Hagen, whose mixed-breed heritage is deemed unfit by the government.
To escape the chains of their oppressive state, Lili and Hagen both individually set off to an incredibly perilous and life-threatening journey back towards each other. While all this unfolds, all the unwanted, unloved, and unfit dogs start a revolution, headed by none other than the firecracker Hagen.
We’d share more, but this is the kind of film that’s best experienced firsthand instead of explained. Let the medium of film do its job — you’re going to thank us later. What we can share is this: White God is an ambitious, astounding meditation on the way people impose control over others. If you’re the political kind, this will resonate quite a great deal, especially since it reaches far to illustrate a dystopian regime where the state openly steals our loved ones with little to no pushback.
Director: Kornél Mundruczó – Screenplay: Kornél Mundruczó, Viktória Petrányi, Kata Wéber – Cast: Zsófia Psotta, Sándor Zsótér, Lili Horváth – Run Time: 2h 1m
WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS
Like Benjie elsewhere in this list, Where the Red Fern Grows is a dog flick released in the ‘70s, which also makes it a classic among many. This fun, family-friendly films is based on the source novel by Wilson Rawls, which follows a young Oklahoma boy as he navigates the hard times of the 1930s. There to get him through the unforgiving ordelas of this era are two lovable and loyal hounds, offering comfort and solace in a time of great depravity.
This is what we mean by saying dogs will never leave you, no matter what. In both good times and bad, they’ll be there to stumble through the vicissitudes of life with you. Through thick and thin, though choppy the sails might be, they’ll be there offering genuine, unconditional love.
It’s a timeless, beautifully made portrait of friendship that often goes unmentioned, like other dog-centric films, when talking about films that focus squarely on the tumultuous journeys friends go through. It’s just as fantastic and moving as Thelma & Louise, or Stand By Me. Do yourself a favor and watch this affectionate, harrowing tale of friendship in trying times.
Director: Norman Tokar – Screenplay: Douglas C. Stewart, Eleanor Lamb – Cast: James Whitmore, Beverly Garland, Jack Ging – Run Time: 1h 37m
HACHI: A DOG’S TALE
Hachi: A Dog’s Tale is based on Hachiko Monogatari, a Japanese film released in 1987 about an Akita dog that stayed loyal to its mater well after that master passed away. We’ll understand if you prefer that version over the Americanized adaptation in 2009. To tell you the truth, we prefer the original, too. Still, it’s fair to give this one a try. After all, it stars the ever warm Richard Gere, here playing a college professor who finds an abandoned dog and takes him in as his own.
Predictably, the two form a likely, but unexpected friendship, the sheer power of which startles Gere’s character. Like the original film on which it’s based, Hachi: A Dog’s Tale is a pure-grade tearjerker, but not for the sake of making you ugly-cry. There’s genuinely something compelling here. Perhaps it’s the unusual power of lasting friendships we can form with non-humans that makes this particularly special.
Maybe it’s the way it demonstrates (and doesn’t overstate) a touching but very simple story about finding a connection from someone (or something) you least expect. Or it’s because Hachi is such a sweetheart. Yup, probably just Hachi. Watch this now, if you haven’t already.
Director: Lasse Hallström – Screenplay: Stephen P. Lindsey, Kaneto Shindô – Cast: Richard Gere, Joan Allen, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa – Run Time: 1h 33m
THE FOX AND THE HOUND
A fox cub and a bloodhound star in this affecting animated tale from 1981. Back when Disney was still making hand-drawn animation, we got gems like these, not to mention The Black Cauldron and, of course, The Little Mermaid. Although the company is now fully invested in computer-generated graphics, we can still admire the craftsmanship behind masterpieces like this.
But we digress. The Fox and the Hound may not hold a candle animation-wise to the likes of Frozen, Wreck-It-Ralph, or Zootopia, but it remains one of Disney’s most overlooked and underappreciated gems.
It’s not merely a good film about dogs. It’s a decently paced and structured film in general, if a bit thinly plotted and too treacly and cheerful at times. It’s insufficient in the signature emotional wallop that give Snow White and Cinderella lasting appeal, sure. At times it borders on being too droll, and there’s a palpable sense that reveals Disney’s headspace at the time: not having quite its own voice yet, but slowly getting there. In any case, this one, we’d argue, is still worth a watch, especially if you’re craving for some good old hand-drawn pleasure.
Director: Ted Berman, Richard Rich, Art Stevens – Screenplay: Larry Clemmons, Ted Berman, David Michener, Peter Young, Burny Mattinson, Steve Hulett, Earl Kress, Vance Gerry – Cast: Mickey Rooney, Kurt Russell, Pearl Bailey – Run Time: 1h 23m
THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS
It’s no Toy Story or Coco, of course, so don’t expect too much from the writing. Still, The Secret Life of Pets, cheesy and too aimed at kids as it is, works because it borrows a familiar, tried-and-tested formula that’s sure to rake in laughs: bring non-human subjects to life.
In the case of Toy Story, those subjects are toys. In Coco, it’s literally souls of the departed. Given this, Illumination did a safe move by bringing pets to life, foisting on them the peculiarities, verve, and off-kilter qualities humans possess, which somehow look doubly ridiculous when it’s animals doing them.
For the most part, it works. The premise here is simple and adorable: what do pets do when owners go away? That’s an irresistible concept to mull over, and no doubt you’re already curious enough about this question to start streaming. And if you do, you won’t be disappointed. The Secret Life of Pets is vivid, colorful, emotionally deft, and often funny. A handful of hijinks occur throughout the run, though some misadventures seem to feel more like they’re filler than something truly transcendent. The writing could do better, is what we’re saying. But if you want a fun-filled adventure with an adorable, clever crew of pets, this will be your jam.
Director: Chris Renaud, Yarrow Cheney – Screenplay: Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio, Brian Lynch – Cast: Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart – Run Time: 1h 27m
The Champions, a documentary, stars Cherry, a loveable pitbull who’s living with a family who loves him just as much as he loves them. And also Little Red, who, despite, aging, still loves to run and play with her family at their six-acre home in Wyoming. There’s also Handsome Dan, whose adorably square face merits his moniker. Finally, there’s Johnny, a super cheerful pup who sidelines as a therapy dog.
These dogs may live across the country, but their lives are entangled by an unfortunate common denominator. Cherry, Little Red, Handsome Dan, Johnny, and 50 other dogs just like them were once part of Michael Vick’s illegal dog fighting ring.
The Champions tells the story of how these dogs survived the conditions of that harrowing fighting ring. It peels back the curtain behind Vick’s atrocities on animals, and in turns inspires us with an affecting message that addresses discrimination and prejudice. It also proves just how resilient these animals are.
Director: Darcy Dennett – Cast: John Garcia – Run Time: 1h 30m
This short documentary from way back (2003, to be exact) about puppies, their different breeds, and just all the puppy behavior in general. It’s the most adorable thing in the world. Much like Babies was a documentary about, well, Babies, which showed footage of different toddlers around the globe, spanning cultures and languages — Puppies also features a coterie of different types of pups, and every single one of them, obviously, will melt your heart.
There’s not much more to say about this film, really. If you want to decleanse, so to speak, after watching something super scary, stream this one immediately right after. We doubt you’ll handle the sheet cuteness of the pups in Precious Puppies. Better idea: put this on if you’re going away so your dogs have something to watch when you’re gone. Simply delightful from start to finish.
Director: Greg Grainger – Cast: Lizzy Lovette – Run Time: 53m
Dogs. As superheroes. With matching costumes. How. Can. You. Keep. Reading. This? Go watch it!
Jokes aside, there’s plenty to love about Super Buddies, a film Disney released in 2013. It follows Budderball, Mudbud, B- Dawg, Buddha, and Rosebud who discover mysterious rings that give them each a unique superpower. When a shape-shifting bully from outer space arrives and threatens the safety of our world, these tough canine crew come to our rescue.
Bonus: John Ratzenberger, veteran Disney voice actor, is in this film. Actually, it’s kind of amazing this film is largely overlooked. Granted, it’s not a cinematic masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it has its moments, and it uses them to great effect. The story might be a bit too contrived, and the dialogue too cheesy for our taste. But come on. Give these dog heroes a break, will you?
Director: Robert Vince – Screenplay: Anna McRoberts, Robert Vince – Cast: Trey Loney, John Ratzenberger, Michael Teigen – Run Time: 1h 21m
TURNER & HOOCH
This beloved classic, considered one of the most important dog films ever made, stars Tom Hanks, a detective working in a small California coastal town. One day, a man named Amos Reed is murdered, shocking the entire town. No one saw what happened — except for this smelly mutt named Hooch.
Surprise, surprise: Hanks’ character isn’t particularly fond of dogs, and despises Hooch, too. But because he’s the only reliable witness that can solve this murder, they are compelled to work together, with Hooch even making Hanks’ home his temporary home in the process.
Of course, they end up being solid friends by the end of the film. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. The fun, instead, is in watching how these two work together and come to be friends. It’s a fun journey, filled with laughs, trills, intrigue, and a whole lotta heart. You will see Turner & Hooch mentioned in every definitive list of dog films ever made, and for good reason: aside from being a heartwarming buddy cop movie, it’s a genuinely fun and affecting film in general.
Turner & Hooch is a pleasant, silly, offbeat, but ultimately cheerful film that provides more delights than ponder-worthy plot points. But you didn’t really click on this list expecting any of these films to have complex, Oscar-worthy plots, did you?
Director: Roger Spottiswoode – Screenplay: Dennis Shryack, Michael Blodgett, Daniel Petrie Jr., Jim Cash, Jack Epps Jr. – Cast: Tom Hanks, Mare Winningham, Craig T. Nelson – Run Time: 1h 37m
Red Dog is based on the strikingly poignant true story of the Red Dog who united a frayed local community while navigating the unforgiving Australian outback as he seeks his long lost master. It came out sometime in 2012 or 2013, and was called sappy and melodramatic. That’s ain’t a fair estimation, though.
Okay, sure, it’s full of larger-than-life moments that feel stunted, amplified to turn on the waterworks. And much of it, we have to admit, feels unusually close to myth-making, which is unusual considering it’s based on a true story.
Dramatic licenses aside, Red Dog is a dog story that has plenty of humor and heart. And the impressive thing about it is that it’s not just a story that blatantly forces to cry. It works its way there, it earns the tears. Which is why it’s easy to understand why it’s such a classic among our Australian friends.
So what if it dwells too much on nostalgia? So what if its screenplay magnifies certain elements on the true story on which it’s based? So what if its storytelling feels too episodic at some points? Worry not about those — just enjoy this flick for its sheer cheerfulness and broadly painted but still meaningful portrait of friendship.
Director: Kriv Stenders – Screenplay: Daniel Taplitz – Cast: Josh Lucas, Rachael Taylor, Rohan Nichol – Run Time: 1h 32m
This fun, family friendly animated doozy puts a talented circus dog, a scrappy street canine, and, oddly, a rat together and blasts them off on a journey into outer space. The story is based on the real-life adventures of Belka and Strelka, who, in 1960, became the first animals to orbit the Earth and return to bark the tale.
When Belka’s circus act comes to be entangled in an unfortunate mishap, she comes crashing down to Earth in her homemade rocket. But there’s a silver lining in that accident: through it, she soon becomes fast friends with Strelka, a dog who’s brimmed in street smarts, and Venya, a sharp-tongued rodent.
What’s better than a dog in space? Two dogs in space, of course. What’s better than two dogs in space? Well, two dogs and a rat. This film has that, and then some. It brings to laughs, cheers, and might even trigger kids into being interested in the wonder of space travel. It’s hews on the history lesson a bit at times, and rightly so. After all, these Sputnik dogs are an important part of aerospace history. But for what it’s worth, it’s a pretty delightful journey.
Director: Inna Evlannikova, Svyatoslav Ushakov – Screenplay: John Chua, Alexander Talal, Vadim Sveshnikov, Maksim Sveshnikov, Sergey Zernov – Cast: Anna Bolshova, Elena Yakovleva, Evgeniy Mironov – Run Time: 1h 25m
Wondering why we put this so far in the list? That’s because this film isn’t for the faint of heart. We’re not one to mince words. Seriously — if you can’t handle gore, it’s probably best if you skip this one and just stick with the cheerful entries elsewhere in the list.
If you’re interested, though, read on. First of all, Cujo is a really, really scary movie. It tells the story of a rabid St. Bernard dog who terrorizes a woman and her son who are trapped in a car. As the dog ravages on, the two are forced to stay inside the car for days and try a means of escape.
The source material of this flick explains why it’s so damn terrifying. None other Stephen King wrote it. Director Lewis Teague did a fantastic job translating to screen the suspense and terror embedded within King’s pages, which makes it one of the genuinely successful Stephen King adaptations.
At times, though, it borders on being too dull, with the horror seeming a bit meaningless, the suspense merely an anxiety-inducing stimulant. Still, if you want a movie about dogs that’s not all about how adorable and loving they are, this is the one to see. Just don’t make the mistake of watching it with your kids.
Director: Lewis Teague – Screenplay: Don Carlos Dunaway, Lauren Currier – Cast: Dee Wallace, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Danny Pintauro – Run Time: 1h 33m
DOGS WITH JOBS
Need we really say more? It’s all in the title. Dogs with Jobs. How dare you still keep reading? Well, if the title wasn’t clear enough, Dogs with Jobs, is about dogs with, well, jobs. Animals trying hard to be human-like is always comedic gold, and this one, a Canadian TV series, pulls it off quite successfully.
But more than show something downright comedic, this takes it further by taking a serious look at the ways some of our canine friends perform amazing tasks. From herding cattle to guiding the blind, this series proves that dogs really are man’s best friend. This should perhaps come as no surprise. Police force have long been aided by dogs to track criminals and sniff out contraband items. Is it really that shocking that they’re great at other things besides eating, sleeping, and ruining our shoes?
Just make sure that when you’re done watching this, you won’t be in any rush to force your dog to perform a human job just because you’re jealous other dogs can! That’s not really fair, is it?
Director: Various – Screenplay: Various – Cast: Various – Run Time:Various
Pet Fooled is one of the more serious entries in this list. Released in 2016, it’s an independent documentary that unravels the secrets behind the pet food industry. It features interviews with veterinarians and pet owners whose pets died due to, they claim, commercial packaged pet food.
Trigger warning: this is a devastating film, and it’s content is still disputed by the pet food community. Whether the claims it presents are factual are not, it does us all good when we spend a little more time thinking carefully about what we feed our loyal companions.
The number of bombshell revelations this film unspools seems almost endless. Like, for example, how the same companies making dog food are also making candy bars. That’s right — Cesar, Eukanuba, IAMS, Pedigree, Royal Canin, Temptations, Whiskas, and Banfield are all known brands. They know how to make cheap, addictive pet food, but allegedly, they have little knowledge of what is actually healthy and biologically appropriate for dogs.
The infamous 2007 recall of a certain dry food is also featured here, an incident that killed thousands of dogs, causing widespread outrage and tragedy among owners. Investigation found that melanin was present in the food — the same chemical use to fertilize your lawns. But the pet food industry just shrugged, turned a blind eye, and continued to sell the food for nearly a month before reporting the contamination.
Again — harrowing stuff. You might learn a thing or two. Just make sure to do some extra research after.
Director: Kohl Harrington – Screenplay: Kohl Harrington – Run Time:1h 10m
What is your favorite dog movie on Netflix? Did we miss one? Let us know here on the comments or on our social channels. Just search Dog Works Radio.