5 Of The Cutest Movie Animals In Recent Memory

Charlie Chaplin1 5 Of The Cutest Movie Animals In Recent Memory

I write a lot about how movies are, among other things, a visual medium, and so have a tendency to revel in offering visual treats for audiences that are sometimes unaccompanied or unenhanced by any dialogue or music. This dates all the way back to the days when movies did not have sound at all, and were paired only with a live orchestra to fill the silences and add to the visual narratives being played out on the screen. So naturally, animals have been obvious heroes of cinema since its inception.

Animals are like the perfect silent film stars. This is how we enjoy their company every day. There is no dialogue between human and non-human animals, no exposition used to advance plot, no pithy catchphrases to induce guffaws. We observe them, and appreciate them as beautiful but ultimately non-verbal creatures, silent stars of the movies of our lives. Human actors have the benefit of drawing our sympathy through their words and actions that are more easily understood on account of verbal explanation and clearer communication of their personalities. Animals actors reveal themselves in subtler ways, left up to the camera to catch each nuance and detail. It makes film into more of a director’s medium, the domain of an auteur, rather than theater.

There has been a wave of really memorable and endearing animal characters in movies in recent years. Here are 5 of the best.

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1) Jack, the dog from The Artist

The Artist3 5 Of The Cutest Movie Animals In Recent Memory

He may have been playing a canine character named Jack, but Uggie the dog made a name for himself in the 2011 silent film The Artist, to the point where many were pushing for him to get some kind of Oscar recognition. That wasn’t meant to be, but Uggie remains one of the most beloved animal actors to come along in a long time.

Since the movie was a throwback to the days of silent, black and white movies—when they were still just movies rather than talkies—a non-verbal character like a dog fits right in with the other performers who are stripped of their ability to communicate through speech. This enhanced a ton of the sight gags with star Jean Dujardin, with whom Uggie developed a kind of comedy duo, including the famous moment at breakfast where their expressions mirror each other. And then he gets to be the hero in the end, in a sequence straight out of the earliest days of film history, where the noble and loyal dog saves the day for his companion. He’s the best part of a movie that is virtually impossible to hate.

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2) Arthur, the dog from Beginners

Beginners 5 Of The Cutest Movie Animals In Recent Memory

Mike Mills’ Beginners is a vastly underrated movie. It didn’t get much attention when it came out and hasn’t received very much at all since. This is too bad, because not only are people missing out on a beautiful little film about a father and son and combating loneliness, but they’re missing out on Cosmo, the adorbs little Jack Russell Terrier that plays Ewan McGregor’s sidekick, Arthur.

He’s featured in a lot of key scenes, but most of all he’s the one guy who seems to always be there for the McGregor’s character, Oliver. Their rapport is rather sweet, with Oliver speaking to him as he would to any human companion, showing him around his new house, introducing him to people at parties. Arthur’s responses are occasionally recorded with humorous subtitles. This works as a charming mechanism to let us into both character’s thoughts, or perhaps just Oliver’s. Some have observed that when he’s talking to Arthur, he’s really talking to his father. Cosmo is probably only slightly less cute than Christopher Plummer is here.

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3) Joey, the horse from War Horse

War Horse 5 Of The Cutest Movie Animals In Recent Memory

Some criticized Steven Spielberg’s War Horse as overly sentimental, a tad cheesy and a far cry from his more celebrated work. Others, including myself, despite early feelings of skepticism perhaps, eventually became swept up in the depiction of this relationship between a boy and his horse. This is a movie that depends on emotion, but that’s essential for a story about a relationship like this one, because trying to rationalize the connection between human and animal can sometimes lead to nonsense.

Everything in War Horse makes emotional sense. You’re pulling for Albert to overcome all these trials, and it doesn’t even matter what they are, but that he is super determined and has his horse friend Joey to help him out when he needs him. It sounds dumb when you say it out loud, or write it in words. Sure. But watching their friendship and eventual separation and reunion is like riding a bucking bronco of feelings. The setup for the big iconic moment with the barbed wire, one of the most tactile cinematic moments in the last few years, is masterfully carried out. I don’t know how they made this movie work, but with the help of over a dozen horses playing the part of Joey, they pulled off a kind of movie miracle.

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4) Cat, the cat from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 5 Of The Cutest Movie Animals In Recent Memory

Was there a cat in the Swedish film version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? If there was, it was for some reason not as memorable as the one featured in the David Fincher adaptation. Noomi Rapace may have been more catlike than Rooney Mara, but there was just something about Daniel Craig yelling “CAT!!!” into the frigid vastness of his secluded cabin that made it stick with me. It’s actually a pretty nice and subtly stated little relationship that forms between Mikael and this cat, whom he calls Cat, and feeds and pets on occasion. It reveals a bit of the protective and nurturing side to his character, and then provides something of a shock and signs that things are seriously effed up in this neck of the woods when the remains of the cat show up on his doorstep. So maybe the whole thing was an omen. But it was still a welcome change from a species that is usually only featured when baddies need something to stroke.

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5) Bonny, the dog from Seven Psychopaths

Seven Psychopaths2 5 Of The Cutest Movie Animals In Recent Memory

People who have seen his plays seem to have known this for years, but having only been exposed to his two feature films, I am really developing an appreciation for Martin McDonagh’s unique voice as a writer and filmmaker. In Bruges is a movie that seems to surprise just about everyone who sees it in terms of its level of humor and its unexpected depth. He has a really interesting way of throwing in little notes that catch you off guard early on so that you’re on your toes for the duration of the film. This was a trend that continued in Seven Psychopaths.

Woody Harrelson’s attachment to his dog Bonny, played by Bonny the Shih Tzu, is the premise around which basically the whole of the movie revolves. He’s a villain, but we don’t know much about him aside from the fact that he is capable of violence, and that he loves his dog. He doesn’t even seem to necessarily want revenge. He just wants his dog back. This is just one example from this film of ways McDonagh can take a trope like a violent villain and make it completely fresh and interesting. And the fact that it’s such a, in the words of Sam Rockwell’s character, gay little dog makes it even more bizarre and hilarious. And adorable, obviously.

Are there any animals you’ve seen in movies and just fallen in love with? Add your own favorites in the comments section below.

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