Long before modern day dog movies, like A Dog’s Purpose, Marley & Me, or The Secret Life of Pets, Disney nigh-perfected the genre and practically helped pioneer it with classics like Lady and the Tramp and Old Yeller. It’s no secret dog movies are loved by kids and families of all ages. Whether a dog is the main character, playing a supporting role, or just there for comic relief, dog lovers often take notice and have their own list of favorites. But which Disney dog movies are the very best? It’s not always easy to choose, but we think these are the 10 best Disney dog movies.
10 Iron Will
Released in 1994, this based-on-a-true-story movie is about a young man named Will Stoneman needing money to keep his family’s farm. As a result, he decides to enter a treacherous dogsled race between Winnipeg, Canada and St. Paul, Minnesota. While the film has great stakes and a likable underdog, it’s his huskies that win the movie. They literally carry the character to the finish line. Plus, the bond between them and their master Will grows over the course of the story, making it even more charming. And, let’s face it, the huskies are beautiful.
9 White Fang
Based on the classic novel by Jack London, this movie has a similar feel to Iron Will, but excels at showing the bond between a man and his dog even more. In it, Jack (Ethan Hawke), a young boy with dreams of striking it rich, heads to the Yukon during a gold rush and rescues a wolf-dog named White Fang mistreated by his master. Their adventures together are harrowing and the bond, immortal.
8 Shaggy Dog (1959)
An oldie but a goodie, this classic takes the bond between boy and dog to another level by having the boy become the dog. However, the transformation takes place at the worst possible moments, making life scary for the boy and comical for the audience.
The only way to break the curse is for the boy to do a courageous feat. This was Disney’s first live-action comedy and was a big hit with audiences at the time. Silly, charming, and maybe a little cheesy, it’s a great all-around family movie.
7 Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey
A remake of the 1963 movie The Incredible Journey, this live-action dog (plus one cat) movie takes it a step further and adds voice over for each pet. It’s about Shadow, Chance, and Sassy as they make their way back home while their owners desperately try to find them. Its emotional depth mostly hinges on the human voices the pets are given, but it makes all the difference. With comedy, action, adventure, and some truly sad moments, this is definitely a must-watch dog movie.
6 The Fox And The Hound
Of the many dog movies Disney has made over the years, the animated movies stand out the most, and The Fox and the Hound is no exception. About an orphaned red fox and a farm hound, they’re supposed to be natural enemies but become friends, instead. Not only did it have incredible animation for its time, especially the fight with the bear scene, but the “unlikely friendship” story created a lovable and heart-warming arc for the characters.
5 Old Yeller
Yeah, we know this movie is the poster child for “sad dog movies,” but putting that sad ending aside, it’s still a classic dog movie with plenty of adventure and heart. About a teenage boy put in charge of managing his family farm, his younger brother adopts a stray puppy, much to his dismay. However, as time goes on, the whole family falls in love with Old Yeller, as does the audience. Honestly, the many heartwarming and harrowing scenes in the movie is what makes the ending so heart-wrenching.
While it might be a stretch to call this a “dog movie,” it’s hard to deny that Coco is great with a hilarious and lovable dog named Dante. Dante’s role is mostly just for comic relief. He’s a happy, affable pup with an affinity for food (like most dogs) and gets into trouble because of it.
But he also acts as Miguel’s “spirit guide” in the afterlife and eventually makes quite a colorful transformation. Most of all, Dante’s an unforgettable character in the movie. How could we not include him?
Dug the dog, on the other hand, does play a pivotal role in the heartwarming, yet no less tear-jerking, movie Up. For those who haven’t seen it, Up follows Carl Fredricksen and the boy scout Russell as they go an adventure to Paradise Falls. On the way, they come across Dug, a dog with a collar that allows him to talk. Dug is a lovable, but dim-witted, golden retriever that mirrors Carl’s true self. While Fredricksen is a grumpy old man on the outside, deep down he’s a kind and affable man which Dug helps bring out. In contrast, the villain Charles Muntz comes across as a nice guy at first, but secretly is an attack dog, similar to his rottweiler, Alpha.
2 Lady And The Tramp
Initially panned by critics, this dog movie has become one of the most adored love stories of all time. It’s also Disney’s very first dog movie released in 1955. The scene where Lady and the Tramp accidentally kiss while eating spaghetti has been put in the top 100 most iconic scenes in film history. The story is a romance about a middle-class sheltered Cocker Spaniel that meets and falls in love with a downtown mutt. It’s a simple story, but delightful all the same and definitely a great one to show the whole family.
1 101 Dalmatians (1961)
This animated classic is the epitome of a dog movie with more dogs filling each scene than most dog movies combined. Based on the novel of the same name by Dodie Smith, this lovable dog tale is about two Dalmatian parents as they try to save their pups from Cruella de Vil, an evil woman wanting to use their fur for coats. With wonderful characters, fantastic animation, and a truly frightening villain in Cruella de Vil, 101 Dalmatians is easily one of the best and most iconic dog movies of all time.