The Best Movie Dogs, Ranked

By Rick Gonzales | Published

If there is one thing that can turn up the “care” factor in a film, whether it’s an action-adventure, a rom-com, or even a thriller, it would be the introduction of a dog. Case in point, the original John Wick. Introduce a puppy to our hero, the lead goes all soft, then goes all “John Wick” when his adorable pooch gets killed by the bad guys. Movie dogs can have that effect.

There have been plenty of adorable puppies and heroic dogs seen on the big screen. We have found 10 such animals. To clarify, though, the pooches who made this list are all from live-action films. We’d be writing forever if we included the animated movie dogs.

Best Live-Action Movie Dogs

10. Hachi – Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (2009)

This version of Hachi’s story is given an American update that stars Richard Gere and Joan Allen. Hachi: A Dog’s Tale is a heartwarming and heartbreaking story of a man, Parker Wilson (Gere), who finds an Akita puppy after the cage it was being shipped in breaks.

Parker takes the pup home, only to be chastised by his wife. Hachi’s dedication and love for his owner are shown when Parker teaches him to fetch, something found very difficult in the Akita breed.

This dedication is on full display when Parker suffers a fatal heart attack and Hachi is shown continuing to wait for his master that will never come home.

9. Shadow and Chance – Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)

We are going to give you a 2-for-1 on this movie dog deal. Shadow, a golden retriever, and Chance, an American Bulldog, team up to find their way back home. Their adventure is epic, as a Himalayan cat named Sassy joins them.

Shadow is the rock of the group, always pushing his friends with belief and loyalty. Together, and sometimes apart, the three must battle the elements and the animals of the wild if they are to be reunited with their human families.

8. Milo from The Mask (1994)

You know a dog is truly dedicated when it will stand by your side even during your worst moments. This is exactly what Milo did for Stanley Ipkiss (Jim Carrey) in The Mask.

Movie dog Milo is present and accounted for when Stanley first appears as the wild green alter-ego. In fact, Milo was so dedicated to the cause that he wore the mask himself and did some damage.

7. Buddy from Air Bud (1997)

Buddy is the athletically superior movie dog in Air Bud, a sports film about a Golden Retriever with a propensity for basketball. You may need to suspend belief for the bulk of the film as Buddy (truly talented with a basketball in real life) leads his young owner’s team to a championship victory.

Air Bud was so popular it brought on 13 more films within the franchise.

6. Marley from Marley & Me (2008)

Marley is a Labrador Retriever in Marley & Me. He may be known as “the world’s worst dog” for getting kicked out of obedience training or for chewing up pretty much everything in his owner’s house, but no matter what, he is loved.

Even more important, he loves and is loyal to his family. Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston are his owners and a word of caution if you have not seen this movie, come prepared with a box of Kleenex.

5. Beethoven from Beethoven (1992)


You know you were hooked right when puppy Beethoven began to bark along with Ludwig von Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Of course, it took George (Charles Grodin) a little longer to warm up to the loveable St. Bernard, but he eventually did.

This is another movie dog whose initial film was so positive, it ended up creating an 8-film franchise.

4. Benji from Benji (1974)

movie dog

If you happened to be a child of the ‘70s, then movie dog Benji is a very familiar pooch. Benji enjoyed three films in the ‘70s, with the first one being the most notable. In it, Benji is a stray who enjoys cruising his town and visiting his human friends.

He is most fond of the kids, Paul and Cindy. When the two end up being kidnapped by robbers looking for some ransom money, Benji goes into action to help save them.

3. Toto from The Wizard of Oz (1939)

movie dog

This one is a no-brainer. There is no way we couldn’t include “your little dog too” on this list. Toto in The Wizard of Oz first represents the last remaining connection Dorothy has to her world back in Kansas as she embarks on her journey down the Yellow Brick Road.

Toto is immediately seen as feisty, escaping from Almira Gulch in the beginning and near the end, pulling back the curtain on Oz, revealing that he was simply a con man.

2. Lassie from Lassie (1994)

movie dog

We may be choosing one film from the Lassie archives, but rest assured it is his past and future films that have also made Lassie one of the top movie dogs in the history of film.

This 1994 film includes a wonderful cast that stars Tom Guiry (Smalls in The Sandlot), Jon Tenney, Helen Slater, Frederick Forrest, and Michelle Williams.

Lassie first appeared on film in 1943, starring in 12 films and numerous television series including the long-running Lassie, which aired from 1954-1973.

1. Old Yeller from Old Yeller (1957)

movie dog

When Walt Disney first released this film, it was billed as Disney’s “most dramatic motion picture,” and boy, they weren’t lying. The film is based on the Fred Gipson novel of the same name, and it is your classic boy-and-his-dog movie.

The film stars Disney stalwarts Fess Parker, Dorothy McGuire, and Tommy Kirk and tells the story of a boy who finds a stray Black Mouth Cur he names Old Yeller. They bond quickly with Old Yeller proving his mettle by saving the boy a time or two.

It was during one of these daring deeds that the movie dog Old Yeller gets bit by a rabid wolf, setting up for one of the most heart-breaking endings to ever include a dog.