Some of the best movies ever made are either about beloved pets, have a diverse mix of talking animals, or are about a single animal, either in the starring or a supporting role. In fact, some of the movies that stick with us the most are about animals or have one or more in them. I mean, How to Train Your Dragon made me want a “Toothless” of my own. He’s awesome, right? And who didn’t want to help Free Willy? Sometimes the animals not only deliver a dramatic story, but also make us laugh with their quick wit, like in Open Season.
It doesn’t take much to prove that some of the most beloved movies of all time feature not just cute pets, but also jungle animals, prehistoric animals, barnyard critters, mythical creatures, and sometimes even dangerous beasts. In addition, there’s several types of animal movies to consider as well: live animals, animated, computer animation, animatronic, and everything in between. Furthermore, since animals can’t really talk, their characters come with a host of fantastic voice actors, some of whom are also famous for acting as well. You know it’s going to be a good movie when famous A-list actors, like Jack Black or Ashton Kutcher, provide the voice talent for one of the main characters.
So, what are the best animal movies of all time? That’s really a tough descision to make. After all, there are just so many movies to choose from and there are so many differences among them; it’s hardly fair to judge them altogether. However, we’re going to take a stab at it and list the top 20 animal movies ever made. These are in no particular order, since the are different genres,different styles of cinema, and use different types of technology.
1. The Lion King
The Lion King, an American animated epic musical, was released in 1994 by Walt Disney Pictures. The film tells the story of young Simba, a lion cub who is will day be King of the Pride Lands, succeeding Mufasa, who is his father. However, when Simba is still just a cub, his uncle and father’s brother Scar, kills Mufasa in a jealous rage. Scar then manipulates Simba into believing it is his own fault for his father’s death and he flees, going into exile. Simba matures, while living with two loafer friends. Then he is taught to see what happened from a different perspective thanks to Nala, his childhood friend and Rafiki, his shaman. He then returns to challenge Scar, ending his tyrannous reign, and taking his place as the right King in the Circle of Life.
2. Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey
Homeward Bound was probably one of the first movies starring talking animals that really grabbed everyone’s attention. The 1993 American adventure/comedy movie was actually a remake of The Incredible Journey from 1963, which was based on a novel of the same name written by Sheila Burnford. The movie is still one of the highest grossing movies of all time, especially one with talking animals. The movie is dedicated to Franklin R Levy, who was one of the movie’s producers who died during filming.
The movie is about three pets who have been dropped off at a friend’s ranch before their family leave for a family vacation. The trio includes Chance, an audacious bulldog, Shadow, an astute gold retriever, and Sassy, a cautious cat. The three pets begin to think that they’ve been left for good, embarking on a thrilling and treacherous journey together in order to find their way through the wilderness of California to get back home. The three main characters are voiced by Michael J Fox, Don Ameche, and Sally Field.
3. Finding Nemo
Finding Nemo was released in 2003 by Walt Disney Pictures; it’s a computer animated movie which was made by Pixar Animation Studios. Voice actors include Willem Dafoe, Alexander Gould, Albert Brooks, and Ellen DeGeneres as Dory, the hilarious fish with short-term memory loss. The story is about an over-protective father in the form of an ocellaris clownfish who goes by the name of Marlin who searches along side a blue tang named Dory for his son Nemo who was abducted. Their trip takes them all the way to Sydney, Australia. During their adventure, Marlin learns that sometimes you have to take chances while also realizing the fact that Nemo can take care of himself. A sequel, Finding Dory, was released in 2016 in the US.
4. Ice Age
Ice Age was released by 20th Century Fox in 2002; it’s an American computer-animated comedy/drama. The movie features voice actors Chris Wedge, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, and Ray Romano. Set during the Ice Age, animals begin to migrate south in order to escape the winter. A no-nonsense woolly mammoth, who believes himself to be the last of his kind, named Manny, meets a loud-mouthed ground sloth named Sid. The pair then find a human baby, setting out to return it to its parents. Along the way, Diego, a saber tooth tiger joins them, although his pack leader has commanded him to bring the baby to him in order to get revenge on the humans. Ice Age developed into a media franchise, with additional movies, all centered on the group of mammals trying to survive the Ice Age.
Babe, an Australian-American film, was released in 1995 and is a comedy/drama. It’s based a 1983 novel written by Dick King-Smith which tells the tale of Babe, a pig who is raised for food, but just wants to herd sheep. The main characters, which are animals, are played by a combination of both animatronic and real Border Collies and pigs. Good and gentle farmer Arthur Hoggett, who is played by James Cromwell, wins Babe, voiced by Christine Cavanaugh, as a piglet at the county fair. Babe narrowly escapes being Christmas dinner when the farmer decides to show him in the next fair instead. Babe then bonds with Fly, voiced by Miriam Margolyes, a motherly border collie, and Babe figures out that he can herd sheep just as well. Will the other animals on the farm accept a pig not conforming to the social hierarchy of the farm?
Bambi was released in 1942 and is an American animation based on the book of the same name and produced by Walt Disney. It was actually the fifth movie to be a Disney animated feature. Bambi, who is a fawn, makes new friends in Thumper, a young rabbit, and Flower, a young skunk and the trio explore the surrounding woods. When Bambi is enthralled by Faline, a young doe, he learns form his doting parents that there is not just fun in the forest, buy also danger, especially in the open fields where it’s easier for hunters to see them. Though tragedy and fear both touch Bambi’s young life, spring brings hope and renewal.
Ratatouille was released in 2007 by Buena Vista Pictures Distribution and is American computer-animated comedy brought to production by Pixar. The title refers to ratatouille, a french dish which is a play on words concerning the main character’s species and the dish which is served at the end of the movie. The movie’s stars are Remy, (Patton Oswalt), who has human-like characteristics and who wants to be a chef; Linguini, (Lou Romana), who is a young garbage boy who makes friends with Remy; Skinner, (Ian Holm), who is the head chef at the restaurant; Colette, (Janeane Garofalo), who is the rotisseur; Anton Ego, (Peter O’Toole), who is a restaurant critic: Django, Remy’s father, (Brian Dennehy), who is the leader of their clan; Emile, (Peter Sohn), who is Remy’s older brother; and Auguste Gusteau, (Brad Garrett), who is a chef who recently died. The story line follows Remy, a rat whose only dream is to become a chef, trying to achieve his goal by making an alliance with the restaurant’s garbage boy, Linguini.
8. Jurassic Park
Jurassic Park, which was a massive blockbuster, is a 1993 Stephen Spielberg sci-fi/adventure movie and is the first installment in what would become a franchise. The film is based on a book by the same name from 1990 written my Michael Crichton. The movie is set on the island of Isla Numblar, which is fictional. It supposed to be located near Costa Rica on the Pacific Coast of Central America. The story follows a billionaire philanthropist who, along with a team of genetic scientists, have developed a park full of cloned dinosaurs from the past. Paleontologists Ellie Sattler, played by Laura Dern, and Alan Grant, played by Sam Neill, along with Ian Malcolm, who is a mathematician played by Jeff Goldblum, are among a small group who are chosen for taking a tour of the island’s dinosaur-populated theme park. The dinosaurs have been recreated using prehistoric DNA. Billionaire John Hammond, played by Richard Attenborough, is the park’s mastermind. Hammond convinces everyone of the facility’s safety, however, it turns out to not be true when vicious predators learn how to break out, going on the hunt.
9. 101 Dalmatians
101 Dalmatians, based on the animated version from 1961 by Walt Disney, is an American live-action comedy/adventure movie. This version, which doesn’t have animals which speak, stars Tim McInnerny, Mark Williams, Hugh Laurie, Joan Plowright, Joely Richardson, Jeff Daniels, and Glene Close as Cruella De Vil. Anita, a fashion designer, and Roger, a computer game writer, meet and fall in love, marrying each other along beside their two dalmatians, Pongo and Perdita. When the two dogs have a huge litter of puppies, they are kidnapped by Cruella De Vil, who is Anita’s boss. De Vil wants the puppies in order to make a coat out of them. However, Perdita and Pongo, will the help of neighborhood pets, set out to search and rescue their own fifteen pups, but end up rescuing ninety-nine in all.
10. Lady and the Tramp
Lady and the Tramp was originally released in 1955 by Walt Disney and is an American animated romantic/musical/comedy/drama. It was the fifteenth animated movie released by Disney and the first to utilize the film process of being widescreen. This animated classic is about an upper crust coddled cocker spaniel by the name of Lady who is voiced by Barbara Luddy. Lady’s life of comfort falls away when her owners have a baby. After some strained circumstances, Lady finds herself out on the street loose, where she meets a tough stray mutt named Tramp, who is voiced by Larry Roberts, who not only befriends her, but also protects her. A budding romance begins to form between the two despite their many differences, but drama at Lady’s home threatens to pull them apart.
11. Open Season
Open Season was released in 2006 and is an American computer-animated buddy comedy movie. The story line follows a domesticated bear, Boog, who ends up teaming up with Elliot, an one-antlered deer along with a menagerie of woodland animals in order to defeat the hunters. The film stars the voices of Patrick Warburton, Gordon Tootoosis, Jane Krakowski, Georgia Engel, Jon Favreau, Billy Connolly, Debra Messing, Gary Sinise, and stars Ashton Kutcher and Martin Lawrence. Boog is a nine hundred pound domesticated grizzly bear, content to entertain tourists and live with park ranger Beth in her barn. When he rescues Elliot from a hunter, his life takes a severe turn, which leads to his being tranquilized and returned to the wild, along with the one-antlered deer. The two recruit the woodland creatures, specifically a squirrel of Scottish decent and a beaver who is also a foreman, in order to turn the tables on the hunters, making the woods safe again.
Jaws was released in 1975 and is an American thriller movie based on a 1974 novel by Peter Benchley by the same name. The movie was directed by Steven Spielberg and stars Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Matt Hooper, Murray Hamilton, and Lorraine Gary. The story line follows a giant white shark who has the nasty tendency to attack and eat people. This is learned after a young woman is killed while skinny dipping on the summer beach of resort town Amity Island. The police chief wants to close the beaches, but the mayor won’t allow it; he fears the loss of revenue from tourists will hurt the town. This prompts the local police chief into taking action, trying to hunt the shark down, along with a professional shark hunter and a marine biologist. The three men embark on an epic mission, which turns out to be an even more epic battle of man versus nature.
13. Charlotte’s Web
Charlotte’s Web was released in 1973 and is an American animated musical/drama movie based on the book written by EB White in 1952 by the same name. Both are about Wilbur, a pig who becomes friends with Charlotte, who is an incredibly smart spider who saves him from the slaughter. EB White’s children’s book is a beloved tale and it’s brought to life by this animation. Wilbur, who is a young farm pig, attempts to avoid his dire fate of being slaughtered. Wilbur’s most dependable ally is Charlotte, a caring spider who comes up with an interesting plan in order to keep the sweet little piggy from being slaughtered. Charlotte weaves words into her web, which seems far-fetched, by her efforts just may work after all. The movies’ two stars are voiced by Henry Gibson and Debbie Reynolds.
14. King Kong
King Kong was released in 2005 and is an epic monster adventure, remaking the 1933 version of the same name. The movies stars Andy Serkis, Adrien Brody, Jack Black and Naomi Watts. The movie is set in 1933 and is the story of determined filmmaker who compels his cast, along with a ship crew he hired, to take a short trip to the mysterious Skull Island. What follows is that they find Kong, who is a giant gorilla of legend. They end up capturing him and taking him back to NYC. Kong ends up escaping their capture, however, and kidnaps a woman named Ann. The crew race to rescue the woman while encountering all sorts of creatures, such as dinosaurs. Ann ends up forming some kind of bond with Kong.
15. Old Yeller
Old Yeller is a classic film from 1957 and is an American drama from Walt Disney. The movie stars Beverly Washburn, Fess Parker, Dorothy McGuire, and Tommy Kirk. The movie is based on the 1956 book of the same name written by Fred Gipson. The book won a Newbery Honor. Old Yeller’s success also led to a sequel which was also based on one of Gipson’s books, Savage Sam. Old Yeller is about a boy who finds a stray yellow dog right after the Civil War in Texas. The teenage boy soon starts to befriend the stray dog while he helps run the homestead with his younger brother and mother while his father is gone on a cattle drive. Everyone except the boy first thinks Old Yeller to be just an old mutt that’s good for nothing, but it’s not long before he is beloved by all.
16. The Aristocats
The Aristocats was released in 1970 and is American animated romantic/musical/comedy movie from Walt Disney. The movie is based on a story by Tom Rowe and Tom McGowan, revolving around an aristocratic family of cats who are helped by an alley cat when they are kidnapped by a butler in order to extort the fortune his mistress which she intended to go to the cats. The movie features the voices of Roddy Maude-Roxby, Scatman Crothers, Sterling Holloway, Dean Clark, Phil Harris, Hermione Baddeley, and Eva Gabor. When an opera singer retires and decides to leave her inheritance to Duchess, her cat, along with her three kittens, the singer’s butler takes offense, drugging the cats and abandoning them in way out in the country hoping the events will allow him to inherit the fortune instead. Duchess and her young ones meet an alley cat, Thomas O’Malley while lost in unfamiliar territory. He agrees to help them get back home. Along the way, the meet a string of kooky characters, including an alley-cat jazz band and two English geese.
17. The Fox and the Hound
The Fox and the Hound, released in 1981, is an animated drama movie from Walt Disney. It’s roughly based on a book of the same name. The movie is about the unlikely friendship of Tod, a fox, and Cooper, a hound. They struggle to maintain their friendship, however, their own instincts begin to emerge in addition to the the social pressures surrounding them which demand that they be adversaries. The movie features the voices of Corey Feldman, Keith Mitchell, Kurt Russell, and Micky Rooney. After Tod’s mother is killed, he is taken in by the compassionate Widow Tweed. Tod the fox soon becomes friends with the neighbors new puppy Cooper, a hound dog. The two become inseparable, albeit by nature the two should be enemies. Additionally, their owners also try to hamper the pair’s friendship, especially Cooper’s master. As they grow older, they do grow apart. Tod is now a wild fox and Cooper is a strong hunting dog. However, the two overcome their ingrain differences so they can be friends once again.
Dumbo was released in 1941 and is an animated movie from Walt Disney and was their fourth animated movie. It’s based on a story line of the same name which was illustrated as a novelty toy. The main character is a somewhat human-like elephant named Jumbo Jr. However, he is bullied and called dumb, given the nickname Dumbo. They make fun of his huge ears, but he can use them in order to fly, using them like wings. Besides his mother, Jumbo’s only real friend is Timothy, a mouse, which is a parody relationship due to the stereotypes of the two animals. Young Jumbo is born with comically large ears and is subsequently given the mean nickname of Dumbo, a play on his actual name. One day he is taunted badly at a show by a group of mean children, which incites his mother, causing her to go into a rage and getting her locked up. When Jumbo’s ears cause many elephants to get hurt in an accident, the circus decides to dress the little elephant in a clown suit, allowing him to fly and finally astounding everyone with his new talent at the circus.
19. Free Willy
Free Willy was released in 1993 and is an American family/drama movie. The movie stars Jason James Richter as a foster care boy who becomes friends with an Orca who is kept captive. When maladapted orphan Jesse chooses to vandalize a water theme park, he is put into foster care with a family where he must work at the park, making amends. While cleaning up his vandalism, he meets a young Orca whale named Willy. Willy has unfortunately been separated from the rest of his family. The two sense a kinship in one another and quickly form a bond. With the help of Rae Lindly, the whale trainer, the pair learn to do a trick routine. However, when Dial, the greedy park owner finds out about the tricks, he intends to make money off of them.
20. Kung Fu Panda
Kung Fu Panda was released in 2008 and is a computer-animated/martial arts/action/comedy movie from DreamWorks. The movie features the voices of Jackie Chan, Jack Black, James Hong, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Randall Duk Kim, Ian McShane, David Cross, Lucy Liu, and Seth Rogen. Populated by human-like talking animals, the movies is set in a variant of ancient China. The plot surrounds Po, an inept panda who just wants to be a master of kung fu. Po is unwittingly named as the chosen one when the foretold escape of an evil king fu warrior comes to past. Po is destined to win against the evil warrior, bringing peace his people. However, the warriors of kung fu in residence have their doubts. Po works in his father’s noodle shop while dreaming of being a kung fu master. When his dream becomes a reality, he unexpectedly needs to fulfill an ancient prophecy. He then begins to study kung fu with the Furious Five, who are his idols. Po needs all the ability, strength, and wisdom in order to protect his people from the evil warrior.