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The 15 best pet movies for families

From talking cats to basketball-playing pups, these pet movies are certainly some of your favorite animal movies of all time

By Rebecca Jennings and Allie Early |
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There’s something about animals that makes them among the most memorable children’s cinema characters of all time, whether they’re hand-drawn, computer-animated or real, live (highly trained) four-legged actors. Our roundup of the top 15 pet movies for families celebrates the connection between humans and animals—cats, dogs and even pigs, included. Some of these flicks make us laugh, some make us cry, and a few even qualify as some of the very best kids’ movies. If you don’t have your own Fido or Fluffy, you might even want to reference our NYC pet guide and track down the best pet stores nearby—your kids are sure to start begging for one of their own after watching these movies!

Click the right arrow on the image below to see our 15 best pet movies.

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Photograph: Courtesy Mgm/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

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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Courtesy Disney

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.

 

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Photograph: Courtesy Warner Bros/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

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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Courtesy 101 Dalmations

101 Dalmatians (1961)

Oh, Cruella de Vil. Is there a Disney villian more heinous than this wicked woman? She's surely trouble for two dalmatians who fall in love and have a litter of adorable puppies. This nefarious leading lady is determined to make coats out of the cute canines, but will she succeed? Rated G.

 

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Courtesy Flipper

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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Courtesy Channel 5 Broadcasting

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

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Photograph: Courtesy Paramount Pictures

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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Courtesy The Fox & The Hound

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.

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Photograph: Courtesy Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock

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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Courtesy Beethoven

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.

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Courtesy Free Willy

Free Willy (1993)

 

 

In this classic '90s flick, one young boy forms a friendship wtih an unlikely creature. Jesse has bounced from one foster home to another and got caught vandalizing a theme park. As punishment for his his bad deeds, the young boy must volunteer at the park, where he meets another orphan...sort of. Willy is a new orca who hasn't taken kindly to being separated from his family in the water, and when these two form a bond—and the owner senses their kinship—things take a turn for the worse, and it's up to Jesse to ensure Willy's safety. Rated PG.

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Photograph: Courtesy Disney/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

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.

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Photograph: Courtesy Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock

Babe (1995)

Who knew that the story of a pig who wants to be a sheepdog would turn into one of the world’s most beloved children’s classics? A brilliant screenplay, impressive computer graphics and true heart won Babe an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture and the acclaim of critics and families—perhaps enough to turn even the most carnivorous of humans into vegetarians. That’ll do, pig. Rated G.

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Photograph: Courtesy Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

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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MCDSHIL EC007
Photograph: Legacy Releasing/courtesy Everett Collection

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.

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