Who doesn’t love quirky and lovable animals in film? They are used all the time in commercials, but they can be just as effective in a movie. Whether they are a loyal friend to the protagonist, or dinosaurs that terrorize parks, a great animal can always steal the show. As Caesar makes a return to cinemas this weekend in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I thought this would be a good idea to remember some of the most memorable animals to ever appear on film. Some of them talk. Some of them terrorize. And some of them are even made up creatures. Whatever the case may be, let’s take a visit to the movie pet shop of our lives as we count down The Top Ten Greatest Animals Ever in a Motion Picture:
P.S. Sorry, folks. Air Bud didn’t make it.
Honorable Mention – The Gopher (Caddyshack): As an adult you appreciate Caddyshack for all the great comedic actors at the top of their game. But as a kid, it’s all about the dancing gopher. Who doesn’t love that gopher? To have a live action version of Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny in the middle of a screwball golf comedy catches you off guard, but it totally works thanks in large part to Bill Murray. Whenever I hear Kenny Loggins’ “I’m Alright,” I always think of the Caddyshack gopher.
10) Mr. Fox (Fantastic Mr. Fox): In one of George Clooney’s best performances, how can you deny the charismatic Mr. Fox? This clever animal is not only a family man, but a master thief. Even when he puts his entire community at risk, you can’t help but love the guy. Whether he’s pulling a heist, or giving an inspirational toast, Mr. Fox is a true leader and one of Wes Anderson’s greatest creations.
9) The Tyrannosaurus Rex (Jurassic Park): I’m not a huge Jurassic Park fan, but I certainly like it. Whatever you think about the film, there is no denying that T-Rex scene. It’s Spielberg at his best. To this day it’s still some of the best CG ever done. The roar. The teeth. Eating a lawyer while the poor man tries to take a dump. The Tyrannosaurus Rex certainly made his presence known, and boy was it glorious.
8) Jaws (Jaws): Going right back to the Spielberg well, how can Jaws not make the list? Many even consider this to be Spielberg’s best film. I don’t know if I can go that far, but Jaws certainly changed movies forever. It doesn’t matter how fake it looked. If I were alive in 1975, that thing would have scared the shit out of me. While I certainly don’t want some asshole to remake Jaws, I’d still love to see sharks get their due on film again, and not in some piece of garbage like Sharknado. This is why Aquaman in a movie could be bad ass. Can you imagine a man on the ocean with hundreds of sharks at his command? That could be epic. Regardless, any shark on film has to pay respects to Jaws and his amazing John Williams theme song.
7) Roger Rabbit (Who Framed Roger Rabbit): He may be annoying as hell, but give the rabbit a break. The dude is wrongfully accused of murder for crying out loud! Roger Rabbit is as lovable as it gets, but he’s also one of my favorite whacked out creations. Voiced beautifully by Charles Fleischer, Roger Rabbit is Bugs Bunny on steroids. He’s constantly smashing his head against things and is completely nuts. What I love most about Roger Rabbit though is how dedicated this bunny is to comedy. He can’t deny a good joke, even if it means his own execution. Now that’s a dedicated comedian!
6) Slimer (Ghostbusters): I’m cheating on this one a bit as Slimer isn’t really an animal, more like a green glob of ghost, but I don’t care. Any vague excuse to talk about Slimer, I’m taking it. In one of the most memorable scenes of the entire film, Slimer is the very first ghost the Ghostbusters actually catch. Slimer doesn’t want anything to do with Gozer the Gozerian or interdimensional portals. All this poor ghost wants is to eat expensive hotel buffets. Slimer’s popularity rose more when he was a focal point of the cartoon series, but even as a kid I enjoyed him the most from the first movie. Slimer can best be summarized by Bill Murray right here:
5) Butkus (Rocky): There is no way in hell Rocky would have survived 15 rounds with Apollo Creed had it not been for the unsung hero of the Rocky franchise, Butkus. This trusty dog goes on runs with him, listens to his problems, and there’s even a track named after him on the original Rocky score. Not only that, but Rocky is usually a soft spoken guy, but one of the rare times he gets excited and emotes is when Adrian brings Butkus home. He freaks out! I love Butkus.
4) The Weasels (Who Framed Roger Rabbit): Even though Roger Rabbit was a more fleshed out character, it’s the weasels I remember the most fondly. The idea of insane weasel cops that hunt down toons just fascinated me. I also love how they had distinct personalities. You had the psychopath weasel dressed in a straight jacket, the stupid weasel who carried around a baseball bat with a nail in it, the weasel who constantly smoked, the switch blade knife weasel, and of course the leader who dressed like someone right out of Miami Vice. Their down fall was that they couldn’t stop laughing, but the weasels will always be a huge reason why Who Framed Roger Rabbit is one of my all-time favorites.
3) Gremlins (Gremlins): They don’t like bright lights. Don’t get them wet. And for crying out loud, don’t feed them after midnight! In one of the goofiest and craziest creations to ever appear on film, the Gremlins were simply a delight. The Gremlins are simple – all they want are “yum-yums” and to have a giant party. The only problem is that it’s at the cost of human lives. The way they mutilate and kill people is not only horrific, but side splittingly funny. The original Gremlins movie has one of the greatest movie deaths you’ll ever see, and if you’ve seen the film, you obviously know what I’m talking about. The two stand out scenes though are when they go nuts at the bar, and the classic movie night get together where they watch Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Classic.
I’m also a fan of Gremlins 2, which I know a lot of people aren’t. It’s true they amped up the wackiness, but after what they did in the original, there was no other choice but to turn up the volume. I liked how they fleshed out the Gremlins, and even introduced a genius Gremlin who sounded intelligent, yet his goal was no different than all the other Gremlins. I’d love to see a Gremlins 3 where they get loose in a major city. To see the Gremlins roam around Paris for example could be absolutely hilarious.
2) The Ninja Turtles (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles): Aside from the original Star Wars trilogy and the 1989 Batman, the 1990 original Turtles movie is the film I’ve probably seen the most times. We’ve been talking about turtles a lot recently, and I’m sure there will be plenty more turtle talk to come with the new movie, but I did want to give the original film its due. I will defend this is a great movie till the day I die. This was a legitimately gritty and serious take on turtles who get doused with green ooze and become ninjas, and for crying out loud, they made it work. The costumes were truly impressive, and still hold up today. Not once did you think about how ridiculous giant turtles were on screen. It just worked. What else is there to say but “Turtle Power!”
1) The Rancor (Return of the Jedi): I can honestly say my favorite movie scene of all-time growing up was the Rancor in Return of the Jedi. This monster enthralled me to no end, and he’s only in one scene! To put it bluntly, the Rancor is a sight to behold. The build up to his reveal is so epic. Luke goes down the pit, the gate starts to open, C3-PO shouts “Oh no! The Rancor,” and there he is – holy shit! One of the saddest scenes ever in a motion picture is when the Rancor keeper (Malakili) cries over his dead body. The Rancor is also the biggest reason why I hold practical effects so dearly, and loathe CG so much. The fact that a model of this creature was built and is most likely sitting in the vaults of Lucasfilm has my spine tingling. I don’t care what anybody says, this creature looks amazing, and still is to this day. The fact that he’s real and wasn’t shat out of some computer warms my heart. There’s part of me that wants to see another Rancor in a Star Wars movie, but I know it would be CG, so I have mixed feelings about it. The thought of seeing a CG Rancor disgusts me, so maybe they should just leave well enough alone. One of my biggest dreams ever in a movie would be to see a Rancor eat Jar Jar Binks. If that ever happened, I’d retire from watching film.
Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.