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MoviesThe best animal movies for kids

The best animal movies for kids

If there’s one thing all kids love, it’s candy. A close second, though? Cute animals. And if you’re not ready to give in to their incessant pleas and actually bring one into your home, a movie starring a furry, scaly, sometimes smooth and wet friend is the next best thing.

So the next time those tiny little voices start nattering about a pet, consider rushing one of these animal-centric films onto the television. Animated or live action, all of them are adorable, and sure to get two paws (or fins) up from the little beasts in your house.

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The best animal movies for kids

Babe (1995)

Photograph: Courtesy Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock

1. Babe (1995)

Movies featuring live-action, anthropomorphic animals talking up a storm are something of a ‘love them or hate them’ genre, but if you don’t love this classic about a charismatic piglet who thinks he’s a sheepdog, you might need to see a heart doctor to make sure there’s something in there. It’s not just a cute folk tale about believing in yourself despite the odds – it was even nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Rated G.

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Lassie Come Home (1943)

Photograph: Courtesy Mgm/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

2. Lassie Come Home (1943)

For some of us, Lassie was the first dog we ever wanted to adopt. In this 1943 classic set in Britain during the Depression, an 11-year-old Liz Taylor is paired with the lovable collie (the original Lassie was played by a male dog named Pal) until the family is forced to sell Lassie to a wealthy duke. Determined to return to her family, Lassie sets off on a dangerous journey to get back home. Rated G.

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Lady and the Tramp (1955)

Courtesy Disney

3. Lady and the Tramp (1955)

Chances are you’ll never look at a plate of pasta the same way after watching two adorable pups—Lady and Tramp—slurp the same noodle right up to their noses. (And we certainly can’t blame the dogs for indulging in a romantic Italian dinner.) In this lovable story, Tramp comes across the beautiful cocker spaniel whose home life is turned upside down. It’s up to the canine to get his new companion back where she belongs. Rated G.

Old Yeller (1957)

Photograph: Courtesy Warner Bros/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

4. Old Yeller (1957)

Yet another example of how heartbreaking pet movies can be, Old Yeller remains an American classic. Set in post–Civil War Texas, the destitute Coates children find a big yellow dog in the cornfield and encounter black bears, boars and the ultimate coming-of-age experience when oldest son Travis is forced to put down his beloved pet after he’s bitten by a rabid wolf. Rated G.

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101 Dalmatians (1961)

Courtesy 101 Dalmations

5. 101 Dalmatians (1961)

Despite Disney attempts to rehab her image several decades later, we’ll never see Cruella de Vil as anything other than an absolute monster for trying to murder a bunch of innocent puppies in the name of fashion. At least the animated original gets it right – and while the plot might traumatise the wee ones, at least the pups themselves are adorable rapscallions. Rated G.

Flipper (1964)

Courtesy Flipper

6. Flipper (1964)

Kids will love this fun tale of a boy and a dolphin—which proved popular enough to merit a movie sequel and launch a fondly remembered ’60s TV series. Sandy (Luke Halpin), a young boy who lives in Florida with his family, nurses a dolphin back from injury and names him Flipper. Sandy’s father, fisherman Porter Ricks, dislikes the creature since it competes for fish in the local waters and distracts the neighborhood kids with its silly antics. Sandy must persuade his grouchy pop to let him keep his new-found pal as a pet. Not rated.

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The Aristocats (1970)

Courtesy Channel 5 Broadcasting

7. The Aristocats (1970)

Get ready: After watching this classic, kids will be saying everybody wants to be a cat! When Duchess and her three little kittens are on a mission to retrieve the hefty inheritance their owner left them all the while avoiding the claws of two hound dogs and their evil butler, it’s up to tomcat O’Malley and his savvy alleycat ways to help them return to their Parisian mansion safely. Not only will parents experience a bit of nostalgia here, but the jazzy soundtrack will have kids dancing along. Rated G

Charlotte's Web (1973)

Photograph: Courtesy Paramount Pictures

8. Charlotte’s Web (1973)

We can’t resist the 1973 musical adaptation of this beloved children’s book. After little Fern saves Wilbur—the tiniest of his litter—from certain death, the curious piglet learns that there’s more danger up ahead. But with the help of the wise and talented spider Charlotte, Wilbur learns what it means to be brave. Rated G.

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The Fox and The Hound (1981)

Courtesy The Fox & The Hound

9. The Fox and The Hound (1981)

Prepare yourself for a roller coaster of emotions with this Disney flick. Hearts will melt when a red fox named Tod and a hound dog named Copper become pals, despite their instincts. A nurturing widow takes in young orphan Tod and cares for him like a pet, while her gruff neighbor, Amos, does all he can to make Copper into a fierce hunter. As the critters grow up, things take a sad turn. How will they maintain their friendship? Rated G.

The Adventures of Milo and Otis (1989)

Photograph: Courtesy Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock

10. The Adventures of Milo and Otis (1989)

This 1986 Japanese film was edited for American audiences (the original featured some less-than-kid-friendly scenes) and was released three years later. The English version is action-packed, includes two bears, a snake and, surprisingly, not a single human. Rated G.

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Beethoven (1992)

Courtesy Beethoven

11. Beethoven (1992)

Who could possibly forget the massive St. Bernard and the comedic misadventures of his owners as they try to raise the slobbery Beethoven? Watch as an initially unwilling father slowly grows to love the family pet—but not before this monster of a furball shakes off his dirty coat inside the house. Beethoven reminds us what a chore raising a dog can actually be…but it is still so worth it. Rated PG.

Free Willy (1993)

Courtesy Free Willy

12. Free Willy (1993)

Not every kid is a dog person. Some are more into whales. In this ’90s classic, a troubled foster kid named Jesse is forced to volunteer at a marine park, where he meets and forms a bond with Willy, a newly arrived, 7700-pound orca who doesn’t much enjoy life in captivity. Jesse hatches a plot to return Willy to the wild, which turns out to be just as fraught a task as it sounds. Rated PG.

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Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)

Photograph: Courtesy Disney/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

13. Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)

What would your pets tell you if they could talk? This crew (Chance the bulldog, Shadow the golden retriever and Sassy the cat) would tell you that they’re on an epic journey to find their family, who seemingly abandoned them in San Fran. Luckily, this furry dream team has what it takes to overcome all kinds of challenges (think porcupines, mountain lions…even the pound!) to get where they belong. Rated G.

Balto (1995)

Photograph: Courtesy Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

14. Balto (1995)

After an outbreak of diphtheria makes a very sweet little girl sickly in Nome, Alaska, a dashing doggie outcast named Balto must step in to help save the day. As an unlikely addition to a local dogsledding team, he helps to deliver the antitoxin that saves her life (and uses scent rather than sight to lead his team home in brutal winter weather). The Disney rendition is based on a true story and a real dog named Balto! Rated G.

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Shiloh (1996)

Photograph: Legacy Releasing/courtesy Everett Collection

15. Shiloh (1996)

This one is definitely on our list of favorite heartwarming puppy movies, and might make your kids beg for a beagle. Young boy, Marty Preston, finds a best friend in Shiloh, an adorable pup with an abusive owner, Judd. Marty strikes a deal with the old man, working for him in return for keeping the dog himself, but when Judd doesn’t hold up his end of the deal, Marty’s canine companion might be lost forever. Rated PG.

Fly Away Home (1996)

Photograph: Courtesy CHANNEL 5 BROADCASTING

16. Fly Away Home (1996)

When a little girl moves in with her father—with whom she has no relationship—after her mom dies, it takes a little while to settle in. When she saves some goose eggs from a nearby work site, she soon learns raising goslings may be more trouble than she’d originally expected. Rated PG.

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Air Bud (1997)

Image: Disney

17. Air Bud (1997)

A dog… playing basketball?! Hey, it’s more believable than a hoop-shooting werewolf, especially since the pooch that portrays Buddy really did know how to hit three-pointers. In the movie, he helps a 12-year-old named Josh realise his dream of joining his school’s basketball team, while also ruining the dreams of a rival team by entering a game and absolutely whipping their butts. Call him Steph Furry. Rated PG.    

Best in Show (2000)

Courtesy Best in Show

18. Best in Show (2000)

Skewering the world of dog pageants seems like shooting fish in a barrel – or more humanely, like petting puppies in a pound, maybe? – but Christopher Guest’s mockumentary is hilarious in ways only he and his brilliant cast of regulars could come up with. It’s the annual Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show, and for the human contestants, it’s a make-or-break affair. It’s satire, sure, but anyone who’s watched the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show or Crufts will recognise it’s likely not that far from the truth. Rated PG-13.

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My Dog Skip (2000)

Photograph: Courtesy Warner Bros/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

19. My Dog Skip (2000)

Willie would rather keep in nose buried in Huckleberry Finn than mingle with the other kids, especially the bullies who make his life torturous. That’s when his mother decides it’s time for a four-legged friend, much to her husband’s dismay. When Willie and his new beagle skip form a friendship, things take a turn in a positive direction for the young boy. But don’t leave the tissues too far away—there are moments that’ll make you tear up and reach for your furry best friend. Rated PG. 

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Ice Age (2002)

Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

20. Ice Age (2002)

If you thought NYC winters were rough, just be glad you’re not hanging around this crew while they battle the Paleolithic ice age! There’s frigid fun aplenty with a variety of films in the franchise. Rated PG. 

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21. Because of Winn-Dixie (2005)

The beloved children’s novel about a lonely girl who moves in with her preacher father after being abandoned by her mother makes for a similarly sweet onscreen story, thanks in large part to a spunky Picardy Shepherd, who plays the title role. After finding Winn-Dixie at a supermarket, 10-year-old Opal learns how to meet friends and reconnect with her equally lonesome father. Rated PG.

Happy Feet (2006)

Photo Credit: courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

22. Happy Feet (2006)

Landing a soulmate is difficult, even if you’re a penguin. While humans stick to dinner and coffee, the lovable birds try to win one another over through song. However, poor Muble can’t carry a tune. How exactly is he going to be able to find his other half if his voice is enough to crack glass? Fortunately, Muble is super smooth on his feet and has some killer dance moves. Rated PG. 

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Kung Fu Panda (2008)

Courtesy 2008 DreamWorks Animation LLC.

23. Kung Fu Panda (2008)

Sure, it says ‘panda’ on the marquee – and given Jack Black’s perfectly cast, typically high-energy voice performance, it’s well-earned – but he’s far from the only animal kung-fu fighting. In this loving tribute to Chinese action films, you’ve got a tiger (Angelina Jolie), a praying mantis (Seth Rogen), a monkey (Jackie Chan), even a tortoise (Randall Duk Kim) all throwing down in an effort to protect their homeland from an evil snow leopard (Ian McShane). Rated PG

Ratatouille (2007)

Courtesy Disney/Pixar

24. Ratatouille (2007)

In NYC, if patrons find a rat in a restaurant, you better believe that eatery is going to suffer a horrific fate. But in this Disney film, a young chef named Linguini elicits the help of a rat named Emy, who just so happens to be a culinary wiz. Things are certainly going to heat up in the kitchen when these two form an unlikely friendship. Rated G. 

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Bolt (2008)

Walt Disney Pictures

25. Bolt (2008)

In Truman Show fashion, Bolt (voiced by John Travolta) is the deluded super-hero star of a hit live-action children’s television show, replete with a snazzy lightning logo emblazoned on his flank. As Bolt is separated by accident from “his person,” the equally innocent child-star Penny (voiced by Miley Cyrus), and joined by an alley-cat and couch-potato Hamster, he learns to be a “real dog.” Rated PG.

Marley & Me (2008)

Courtesy 20th Century Fox/Regency Enterprises

26. Marley & Me (2008)

Marley & Me markets itself as a family-friendly comedy drama, but don’t be fooled: This movie will bring even the hardest hearts to full-blown sobs. You might want cut the cord halfway through, when the film hasn’t yet breached the subjects of miscarriage, postpartum depression and the slow decay of Marley’s health. That said, it still manages to cater to the comic sensibilities of kids, albeit through many tears. Rated PG.

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Hotel for Dogs (2009)

Photograph: Courtesy Paramount Pictures

27. Hotel for Dogs (2009)

Siblings Andi and Bruce are forced to part ways with their pup Friday upon finding a foster home that has a no-pet policy. But this is no match for the duo. When faced with this predicament, the two decide to open up a pet-friendly hotel for Friday and his canine gang. It seems like a great idea…until neighbors become suspicious. Rated PG. 
 
 

The Secret Life of Pets (2016)

Courtesy The Secret Life of Pets

28. The Secret Life of Pets (2016)

Think your four-legged friend waits patiently by the door for your arrival? Think again! This mischevious misdaventure follows a dog named Max, the king of the house, who is thrown for a loop when his owner brings home another pup, Duke. The two butt heads, largely thanks to Max’s jealous tendencies. However, when the duo ends up on the streets of NYC will the “brothers” be able to stick together? A few of Max’s friends join forces to help see the pups back to safety. Rated PG.

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Peter Rabbit (2018)

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29. Peter Rabbit (2018)

Beatrix Potter’s twee classic gets a modern makeover, and while it’s louder and ruder than most folks who grew up on the book would like – there was a whole deal over a joke about food allergies, for instance – it’s sure to entertain new generations, while retaining enough heart to not totally put off purists. In this version, Pete (voiced by James Corden) and his siblings find themselves in yet another war of wits with the McGregor family – this time around, though, it’s the old man’s nephew, played by Domhnall ‘Son of Brendan’ Gleeson. Rated PG. 

Dog Days (2018)

Photograph: Courtesy LD Entertainment/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

30. Dog Days (2018)

It’s funny to see just how much power four-legged creatures have over humans. In Dog Days, watch as pups begin to interfere in their owners’ lives, changing their career paths, romantic relationships and much more. This is a perfect film for your tweens and teens! Rated PG. 

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