When it comes to adopting a dog, there are a lot of positives. They make for readily available sources of affection, endless supplies of entertainment, and dependable friends in any circumstance. But if you're not quite ready to take the plunge and bring home a furry friend home yet still want a dose of puppy love, we suggest turning on a heartwarming dog movie.
If you're overwhelmed by options, consider this your guide. These 16 movies about man's best friend will definitely make you smile (or cry). Whether you're in the mood for something sweet and classic like Lady and the Tramp or you want to tune into something a bit more recent, like Isle of Dogs, you'll definitely like what you see.
Explore our picks for the best 16 movies featuring pups young and old.
Marley & Me (2008)
Based on the book bearing the same name, Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston star in this 2008 movie. After John and Jenny Grogan tie the knot, they move down south to Florida where they adopt Marley, who is perhaps the cutest yellow Lab puppy we've seen in a while. The newlyweds soon learn that Marley is a mischievous handful and a danger to their furniture, but they (and we) love him anyway. You will be sobbing at several points over the course of this heart-wrenching film, guaranteed.
Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)
Before the Burnfords head out for their family vacation in San Francisco, they 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 false assumption that their family is abandoning them. So they make it their mission to escape the ranch in pursuit of their human family. It's truly a wild ride.
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 and tries to save her using his fake powers. This animated film was nominated for Academy and Golden Globe awards. It's also worth mentioning that John Travolta and Miley Cyrus make for quite a dream team.
101 Dalmatians (1996)
While we love the classic animated version, the live-action incarnation of 101 Dalmatians is particularly entertaining given Glenn Close's Cruella de Vil performance—which earned her a Golden Globe nomination. As her eerie name implies, Cruella is evil. She's a black-and-white-haired fashion designer obsessed with fur, and she wants to use spotted Dalmatian puppies to make a new coat. Her mission is to kidnap adorable Dalmatian puppies, and it's up to the puppies' parents 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, he finds it challenging to fit in—until he becomes his school basketball team's manager. Then, Josh comes across an abandoned Golden Retriever in need of a home, so he decides to take him in. But his new friend isn't a typical dog; he can shoot basketballs right into the net. When things seem like they're finally looking up for Josh and Air Bud, the Golden's mean former owner comes back to claim him. It's the first film in this franchise and might just be its best.
Beethoven is another lighthearted dog movie franchise that got its start during the '90s. This family-friendly movie is about a lovable, giant pup named Beethoven and his human family. At first, Beethoven helps the kids overcome their various 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 Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show. Filmed in documentary style, Best in Show focuses on the classic behind-the-scenes craziness of national dog shows. And because actors Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Jane Lynch, and Jennifer Coolidge are part of the cast, you know you're in for some laughs.
Usually, movies starring animals are family-friendly, but Cujo is definitely the exception. It's safe to say that this classic horror film, which is based on a novel by Stephen King, is not a charming flick about a sweet dog. Instead, this particular St. Bernard is bitten by a rabid bat, and the ensuing infection causes him to go mad. There are plenty of murder scenes in this movie, so it's best to watch when you're not suspicious of a nearby pooch.
Lassie Come Home (1943)
The adventures of Lassie are and have been loved by generations of moviegoers, and this 1943 version is often considered the best. It begins with a family that is forced to sell their dog for financial reasons. Later on, we find out that Lassie is living 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 and adorable Elizabeth Taylor.
Must Love Dogs (2005)
In this romantic comedy, Diane Lane plays a single woman whose friends push her to start dating again after her divorce. Her friend decides to set up an online dating profile for her and includes the criterion "must love dogs." At the same time, John Cusack's character has friends who are also pressuring him to start dating. One of his snoopy pals sees the "must love dogs" dating profile online, so he reaches out on behalf of his friend 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, whose character is a guide at a research base in Antarctica. When a professor finds himself in pursuit of a rare meteorite in a mountain, the guide agrees to take him by dog sled. However, their visit is cut short when a storm hits, and the two men have to make the tough choice to save themselves and leave the pooches behind. The bulk of this film focuses on what the dogs do to stay alive. Don't worry; the humans didn't completely abandon them. They're doing everything they can to forge a rescue.
Lady and the Tramp (1955)
As a Disney animated classic, this tale of unlikely romance is one of the sweetest stories we've ever seen. Even though it's quite a few years old, it's still entertaining to watch as the local animal pound tries to catch and lock up the once-spoiled Cocker Spaniel, Lady. She's soon rescued by a street-smart mutt named Tramp. They fall in love and return to Lady's home, where she discovers her human family ecstatic and relieved to welcome her and her new friend home.
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 found mysteriously murdered. The friend leaves his giant dog named Hooch in Scott's care, which is when he figures that the dog may be able to help him solve his former owner's murder.
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 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 continually reincarnates into various dogs over the course of five generations. Through these different lifetimes, 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.
My Dog Skip (2000)
In the small Mississippi town of Yazoo, super-shy Willie ( Frankie Muniz) struggles to make friends and finds his loneliness unbearable. His parents, played by Kevin Bacon and Diane Lane, hate to see their son so sad, so they get him a Jack Russell Terrier named Skip for his ninth birthday. Skip changes Willie's life for the better, helping him make friends and build up the courage to talk to the prettiest girl in school. You'll watch these two best friends grow up together through laughter and tears.