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10 Great Animal-Human Friendship Movies

People like stories. There are some stories that can tug at your heart strings and to convey these there are art forms like literature, theater and cinema. Some of these stories can be about animal human friendships. We see those on newspapers from day to day and sometimes on the big screen. I don’t know what exactly, but there is a certain something about them that can make people really emotional. Sometimes they make you cry out of sadness and sometimes they make you cry with joy. They awe us and inspire us. And until just now I only talked about their effects on people who are not exactly you can call an animal lover and an animal owner. When you start to think about the effects of these stories on them, you can guess that they will be colossal. There are movies about cats and dogs and gorillas and cheetahs and wolves and donkeys and horses and pigs and falcons etc. And somehow we can relate to all of them at a level that we can cry.

But of course as the loyal life long companions of humans,  most of these stories’ protagonists are dogs and cats. The film that made me love and appreciate our little friends more was A Dog’s Life. Charlie Chaplin directed this silent, black & white film in 1918 and of course creations like these by a master don’t need any words, it’s pure cinema magic. The Little Tramp and his cute side-kick Scraps the Mutt are against Policemen and thieves in it and Charlot like always also tries to win the girl of his dreams, Edna Purviance. It’s an uplifting, endearing story of two buddies and this masterpiece only lasts about thirty minutes. It could be seen as a predecessor of “The Kid”, this time Jackie Coogan becomes the side-kick of the Tramp.

Apart from A Dog’s Life which is probably the pioneer of these kinds of films, there are many more to see. Here are 10 of the most likable animal-human friendship movies, enjoy..

10. The Jungle Book (1967)

Credit: Walt Disney Productions

Bagheera the Panther hears an unfamiliar voice of a baby boy in the jungle. He leaves him to the safe hands of wolves who have wolf cubs thinking that they will raise him as well. Years pass by and Mowgli the Man Cub becomes a child. Shere Khan the Tiger who hates all men returns to the jungle and when the wolves and Bagheera realise that, they decide to take him back to the man-village for his own sake. But Mowgli who was raised by the wolves and considers them as a family thinks that he is one of them who belongs to this jungle, so he doesn’t want to go to the man-village. They start to the journey anyway and meet Kaa the Snake first. And then Mowgli meets his second best friend after Bagheera Baloo the Bear. His other encounters like Colonel Hathi the Elephant, King Louie of the Apes and monkeys and vultures will make him learn more about himself and the animals who live in the jungle.

And finally when he meets Shere Khan, his friends will be there to help him. Will he survive the tiger encounter and stay in the jungle or will he leave the jungle to be able to live among his own kind? This famous story of the boy, Mowgli who is raised in the jungle is written by Rudyard Kipling and the collection of his stories, The Jungle Book became one of the most beloved children books ever. Walt Disney made a film of this story in 1967. There are also other adaptations and the newest one is a live-action remake made in 2016. I also watched and liked it too but the one is closer to my heart is Disney’s animated version. It is an endearing journey full of adventure and well written characters. The drawings and the colors of the animation are so-pleasing to the eye.

Also it has a great soundtrack, some of the songs became anthems over the years like “Bare Necessities”, “I Wanna Be Like You” and “That’s What Friends Are For.” The Jungle Book makes you understand the power of friendship and overcoming the obstacles even in the most difficult circumstances.

Favorite Quote:

Bagheera: “His name is Mowgli, and I’m taking him back to the man village.”
Baloo: “Man-village? They’ll ruin him. They’ll make a man out of him.”

Favorite Scene:

Baloo the Bear’s awesome song “Bare Necessities” and his equally awesome dance to this song.

09. War Horse (2011)

Credit: DreamWorks Pictures

Michael Morpurgo wrote a book callled “War Horse” and then it became a stage play, a very successful one. After that Steven Spielberg wanted to make a movie of it. And here we are talking about this fairy-tale like story of this miraculous horse and his friendship with Albert Narracott. It’s a whirlwind of emotions as you can expect from a Spielberg movie. Joey the Horse had just become a farm horse when their owner sold him to a Captain in the World War One. And then he had many more owners during the whole war, be it British or German or French. But like Albert promised to him when they were separating, they found each other again in the most miraculous of circumstances. War Horse was nominated for 6 Academy awards. The usual partners of Spielberg, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski and composer John Williams collaborated with him on the film and they were all nominated for Oscars. He worked with a cast full of talented actors from different generations, mostly with young British actors.

Horses have always been the best companions of mankind. There are a few animals who as loyal and elegant as a horse. We used to see them as the side-kicks of big western stars but nowadays Hollywood don’t produce as many westerns as it did 80 years ago. Nowadays we mostly see them on the news for their pain and suffering because of the horse-drawn carriages. In this day and age I think humanity is failing their loyal companions. And after you see War Horse, you will love them more, but of course love just isn’t enough.

Favorite Quote:

Rose Narracott: [to her husband] “I might hate you more, but I’ll never love you less.”

Favorite Scene:

More than one that’s for sure. A British soldier and a German soldier saving Joey from barbed wire in no man’s land, leaving war to aside to save a life. Reunion of Joey and Albert just before Joey was killed of mercy because of his injury. And the beautiful ending scenes in reverse lighting, family reunion, returning from war in the John Fordian style of Spielberg.

08. Eight Below (2006)

“Dedicated to the Antarctic explorers and their dogs whose courage and spirit inspired this film”

Credit: Buena Vista Pictures

This unbelievable story of a dog trainer and his sled dogs in the polar base is actually based on a real-life Japanese expedition. The late actor Paul Walker stars as the leader of a team of sled dogs whose job is taking passengers to the place where they want go in the harsh environment of Antarctica. They encounter with danger on a daily basis but they have each other to carry on when the conditions  are at their worst. One day after a very difficult science expedition the scientist gets his leg broken but Jerry and his dogs especially the leader of the dog team Maya, succeed at taking him to their base. McClaren the scientist and Jerry need some medical attention so the crew had to leave their dogs on chains but of course they will return and take them home too.

When Jerry is awake the first thing on his mind is his dogs but the answer doesn’t  satisfy him. Because of the bad weather they couldn’t return and save the dogs who are all alone on chains in a stormy winter in Antarctica. From now on all he tries to do would be saving his friends, his beloved family of dogs. He is determined to return back and to see them whether they are dead or alive. Frank Marshall who is known as a producer directed the film and he did a wonderful job. This is a family film full of emotions and adventures. It’s so pleasant to watch the great scenery of acres of snow and mainly the beautiful dogs Maya, Max, Shorty, Buck, Old Jack, Dewey, Shadow and Truman. They are Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes and this two kinds  of dogs are some of the most clever, most aesthetic and sweetest dogs ever.

You have to watch this film just to be able to spend time watching their actions. They are all well trained and you could understand their communication  with characters (dogs and humans alike) well. This film is like a summary of the friendship and camaraderie between men and dogs. First they save humans’ lives and when the loyalty comes forward humans reciprocate it. And it’s a very enjoyable and intriguing journey that i liked to recommend it to all of my friends.

Favorite Quote:

McClaren’s Son Eric’s drawing : My hero is..The Dogs who saved my daddy. This became a turning point for the dogs.

Favorite Scene:

Max leads and Jerry goes after him and then he realises that Maya is still alive just before their vehicle takes off by leaving her behind.

07. Kedi (2016)

Dedicated to the cats of Istanbul and all the Istanbulites who love and care for the city’s animals.”

Credit: Oscilloscope Laboratories

Unlike the other entries of our list, Kedi which is directed by Turkish director Ceyda Torun is a documentary film also it isn’t just about a cat and her master. It is about İstanbul and her stray cats, we can see the whole town’s strong bond with its cats. Film centers around  seven cats who have very different personalities, whose names are Sarı the hustler, Bengü the Lover, Aslan Parçası the Hunter, Psikopat the Psycho, Deniz the Social Butterfly, Gamsız the Player and Duman the Gentleman. It tells about their stories with the help of their human friends. We can see that people who know these cats realised that they have different characteristics as much as any human can have and they love them and care about them.

Cat is already a very aesthetic kind of animal and when you witness this with the help of some of the most outstanding views of great city İstanbul, it turns into a visual feast. Great cinematography and beautiful Turkish music (Barış Manço, Emel Sayın, Erkin Koray, MFÖ and Mavi Işıklar) really add  to these cute, noble and clever animals’ stories. If you just like cats from a distance, “Kedi” will probably make you adopt a kitten. The film won many awards like the best documentary and the best family film. You really have to see this underrated little gem, I think you will appreciate the advice.

Favorite Quote:

Dogs think people are God, but cats don’t. Cats are aware of God’s existence. Cats know that people act as middlemen to God’s will. They’re not ungrateful, they just know better.

Favorite Scene:

Scenes with my favorite cats from the film, the first cat Sarı feeding her kittens and the restaurant cat Duman wanting his meal by hitting the place’s glass with his paw.

06. Kes (1969)

Credit: United Artists

One of the earliest and finest films of master filmmaker Ken Loach, Kes is the story of a boy named Billy Casper, who is a child surrounded by uninterested and unsympathetic adults including his mother and his older brother (a very cruel one). His school is full of children and teachers who tease him but somehow he is still a strong-minded and sharp kid. He finds the strength to go on to his life in this dire situation by finding and training a Kestrel Falcon who he calls “Kes.” He makes this his purpose, stealing a book and learning about taming Kes by doing that he also gains  his friends’ and his teacher’s respect. Kes actually represents “hope” for Billy. 60’s Barnsley, Yorkshire is the setting and Loach’s camera is like strolling on the town between real people who live there, that is why critics call his cinema realist and classify him with British New Wave cinema directors like Tony Richardson. The beautiful usage of color (mostly green and gray) and music (by John Cameron) and the cinematography draw the audience in its simple beauty.

This is a Ken Loach film so there is a social commentary of his country at the time, working class, bad education system and social class differences are the key words of this film which won two Bafta awards for its actors, one of them is David Bradley who is just phenomenal in the main role and the other one is Colin Welland (Mr. Farthing). Kes is a little bit different from the other films which entered to this list, because the center relationship’s second party (Kes) is a little less aware and affectionate from the others. It’s more of a single affection from the boy towards falcon than a mutual one. But we can feel his bond to Kes and it is what makes him go on in this dark world of his. So I made an exception by putting one of my favorites film into this list, so people who haven’t watched it yet hopefully will be aware of this great and tragic story of Billy and Kes. As a trivia, I heard that Kes also is famous Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski’s favorite film and he really likes Ken Loach.

Favorite Quote:

Billy: “It’s not a pet sir, hawks are not pets. It’s not tame, it’s trained that’s all. It’s fierce and it’s wild and it’s not bothered about anybody. Not even me. And that’s why it’s great.”

Favorite Scene:

Training Kes and making him fly and their bonding scenes.

05. Duma (2005)

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Duma taught us that a cheetah cub might be cuter than a kitten or a puppy. Duma will make your heart melt in the begining of the movie. This family film was based on a book, the book’s name is “How It Was With Dooms” and it was written by Xan Hopcraft who is the film’s main character. He tells a story about a cheetah who he and his dad found on a street one night. Then they bond and become best friends. But when his father dies and he and his mother struggle with economic problems, they have to move to a relative’s house and then Duma becomes a problem for the society. That is why Xan decides to take him to his home, into the wild nature just like he and his father decided before. When two of them start to this journey, this turns into a road movie full of danger and adventure on the wild. But Xan is a strong and clever kid who learned so much from his dad and he is with the wild nature’s son himself, Duma.

This film takes you to far away places but in the context of love and friendship. Will he be able to leave his best friend on his own in the wild African nature and stay all alone just after his beloved father’s death? When I hear about the term ‘underrated’, Duma is one of the movies that quickly comes to mind. Carroll Ballard who directed other great films about human-animal friendship like “The Black Stallion” and “Fly Away Home” directed Duma, too and it is his last film. Alex Michaeletos stars as Xan while Campbell Scott and Hope Davis play his parents. There is also an important character who the odd couple befriends during their adventure, mysterious Ripkuna played by Eamonn Walker.

Favorite Quote:

Xan : “I was taking Duma home, but he took me somewhere too. Finding Duma’s true home brought me back to mine and showed me that love doesn’t stop when time passes or you live in different places or somebody’s gone. That’s how it was with me and Duma.”

Favorite Scene:

At the end when Xan is calling for Duma and starts to think that he leaved him for good, Duma comes and shows his love and affection for Xan one more time just before they split up.

04. Umberto D. (1952)

Credit: Dear Film

One of the most important directors of Italian Neo-realism movement and cinema in general, Vittorio De Sica directed this poignant film about an old man and his bond with his beloved dog. Umberto (De Sica’s father’s name whose this film was dedicated to) Domenico Ferrari played beautifully by non-actor Carlo Battisti is a retired man who can barely make a living with his pension, he also has a dog named Flike and they live in a rented room. But with the money he has he couldn’t pay his rent so his landlord threatens with eviction. Meanwhile he gets sick and finds a bed for himself in a hospital while he is still trying to find the money to pay the rent. Then he tries to borrow the money but nobody can help him.

He even thinks of begging once but when he meets an old acquaintance he acts like it wasn’t him who begs because he’s so proud. The eviction is inevitable at the end so he decides to leave the place by himself without a noise at an early hour. Of course his second best friend after Flike, the maid of the house makes time for a goodbye for her friend. But this goodbye isn’ t just for leaving the room, because the thing in his mind is leaving the whole world by suicide. He doesn’t think of himself, the only thing in his mind is his dog Flike. If he is found on the streets he will get killed.

Vittorio De Sica could turn this touching story into an extremely sentimental drama cliche but all he did was making a very powerful and profound film about the realities of life, getting old and being all alone with a little bit of hope. In Umberto D.’s case, this hope is represented by Flike. He is a bit stubborn and strong-minded old man sometimes even a moody one, but when you see his love for his dog, you can not help but love this lonely good hearted man. De Sica is one of my all time favorite directors because of movies like this and Bicyle Thieves, he gives a real meaning to the realistic cinema  with even just these two. Umberto D. makes you feel like you have a tightness in your chest, because you know that there are thousands maybe millions of people like him and in this way people are remembered real life even on the big screen. That’s what makes people think, films like these make us think and see the reflection of ourselves. And this is the power of seventh art.

Favorite Quote:

Umberto Domenico Ferrari: “During the war she called me Grandpa. I gave her some meat from time to time. After the war she went crazy. She even hates my dog. If you saw my dog, you’d know it’s impossible to hate him.”

Favorite Scene:

The very powerful and bitter sweet ending, Umberto D. trying to leave Flike but not be able to do that so he goes on to live.

03. Old Yeller (1957)

Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

With its iconic song and dramatic story, this Disney classic which was based on the book by Fred Gipson tells  about one of the greatest dogs in cinema history, Old Yeller. A little boy becomes a friend with a yellow stray dog while his brother hates him. Their father is away from home and they stay with their mother in Texas. After awhile, Old Yeller will win all of the family members’ hearts by risking his life to save theirs. As time goes by, the older brother and Old Yeller become inseparable but a dramatic moment comes and takes Old Yeller away from him and from life. This would be an illness, rabies to be exact, which they call at the time hydrophobia.

This film is so beloved and traumatic among the children at the same time because Old Yeller and his master’s bond is one of the most strongly depicted ones in cinema history. That is why people who watch it couldn’t help themselves but cry at the climax scene.

Favorite Quote:

Jim Coats : “But it’s just not all like that. A lot of it’s mighty fine. And you can’t afford to waste the good part fretting about the bad. That makes it all bad.”

Favorite Scene:

Old Yeller and two brothers’ happy scenes with him, running and hunting etc.

02. A Street Cat Named Bob (2016)

Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing

Please try to think that you’re a penniless drug addict who makes a living by playing guitar in the streets and you will spend your last money for a stray cat who you have just found at your home. That’s what just street musician/recovering drug addict James Bowen did. At the time he didn’t know what this ginger cat will mean to him in the future. He didn’t use to have any friends, he didn’t use to see his family and at first he didn’t have a home either. Then life started to change for the better for him. A Street Cat Named Bob (a clever adaptation of a name of Tennessee Williams’ play, “A Streetcar Named Desire”) came into his life and changed it forever. First he saved his friend from addiction and made his life easier by helping him earning more money. Then Bowen wrote two books and shared his and his sidekick’s enchanting story with people all over the world. The book instantly became a best-seller and then it became a movie, which how I learned about them.

Roger Spottiswoode directed the film, Luke Treadaway starred as James Bowen and sang the songs himself. And Bob played  himself most of the movie alongside other cats who resemble him. You can also spot the real life James Bowen as a fan who just says “like I lived every moment” at the book signing event at the end of the movie. Bob is one of the cutest cats ever with him sitting on James’ shoulders and his guitar and of course with his fashion choice, scarfs. And he also tops the list of cutest side-kicks. He is just so friendly that he purrs all the time. He was the angel who came for lucky James Bowen. This is an inspiring and fascinating story of two people, a man and his cat which  even people who don’t like cats will enjoy.

Favorite Quote:

James Bowen : “Everyone gets a second chance! But not everyone manages to take them! Luckily for me I had a very important companion to help with my second chance.”

Favorite Scene:

James singing in the streets with Bob on his shoulder.

01. Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (2009)

Credit: Stage 6 Films

This is one of the biggest reasons why lists like this are made. It is one of the ultimate animal human friendship stories. And this is not fictional, it really happened almost a hundred years ago in Japan. A Japan breed Akita named Hachi (number 8 meaning good luck) found an owner himself in a Professor at a university. They became the bestest of friends. Hachi accompanies Professor on his school road until train station and when the time comes for Professor turning back to station, he finds that Hachi comes at the time and meet him there.

They turn back to their homes and everyday the same thing happens until one black day that Hachi couldn’t meet his owner at the station. He has a heart attack and dies at school but you can’t make his dog understand this situation. So he continues to do the same thing for 9 years until his own death. They were together only for two years and he waited for his master for almost 10 years at the same place at the same time. This is an extraordinary story that can make us understand a little bit why we call dogs our loyal friends. Hachi is probably one of the most loyal of them all. Today at Shibuya Station in Japan where it all happened, there is a statue of Hachi and tourists can go and see this famous dog who loved his master through all his life unconditionally.

Seijiro Koyama made the Hachi-ko (Hachiko Monogatari) in 1987. This was the first film based on this beautiful story. And Lasse Hallström who you can remember from “Chocolat” and “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”, directed the Hollywood version in 2009 based on this first version. Richard Gere played the Professor, while Joan Allen, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Erick Avari and Jason Alexander were also in the cast. Sometimes we can see Hachi’s point of view on the screen and I think it makes the movie stronger, this way audience can connect with him more. Richard Gere is a music Professor here and the film’s composer Jan A.P. Kaczmarek’s compositions are really adding to this dramatic story. If you don’t cry while watching this, I think you will never cry for a movie. This is the one..

Favorite Quote:

Andy Wilson: “Hey. You know we love you, Hachi. We want you to stay here with us. If you have to go.. that’s okay too. Good-bye, Hachi.”

Favorite Scene:

Hachi remembering the good old days with his master just before he dies at the end of the film.

Honorable Mentions:

1. Red Dog (2011)

2. Charlotte’s Web (2006)

3. Balto (1995)

4. Croc-Blanc (2018)

5. Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)

6. Princess Mononoke (1997)

7. My Dog Skip (2000)

8. A Dog’s Way Home (2019)

9. Tarkan (1969)

10. Babe (1995)

12. How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

13. Lassie Come Home (1943)

14. A Dog’s Purpose (2017)

15. Shiloh (1996)

16. Fly Away Home (1996)

17. The Black Stallion (1979)

18. Turner & Hooch (1989)

19. Ratatouille (2007)

20. The Good Dinosaur (2015)

mm

Gamze Akan

4 Comments

  1. I would add another mention; The Golden Compass. In that film everyone has a daemon which is essentially a person’s soul in the form of an animal.

    • Thanks for the comment Jez. Golden Compass is a nice family/fantasy film, a killer combination IMHO.

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