Nothing makes the holiday season cozier than a puppy in your stocking or a dog on your lap. Whether you already have a dog, are planning to gift one (maybe to yourself!) or simply enjoy a feel-good family movie night, these are the best dog movies of all time for your holiday viewing pleasure. We went way back to the 1940s and tossed in both live-action and animated favorites. One theme that kept popping up? Dogs really love their people. Cue the sappy music…and pass the popcorn.
1. ‘Lassie Come Home’ (1943)
Set in England (unlike the 1950s television series set in America), this movie features Lassie, a brave collie, doing everything possible to get home to the beloved family from which she was separated. It’s a classic! Keep your eye out for a young Elizabeth Taylor.
2. ‘Lady and the Tramp’ (1955 and 2019)
Whether you watch the original animated Disney cartoon or the freshly updated live-action version on Disney+, this is a must-see dog lovers’ movie. Watch Tramp (a schnauzer-looking mixed-breed pup) and Lady (a cocker spaniel) frolic, fend off rats and, best of all, fall in love. Best served with a giant plate of spaghetti.
3. ‘101 Dalmatians’ (1961 and 1996)
For kiddos who scare easily, pop on the 1961 cartoon made with ink-and-paint animation cels. You don’t want them to be terrified by Glenn Close’s performance in the live-action version. Both are fun, family-friendly movies that have happy endings, though, so you really can’t go wrong.
4. ‘Benji’ (1974)
There are tons of Benji options to choose from, because this lovable character (played by four different mixed-breed dogs over the years) is irresistible. In the original movie, Benji saves two kidnapped children. In 1977’s For the Love of Benji, the dog (played by the daughter of the original Benji!) solves an international crime. There’s also Benji’s Very Own Christmas, released in 1978 as a television special.
5. ‘The Adventures of Milo and Otis’ (1986)
Though it technically stars a dog and a cat (stay with us), this is a classic animal movie we couldn’t exclude. It’s basically about Otis (a pug) tracking down Milo (a tabby), who got swept away down river from the farm they live on. It was originally released in Japanese and speaks to unlikely friendships everywhere.
6. ‘All Dogs Go to Heaven’ (1989)
Brought to you by the same Irish studio that delivered The Land Before Time and An American Tale, this animated comedy-drama is a dog-movie staple. There are wild songs, a German shepherd who comes back to life and the most delicious-looking pizza you’ve ever seen.
7. ‘TURNER & HOOCH’ (1989)
Tom Hanks and a giant French mastiff solving crimes together?! Sign us up—and get us ready to laugh, cry and root for the good guys (and pups).
8. ‘Beethoven’ (1992)
Who doesn’t love a big, slobbery Saint Bernard winning over a grumpy dad and getting revenge on an evil veterinarian? It’s a great family film, though be aware your kids will believe they can convince you to get a puppy simply by wearing you down slowly over time after seeing this movie.
9. ‘Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey’ (1993)
Follow Chance (an American bulldog), Shadow (a golden retriever) and Sassy (a Himalayan cat) as they try to make their way back home to their owners in San Francisco from a distant ranch, encountering dangers and hilarity en route. Prepare to watch the sequel (Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco) immediately after and discuss the differences between these films and the photorealism of 2019’s Lady and the Tramp.
10. ‘Balto’ (1995)
Based on the true story of a Siberian Husky who, in January 1925, kept his team of sled dogs on the correct trail during a blizzard in Alaska as they transported medicine needed to stop a deadly diphtheria outbreak in Nome, this animated movie drives home how dedicated dogs can be to those they love. Great winter watch too!
11. ‘Best in Show’ (2000)
If you’re a dog lover, you may appreciate the lengths to which the colorful characters in this hilarious mockumentary go to ensure their dogs win Best in Show at the Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show. A funnier cast may not exist; we don’t know how the Norwich terrier, Weimaraner, bloodhound, poodle and shih tzu canine actors managed to keep straight faces during shooting.
12. ‘Bolt’ (2008)
A white shepherd puppy learns that even if you play a superhero on TV, you have to rely on friendship and quick thinking to save the day in real life. John Travolta and Miley Cyrus are the main voices in this computer-animated feel-good flick.
13. ‘Marley & Me’ (2008)
Not only was this film released on Christmas Day in 2008 but it set the record for biggest box office smash on the holiday, so get ready to fall in love with a yellow Lab big-time. Also have tissues ready; it’s based on a memoir, which means things get real.
14. ‘Hachi: A Dog’s Tale’ (2009)
Oh, also get ready to weep at this beautiful tale of devotion and love. Hachi (an akita) is led to a professor who adopts the dog initially out of necessity and then of course learns to love him like a family member. It’s full of feelings. You’ve been warned.
15. ‘Isle of Dogs’ (2018)
As a stop-motion animation feature from Wes Anderson, this movie is definitely a delightful stylistic journey. If your family is into stories about dystopian futures, boys who love dogs and the lengths to which people can (and should) go to stand up for their canine friends, you’ve got to watch this flick.