Paws For Applause: Four Great American Dog Films

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC Paws For Applause: Four Great American Dog Films

“The only creatures that are evolved enough to convey pure love are dogs and infants,” said Johnny Depp. Dogs are as important a part of Americana as Hollywood itself, so it’s only natural that dog films attract moviegoers in droves. Some of the most captivating actors of our day have been of the canine variety. Though these actors would prefer recognition in the form of Milk Bones, that shouldn’t detract from the dynamic contributions they’ve made to the industry. Warning: spoiler alerts ahead!

“Turner and Hooch” (1989)

Before “Turner and Hooch,” the world at large had no idea what a “Dogue de Bordeaux” was. “Turner and Hooch” is the ultimate buddy cop drama that fills the viewer with excitement while reminding us what really matters in life. Tom Hanks’ detective Scott Turner longs to make it in the “big city,” and all it takes is the unconditional love of a slobbering brute to solve the missing pieces in his career and his heart. Although Hooch is decidedly too daft to figure out a dog door, he still somehow solves a murder, making the movie that much more adorable and whimsical.



“Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey” (1993)

“Homeward Bound” is the animal anthem of ’90s kids, although it’s based on a novel that was written in 1963. The film features animals speaking without their mouths moving (a move that would never fly today). Starring a trio of misfits voiced by Sally Field, Michael J. Fox and Don Ameche. “Homeward Bound” follows Chance (American Bulldog), Shadow (Golden Retriever) and Sassy (Himalayan Cat) as they travel the country. The pets were lost in a move as the result of a misunderstanding, and they find themselves on a harrowing journey peppered with trial and tribulation. The film touches on abstract concepts like love and loyalty in a way that a human cast never could.

“Lassie Come Home” (1943)

Lassie is one of only three dogs to earn a star on the Hollywood walk of fame, and it’s not hard to see why when you watch the film. The film tells the saga of a destitute family who is forced to sell their son’s beloved collie to a duke. The film features Elizabeth Taylor in her breakout role, but Lassie is the real star. In fact, the dog who played Lassie, “Pal,” earned a salary of $250 a week to Taylor’s $100. “Lassie Come Home” is also an insightful look at family life in an era when love couldn’t be bought. The film was nominated for an Academy Award in 1944 and won a spot in the National Film Registry in 1993.

“Where the Red Fern Grows” (1974)

“Where the Red Fern Grows” is a true story based on a book by Wilson Rawls. The beautiful film takes place in the Ozarks, where a boy dreams of owning two Redbone Coonhounds. He gets his wish, although it’s short lived. Little Billy Coleman saves up his whole young life for the puppies, and they prove to be a worthwhile investment. The dogs “Big Dan” and “Little Anne” pull their family out of poverty with their hunting skills and win Billy fame in a major hunting contest. The dogs end up saving Billy’s life at the cost of their own, and a red fern (the symbol of an angel) grows between their graves. Do not watch this film without a box of Kleenex nearby.


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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.

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