Best in Shows: The 100 Most Iconic Dogs in Movies

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50. Brutus, The Ugly Dachshund (1966)

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In this lighthearted Disney offering, Fran (Suzanne Pleshette), raises champion dachshunds. She does not approve when husband Mark (Dean Jones) adopts a Great Dane he names Brutus. The dog confirms her worst fears in a truly epic party-destroying scene. But when Brutus rescues her favorite, Chloe, she rethinks her stance on the big brute. Naturally, Brutus ends up in his own dog show to convince him he’s not a dachshund like his canine siblings.


49. Bitzer, Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015)

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Much like Gromit, Bitzer is a smart working dog who keeps his human’s life running smoothly. Except in this wordless comedy, the daily routine is upset when the Farmer’s sheep conspire to sleep in and the Farmer accidentally ends up in the city—and with amnesia! It’s up to Bitzer (and Shaun the Sheep) to find their owner and get him home. The scene where Bitzer (disguised a doctor) sneaks into the hospital looking for the Farmer—and then is ushered into an operating room—is a howler.


48. Alaskan Malamute, The Thing (1982)

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The first creature we see in this horror classic set in Antarctica is the Malamute, who is running from the Norwegian scientists who are inexplicably trying to shoot it. It’s only much later that we realize the dog is the carrier of the alien Thing that soon devastates the American researchers. Good luck getting that gory, shape-shifting mass of dog and alien out of your head. The dog was played by Jed, who was half wolf. Actor Richard Masur (dog handler Clark) said, “Jed and I got to be good friends. He was a very spooky dog when we started because he was half wolf and the wolf half was real dominant.”


47. Nana, Peter Pan (1953)

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The Darlings’ dog is such a good girl! This conscientious St. Bernard looks after the children and is forever tidying the nursery, putting away toys and making the beds. As we learn from the opening narration, “Nana the nursemaid, being a dog, kept her opinions to herself.” Even when Father declares “They’ll be no more dogs as nursemaids” and drags her out of the house, she calmly waves goodbye to the children—then dutifully finds the rope needed to tie her up outside. And who can forget her trying to join the children on their flight to Never Never Land? She’s sadly tied up and even with a sprinkling of pixie dust, can only float and wave farewell until their return.


46. Slinky Dog, Toy Story (1995)

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Stretchy dachshund-toy Slinky (voiced by Jim Varney in the first two Toy Story films) is a very handy toy to have around: When Buzz and Woody are racing to rejoin the rest of the crew in the moving van, Slinky is almost able to reach out and pull them in. Luckily, Slinky’s damaged spring is restored and he’s as good as new and ready to be used as a bungee cord to rescue Woody in Toy Story 2. The family has a real dog, Buster, who’s also a dachshund, and sometimes gives cowboy Woody rides. Since Varney’s death in 2000, equally gravelly voiced pal Blake Clark has taken over as Slinky.


45. Friday, Eyes in the Night (1942) and The Hidden Eye (1945)

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Blind detective Duncan MacLain (Edward Arnold) is aided by his faithful guide dog, Friday, in this crime drama in which they foil a sinister Nazi plot, as well as its sequel. Friday, a German Shepherd, does a lot more than tell MacLain when to cross the street or open doors for him. This is a dog who can scale high walls, escape seemingly impossible situations and summon help. Unfortunately, according to TCM, Friday (son of canine star Flash) was an uncooperative actor, and he failed to land any more roles after these two films.


44. Bruiser, Legally Blonde (2001) and Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde (2003)

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In the first film, Bruiser the chihuahua is merely an accessory—if a very well-attired one. But the sequel is all about Bruiser: After learning that his mother was used in animal testing, Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) is inspired to fight for “Bruiser’s Bill,” which will put a stop to such cruelty. Also, we find out Bruiser is gay—and in love with a Rottweiler!


43. Blood, A Boy and His Dog (1975)

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In the now not-so-far off future—this Harlan Ellison tale is set in 2024, several years after a nuclear war has decimated the population—Vic (Don Johnson) and his telepathic dog roam the wilderness in search of food and women. If Blood the dog (voiced by Tim McIntire) sniffs out women for his human, Vic will get him something to eat. Or rather, the other way around. As Blood tells Vic, “No food, no females.” Much better-read than his nearly illiterate human, Blood’s often using words Vic doesn’t understand. Their devotion is tested when Vic finds a female who wants to stay with him—let’s just say that Ellison isn’t alone in hating the ending. At one point, a sequel called A Girl and Her Dog was reportedly in the works, but was abandoned when Tiger, the dog who played Blood, died.


42. Marvin, Paterson (2016)

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The highlight of this tale of a poetry-writing bus driver (Adam Driver) is his bull-headed bulldog Marvin, who often wants to walk in the opposite direction that his owner does and enjoys head-butting the mailbox, among other far more destructive behaviors. Marvin was memorably played by a female dog named Nellie, who became the first to win the Palm Dog posthumously.


41. Lucy, Wendy and Lucy (2008)

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In this melancholy indie that’s been widely compared to Vittorio De Sica’s Umberto D., Wendy (Michelle Williams) is a luckless drifter without a home or a job and Lucy, her dog, is her only companion. She gets arrested after trying to shoplift dog food and when she gets out of jail, Lucy is gone. She spends most of the movie trying to find her dog in a strange town. The ending will break any dog lover: Wendy learns Lucy ended up at the pound and now has a good home with someone else. Realizing she has to let her go, she tearfully bids Lucy farewell through the chainlink fence, whispers, “Be good,” and with one last look, walks away. Lucy, who is director Kelly Reichardt’s own dog, won the Palm Dog award at Cannes. Said Riechardt, “She was no trouble at all to direct. She always did what she was told and got to the set on time.” She added, “I don’t think Lucy will be walking around with [the fancy prize collar] on, as she’ll get [beat up] by all the other dogs in the ‘hood.’”


40. Skipper, My Dog Skip (2000)

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In 1940s Mississippi, nine-year-old Willie (Frankie Muniz) gets the best friend he’s always wanted in Jack Russell Skipper, a bundle of energy who is not only great company, but who helps him make friends with everyone in town—and even get a girlfriend! She helps him brave a night in the cemetery and fight off two mean moonshiners. They have their misunderstandings, and he nearly loses her at one point, but she’s made of stern stuff. If you’re not sobbing by the film’s final scene—in which a grown-up Willie learns Skipper has died, you truly have no heart. He’s told she was buried under the elm tree, but adds, “That wasn’t totally true. For she really laid buried … in my heart.”


39. A Dog’s Purpose (2017)

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In this adaptation of the best-selling book, a golden retriever named Bailey bonds with young Ethan in the ’60s and when he dies, a funny thing happens—he’s reborn as a German Shepherd named Ellie! He (now she) is just as heroic and dedicated in this life, and in the next, as a Corgi named Tino. In the last life we see in the film, he’s now a a St. Bernard-Australian Shepherd mix who ends up with Ethan, now a grown man (Dennis Quaid). Ethan slowly realizes that Buddy is Bailey—and sets about fixing his broken life. Have your own dogs handy to hug—and a big box of tissues standing by.


38. Scraps, A Dog’s Life (1918)

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In this delightful comedy short, The Little Tramp saves Scraps, a mongrel bullied by other dogs and they become inseparable. While Scraps steals sausages, Chaplin steals pies. Told he can’t bring a dog into his local saloon, Chaplin “hides” the dog in his pants, but the dog’s tail is clearly visible under his coat tail. And when Chaplin stands next to the band at the bar, the dog’s tail begins beating out a rhythm that mystifies the drummer. Chaplin and dog get thrown out, but things are looking up: Scraps digs up a stolen wallet full of money that ends up buying a better life for Chaplin and the singer he loves. It all ends happily, with a house in the country and the couple starting a family—of puppies!


37. Frank the Pug, Men in Black (1997)

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New recruit Agent J (Will Smith) thinks the guy who looks like a Rocky Horror extra is the alien he and Agent K have come to pump for information, but it’s the pug in an “I Love NY” hoodie that’s the real alien (a Remoolian, to be exact). Frank’s first words: “If you don’t like it, you can kiss my furry little butt!” In the second film, he’s been promoted to an MiB agent and is now known as “Agent F,” one who’s fond of belting out “I Will Survive.”


36. Monty, The Hidden Room (1949)

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In this little-known British noir, Phil Brown (who went on to play Uncle Owen in Star Wars), is Bill, a Yank who is romancing a married woman. Her husband, Clive (Robert Newton), has had it with her philandering and abducts Bill, locking him in a secret room. His ghoulish plan: To dissolve his wife’s lover in a bath of acid! It takes him months to smuggle in the necessary amount, and in that time, his wife’s poodle, Monty, has followed him to the hideout. At first, Clive tries to test the solution with the poor dog, but Monty finds safety with the tethered Bill. Unwilling to come within hitting reach of his captive, Clive lets it go. Bill trains the dog how to pull the plug on the other bathtub in the place, thus saving both their lives. At film’s end, Bill’s been rescued, and Monty is covering his new owner with kisses, an unusually happy ending for a noir.


35. Milo, The Mask (1994)

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Were a comedian and a breed of dog ever better matched than the hyperactive Jim Carrey and a Jack Russell? The life of mild-mannered banker Stanley Ipkiss (Carrey) is turned upside down when he finds a mysterious mask that turns him into an over-the-top cartoon character straight out of Tex Avery. When Milo intercepts the mask from the villains (nice mid-air catch, Milo!), he transforms into a razor-toothed, spike-collar cartoon dog from hell. And even without the mask, he’s super-powered enough to leap about 20 feet straight up into an imprisoned Stanley’s arms, and to steal the keys from the sleeping prison guard.


34. Pard, High Sierra, (1941)

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In this classic gangster film, Humphrey Bogart plays Roy “Mad Dog” Earle, a bank robber who takes to a little dog named Pard that everyone else has told him is bad luck since all his previous owners have died. Pard is darn cute, and he can do a number of tricks (he was played by Bogart’s own dog, Zero) so Roy won’t believe he’s a jinx. “That’s a lot of malarkey,” he tells Marie (Ida Lupino), who suggests dumping the dog to change their luck, saying she has no right to blame the “poor little dog.” But Pard does prove to to be Roy’s undoing: As the criminal mounts a last stand high up in the Sierras, he comes out when he hears Pard barking—and is promptly shot by the police. Roy dies with Pard licking his hand as Marie sobs over him.


33. Rowlf, The Muppet Movie (1979)

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This piano-playing pooch has never been as well known as Kermit, but he’s always been an integral part of the crew. In The Muppet Movie, he and Kermit duet on “I Hope That Somethin’ Better Comes Along,” a tricky feat since both were voiced by Jim Henson. (An album recorded by Henson as Rowlf, called “Ol’ Brown Ears is Back” was released in 1993.) When Henson died, at first no one took over the role. Rowlf appeared only in non-speaking background parts for a few films, such as a performer at Fezziwig’s party in The Muppet Christmas Carol. It wasn’t until 1996 that Bill Barretta began playing the character. In 2011’s big-screen revival The Muppets, Rowlf performs “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (barbershop quartet style) with Beaker, Sam the Eagle, and Link Hogthrob during the Muppet Telethon.


32. Beethoven, Beethoven (1992)

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It goes without saying that big dogs in comedies are going to ruin everything. And when that dog is an 185-pound St. Bernard, disaster is guaranteed. We shall never forget the epic scene in which Charles Grodin (the uptight and very reluctant owner) tracks a series of muddy footprints to his bedroom where the dog has made himself comfortable on the bed—and begins to shake himself dry as Grodin grimaces in howling despair. Eventually, he warms to the dog and rallies to save it from an evil vet—played by none other than ’60s Disney star Dean Jones! Followed by seven sequels.


31. Buddy, Air Bud (1997)

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A dog who plays basketball? That simple premise (starring the real-life b-ball playing sensation Buddy) propelled this film to a box-office hit and launched an entire franchise. When the film starts, the future Buddy is called Old Blue and has just been dumped by his alcoholic owner, who also happens to be abusive and an actual clown. He’s found by a boy (Kevin Zegers) who just lost his dad … and the rest is family film history.


30. Rex and Fly, Babe (1995)

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It’s Fly (Miriam Margolyes) the Border Collie who gives new farm resident Babe his name. (It’s what his mother called all her babies.) She takes pity on the lonely pig, and lets him sleep with her and her pups, “at least until he gets his feet under him.” Mate Rex (voiced by Hugo Weaving) reluctantly agrees. Fly explains that Pigs aren’t allowed in the house with the humans and they’re definitely not allowed to herd sheep—that’s dog’s work. When her pups are sold off, Babe finds her mourning in the barn. He asks, “May I call you Mom?” and she responds with a grateful lick. She encourages Babe when he shows an instinct for herding, but Rex will have none of it, at first, going so far as to attack his mate and bite the Farmer. That’s when Fly tells Babe Rex’s tragic backstory: During a terrible storm, he stayed with a stranded flock whom he couldn’t save from the rising waters. He nearly died and lost his hearing, which cost him his shot at the herding championship. But Rex rallies when Babe needs him most at his own herding trials, by finding out the magic words “Baa Ram Ewe” that convince the sheep to follow the little pig.


29. Shadow, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)

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Adding voices to the three lost pets trekking home (as opposed to the genial narration of the ’60s original) means we get bulldog pup Chance (Michael J. Fox) constantly saying, “Dogs drool and cats rule!” Some of the nobility and dignity of the species is restored by the wise old golden retriever Shadow (voiced by Oscar winner Don Ameche). He’s the one who decides it’s time to go find their humans, who counsels the young pup on a dog’s duty of loyalty, and who finds and comforts a lost little girl in the wilderness, despite Chance’s warning that strangers will turn them over to the pound. As he limps toward his boy (after seemingly being left for dead), just try not to burst into tears.


28. Quark, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1986)

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Being an inventor’s dog, this Jack Russell has a science-inspired name and gets fed by an automated gizmo, just like Einstein in Back to the Future. Quark also works hard, bringing the morning mail to the breakfast table and cleaning the face of his owner (Rick Moranis) after experiments gone wrong. But Quark really saves the day—and all the kids—because he’s the only one who can hear them after they’ve been accidentally shrunk. He rescues them from the back yard, then stops dad from eating his microscopic-sized son after the boy falls into a bowl of Cheerios. Quark is last glimpsed chewing on a super-sized dog biscuit.


27. Samantha, I Am Legend (2007)

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Much like Mad Max, Robert Neville (Will Smith) survives in a post-apocalyptic world thanks to his dog. Except in his world, all the humans are dead or infected, leaving Robert as (apparently) the last man on Earth. Sam, the German Shepherd, helps keep him sane and motivated as he searches for a cure to the disease that claimed his fellow man and beast. Luckily water and electricity is plentiful after the zombie outbreak, so Sam is treated to baths and runs on the treadmill with her human (but refuses to eat her veggies). The zombies are clever though, and when Robert is caught in a trap, Sam refuses to leave his side. It’s an incredibly rough moment when Robert realizes she’s infected and he has to kill her before she kills him.


26. Cujo, Cujo (1983)

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A gentle St. Bernard turns into a man-killing monster in this adaptation of the Stephen King novel. After being bitten by a rabid bat, Cujo mauls two men to death. Unlucky Donna (Dee Wallace) and her young son Tad (Danny Pintauro) are trapped by the raging beast for more than a day after her car breaks down. It’s a simple story, but one that forever changed people’s first associations with the breed from friendly alpine aides who bring brandy to stranded skiers to a rabid monster they should avoid at all costs.

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