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Our Favorite Films About Animals

Kate Kostal Kate Kostal
November 24th, 2008 12:39pm EST
The Lion King'Tis the season to slaughter turkeys. Did anybody not see former Vice President wannabe Sarah Palin hold a Q&A downstage of a turkey’s obvious death? (Go HERE if you didn't.)

On a more cheerful note, here are a few gems from Hollywood made for the animal lover in all of us:

Best All-Around Animal Film
The Adventures of Milo and Otis

The Adventures of Milo and OtisThe film is the best all-animal movie, with March of the Penguins coming in as an understudy. A documentary showing a death of a cute baby penguin? Definitely going to lose against a Japanese (yes, really, Japanese) movie with Dudley Moore as a pug and a tabby. Don’t worry, it’s in English and is cute as heck.

The films follows the two newborns through interactions with everything from seagulls to bears to deer as they attempt to reunite with one another. The narration is charming and likely shaped the lives of any child born in the late 80s. Raise a hand if you’ve ever met a cat named Milo...

Best Animal Film With Human Actors
Homeward Bound

Homeward Bound"Milo and Otis" lacks people altogether. Here, the animals’ thoughts are voiced as their human counterparts bring the story back to earth with a slightly more believable story about lost pets. A single mother remarries, and the stepdad moves the family but leave the two dogs and cat behind at a friend’s farm. The wise golden retriever, the immature mutt and the prissy Siamese cat obviously escape to reunite with their respective children, resulting in hijinx and sad scenarios.

Michael J. Fox does a fairly accurate job of describing how dogs really think of blouses as objects to kill. The film Babe was close on this one, but Jean Smart as a dirty horse-raising farmer tips the scales in favor of "Homeward Bound."

Best Animated Animal Film For Kids
The Lion King

The Lion KingIt was difficult to narrow the animated movies down to just one, but Africa is the one place to go for the biggest, fastest, and most interesting creatures. This is also the crème de la crème of Disney movies focused on the creatures we eat, keep as pets, or visit in zoos. So forgive me Pongo and Perdita, it was a tough choice. The music, the story, and the celebrity voices (Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Nathan Lane, Whoopi Goldberg, etc.) culminate in this perfect storm of Disney musical mastery. The help from Elton John, Tim Rice, and Hans Zimmer (whose ears don’t have a crush on him?) won two Oscars for Best Song and Best Music. It’s hands-down great.

Plus, the timing was perfect. It was released when one generation was turning away from all those kid-geared films as they entered into the dreaded tween and teenage years. Suddenly, all those Disney movies kids used to go see with their parents or friends were replaced by attempts to sneak into American Pie. Disagree? The next movie Disney released as their usual once-a-year animated powerhouse was Pocahontas. Yuck.

Best Animated Animal Film For Kids & Adults
Finding Nemo

Finding NemoWatch this with friends. Watch this while baby-sitting. Heck, watch it on a date or with your parents – but do not combine those last two. This is the best movie kids AND adults will like. Pixar’s astounding grip on computer animation hit a home run with this story focused on sea creatures. Lines like “I’m H2O intolerant,” uttered by a seahorse elevated the comedy to an intelligent level usually ignored by the makers of animal-heavy movies. Due to this film, the “clown fish” has single-handedly lost its identity and has become “Nemo.” Special mention in this category to "Dog Show," something children better not like better than "Finding Nemo."

Best Film Featuring Animals Attacking People
Congo

CongoWhen animals attack! Here, people-maiming gorillas appear alongside Nip/Tuck star Dylan Walsh. This animals-attacking-people movie beat out Jaws because people can always stay out of the water, but gorillas live on land. Once the gorillas from "Congo" find a person, they will rip their heart out of their chest. They can and will find humans if they set foot anywhere on that giant landmass called Africa. Or, if this movie freaked you out a bit, they will escape from the zoo to get that beating organ in your chest. It’s an interesting idea and had fairly decent special effects for the time, but the gorilla throwing the heart of a still-fleeing man at his friends seals the deal.

Best Film Featuring An Animal Villain
Jaws

JawsFear not, this Steven Spielberg classic stands the test of time. That chilling music, the helplessness of humans in the water where they don’t belong – plus the gnashing rows of fangs make this the movie that made everybody think of sharks as blood-thirsty murderers. In 1975 "Jaws" used suspense to create a level of selachophobia within society that has yet to ebb. The mechanical shark of ’75 is a joke compared to what computers can now create, but it set the standard for the animal-villain incapable of listening to reason. Outwitting or talking down an erratic person - possible. Avoiding death via shark (or bear, or gorilla, or snake) isn’t as easy to talk yourself out of.

Kate Kostal
Story by Kate Kostal

Starpulse contributing writer