This story is updated monthly with our latest picks.
When it comes to welcoming a dog into your home, there are a lot of positives. Dogs make for ready sources of affection, endless supplies of entertainment, and dependable friends in any circumstance. Nevertheless, it's also true that dogs are a lot of responsibility, and the work in exercising, feeding, and generally caring for them shouldn't be downplayed, either. After you make a dog part of your family, you accept everything that comes with it.
Something that's less high-stakes than bringing home a dog is watching movies about dogs. Sure, fictional families may have to deal with their four-legged pets getting into trouble, but you won't. All you have to do while watching these plot twists is sit back and relax since pups like Marley or Bolt or Air Bud are none of your responsibility. Nice, isn't it?
We gathered 15 movies about dogs that show these animals in everything from animated classics like Lady and the Tramp to recent favorites like Marley and Me. Whether you watch them with your dog or use them as a push to finally get one, these movies will be a fun way to see how this pet has made its mark in film—including as a villain.
Here are our picks for the best movies featuring a furry friend.
Marley & Me (2008)
Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston play a couple who fall in love, get married, have kids, and advance in their careers in this charming film, which was a big hit when it came out in 2008. That typical love story may seem boring, but their dog Marley is a reliable source of hijinks throughout the movie—and it's tough not to fall in love with him despite those troubles, too.
Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)
When a family decides to go on a vacation to San Francisco, they first drop off their two dogs and cat at a friend's ranch. But the pets—golden retriever Shadow, American bulldog Chance, and cat Sassy—make the wrong assumption that they're being abandoned. So they decide to escape the ranch and embark on an adventure through the wilderness to be reunited with their family.
Bolt is a famous dog who acts in a Hollywood show—but he doesn't know that. Instead, he thinks his fictional powers are real. And when he finds out that his human, Penny, is in trouble, he enters the real world to try and save her. This animated film was nominated for Academy and Golden Globe awards and features the voices of John Travolta and Miley Cyrus.
101 Dalmatians (1996)
While this movie does have a classic animated version and a sequel, this live-action incarnation is particularly entertaining given Glenn Close's Cruella de Vil performance—which earned her a Golden Globe nomination. Cruella wants to use the spotted skins of dalmatian puppies to make a coat and enlists a duo to steal and kill them. It's up to their parents, a couple of humans, and a few other animals to make sure that doesn't happen.
Air Bud (1997)
When Josh and his family move to a new town following the death of his dad, Josh finds it difficult to fit in. He becomes his school basketball team's manager, a request from a thoughtful coach, and later comes across an abandoned golden retriever in need of a home. After Josh takes him in, he discovers that this dog, named Air Bud, can shoot a basketball. But once things seem like they're finally looking up, Air Bud's mean original owner comes back to claim him. It's the first film of this franchise and might just be its best.
As another family-movie franchise that got its start in the '90s, Beethoven also falls into that category of a lighthearted movie about a lovable dog and his family. In this case, Beethoven is a St. Bernard who is adopted by a small-town family with three kids. At first, Beethoven helps the kids overcome their different struggles, but once an unethical veterinarian enters their lives, the kids and their parents must protect Beethoven from becoming a part of his dangerous experiments.
Best in Show (2000)
This beloved off-kilter comedy focuses on a group of competitive misfits who have entered their dogs in the fictional Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show. By using a mockumentary style to get a behind-the-scenes vantage point, the movie follows these people as they travel to the show, haphazardly compete, and then move on with their lives. And because actors Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Jane Lynch, and Jennifer Coolidge, are a part of the cast, you know you're in for some laughs.
It's safe to say that this classic horror film, which is based on a novel by Stephen King, is not a family-friendly tale about a heartwarming dog. Instead, this particular St. Bernard is bitten by a rabid bat and the infection causes him to go mad. There are plenty of murder scenes in this movie—even one that involves a broken bat—so it's best to watch when you're not suspicious of a nearby pooch.
Lassie Come Home (1943)
The adventures of Lassie have been loved by generations of moviegoers, but this 1943 version is often considered the best. It begins with a family that is forced to sell their dog for financial reasons, which later puts Lassie in the care of a duke and his granddaughter on a grand estate. But the granddaughter notices that Lassie misses his former family, so she lets him escape and find his way home. The granddaughter, by the way, is played by a young Elizabeth Taylor.
Must Love Dogs (2005)
In this romantic comedy, Diane Lane plays a single woman who is being pushed by her loved ones to begin dating again after her divorce. Her friend sets up an online dating profile for her, in which it states that prospects "must love dogs." At the same time, John Cusack's character is also being persuaded to date, and his friend finds the "must love dogs" dating profile—and sets up a meeting for the two characters at a dog park. It's the type of movie to watch on a lazy afternoon when you're looking to fall for the charms of these two actors.
Eight Below (2006)
This action film stars the late Paul Walker, who plays a guide at a research base in Antarctica. He agrees to take a professor by dog sled to a mountain in order for him to find a rare meteorite. A storm hits, and even though the two men are able to get back to base camp, they are evacuated without being able to take the dogs, too. The bulk of this film focuses on what the dogs do to remain alive while the storm surrounds them and the humans are trying to return to their rescue.
Lady and the Tramp (1955)
As a Disney animated classic, this tale of unlikely romance is probably well known to you already—at the very least, by the poster alone. But it's still entertaining to watch as the once-spoiled cocker spaniel, Lady, gets turned out on the street only to be protected by the street-smart mutt, Tramp. They fall in love, order a plate of spaghetti, and well, you know the rest.
Turner & Hooch (1989)
Tom Hanks plays an uptight detective named Scott Turner who is desperate to leave his small town for a more exciting life in the city. But things change when his friend, who works at a junkyard, is mysteriously murdered. The friend leaves Hooch to his care, and that's when Scott figures that the dog can help him solve the crime. Other than the fact that this movie has some action and adventure, it's worth it to watch just to take in the affability of a throwback Tom Hanks.
Isle of Dogs (2018)
This star-packed Wes Anderson film—which features the voices of Bryan Cranston, Bill Murray, Greta Gerwig, and Frances McDormand, to name a few—follows the story of a boy who goes searching for his dog after the species has been banished to an island following an influenza outbreak. The story takes place in a futuristic and dystopian Japan, and its stop-motion animation gives it the type of whimsical quality that has made Anderson famous.
A Dog's Purpose (2017)
Based on a novel by W. Bruce Cameron and starring Dennis Quaid and KJ Apa, this fantasy film is based on a spirit that is continually reincarnated into various dogs and family lives. Through these different lifetimes and owners—some who are not all that great—the spirit learns that his life's purpose is to find people to love and to live in the moment. In other words, this pick is a guaranteed tear-jerker.