Dogs are pretty great. They are not only loyal and cuddly but quite photogenic. Over the years there have been many great films featuring our four-legged friends and the guys who love them. The companionship they develop is oftentimes the kind of currency that endears audiences to material that would be too hard-edged without a puppy to warm the heart. We looked into our own hearts and decided to share a few notable films that fit the bill.
Cujo is not on this list.
Nick Nunziata on 25th Hour
Spike Lee’s powerhouse film is an abrasive, opinionated character study. It’s a tale of trust, choices, and due to unfortunate timing, a look at life post 9/11. It starts off with a man and a dog. Monty Brogan and his dog Doyle are a very interesting pair. In many ways, they are each other’s only rock to cling to. Everyone else has a motive. Everyone else is a threat. Their bond is a real one, held together by the feral and cagey attitude they both carry. As Norton’s drug dealer prepares for a life behind bars his little buddy is with him whenever possible and it’s the fate of Doyle that seems to weigh as heavily on him as his own fate. It’s an impactful film but watching these two dealing with a hard life is somehow enriching.
Graham Host on I Am Legend
With most of humanity either gone or turned, there is at least one moderately enjoyable part to the I Am Legend apocalypse – man’s best friend remains unaffected by the airborne strain. Starting off as a mere puppy during the outbreak, Sam quickly became a second child to Neville (Smith) after his daughter died in whilst trying to evacuate. As both partner and trained hunter, Sam proved to be an invaluable partner in surviving the infected New York. With the ability to find and retrieve food as well as hunt deer and hear/smell nearby infected, Neville would have died many times over had it not been for his canine companion.
Unfortunately, Sam would ultimately meet her end after being bitten by another infected dog. The struggle that Neville goes through to try and save her – including a failed attempt to create an eleventh-hour cure – ultimately fail. Watching Neville have to put her down is one of the most heartbreaking moments in cinematography that I have ever come across. In a world gone mad, there was not better companion that anybody could hope for than a loyal best friend by their side.
Bob Aquavia on John Wick
If you haven’t seen John Wick, stop reading now and go watch it immediately. Now that you’re back (RIGHT? WASN’T IT AWESOME?!), onto the purpose of this article. The premise of the movie is that Keanu Reeves plays a retired assassin that has lost his reason for going on. His wife, the love of his life and the main reason he retired, has just passed away. After the funeral, he receives a final gift from her: a puppy named Daisy. Daisy is there for several reasons: to remind John that life is still worth living, so he won’t be alone, and that she will always love him.
Right from the start, John is skeptical but still working through his grief. It’s when he starts getting into the routine and spending time with Daisy that his mood seems to brighten. Unfortunately, the movie isn’t about a man and his dog, it’s about a man and his revenge. Soon the plot turns, with Daisy being killed for no other reason then she was in the way when thieves come in and steal John’s car. It’s with that final straw that John reverts back to being “Baba Yaga”, the most ruthless assassin in New York’s criminal underground.
Daisy represented hope and redemption for John, a parting gift from his dying wife. It’s that final loss that fuels John’s rampage. Once his revenge is complete, however, he has nothing left. He’s bloodied, beaten, and without a purpose. He looks to the last video of his wife as a reminder and picks himself up again. It’s when he’s using some veterinary tools as impromptu first-aid that he comes across another puppy. Recognizing that he still can be redeemed, he takes it with him and sets off to go back to his quiet life.
Danielle Ryan on Turner and Hooch
There are lots of great police duos in the world of film, but one of the best buddy cop movies features a man and his dog. In Turner & Hooch, policeman Scott Turner (Tom Hanks) has been working small crimes for too long. When he gets the chance to solve a murder, he’s thrilled, but the closest thing to a witness is the murder victims’ dog. The dog, a massive Dogue de Bordeaux named Hooch, gives the uptight Turner a run for his money.
Tom Hanks is lovable on his own, but having a slobbery canine sidekick makes him even better. Throughout the first half of the film he can’t stand Hooch, but like most buddy cop films, the two develop an appreciation for one another. Turner & Hooch is similar to the film K9, which came out three months prior. Hanks proved to be a bigger sell than Jim Belushi, and Turner and Hooch went on to be a pop culture phenomenon. It has been parodied and referenced in shows like Scrubs, Archer, and Castle. It marked the beginning of Hanks’ return to success after a string of bad films. It’s a great buddy cop film, just with one of the buddies on four legs.
Travis Newton on Frankenweenie
Frankenweenie isn’t just the best thing Tim Burton has ever done twice. It might just be the best thing the guy has directed since Ed Wood. Burton first released Frankenweenie in 1984. This half-hour short film starred Barret Oliver (The NeverEnding Story) as a young Victor Frankenstein. When a car hits the boy’s bull terrier, Victor creates a machine that reanimates ol’ Sparky with spectacular results. It’s adorable, and essential viewing for any Burton fan.
The 2012 feature-length remake starts with the same premise but uses stop-motion animation instead of live action. It’s not as seminal as the short film, but the boy-and-his-dog relationship is just as beautiful and heartbreaking as ever, but here it’s part of a monster movie. When Victor’s technology falls into less capable hands, resurrected pets start turning into monsters. It might not be the classic that the original short is, but the animated Frankenweenie is a black and white gem. It gets right to the heart of Burton’s style. Visually, it’s his sketchbook come to life. Emotionally, it’s what we all love about dog movies — even if the dog dies in the first act.