(Photo by Consolidated Pictures Group/courtesy Everett Collection)

80 Best Dog Movies, Ranked by Tomatometer

Dogs: Man’s best friend, movie’s most endangered hero. Seriously, how many times have we gone into a dog movie hoping we didn’t just get suckered into another one where the dog dies in the end? But some of those movies make up the classics. And some of those movies where the dog lives happily after ever, with a nice house and a bowl of kibble and a robust 401k, are also classics. And some dog movies ain’t so classic, but people love ’em anyways, so we’re including those, and all the other good boys and girls of canine cinema for our guide to the 80 Best Dog Movies, ranked by Tomatometer!

First, we’ve retrieved all the golden films of yesteryear, like Old Yeller, Lassie, and The Incredible Journey. Then we rescued those nearly forgotten from the kennels of history, including Wendy and Lucy, Sounder, and Megan Leavey. After that, we introduced them to the tearjerkers of today, such as Hachi: A Dog’s Tale and Marley and Me.

Because dogs can take on new dimensions of ferocity and cuteness in animation, there’s plenty to see here in this list. Take the Disney classics (The Fox and the Hound, Bolt). Add a little stop-motion (Isle of Dogs, Frankenweenie). And, of course, bring along the ones that can solve mysteries (Scooby-Doo), hold a job (Wallace, he of Gromit), and pilot their house (Snoopy, Come Home).

And we approached the dogs that could benefit from a little obedience school, like the ones in Cujo, White Dog, and its reverse friend White God. Also, because seekers of dog movies don’t necessarily mind some treacly sentiment the way critics do, we’re opening the doggie doors to some movies rated Rotten that audiences adore, like Balto and All Dogs Go to Heaven.

Finally, we took home some films that aren’t strictly known as dog movies (e.g. Umberto D, As Good As It Gets, I Am Legend) but whose (canine) stars play a significant role in the plot, and generate (human) character development.

Time to let all of them off the leash for the 80 Best Dog Movies, ranked by Tomatometer!

#80

The Stray (2017)
40%

#80
Adjusted Score: 31404%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Young Christian Davis finds a stray dog named Pluto and decides to bring it home to his parents and two... [More]
Directed By: Mitch Davis

#79
#79
Adjusted Score: 43439%
Critics Consensus: Despite hitting some sweet notes, Beverly Hills Chihuahua is little more than disposable family entertainment.
Synopsis: Chloe (Drew Barrymore), a pampered Chihuahua from Beverly Hills, gets an unwelcome taste of the real world when she gets... [More]
Directed By: Raja Gosnell

#78

101 Dalmatians (1996)
41%

#78
Adjusted Score: 41649%
Critics Consensus: Neat performance from Glenn Close aside, 101 Dalmatians is a bland, pointless remake.
Synopsis: Fashion designer Anita and computer-game writer Roger meet, fall in love and marry along with their dalmatians Perdita and Pongo.... [More]
Directed By: Stephen Herek

#77
Adjusted Score: 50879%
Critics Consensus: Its heartstring-tugging overtures may be difficult for dog lovers to resist, but The Art of Racing in the Rain is sentimental and contrived.
Synopsis: Denny Swift is a Formula One race car driver who understands that the techniques needed on the racetrack can also... [More]
Directed By: Simon Curtis

#76

Zeus and Roxanne (1997)
44%

#76
Adjusted Score: 29608%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Children engineer a romance between their single parents (Steve Guttenberg, Kathleen Quinlan), while his dog and her dolphin bond.... [More]
Directed By: George Miller

#75
#75
Adjusted Score: 44746%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this animated feature, canine casino owner Charlie (Burt Reynolds) is killed by gambler Carface (Vic Tayback), but returns to... [More]
Directed By: Don Bluth

#74
Adjusted Score: 21933%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A mischievous puppy (Scott Wolf) joins a pack of strays when he leaves home to pursue a more exciting life.... [More]
Directed By: Darrell Rooney

#73

Air Bud (1997)
45%

#73
Adjusted Score: 45645%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Diffident in the wake of his father's death, high schooler Josh (Kevin Zegers) struggles to adapt to his new home... [More]
Directed By: Charles Martin Smith

#72

Hotel for Dogs (2009)
46%

#72
Adjusted Score: 49596%
Critics Consensus: Hotel for Dogs may appeal to children and dog lovers, but it's ultimately contrived, predictable, and simplistic.
Synopsis: After moving into a foster home that forbids pets, siblings Andi (Emma Roberts) and Bruce (Jake T. Austin) must quickly... [More]
Directed By: Thor Freudenthal

#71

Rock Dog (2016)
47%

#71
Adjusted Score: 50475%
Critics Consensus: Rock Dog is amiable enough, but its second-tier animation and uninspired story add up to a movie whose meager charms are likely to escape all but the youngest and least demanding viewers.
Synopsis: For the Tibetan mastiffs on Snow Mountain, a dog's life has a simple riff -- guard a peaceful village of... [More]
Directed By: Ash Brannon

#70

Benji the Hunted (1987)
55%

#70
Adjusted Score: 54056%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: When a shipwreck separates the courageous dog Benji from his trainer (Frank Inn), the crafty canine must brave the dangers... [More]
Directed By: Joe Camp

#69

The Shaggy D.A. (1976)
50%

#69
Adjusted Score: 19054%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: When successful lawyer Wilby Daniels (Dean Jones) returns from vacation to find his home has been burglarized, he decides to... [More]
Directed By: Robert Stevenson

#68

A Dog's Journey (2019)
51%

#68
Adjusted Score: 54581%
Critics Consensus: A Dog's Journey is as sentimental as one might expect, but even cynical viewers may find their ability to resist shedding a tear stretched to the puppermost limit.
Synopsis: Bailey is living the good life on the Michigan farm of his boy, Ethan and Ethan's wife Hannah. He even... [More]
Directed By: Gail Mancuso

#67
Adjusted Score: 14363%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Scooby and friends investigate creepy goings-on and a mystery involving a famous horror writer in a small Massachusetts town.... [More]
Directed By: Jim Stenstrum

#66

Oliver & Company (1988)
50%

#66
Adjusted Score: 53476%
Critics Consensus: Predictable and stodgy, Oliver & Company isn't one of Disney's best, though its colorful cast of characters may be enough to entertain young viewers looking for a little adventure.
Synopsis: In this animated update of the classic "Oliver Twist" tale, Oliver (Joey Lawrence) is an orphaned kitten taken in by... [More]
Directed By: George Scribner

#65

Turner & Hooch (1989)
52%

#65
Adjusted Score: 52814%
Critics Consensus: Tom Hanks makes Turner and Hooch more entertaining than it might look on paper, but ultimately, this is still a deeply silly comedy about a cop and a canine.
Synopsis: Det. Scott Turner (Tom Hanks) is an uptight, by-the-book police officer who hopes to leave his sleepy California town and... [More]
Directed By: Roger Spottiswoode

#64
Adjusted Score: 53323%
Critics Consensus: While a dull affair for parents, Clifford's Really Big Movie should charm its intended preschool audience.
Synopsis: A gigantic red dog (John Ritter) leaves home and becomes the main attraction at a traveling circus.... [More]
Directed By: Robert Ramirez

#63
Adjusted Score: 34713%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The Seaver family arrives at San Francisco International Airport to catch a flight to Canada. They check in their pets:... [More]
Directed By: David R. Ellis

#62

Balto (1995)
54%

#62
Adjusted Score: 54864%
Critics Consensus: Balto is a well-meaning adventure with spirited animation, but mushy sentimentality and bland characterization keeps it at paw's length from more sophisticated family fare.
Synopsis: In this animated feature, a deadly diphtheria epidemic strikes the remote town of Nome, Alaska. With the life-saving medicine located... [More]
Directed By: Simon Wells

#61

Cats & Dogs (2001)
53%

#61
Adjusted Score: 57285%
Critics Consensus: A great concept, but the movie fails to develop the characters and some of the jokes are hit-or-miss.
Synopsis: "Cats & Dogs" uncovers the truth about the high-tech, secret war being waged in neighborhoods everywhere that humans aren't even... [More]
Directed By: Lawrence Guterman

#60
#60
Adjusted Score: 58453%
Critics Consensus: An old-fashioned, if bland, adaptation of Kate DiCamillo's novel.
Synopsis: Abandoned by her mother years ago, Opal (AnnaSophia Robb), a 10-year-old girl, moves with her preacher father (Jeff Daniels) to... [More]
Directed By: Wayne Wang

#59
Adjusted Score: 30993%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: While sailing off the shore of British Columbia, John McCormick (Bruce Davison), his son, Angus (Jesse Bradford), and the boy's... [More]
Directed By: Phillip Borsos

#58

A Dog's Way Home (2019)
59%

#58
Adjusted Score: 63187%
Critics Consensus: A Dog's Way Home may not quite be a family-friendly animal drama fan's best friend, but this canine adventure is no less heartwarming for its familiarity.
Synopsis: As a puppy, Bella finds her way into the arms of Lucas, a young man who gives her a good... [More]
Directed By: Charles Martin Smith

#57

Benji (2018)
60%

#57
Adjusted Score: 38550%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A dog comes to the rescue and helps heal a broken family when a boy and his sister stumble into... [More]
Directed By: Brandon Camp

#56
Adjusted Score: 14363%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Transported into a video game, the gang must survive different levels of difficulty to solve a mystery.... [More]
Directed By: Jim Stenstrum

#55
#55
Adjusted Score: 69768%
Critics Consensus: The Secret Life of Pets 2 doesn't teach its animated stars any new narrative tricks -- but for fans of the original, this funny, energetic sequel should still satisfy.
Synopsis: Explore the emotional lives of pets and the deep bond between them and the families that love them as Max,... [More]
Directed By: Chris Renaud

#54

Cujo (1983)
62%

#54
Adjusted Score: 64447%
Critics Consensus: Cujo is artless work punctuated with moments of high canine gore and one wild Dee Wallace performance.
Synopsis: In this tale of a killer canine, man's best friend turns into his worst enemy. When sweet St. Bernard Cujo... [More]
Directed By: Lewis Teague

#53
#53
Adjusted Score: 76282%
Critics Consensus: It's undermined by distracting and unnecessary CGI, but this heartwarming Call of the Wild remains a classic story, affectionately retold.
Synopsis: Buck is a big-hearted dog whose blissful domestic life gets turned upside down when he is suddenly uprooted from his... [More]
Directed By: Chris Sanders

#52

Iron Will (1994)
67%

#52
Adjusted Score: 66188%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: His father's demise leaves young Will Stoneman (Mackenzie Astin) and his mother struggling to save their farm from financial ruin.... [More]
Directed By: Charles Haid

#51

Marley & Me (2008)
63%

#51
Adjusted Score: 67367%
Critics Consensus: Pet owners should love it, but Marley and Me is only sporadically successful in wringing drama and laughs from its scenario.
Synopsis: Newlyweds John and Jenny Grogan (Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston) leave behind snowy Michigan and move to Florida, where they buy... [More]
Directed By: David Frankel

#50

White Fang (1991)
65%

#50
Adjusted Score: 65791%
Critics Consensus: This glossy edition of White Fang shaves off the rough-hewn edges that made Jack London's epic story so distinct, but gorgeous photography and heartfelt performances make this an appealing adventure.
Synopsis: This adaptation of Jack London's wilderness tale focuses on young Jack Conroy (Ethan Hawke), who has arrived in Alaska to... [More]
Directed By: Randal Kleiser

#49

Dog Days (2018)
62%

#49
Adjusted Score: 65433%
Critics Consensus: Dog Days is frivolous but frothy, sporting a forgettable cast of human characters but a lovable troupe of pooches that ought to delight viewers looking for a gentle affirmation of humanity's bond with their furry friends.
Synopsis: Elizabeth is a charming anchorwoman who seeks advice from her dog's therapist. Tara is a spunky barista who dreams of... [More]
Directed By: Ken Marino

#48
#48
Adjusted Score: 64190%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A college professor (Richard Gere) forms a lasting bond with a dog that he finds on a train platform.... [More]
Directed By: Lasse Hallström

#47
#47
Adjusted Score: 67466%
Critics Consensus: Lady and the Tramp's cute dogs and likable cast work well enough, but the live-action update lacks some of the magic that made the original 1955 film such a delight.
Synopsis: In this heartwarming romantic adventure, a timeless re-telling of the 1955 animated classic, Lady, an overachieving, pampered American Cocker Spaniel... [More]
Directed By: Charlie Bean

#46

The Plague Dogs (1982)
63%

#46
Adjusted Score: 50330%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this animation, Snitter (John Hurt) and Rowf (Christopher Benjamin) are two dogs trapped in a lab where they are... [More]
Directed By: Martin Rosen

#45
Adjusted Score: 15019%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A scrappy puppy tries to rescue his siblings after evil Cruella kidnaps them.... [More]
Directed By: Jim Kammerud, Brian Smith

#44

The Shaggy Dog (1959)
68%

#44
Adjusted Score: 69135%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The son of dog-hating former mailman Wilson Daniels (Fred MacMurray), young Wilby (Tommy Kirk) accidentally becomes a canine himself when... [More]
Directed By: Charles Barton

#43

I Am Legend (2007)
68%

#43
Adjusted Score: 77389%
Critics Consensus: I Am Legend overcomes questionable special effects and succeeds largely on the strength of Will Smith's mesmerizing performance.
Synopsis: Robert Neville (Will Smith), a brilliant scientist, is a survivor of a man-made plague that transforms humans into bloodthirsty mutants.... [More]
Directed By: Francis Lawrence

#42
#42
Adjusted Score: 70029%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Young Marty (Zachary Browne) adopts Shiloh, a beagle mistreated by its former owner, local hunter and town drunk Judd (Scott... [More]
Directed By: Sandy Tung

#41
#41
Adjusted Score: 71582%
Critics Consensus: The Fox and the Hound is a likeable, charming, unassuming effort that manages to transcend its thin, predictable plot.
Synopsis: After his mother is killed, Tod the fox (Mickey Rooney) is taken in by the kindly Widow Tweed (Jeanette Nolan).... [More]

#40
Adjusted Score: 39354%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this sequel, the hero of the first film, Jack Conroy, passes the torch to adventure-seeker Henry Casey (Scott Bairstow)... [More]
Directed By: Ken Olin

#39

Eight Below (2006)
72%

#39
Adjusted Score: 78241%
Critics Consensus: Featuring a stellar cast of marooned mutts, who deftly display emotion, tenderness, loyalty and resolve, Eight Below is a heartwarming and exhilarating adventure film.
Synopsis: The frozen wasteland of Antarctica serves as the background for a tale about the bonds of friendship and loyalty. Three... [More]
Directed By: Frank Marshall

#38

Shiloh (1997)
73%

#38
Adjusted Score: 59230%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Young Marty Preston (Blake Heron) wants to keep a beagle dog that followed him home. He even names him Shiloh.... [More]
Directed By: Dale Rosenbloom

#37

My Dog Skip (2000)
73%

#37
Adjusted Score: 75633%
Critics Consensus: Critics say My Dog Skip is cute, wholesome entertainment for the family. It's especially designed to appeal to your sentiment, but you might find yourself choking up just the same.
Synopsis: Who says best friends have to be human? Not Willie Morris (Frankie Muniz), who receives a talented terrier named Skip... [More]
Directed By: Jay Russell

#36
#36
Adjusted Score: 86698%
Critics Consensus: Fast-paced, funny, and blessed with a talented voice cast, The Secret Life of Pets offers a beautifully animated, cheerfully undemanding family-friendly diversion.
Synopsis: Max (Louis C.K.) is a spoiled terrier who enjoys a comfortable life in a New York building until his owner... [More]
Directed By: Chris Renaud

#35

Wiener-Dog (2016)
74%

#35
Adjusted Score: 80780%
Critics Consensus: For filmgoers predisposed to enjoy Todd Solondz' brand of black comedy, Wiener-Dog won't disappoint -- but those put off by previous works need not apply.
Synopsis: A cute dachshund puppy finds itself shuffled from one oddball owner to the next, including two couples, a veterinary nurse... [More]
Directed By: Todd Solondz

#34
#34
Adjusted Score: 77575%
Critics Consensus: An offbeat, eccentric black comedy, A Boy and His Dog features strong dialogue and an oddball vision of the future.
Synopsis: Vic (Don Johnson) is a libidinous 18-year-old traversing the post-apocalyptic desert of 2024, in the company of his telepathic dog,... [More]
Directed By: L.Q. Jones

#33
Adjusted Score: 17934%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: When their van breaks down in a remote desert town, Scooby and the gang find themselves surrounded by aliens.... [More]
Directed By: Jim Stenstrum

#32

White Fang (2018)
80%

#32
Adjusted Score: 51397%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A young boy befriends a half-breed wolf as he searches for his father, who has mysteriously gone missing during the... [More]
Directed By: Alexandre Espigares

#31
Adjusted Score: 77723%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A cat and a dog find perils and mates after straying from their farm in Japan. Narrated by Dudley Moore.... [More]
Directed By: Masanori Hata

#30

Alpha (2018)
80%

#30
Adjusted Score: 87545%
Critics Consensus: Well-acted and beautifully filmed, Alpha offers a canine-assisted epic adventure that blends rousing action with an extra helping of canine charm.
Synopsis: Young Keda tries to survive alone in the wilderness after he's left for dead during his first hunt with his... [More]
Directed By: Albert Hughes

#29

Baxter (1989)
89%

#29
Adjusted Score: 37918%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A bull terrier observes the behavior of an old lady, a young couple and a troubled boy and adapts his... [More]
Directed By: Jérôme Boivin

#28

Red Dog (2011)
83%

#28
Adjusted Score: 83694%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A dog unites a fractured community while searching for its master.... [More]
Directed By: Kriv Stenders

#27
#27
Adjusted Score: 89981%
Critics Consensus: James L. Brooks and Jack Nicholson, doing what they do best, combine smart dialogue and flawless acting to squeeze fresh entertainment value out of the romantic-comedy genre.
Synopsis: Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson) is an obsessive-compulsive writer of romantic fiction who's rude to everyone he meets, including his gay... [More]
Directed By: James L. Brooks

#26

Wendy and Lucy (2008)
85%

#26
Adjusted Score: 92420%
Critics Consensus: Michelle Williams gives a heartbreaking performance in Wendy and Lucy, a timely portrait of loneliness and struggle.
Synopsis: Wendy (Michelle Williams), a near-penniless drifter, is traveling to Alaska in search of work, and her only companion is her... [More]
Directed By: Kelly Reichardt

#25
Adjusted Score: 45012%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Scooby (Scott Innes) and the rest of the Mystery, Inc., crew encounter creepy characters at a haunted house on a... [More]
Directed By: Jim Stenstrum

#24

Benji (1974)
86%

#24
Adjusted Score: 69398%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Stray dog Benji doesn't need an owner, preferring to roam freely all over his friendly Texas town. He delights in... [More]
Directed By: Joe Camp

#23

Oddball (2015)
87%

#23
Adjusted Score: 86530%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A chicken farmer and his granddaughter train a dog to protect a penguin sanctuary from foxes.... [More]
Directed By: Stuart McDonald

#22
Adjusted Score: 87908%
Critics Consensus: Disney's remake of The Incredible Journey successfully replicates, and in some ways improves upon, the simple charms of the original, with its cross-country animal odyssey sure to delight kids.
Synopsis: Before the Seavers leave for a family vacation to San Francisco, they drop off their pets -- Chance (Michael J.... [More]
Directed By: Duwayne Dunham

#21

Megan Leavey (2017)
86%

#21
Adjusted Score: 92166%
Critics Consensus: Megan Leavey honors its real-life subjects with a sensitive, uplifting drama whose honest emotion more than makes up for its mild approach to the story.
Synopsis: The true life story of Megan Leavey, a young Marine corporal whose unique discipline and bond with a military combat... [More]

#20

Frankenweenie (2012)
87%

#20
Adjusted Score: 96448%
Critics Consensus: Frankenweenie is an energetic stop-motion horror movie spoof with lovingly crafted visuals and a heartfelt, oddball story.
Synopsis: Young Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) is a science nerd and outsider at school, but he does have one good friend:... [More]
Directed By: Tim Burton

#19

Lassie (1994)
88%

#19
Adjusted Score: 87267%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: On their way to start a new life at a sheep farm in rural Virginia, the Turner family are halted... [More]
Directed By: Daniel Petrie

#18
#18
Adjusted Score: 88064%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: An unlikely trio of pets -- aging bull terrier Bodger, spry Labrador retriever Luath, and Siamese cat Tao -- begin... [More]
Directed By: Fletcher Markle

#17

White God (2014)
88%

#17
Adjusted Score: 92021%
Critics Consensus: White God isn't an easy watch, but its soaring ambition and powerful acting -- human and canine alike -- make it well worth the effort.
Synopsis: Failing in his efforts to find his beloved owner (Zsófia Psotta), an abandoned dog eventually joins a canine revolt against... [More]
Directed By: Kornél Mundruczó

#16

Sounder (1972)
90%

#16
Adjusted Score: 91608%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The Morgans, a family of poor black sharecroppers in the Depression-plagued South, struggle to find enough to eat despite the... [More]
Directed By: Martin Ritt

#15

Bolt (2008)
89%

#15
Adjusted Score: 96474%
Critics Consensus: Bolt is a pleasant animated comedy that overcomes the story's familiarity with strong visuals and likable characters.
Synopsis: The days of canine superstar Bolt (John Travolta) are filled with danger and intrigue ... until the cameras stop rolling.... [More]

#14

Togo (2019)
92%

#14
Adjusted Score: 93560%
Critics Consensus: An endearing and exciting underdog story that benefits greatly from its stars (canine and human alike), Togo is a timeless tale, well-told.
Synopsis: "Togo" is the true story set in the winter of 1925 of champion dogsled trainer Leonhard Seppala and his lead... [More]
Directed By: Ericson Core

#13

My Dog Tulip (2009)
90%

#13
Adjusted Score: 91585%
Critics Consensus: A beautifully animated diversion, My Dog Tulip is as comforting and delightful as cuddling with your own canine companion.
Synopsis: Despite a lack of affinity for dogs, a confirmed bachelor (Christopher Plummer) adopts an Alsatian and forms a close bond... [More]

#12

Isle of Dogs (2018)
90%

#12
Adjusted Score: 111580%
Critics Consensus: The beautifully stop-motion animated Isle of Dogs finds Wes Anderson at his detail-oriented best while telling one of the director's most winsomely charming stories.
Synopsis: When, by executive decree, all the canine pets of Megasaki City are exiled to a vast garbage-dump called Trash Island,... [More]
Directed By: Wes Anderson

#11

White Dog (1982)
92%

#11
Adjusted Score: 92319%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: An animal-trainer (Paul Winfield) tries to deprogram an actress's (Kristy McNichol) found dog, trained for racial attacks.... [More]
Directed By: Samuel Fuller

#10
#10
Adjusted Score: 92738%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Charlie Brown's (Chad Webber) beloved dog Snoopy (Bill Melendez) receives a letter from his original owner, Lila (Johanna Baer), who... [More]
Directed By: Bill Melendez

#9

Lassie (2005)
93%

#9
Adjusted Score: 94334%
Critics Consensus: A beautifully-made retelling of the classic collie tale, one need not be a dog-lover to fall for Lassie.
Synopsis: Young Joe Carraclough (Jonathan Mason) and his family (Samantha Morton, John Lynch) love their faithful collie, Lassie. However, when Joe's... [More]
Directed By: Charles Sturridge

#8
#8
Adjusted Score: 97157%
Critics Consensus: A nostalgic charmer, Lady and the Tramp's token sweetness is mighty but the songs and richly colored animation are technically superb and make for a memorable experience.
Synopsis: This Disney animated classic follows a pampered cocker spaniel named Lady (Barbara Luddy) whose comfortable life slips away once her... [More]

#7

Lassie Come Home (1943)
94%

#7
Adjusted Score: 94707%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In a small Yorkshire village during the Great Depression, financial pressures cause the parents of young Joe Carraclough (Roddy McDowall)... [More]
Directed By: Fred M. Wilcox

#6

Best in Show (2000)
93%

#6
Adjusted Score: 97140%
Critics Consensus: A fine example of writer-director-star Christopher Guest's gift for improv comedy, Best in Show boasts an appealingly quirky premise and a brilliantly talented cast.
Synopsis: The tension is palpable, the excitement is mounting and the heady scent of competition is in the air as hundreds... [More]
Directed By: Christopher Guest

#5
Adjusted Score: 102223%
Critics Consensus: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is a subtly touching and wonderfully eccentric adventure featuring Wallace and Gromit.
Synopsis: ... [More]
Directed By: Steve Box

#4

Heart of a Dog (2015)
96%

#4
Adjusted Score: 99982%
Critics Consensus: Of a piece with much of director Laurie Anderson's idiosyncratic output, Heart of a Dog delves into weighty themes with lyrical, haunting grace.
Synopsis: Musician and performance artist Laurie Anderson reflects on the deaths of her husband Lou Reed, her mother and her beloved... [More]
Directed By: Laurie Anderson

#3

Umberto D (1952)
97%

#3
Adjusted Score: 100133%
Critics Consensus: Anchored by Carlo Battisti's moving performance as Umberto D, Vittorio de Sica's deeply empathetic character study is a bracing glimpse into the lives of the downtrodden.
Synopsis: When elderly pensioner Umberto Domenico Ferrari (Carlo Battisti) returns to his boarding house from a protest calling for a hike... [More]
Directed By: Vittorio De Sica

#2
Adjusted Score: 102963%
Critics Consensus: With plenty of pooches and a memorable villain (Cruella De Vil), this is one of Disney's most enduring, entertaining animated films.
Synopsis: In a Disney animation classic, Dalmatian Pongo is tired of his bachelor-dog life. He spies lovely Perdita and maneuvers his... [More]

#1

Old Yeller (1957)
100%

#1
Adjusted Score: 101991%
Critics Consensus: Old Yeller is an exemplary coming of age tale, packing an emotional wallop through smart pacing and a keen understanding of the elemental bonding between humanity and their furry best friends.
Synopsis: While Jim Coates (Fess Parker) is off on a cattle drive, his wife, Katie (Dorothy McGuire), and sons, Travis (Tommy... [More]
Directed By: Robert Stevenson

(Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)

In Wes Anderson movies, dogs usually get the short end of the whimsy stick. The rampage began in The Royal Tenenbaums, when the family beagle is crushed by a car driven by Owen Wilson on mescaline. Since then, dogs are routinely killed, poisoned, and abandoned. As if to repent, Anderson is releasing a new stop-motion adventure all about dogs…who are crushed, killed, poisoned, and abandoned. But, hey, it’s called Isle of Dogs, a pun when said aloud about how much Anderson loves man’s best friend. Sure, dude.

Seriously, though, Isle of Dogs is a terrific tribute to the purity and loyal spirit of dogs, one that also can’t help take a few potshots at cats . The cats versus dogs debate has been raging since time immemorial, but today we’re going to solve it like true 21st century people: by throwing up a bunch of numbers on your screen! We’ve taken the 20 highest-rated dog movies, and the 20 highest-rated cat movies, and averaged out a Tomatometer for each list. The animal has to be the main crux of the plot, and movies where the dogs and cats share top billing are not included — so no Incredible Journeys or Milos & Otiseses.

20 Best Dog Movies
Old Yeller: 100%
101 Dalmatians: 98%
Heart of a Dog: 96%
Lassie Come Home: 94%
Best in Show: 94%
Lassie (2006): 93%
Snoopy, Come Home:92%
White Dog: 92%
Lady and the Tramp: 90%
My Dog Tulip: 90%
Bolt: 89%
White God: 89%
Lassie (1994): 88%
Frankenweenie: 87%
Benji: 86%
Wendy and Lucy: 85%
A Boy and His Dog: 75%
My Dog Skip: 73%
Eight Below: 72%
White Fang 2: Myth of the White Wolf: 71%
AVERAGE: 88%

20 Best Cat Movies
Kedi: 98%
Born Free: 94%
The Rabbi’s Cat: 94%
That Darn Cat!: 93%
Duma: 93%
The Lion King: 92%
The Cat Returns: 90%
Harry and Tonto: 88%
The Black Cat: 87%
Puss in Boots: 84%
A Cat in Paris: 82%
Two Brothers: 78%
Keanu: 78%
A Street Cat Named Bob: 76%
The Lion King 1 1/2: 76%
The Cat from Outer Space: 75%
Disneynature African Cats: 71%
Roar: 70%
The Aristocats: 67%
Cat’s Eye: 67%
AVERAGE: 82%

The Tomatometer speaks (or barks, in this case): Dog movies get the edge over cats! But why stop there? Continue on as we break down the stats even further.


RUFF SKETCHES & FE-LINE DRAWING

Buena Vista Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

Animated dog movies: 101 Dalmatians, Snoopy, Come Home, Lady and the Tramp, My Dog Tulip, Bolt, Frankenweenie
Average Tomatometer: 91%

Animated cat movies: The Rabbi’s Cat, The Lion King, The Cat Returns, Puss in Boots, A Cat in Paris, The Lion King 1 1/2, The Aristocats
Average Tomatometer: 84%

With a little imagination, you can draw a line from the earliest cave drawings to Space Chimps 2: Zartog Strikes Back. Since the beginning, we’ve observed and studied animals around us, for re-creation on whatever canvas available. So it’s no surprise that cartoons, our updated cave art, are synonymous with talking animals, and that a significant portion of the top 20 cats and dog movies are animated. For our canine pals, the average Tomatometer for the seven animated movies is 91%. For our kitty compatriots, the T-meter for the six animated movies equals 84%, thanks to Walt Disney (The Lion King), Studio Ghibli (The Cat Returns), and Dreamworks (Puss in Boots). Why has Pixar not made the effort? Are they secretly running some anti-cat ring from their basement dungeon in Emeryville? Look into it, people.


DOGS & CATS LIVING TOGETHER, MASS HYSTERIA

Oscilloscope/courtesy Everett Collection

Dog documentaries: Heart of a Dog
Tomatometer: 96%

Cat documentaries: Kedi, African Cats
Tomatometer: 88%

Two documentaries pop up on the cat list: Kedi, an endearing look at strays in Instanbul, and African Cats, featuring cheetahs and lions in Kenya. From the streets to the tundra to your apartment, cats remain in our eyes independent, mysterious, and almost otherwordly. Probably why we make more documentaries about them than dogs. Dog movies revolve around their connection with humans, good fodder for tugging at the heart strings in narrative films. And the only dog documentary here, Heart of a Dog, is indeed about a dog’s bond with its master, artist Laurie Anderson. It’s 96% on the Tomatometer, while the two cat documentaries average 88%.


KILL YOUR (ANIMAL) DARLINGS


Movies where the dog dies:
Old Yeller, White Dog, My Dog Tulip, My Dog Skip, Eight Below
Average Tomatometer: 86%

Movies where the cat dies: The Lion King, Harry & Tonto, The Black Cat
Average Tomatometer: 88%

Some people refuse to watch movies knowing the dog is going to die. But how does canine death affect the Tomatometer? Movies where a dog is killed (on-screen or off) average 86%, two percentage points down from the top 20’s 88%. But when the cat dies, the average Tomatometer actually goes up, also to a healthy 88%. What happened to the stereotype of film critics being cat people? Or is this all some twisted projection of resentment upon their own pets? You be the judge.


BITING THE HAND

Criterion Collection

Movies where the dog bites someone: White God, 101 Dalmatians, White Dog, A Boy and His Dog, White Fang 2
Average Tomatometer: 85%

Movies where the cat scratches someone: Two Brothers, Puss in Boots, Roar, Cat’s Eye
Average Tomatometer: 75%

Enough about killing your pets. What happens when feral instinct rears its furry head and cats and dogs attack people? With dogs, critics seem pretty okay with it: the average Tomatometer only drops to 85%, and frankly, some of the people deserve it, like the burglars in 101 Dalmatians. And we’re including Blood from A Boy and His Dog; he doesn’t bite anybody, but he does help himself to some human delicacies, if you catch our post-apocalyptic drift. Meanwhile, critics are no fans of cat scratch fever: the average rating drops to 75% in movies where cats go on the offense. Keep those claws in your paws, kittens.

Happy Fourth of July! To celebrate the birth of our nation — and the first streaming column of the month — we’ve collected the most notable Certified Fresh films each service has released. Grab that barbecue, settle into your favorite beanbag, and check out this week’s choices.


New on Netflix

 

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) 99%

Steven Spielberg’s family classic — the tale of a young boy named Elliott who discovers an orphaned alien in his backyard — boasts one of the most beloved movie characters in history.

Available now on: Netflix


Best in Show (2000) 93%

A fine example of writer-director-star Christopher Guest’s gift for improv comedy, this mockumentary about comptetitive dog shows boasts brilliantly talented cast.

Available now on: Netflix


Delicatessen (1991) 89%

Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro’s fantastical dark comedy centers on an apartment complex whose landlord is also a butcher who serves fresh — and rather unusual — meat; when a new tenant moves in and discovers the secret, he finds himself in imminent danger.

Available now on: Netflix


Titanic (1997) 89%

In James Cameron’s multiple Oscar-winning romance, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet play star-crossed lovers who meet aboard the ill-fated ocean liner. He teaches her how to spit.

Available 6/28 on: Netflix


Emma (1996) 85%

Gwyneth Paltrow stars in this adaptation of the Jane Austen novel about a well-meaning woman who takes it upon herself to play matchmaker to those in her life, unaware that she has an admirer of her own.

Available now on: Netflix


Matchstick Men (2003) 82%

Nicolas Cage and Sam Rockwell star in Ridley Scott’s crime comedy about a con man with OCD who discovers he has a teenaged daughter he never knew about and decides to spend a weekend getting to know her.

Available now on: Netflix


Punch-Drunk Love (2002) 79%

Adam Sandler and Emily Watson star in Paul Thomas Anderson’s oddball comedy about a temper tantrum-prone salesman who falls in love when his sister sets him up with an English woman with a few quirks of her own.

Available now on: Netflix


New on Amazon Prime

 

Bull Durham (1988) 97%

Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Robbins star in this sports comedy about a minor league baseball player, the young player he’s assigned to tutor, and the woman both of them fall in love with.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


Star Trek: First Contact (1996) 92%

Jonathan Frakes directs this eighth installment of the Star Trek film franchise, which finds the Next Generation crew traveling back in time to stop the Borg from changing the course of history.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


20th Century Women (2016) 88%

Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig, and Elle Fanning star in Mike Mills’ semi-autobiographical Oscar-nominated drama about a bohemian single mother who raises her teenage son with the help of the eccentric tenants living in her house.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) 83%

Johnny Depp stars in Tim Burton’s adaptation of the famous Roald Dahl novel about an eccentric confectioner who invites five children to his mysterious chocolate factory for a tour.

Available now on: Amazon Prime

Netflix decided to unleash a veritable buttload of new movies this week, several of which are Certified Fresh. Choices range from Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey to P.T. Anderson’s ensemble drama Boogie Nights to perennial fan favorite The Shawshank Redemption, plus a whole lot more. Read on for the full list.


New on Netflix

 

Sunset Blvd. (1950) 98%

One of the best movies ever made about movies, Billy Wilder’s portrait of a delusional Hollywood has-been holed up in a decaying mansion is both darkly funny and deeply poignant, and features terrific performances from Gloria Swanson, William Holden, and Erich von Stroheim.

Available now on: Netflix


The Right Stuff (1983) 96%

Philip Kaufman’s Oscar-winning look at the origins of the United States’ manned space flight program stars Ed Harris, Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn, Barbara Hershey, and Dennis Quaid.

Available now on: Netflix


The Princess Bride (1987) 98%

Cary Elwes and Robin Wright star in Rob Reiner’s witty and heartfelt fairy tale comedy about a pirate on a quest to rescue his long-lost love from an evil prince

Available now on: Netflix


2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) 92%

Stanley Kubrick’s thought-provoking space opus is a beautifully shot meditation on morality, mortality, and mankind’s search for truth. It’ll probably blow your mind.

Available now on: Netflix


Best in Show (2000) 93%

A fine example of writer-director-star Christopher Guest’s gift for improv comedy, this mockumentary about comptetitive dog shows boasts brilliantly talented cast.

Available now on: Netflix


Happy-Go-Lucky (2008) 93%

Through a series of real-life trials that might test the patience of any normal person, the effervescent Poppy (Sally Hawkins) maintains a smile no matter how rough life gets, to the consternation of her grumpy driving instructor Scott (Eddie Marsan) in Mike Leigh’s enseble comedy.

Available now on: Netflix


Boogie Nights (1997) 93%

Paul Thomas Anderson’s ensemble drama about life in the porn industry made a movie star out of Mark Wahlberg and benefited immeasurably from great performances by Burt Reynolds, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Don Cheadle, Heather Graham, Luis Guzman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and William H. Macy.

Available now on: Netflix


The Shawshank Redemption (1994) 91%

Frank Darabont’s adaptation of the Stephen King novella stars Tim Robbins as a wrongly convicted accountant who befriends another inmate while serving his sentence.

Available now on: Netflix


Water (2005) 91%

This period drama from Deepa Mehta centers on a group of oppressed widows, one of whom struggles against societal norms when she falls in love with a young priest.

Available now on: Netflix


A Clockwork Orange (1971) 87%

Stanley Kubrick’s pitch-black satire, set in a brightly-colored but antiseptic futuristic England, features eye popping production design and a terrifically maniacal lead performance from Malcolm McDowell.

Available now on: Netflix


Mystic River (2003) 88%

Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, and Marcia Gay Harden star in Clint Eastwood’s drama about a Boston gangster whose life is upended when his daughter is murdered — a crime with echoes of another traumatic moment in the lives of three childhood friends on various sides of the law.

Available now on: Netflix


Inside Man (2006) 86%

Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster, and Clive Owen star in Spike Lee’s heist thriller about a New York cop who faces off with a clever bank robber who manages to stay a step ahead of the police.

Available now on: Netflix


Erin Brockovich (2000) 85%

Julia Roberts stars in Steven Soderbergh’s drama as the real-life single mother who discovered a utility company’s efforts to cover up water poisoning and took the case to court.

Available now on: Netflix


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) 83%

Johnny Depp stars in Tim Burton’s adaptation of the famous Roald Dahl novel about an eccentric confectioner who invites five children to his mysterious chocolate factory for a tour.

Available now on: Netflix


Dolphin Tale (2011) 82%

Based upon a true story, Dolphin Tale stars Harry Connick Jr., Morgan Freeman, and Ashley Judd in the — ahem — tale of an injured seafaring mammal who damages her tail in a crab trap. A team of specialists and a lonely youngster band together to help our aquatic heroine — now sporting a prosthetic tail — to swim again.

Available now on: Netflix


Elizabeth (1998) 83%

Cate Blanchett earned accolades for her performance as Queen Elizabeth I of England, who is crowned queen after being imprisoned by her half sister for several years.

Available now on: Netflix


Looking for Richard (1996) 81%

Al Pacino steps behind the camera for this documentary of one production of William Shakespeare’s Richard III, with actors such as Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin, and Winona Ryder in the cast.

Available now on: Netflix


Bowfinger (1999) 81%

Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy (in a dual role) star in Frank Oz’s Hollywood satire about a struggling film producer who enlists the help of a celebrity lookalike to complete a movie on the sly.

Available now on: Netflix


V for Vendetta (2006) 73%

V for Vendetta tells the story of a near-future dystopia, where a lone freedom fighter named V (Hugo Weaving) plots a series of revolutionary bombings to bring down a shady, secretly policed government. Along the way, V recruits young, frightened Evey (Natalie Portman ), shaves her head, and turns her into a proper young revolutionary.

Available now on: Netflix

Saturday Night Live celebrates the premiere of its 40th season this weekend, and to celebrate, we’ve compiled a list of critically-acclaimed films featuring SNL alums. The movies listed here aren’t necessarily the best or the best-reviewed movies from these stars; rather, we wanted to give a sense of the range and versatility of the not-ready-for-primetime players. Featuring those who rose to prominence during their time on the show (Eddie Murphy, Will Ferrell, Kristin Wiig) and a few you may have forgotten about (Robert Downey Jr., Julia Louis-Dreyfus), our list is a testament to SNL‘s continuing relevance as an incubator for some of the entertainment world’s brightest talents.


Adventureland
89%

Full of humor and nostalgia, and featuring wry supporting turns by Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, Adventureland is a sweet, insightful coming-of-age comedy that will resonate with teens and adults alike.


Best in Show
93%

A fine example of writer-director-star Christopher Guest’s gift for improv comedy, Best in Show boasts an appealingly quirky premise and a brilliantly talented cast.


Bridesmaids
90%

A marriage of genuine characters, gross out gags, and pathos, Bridesmaids is a female-driven comedy features star-making performances from Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph.


City Slickers
91%

With a supremely talented cast (led by Billy Crystal) and just enough midlife drama to add weight to its wildly silly overtones, City Slickers uses universal themes to earn big laughs.


Elf
85%

A movie full of Yuletide cheer, Elf is a spirited, good-natured family comedy, and it benefits greatly from Will Ferrell’s funny and charming performance as one of Santa’s biggest helpers.


Enough Said
95%

Wryly charming, impeccably acted, and ultimately quite bittersweet, Enough Said is a grown-up movie in the best possible way, and it offers a chance to see Julia Louis-Dreyfus play an intriguingly complex character.


48 Hrs.
93%

Marking an auspicious feature film debut for Eddie Murphy, 48 Hrs. is a briskly paced action comedy that succeeds largely due to the outstanding chemistry between its two leads.


Ghostbusters
97%

An infectiously fun blend of special effects and comedy, Ghostbusters derives many of its biggest laughs from Bill Murray’s hilarious deadpan wit and Dan Aykroyd’s enthusiastic geekiness.


God Said, Ha!
86%

God Said, Ha! plumbs poignant depths, but Julia Sweeney’s sharp, graceful wit makes this one-woman monologue a wise, big-hearted burst of uplifting — and perhaps therapeutic — entertainment.


Good Hair
95%

Funny, informative, and occasionally sad, Chris Rock’s Good Hair is a provocative look at the complex relationship between African Americans and their hair.


Groundhog Day
97%

Smart, sweet, and inventive, Groundhog Day highlights Bill Murray’s dramatic gifts while still leaving plenty of room for laughs.


Innerspace
82%

A manic, overstuffed blend of sci-fi, comedy, and romance, Innerspace nonetheless charms, thanks to Martin Short’s fine performance and the insistent zaniness of the plot.


Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
86%

Tongue-in-cheek satire blends well with entertaining action and a spot-on comic performance from Robert Downey Jr. in this dark, eccentric film noir homage.


Mean Girls
84%

Sharper and darker than the average teen comedy, Mean Girls benefits from refreshing honesty and a terrific cast that includes Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Tim Meadows.


National Lampoon’s Animal House
90%

The talents of director John Landis and Saturday Night Live‘s irrepressible John Belushi conspired to create a rambunctious, subversive college comedy that continues to resonate.


National Lampoon’s Vacation
93%

Blessed by a brilliantly befuddled star turn from Chevy Chase (as well as strong supporting work from Randy Quaid and a young Anthony Michael Hall), National Lampoon’s Vacation is one of the more consistent — and thoroughly quotable — screwball comedies of the 1980s.


Nebraska
91%

Elegant in its simplicity and poetic in its message, Nebraska is boosted by a poignant, bittersweet dramatic performance by Will Forte.


Obvious Child
90%

Tackling a sensitive subject with maturity, honesty, and wit, Obvious Child serves as both a showcase for Jenny Slate and a promising debut for writer-director Gillian Robespierre.


Punch-Drunk Love
79%

Odd, touching, and unique, Punch-Drunk Love is also delightfully funny, utilizing Adam Sandler’s comic persona to explore the life of a lonely guy who finds love.


School of Rock
92%

Full of high spirits and loads of heart School of Rock into a hilarious, rocking good time, thanks in part to sharp supporting work from Joan Cusack and Sarah Silverman.


Shrek 2
89%

Topical humor and exuberant vocal performances from Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy help to make Shrek 2 a funny, smart animated tale for audiences of all ages.


The Skeleton Twins
86%

Led by powerful performances from Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, The Skeleton Twins effectively mines laughs and tears from family drama.


This Is Spinal Tap
95%

Smartly directed, brilliantly acted, and packed with endlessly quotable moments, This Is Spinal Tap is an all-time comedy classic, and represents a high water mark for stars Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer.


Trading Places
88%

Featuring deft interplay between Eddie Murphy and Dan Dan Aykroyd, Trading Places is an immensely appealing social satire.


The Truth About Cats and Dogs
85%

Sharp, witty, and charming, The Truth About Cats and Dogs features a standout performance from Janeane Garofalo.


Wayne’s World
79%

An oddball comedy that revels in its silliness and memorable catch phrases, Wayne’s World is also fondly regarded because of its endearing leads — played with infectious goofiness by Mike Myers and Dana Carvey.


Whip It
84%

Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut has enough charm, energy, and good-natured humor to transcend its many cliches — and it features fine supporting performances by Kristen Wiig and Jimmy Fallon.

Droll, erudite and extremely affable, Bob Balaban is the kind of guy you could spend hours listening to — which is probably why Wes Anderson cast him as New Penzance’s all-purpose meteorologist narrator in his latest hit, Moonrise Kingdom. Balaban’s own career as an actor, writer and director goes way back, and via many curious avenues: He made his debut in the classic Midnight Cowboy, has worked with the likes of Woody Allen, Ken Russell and Christopher Guest, and famously appeared as François Truffaut’s interpreter in Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. He’s also directed and produced film and TV, appeared in theater, and been the NBC executive responsible for sinking Seinfeld — on TV, anyway. With Moonrise Kingdom expanding nationally this week, sat down for a talk with Balaban about the film, his experience working with Wes Anderson, and much more. During the course of the interview, he also talked about five of his favorite films.

La Ronde (Max Ophüls, 1950; 100% Tomatometer)



Well I always have a hard time with this. As we get older or grow or whatever, it’s always changing, because you just see more movies, for one thing, so you change. One of my most favorite movies, I think a perennial favorite movie of mine is La Ronde. I don’t know how well acquainted you are with it. It’s one of my favorite movies. Anton Walbrook is one of the stars, who also the stars of another one of my favorite movies, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. He’s the guy who’s that German who has the seven-minute monologue with the moving camera that never cuts, and he breaks down during it.

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1943; 95% Tomatometer)



Those are two favorites of mine.

Colonel Blimp really is something else, isn’t it?

Yeah — and I was surprised. I didn’t think I’d love it. I saw pieces of it and I kept avoiding watching it, because it seemed so artificial and I didn’t get the acting style, but when I watched the whole movie I just thought it was the most amazing movie. I loved it. And Deborah Kerr was just great. I always liked her, but she was just fantastic in this.

The Palm Beach Story / The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (Preston Sturges, 1942/1944; 100/90% Tomatometer)



I do like… I’m a big Preston Sturges fan. I like all of them, but I especially like, probably Palm Beach Story, and Miracle at Morgan’s Creek is one of my favorites. I happen to love it. I think it’s maybe one of my favorite… 20 movies, ’cause there’s so many great things.

The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel-Donnersmarck, 2006; 93% Tomatometer)


Another foreign film was probably The Lives of Others. I thought that was pretty great.

E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (Steven Spielberg, 1982; 98% Tomatometer)



I love E.T., you know. I think E.T. ‘s great. Those scenes with the kids are quite amazing.

Some of the greatest direction of kids there, that’s for sure.

And that’s not an accident. He’s been consistent, Steven, in his whole career doing that.

Next, Balaban on working with Wes Anderson on Moonrise Kingdom, directing kids and his memories of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

 

[Balaban looks over some of the Moonrise Kingdom promotional items.]

They always have good promotional things for Wes Anderson movies.

Bob Balaban: It’s funny — I saved a few things from Gosford Park, ’cause as a producer we had the promotional materials. We had the strangest promotional materials. And Catch-22, which was the first movie I was in — well along with Midnight Cowboy, but we didn’t get anything on that; I mean, what would it have been? Used condoms? [Laughs] But on Catch-22 we all got this amazing silver key chain. I remember it vividly: it had the logo of the movie done in a silver disc with this most gorgeous key chain, and I had it for so long that the disc eventually fell off from the key chain.

It does pay to hold on to stuff, sometimes. Well, congratulations on the film. I very much liked it.

Thank you.

I’m sure nobody tells you how much they didn’t like it.

[Laughs] Well sometimes they do, but they don’t at a junket.

Well, I’m not just saying that; I genuinely loved it. I’m a fan of Wes.

I am too. And now I’m even more of a fan, because to watch him do what it is that he does to get those movies that you love so much — he is all the time exhibiting all the traits, as a director, that you’ve come to admire in his movies. His movies and Wes, they’re like one and the same. And it’s very satisfying to see that.

You have an amusing role: the omniscient narrator, presiding over the story.

Yeah, I guess you could say it’s like the narrator, or the stage manager in our town. I just knew that it was a tradition in Wes’s movies that he often did have a narrator, so I was very happy to occupy it — “Oh, I have a place in his vocabulary.” I was very happy to be the narrator. And I knew that it was likely that I wouldn’t get cut. [Laughs] I also knew that, like all the parts in this movie, there are no small parts in a Wes Anderson movie. I felt like I had a small but really nice, secure thing to be in the movie. I enjoyed being both the commentator and then sometimes being a character in it as well.

You’re almost an instrument in the film’s orchestra.

Yes. I also think that some part of the narrator — which I didn’t think of too much actively when I was doing it — but at some point I thought, “This movie is really a book.” Moonrise Kingdom is the sixth book in what Kara’s character carries around with her in her little satchel of children’s books. So I think those kinds of books have first person narrators who also appear in the story, and I think of this as a sort of literary conceit that I thought worked very nicely on the page; and when I see the movie, I think Wes made great choices about that.

Yours is a distinct and recognizable screen presence. Why did you think Wes approached you for this part?

Oh I have no idea. [Laughs]

He must have been a fan; I mean, you’re a fan of his.

I’m a fan of his. I knew him, enough to say “Hello” a couple of times but I didn’t really know him. I guess as writers and directors do. I certainly do it when I’m planning to direct something. I’m always making lists of “Who can I think of that I haven’t seen in a little bit?” or “Who somehow has some great similarity to this thing that I’m doing, but that they haven’t done it before?” I guess I came to Wes’s mind. Thank god — that’s how we get jobs.

He does appear to have a very specific list, in terms of his cast.

Yeah. Well I certainly hope I end up being cast in another Wes Anderson movie.

He reuses the same people, so you could be in.

I know. But he can’t keep expanding, otherwise the cast will be so big. But I’d find it very gratifying to work with him again.

His movies, especially this one, have very rigorous formal structures. What’s it like acting under that kind of direction?

Well in my case, I didn’t have that many marks to hit. [Smiles] It was, “Stand there, put your foot there on the rock, and I’ll go over here.” But, as in all life, sometimes the very things you would think would make somebody not be good at the thing that they’re doing — for instance, an obsessive attention to clothing and scenery and stuff — in Wes’s case, it has a whole different form and it takes on a whole different meaning, because he does create a world in all of his movies. They’re all different worlds, but you can tell they all come from the same creator. Most people don’t make movies that way. There are very few people who do: there’s similarities, there’s shooting style, but there’s something about Wes that is deeply ingrained in his movies, and instead of making the same movie all the time — they may feel similar, but they have different themes, very different strengths, and the characters are really very remarkably different in all of these movies; and I thought that especially in Moonrise Kingdom.

One of the pleasures I find in seeing the movie — ’cause when you’re in a movie there’s one kind of pleasure, and it was very fun to be in this movie — but watching the movie, the pleasure of seeing the stuff that you don’t [initially see], that you are not being made aware of all the time, is to me one of the strongest parts of the movie. And it exists because it’s existing in such a rigorous structure. I think Moonrise Kingdom has a very, very strong emotional current and a very strong core in it about love and disappointment and youth and, I mean there’s so many fun ways to analyze this movie when you see it. Because I did, and I think most audiences have a very powerful reaction to it. At first when you see the movie you might think it’s sort of a trifle: It’s fun, it’s beautiful to look at, the characters are funny. It’s sort of a romp, you could say, and I think it’s popularity is somewhat derived from that; but on the other hand, it’s a very deep and rather profound movie, and all the more profound because it’s a bit of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, you know. It sort of dares you to get involved with it, and then you really get involved with it. I was amazed from the first time I saw the movie at how invested I was, in the children and the adults: in the adults’ rather sad but understandable lives, and the purity and just the passion of those two little, both outcast children. I was just amazed that a movie that had that formal structure could have that kind of emotional life to it.

Agreed. It’s a synthesis of style and content that he does so very well.

Yes. And also, I don’t think it’s a choice Wes makes. I think that he, at some point, he just made what was in his heart, and he just keeps making it over and over again. But it’s also different in that there’s enough you really do feel — I mean that’s why they call it the auteur [theory], or whatever it is — it’s because you really get to know somebody. And it’s not — there’s no easy answer to what makes it. There is a surface to a Wes Anderson movie, you could say that’s why it’s a Wes Anderson movie, but really it’s a Wes Anderson movie because he subconsciously and consciously infuses every frame of the movie — yes visually, yes emotionally, and yes in the text; he infuses it with his unique vision of life. It’s so specific. And I think that’s what we crave in all art forms; something that’s so specific that you can identify with it, because it’s so specific. It’s the general stuff that can’t identify with, because it doesn’t engage you as much as one person’s vision –which isn’t your vision, but somehow you’re able to connect with it.

You’ve said almost everything I needed to say about it. I think the interview’s over.

[Laughs]

You’ve worked with many interesting actors and directors, and one that comes to mind I’m sure for a lot of people is François Truffaut in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Yes, one of my favorite directors.

Did Wes ask you about working with him — given what a great admirer he is of Truffaut?

I don’t know that we did talk about it. But I wrote a book about the making of the movie.

That’s right, yes — I mean to read it.

It’s kind of — it’s fun, you know. It’s very specific, because it’s sort of my impressions. It’s a small actor’s view of what it’s like to be in a really big movie. [Laughs] So it’s sort of from the ant’s point of view, I would say. But I don’t think we talked about it. I try to guard against telling too many anecdotes because I’m not very good at them, and it’s really boring to be with people who are all, “Oh yes, and then in 1968 this happened,” you know—

[Laughs] I think we’d need another few hours to through the anecdotes you have.

Well not all of them are that interesting. But Close Encounters was extremely interesting and very easy and fun to write about. Also, I liked everybody so I had nothing bad to say, which I would never write about anyway. It was a really interesting experience, and I think for people who love the movie — I think it’s survived and it’s still kind of a classic — I trust it’s fun for them to see the nuts and bolts of the scenes that were caught; what it was like working with [child actor] Carey Guffey, who was so amazing, and what’s it like to have a four-year-old in a movie. In many ways there are definite similarities between [Steven] Spielberg and Wes — if only talking about their affection, respect, and ability to understand and deal with both children and child actors; ’cause they really are both fabulous at that, and an awful lot of directors cannot deal with children. You know, having a child in a movie is like — a movie’s all about precision, and getting somebody to do what you need and want, and Can they do 15 takes, and will they match what they’re doing? And the beauty of children is that, when they’re well used, they’re unpredictable, hopefully — or at least they give the impression of that. And I know watching Wes work with these two kids — granted they were 12, they weren’t four, but there was the same kind of affection, respect, and not talking down; the idea that if you treat a child like they’re equals, they respond accordingly. He was great with kids, and I think the kids were great in the movie. As I do think the kids in Steven’s movies are uniformly fantastic.

It’s a very difficult kind of film to get right, isn’t it — the adolescent romance.

Yes, and very Truffaut like, I think. Very French, in way.

Wes talked about Small Change a bit, which is a great film.

Yes.

When it comes to getting great performances from kids, how much of it do you think is successful casting, and how much of it is in the directing?

Well I think it’s both. It’s an instinct and an ability, ’cause kids, you know, kids don’t memorize lines too well. I directed — have we talked about this? I directed a movie called Parents

It’s funny you mention it, because it always comes up in my Netflix recommendations of “Things you may like?”

[Laughs] Oh. Because you’re strange. [Laughs] I wish I could say it’s some kind of perfect, great movie. But it’s really interesting and the lead is a nine-year-old boy, Bryan Madorsky, who had never acted before — so that whole issue of casting a leading role in a movie with a child, I was confronted with it immediately. There was nobody I knew who was a famous nine-year-old actor who would be right for this part of a very mysterious, withdrawn kind of disturbed little boy. You can’t act that, exactly. And the first couple of days we saw like 75 million children, all of whom had done Wonder Bread commercials recently, so they were all cheerful — they all fit a certain mold, because child actors who work a lot, work a lot because they’re sort of a type. And I wanted the anti-type person. So at some point I said, “This may seem radical, but I don’t think we need a child who can memorize lines ore is experienced.” And this one kid came in and he sat down, like you could just tell he was fabulous and interesting. I like kids and I probably knew enough to know that you try to find what they do best, and have that be what they do in the movie. I would say to Bryan, “Just say whatever you think you should say,” so he always seemed natural. The only thing he had trouble with was one scene — [laughs] — where he had to hit his father with a baseball bat.

I’m going to watch Parents and finally read your Close Encounters book.

.

Well you have a whole assignment!


Moonrise Kingdom expands nationwide in theaters this week.

It’s a box office battle royale at the multiplexes this weekend as two guys in penguin suits fight over the number one spot with their new releases.

Warner Bros. offers the animated kids movie "Happy Feet" while Sony counters with the latest James Bond adventure "Casino Royale." Each has a legitimate shot at reaching number one and will play to different audiences. Meanwhile, two-time chart-topper "Borat" plans to stick around and cause trouble (and collect more lawsuits) despite the arrival of two new heavy hitters.

Yet another computer-animated film featuring talking animals hits the big screen this weekend in the form of "Happy Feet" which tells the story of Mumble, a young penguin who can’t sing like all his other classmates can, but can dance up a storm with his toe-tapping skills. The PG-rated film features the voices of Robin Williams, Elijah Wood, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, and Brittany Murphy and is directed by George Miller ("Babe"). Warner Bros. will offer dozens of Imax runs simultaneously with the standard launch of the film which will give the grosses a nice little boost.


The penguins return in animated form in "Happy Feet."

The weekend before the Thanksgiving holiday frame has always been a potent one for films that play to kids. Although "Happy Feet" has a story that wanders from one genre to the next, its dazzling digital animation should please audiences. Plus, Williams is in top form voicing two different characters who together provide about 95% of the film’s comedy. Last year, the Oscar-winning actor lent his pipes to Fox’s "Robots" which opened with $36M thanks to the star wattage he brings to a big toon vehicle. "Feet" should be able to debut above that mark.

The marketing push behind "Happy" has been colossal as the studio is hoping for big things from its little penguin. Kids and moms have been bombarded with promotion everywhere they go and awareness with that key demo is sky high. But crossover potential to teens and young adults in questionable. This is not like "The Incredibles" or "Shrek" where every teenager is pumped up and ready to buy tickets. There is also solid competition for the family audience in the current marketplace as "The Santa Clause 3" and "Flushed Away" are set to collect $20M or more worth of ticket sales from the exact same crowd this weekend. But penguin power could edge out Bond’s guns as "Happy Feet" will have around 400 more theaters, a shorter running time, and more starpower. Opening in 3,804 theaters, the animated film might take in about $40M this weekend.

Sony and MGM try to restart one of the most successful film franchises in history with "Casino Royale," the latest James Bond action-adventure tale. Daniel Craig replaces the wildly popular Pierce Brosnan in the role of Agent 007 in the first new installment in the series in four years. Martin Campbell, who directed the former Remington Steele in his first Bond pic "Goldeneye," gets another chance to break in a rookie into one of the industry’s most iconic roles. In the U.S., Craig is practically an unknown actor and with no famous co-stars, "Casino Royale" cannot rely upon starpower to drive in audiences. Instead, it will look to the marquee value of the franchise as well as to reviews from critics which so far have been glowing and even better than what the studio could have hoped for. Many find Craig to be the best Bond ever.


New Bond, same wardrobe in "Casino Royale."

Each of Brosnan’s first three Bond films had the secret agent’s famous digits branded into its opening weekend gross figure. "Goldeneye" opened to $26,205,007 on this same weekend in 1995, "Tomorrow Never Dies" premiered to $25,143,007 in December 1997 when it faced the launch of "Titanic," and "The World is Not Enough" launched with $35,519,007 when the franchise returned to the weekend before Thanksgiving in 1999. No telling if Sony will follow suit with "Casino" and insert Bond’s trademark number into the final opening weekend tally. 2002’s "Die Another Day," the last film in the series, raised the bar even higher debuting to $47.1M on its way to a $160.9M domestic take and $415M worldwide haul.

"Casino Royale" is not likely to reach that bar in its first weekend. With Brosnan gone and many fans not sure yet if they want to try out this new blondie, the debut frame could suffer a bit. Action fans had a routine of going to see a Brosnan Bond film every couple of winters, plus the addition of Halle Berry, who was red hot from her Oscar win that year, boosted the film’s star quotient. "Royale" could have greatly benefited by casting at least one big star to help keep its hold on its fan base. Nevertheless, with no other action movies in the marketplace, "Casino" has almost no direct competition. And its Texas Hold ‘Em storyline could appeal to young men addicted to poker.

But the box office world has changed much since "Die Another Day." Nowadays, action movies that rely on stunts instead of special effects often struggle to attract audiences. Competing globe-trotting spy flick "Mission: Impossible III," which appeals to much the same audience, bowed to an underwhelming $47.7M last May while playing in over 4,000 theaters against no competition. Sure, the Tom Cruise backlash may have contributed. But today’s audiences get plenty of high-quality action for free on network television and want a lot more bang for the buck if they’re expected to pay top dollar at the multiplexes. Also impacting "Casino’s" potential is its long running time which clocks in at nearly two and a half hours. That’s a good 45 minutes longer than "Happy Feet" meaning each screen can accommodate one extra penguin showing per day.

Sony has backed its latest blockbuster with a sizable marketing push. Strong word-of-mouth could allow it to hang on in the long term. But early skepticism may lead many adult moviegoers to a wait-and-see approach as they figure out whether this Bond is worth it. Diving into 3,434 theaters, "Casino Royale" might gross about $38M for the weekend. With recent Bond flicks making 60-70% of their loot from outside of North America, international prospects look sensational over the coming weeks.

Universal quietly tosses the R-rated comedy "Let’s Go To Prison" into the marketplace on Friday hoping to tap into young men in search of bold humor. Directed by Bob Odenkirk, the jailhouse laugher boasts a cast fit for a straight-to-DVD release – Dax Shephard, Will Arnett, and Chi McBride. In this revenge comedy, a felon makes life hell for the son of the judge who sentenced him to the slammer. The marketing push has not been very strong and with "Borat" stealing away the same audience, it will be an uphill battle to find paying customers. Opening in 1,495 cells, "Let’s Go To Prison" might lock down only $5M over the weekend.


"Let’s Go to Prison" for some reason was not screened for the press.

Confusing audiences in nearly 500 theaters across the country this weekend will be "After Dark Horrorfest – 8 Films to Die For." For one weekend only, this collection of B-grade fright flicks will play in theaters with moviegoers having the choice of which films they want to see. These include such titles as "The Gravedancers," Takashi Shimizu‘s "Reincarnation," and "Wicked Little Things" plus a special Sunday night presentation of "Snoop Dogg’s Hood of Horror" as the ninth creepy tale. To generate interest, After Dark is promoting this as a special event for horror fans featuring films that they were not supposed to see. To fill the dead space on screen between Sunday and Wednesday when many new Thanksgiving weekend films open, theaters will get to run "encore presentations of audience favorites."

In limited release, more potential candidates for awards season make their way into theaters. Fox Searchlight unleashes Richard Linklater‘s newest creation "Fast Food Nation" in 321 theaters across the major markets. The R-rated ensemble pic stars Greg Kinnear, Wilmer Valderrama, Ethan Hawke, and Patricia Arquette in an expose of the American junk food biz.


The stars of "Fast Food Nation."

MGM and The Weinstein Co. go back to June 5, 1968 with the political drama "Bobby" examining the lives of those inside the Ambassador Hotel on the day Senator Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. Another large cast takes to the screen including Anthony Hopkins, Laurence Fishburne, Elijah Wood, Lindsay Lohan, Sharon Stone, Helen Hunt, Demi Moore, William H. Macy, Heather Graham, Ashton Kutcher, Martin Sheen, and son Emilio Estevez who also serves as writer/director. "Bobby" platforms in solo engagements in New York and Los Angeles on Friday and expands nationally next Wednesday.


Emilio Estevez directs and stars in "Bobby."

Packing films with stars seems to be the way to go as showcased again by the film industry comedy "For Your Consideration" from writer/director Christopher Guest ("Best in Show," "A Mighty Wind"). Eugene Levy, Michael McKean, Catherine O’Hara, Parker Posey, Ricky Gervais, and Fred Willard team up for a story about the wackiness that results when a small indie film attracts Oscar buzz for its cast members. Warner Independent Pictures will debut "Consideration" on Friday in ten U.S. markets plus three Canadian cities before expanding next Wednesday into major cities across North America.


More Christopher Guest satire in "For Your Consideration."

After stumbling into the number one spot two weeks ago, "Borat" will have to settle for being bumped a couple of spots this time thanks to the frame’s two new heavyweights. "Casino Royale" will provide some competition but "Happy Feet" should have no effect on the raunchy comedy’s war of terror on the nation’s multiplexes. Midweek business is still very strong so a 35% drop to about $18M could occur. That would give "Borat" a hefty $94M in 17 days and could possibly allow it to crack the $100M mark by Turkey Day.

Disney’s "The Santa Clause 3" and Paramount’s "Flushed Away" have been chart buddies for two weeks now, but the pair of kidpics might have a chance to swap positions this weekend. Both will take direct hits thanks to the arrival of the new penguin pic, but "Flushed" seems to be holding up a bit better. This weekend, we may see it drop 35% to $11M raising its total to $53M. "Santa," meanwhile, may fall 40% to around $10M for a $53M cume as well.

Will Ferrell saw a respectable showing for his new comedy "Stranger Than Fiction," but most of that crowd will be opting for Sony’s other offering this weekend – James Bond. A 45% drop might occur giving the flick $7.5M over the sophomore session and a ten-day tally of $24M.

LAST YEAR: Warner Bros. destroyed the competition with the latest installment of its enduring franchise – "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire." The fourth wizard flick bowed to a jaw-dropping $102.3M making it the fourth-biggest opening weekend in history, at the time. "Goblet" was a big winner grossing $290M domestically and a towering $892M worldwide making it the second highest grossing "Potter" pic. Debuting far back in second place, but with solid results of its own, was Fox’s Johnny Cash drama "Walk the Line" with $22.3M. The Joaquin PhoenixReese Witherspoon film went on to capture $119.5M plus an Oscar for Reese. Rounding out the top five were Disney’s "Chicken Little" with $14.7M, The Weinstein Company’s "Derailed" with $6.5M, and Sony’s "Zathura" with $5.1M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

A few years ago I saw a very funny indie comedy at the SXSW film festival, wrote my review of the flick, and then pretty much forgot about it. But now that "Blackballed: The Bobby Dukes Story" is finally getting released on DVD, I’m quite happy to recommend it to fans of Christopher Guest movies, paintball, and/or "The Daily Show."

"Blackballed" is a low-budget mockumentary about the world’s finest paintball player, and the way in which he mounts a rousing comeback after humiliating himself and bailing on the sport. Starring Jon Stewart‘s good buddy Rob Corddry, the flick’s a lot like "Best in Show" meets … paintball.

The comedy opened in (very) limited release, but the DVD hits shelves on July 25th. Check out the trailer to see if the concept tickles your funny bone. Me, I’m looking forward to giving it a second spin.

Color me very curious regarding Neil LaBute‘s upcoming "The Wicker Man." Here we have an indie filmmaker venturing into a new genre, while also remaking one of the most beloved cult flicks ever made. Should be interesting. Those who agree might want to check out JoBlo’s new pics from the remake.

Robin Hardy‘s "The Wicker Man," released in 1973, tells the story of a concerned cop who travels to an isolated isle in an effort to find a missing girl … and discovers some truly weird people. (And that’s all I’m sayin’!)

The remake, which stars Nicolas Cage, Ellen Burstyn, Leelee Sobieski, and Molly Parker, opens on September 1st.

Patrick Cranshaw, the actor best known as Will Ferrell‘s elderly frat buddy Joseph "Blue" Palansky in 2003’s "Old School," has passed away at the age of 86.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the white-haired character actor succumbed to natural causes on December 28 at his home in Fort Worth.

Cranshaw was born in Oklahoma in 1919 and entertained American troops before World War II, although his first screen credit would come much later in an uncredited role in 1955’s "Texas Lady." Cranshaw worked steadily throughout the decades with bit parts in films like "Bonnie and Clyde," "Pee Wee’s Big Adventure," "The Hudsucker Proxy," "Best in Show," and "Bubble Boy;" he was also a prolific television actor with over 50 appearances on shows like "Green Acres," "The Dukes of Hazzard," "The Drew Carey Show" and "ER."

Yet despite his 100+ combined film and television appearances, Cranshaw became best known as Blue, the geriatric frat pledge who dies from excitement as he’s about to wrestle two young coeds, in the middle-aged fraternity comedy "Old School." His character is unforgettably eulogized with Will Ferrell’s rendition of Kansas’ 80’s ballad "Dust in the Wind," and the line, "You’re my boy, Blue!" According to his personal manager, Jeff Ross, it was a cult status that Cranshaw embraced by answering to the name "Blue" in public.

Cranshaw had just finished filming "Air Buddies," the sixth movie in the "Air Bud" series, reprising his role as Sheriff Bob. He also appeared in the last two sequels, "Air Bud: Seventh Inning Stretch," and "Air Bud: Spikes Back." "Air Buddies" is set for release in 2006.

The Hollywood Reporter brings news of an upcoming romantic comedy spoof that has five actors and no title … yet. Screenwriters Jason Friedberg & Aaron Seltzer ("Scary Movie," "Spy Hard") will co-direct an as-yet-untitled spoof of the reliable old chick-flick rom-com formula.

Already on board the project are Alyson Hannigan ("American Pie"), Adam Campbell, Eddie Griffin ("Undercover Brother"), Fred Willard ("Best in Show"), and Jennifer Coolidge ("Legally Blonde"). The spoof-centric directors also wrote the screenplay; now all they have to write is a title!

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