Movies and Shows

15 Best Animal Movies Of All Time (According To IMDb)

Most movie fans love animals, and it’s easy to understand why. They tend to light up a screen, especially when they’re the main focus of the story. Whether it’s an animated fantasy film featuring talking animals, or real life critters engaging in spectacular adventures, they continue to entertain audiences around the world.

The best animal films had a good story or message to go along with the on screen hijinks, and they’ve scored high on IMDb as a result. Audiences of all ages can discover, or rediscover these instant classics all over again, and enjoy their timeless charm. If nothing else, they can make people appreciate life in all its forms.

Updated on September 14th, 2021 by Derek Draven: Animal lovers can rejoice at the sheer amount of films that feature them. Animal-driven movies warm the heart, but they can also terrify just as easily. Whether it’s a film about animal pals and the bonds of togetherness and love, or nightmarish films about killer sharks and dinosaurs, there’s something for everyone. This list has been updated to showcase five more iconic animal films that made their mark for a very special reason. Each film has a message, whether it’s cute or blood-curdling, but they all share a sense of fun and excitement that is impossible to achieve with mere humans driving the story.

15 The Adventures Of Milo & Otis (1986) – 7.0

• Available to stream on IMDb TV

Still one of the most memorable animal-centric films of the 1980s, Milo & Otis has cuteness in spades, and a heartwarming story to boot. Narrated by Arthur star Dudley Moore, the film centers on a “curious cat and a pug-nosed pup” who get separated and set out to reunite with one another.

Along the way, both kitten and puppy mature into adults, while taking a few hard knocks along the way. The only downsides to the film are allegations of animal abuse during filming (from more than one Australian newspaper), none of which have been fully confirmed to date. It’s a nasty shadow looming over an otherwise excellent film.

14 Lady And The Tramp (1955) – 7.3

• Available to stream on Disney +

One of Disney’s most beloved animated classics is undoubtedly Lady And The Tramp, featuring some of the company’s best animation work, and married to a timeless story about love. The spaghetti and meatball dinner scene alone was worth the price of admission, and has now acheived pop culture icon status.

It’s a classic story of love on the wrong side of the tracks, with two dogs living very different lives who meet, embark on adventures together, and fall in love through the course of the story. It’s comical, exciting, heartwarming, and romantic, all in one.

13 Bambi (1942) – 7.3

• Available to stream on Disney +

In 1942, western audiences were being treated to Bambi, one of Disney’s most beloved early animated films. The film is a work of art featuring stunning animation, beautiful hand-painted backgrounds, and an emotionally charged story surrounding the cycle of life.

The film follows a young deer fawn named Bambi, whose mother is shot by hunters, and must grow up to become a leader in his own right. It features some memorably adorable scenes, including a young Bambi trying to skate on a frozen lake with his rabbit friend Thumper.

12 March of the Penguins (2005) – 7.5

• Available to rent on Apple TV

Sometimes the best story is a real one, as was the case with March of the Penguins, the 2005 documentary narrated by Morgan Freeman. The film follows the life of a group of emperor penguins beginning at the end of summer in Antarctica.

As the penguins travel to their breeding grounds, viewers are treated to scenes of their natural mating rituals, and the journey from egg to hatchling. It’s a fascinating and charming documentary about a species still shrouded in a lot of mystery.

11 Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) – 7.6

• Available to rent on Apple TV

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the 2011 sci-fi prequel to the iconic 1968 original, which featured Charlton Heston, and one of the best prequels in cinematic history. The story revolves around a geneticist trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, who inadvertently sets off a chain of events that will have devastating consequences for all of humanity.

When an ape named Caesar develops incredible cognitive and intellectual skills, he starts a revolt to free the rest of his kind from captivity. The smarter he gets, the more ambitious his crusade becomes, kicking off the first chapter of an amazing dystopian sci-fi trilogy.

10 The Birds (1963) – 7.7

• Available to stream on Fubo

Not all of the best movies star animals that are benevolent or cuddly, as is the case with Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 horror masterpiece The Birds. It’s an altogether probable film that hits close to home, and begs the question of what would happen if Earth’s bird species suddenly became homicidal.

The strength of the film’s feathered antagonists lies in their numbers, making them capable of overwhelming the human populace with frightening ease. Hitchcock’s trademark tension building is hard at work here, creating an instant horror classic that hits very, very close to home.

9 The Bear (1988) – 7.7

• Available to stream on HBO Max

Director Jean-Jacques Annaud crafted an incredibly beautiful film with 1988’s The Bear, a film centering on an orphan bear cub who tumbles his way from one misadventure to another. The use of live-action bears made for some truly astonishing shots, lending the film a feeling of authenticity unmatched by its peers.

The Bear also featured the enormous Alaskan Kodiak Bear known as Bart, who served as the father figure to the young cub. The film is notable for an incredible and nerve-wracking scene showing the large Kodiak threatening the life of a hunter, only to spare him and teach him a beautiful and valuable lesson about respect for nature.

8 Paddington 2 (2017) – 7.8

• Available to rent on Apple TV

It’s rare that a sequel of any genre manages to surpass the original film upon which it was based, but that’s exactly what happened with Paddington 2, the family-friendly tale of Paddington bear and his life with the Brown family. It takes all the best elements of the original, and churns out another lovable chapter in the franchise.

The sequel finds Paddington accepted as a member of the family, and the town in which he lives. When the book he wishes to buy for his aunt’s birthday is stolen, Paddington goes to great and heartwarming lengths to retrieve it before the day of the celebration arrives. A perfect story for the entire family.

7 Life of Pi (2012) – 7.9

• Available to stream on HBO Max

Life of Pi was based on Yann Martel’s award-winning novel of the same name, and helmed by award-winning director Ang Lee in one of his most ambitious projects. The story follows a teenager named Pi, whose boat carrying his family and their animals from India to Canada sinks.

Pi is the only human survivor alongside his Bengal tiger, an orangutan, zebra, and a hyena. Eventually, the Tiger consumes most of the others, leaving only Pi to find a way to reconcile their situation and work together to survive the terrible ordeal.

6 Zootopia (2016) – 8.0

• Available to stream on Disney +

Zootopia explores the lives of a population of anthropomorphized animals in the city of the same name, focusing specifically on a police rabbit named Judy Hopps. She ends up teaming up with Nick Wilde, a scheming fox, to prove that she can make it as a cop in the big city.

The film is both hilarious and full of fun animated action, not to mention serving as a lighthearted and non-preachy morality tale about acceptance, and judging people based on the content of their character. It’s a reminder that is incredibly poignant for all age groups, not just children.

5 Jaws (1975) – 8.0

• Available to stream on Amazon Prime Video

Jaws was the original summer blockbuster, and it continues to frighten moviegoers to this very day. The story revolves around a very real terror surrounding a great white shark who threatens the residents of a small tourist town during the peak summer months. After devouring several victims, the local police chief, a marine biologist, and a blue-collar fisherman set out to destroy it.

The film has everything that makes for a fun horror/adventure film, including plenty of comedy, a cast of timeless and lovable characters, and an animal antagonist that is both very real, and extremely dangerous. Though the film was a bit too hard on great white sharks as a species, it did make for one great film.

4 Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (2009) – 8.1

• Available to stream on Netflix

This 2009 film stars Richard Gere in an uncharacteristically different kind of film for the actor, telling the story of a professor who finds an abandoned Akita, and decides to take it home. Unfortunately, the professor suffers a fatal stroke and dies, leaving Hachi to pine for his best friend.

The movie is full of symbolism centering around the concepts of loyalty, love, and friendship, but its main staying power is its emotional weight. Hachi is one animal-centric film that is guaranteed to make audiences cry, especially those with close bonds to their animal friends.

3 Finding Nemo (2003) – 8.1

• Available to stream on Disney +

Finding Nemo continues to be one of Pixar’s crowning achievements; a charming and timeless tale of family and friendship, and the bonds that tie them together. The story centers around a little fish named Nemo who gets separated from his family, forcing him to undertake a perilous journey to find them.

The film also bears Pixar’s trademark humor, making for plenty of laugh-out-loud moments amidst the emotional and moving narrative. It was such a good film that it spawned a spiritual sequel in the form of Finding Dori, which is loaded with memorable and hilarious quotes.

2 Jurassic Park (1993) – 8.1

• Available to stream on HBO Max

Dinosaurs had already been featured in hit Hollywood films before 1993, but Jurassic Park changed the template forever. One of Steven Spielberg’s best films, Jurassic Park was adapted from the Michael Crichton novel of the same name, featuring an island theme park overrun with prehistoric animals.

Spielberg’s mix of early CGI and animatronics helped bring the dinosaurs to life in a way that had never been seen before. It was thrilling, overwhelming, and exhausting in the best possible way, and audiences couldn’t seem to get enough of watching Earth’s early inhabitants chow down on hapless human victims.

1 The Lion King (1994) – 8.5

• Available to stream on Disney +

The Lion King is proof that no matter how great Pixar’s CGI is, it’s no substitute for classic hand-drawn animation. The story of Simba and Mufasa was such a hit for Disney that it even received its own live-action remake in 2019, albeit with less enthusiasm than the original.

In many ways, The Lion King was a swansong for Disney’s traditional animated art style before shifting focus to CGI. It was one of the defining films of the 1990s, and an unbreakable hit for Disney even to this day.

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