Kids And Critters: Ten Of The Best

It is a well-known rule of Hollywood thumb that working with children or animals is hard work. Working with both children AND animals is nigh-on impossible but blimey does it yield some heart-wrenching results.

To celebrate the release of Steven Spielberg’s War Horse, this week’s big release, we have compiled a list of films which showcase the very best of infant-animal interactions. It’s time to stiffen that upper lip because things are about to get emotional (with an uplifting undercurrent).

1. Ben (1972)

When it comes to uber emotional floods of tears over the suspected death of a bezzy mate rat, you can’t beat little Lee Montgomery’s sniffling performance in Ben. You should also recognise the tear jerking soundtrack which comes courtesy of the late, great King of Pop himself.

2. Beethoven (1992)

Dads who get furious are funny. Big dogs that slobber are HILARIOUS. Bring the two together in an otherwise harmonious American family home and you have a recipe for success. The wee bespectacled kid in this film works incredibly hard to make his dad like his pet pooch and his efforts deserved to be recognised. Checkout the retro trailer:

3. Black Beauty (1994)

If you were a desperate 11 year old who put “pony” at the end of every shopping list, Christmas list and prayer that you spoke, wrote or thought then this film will undoubtedly hold a special place in your heart. Rather surprisingly, the soundtrack and sweeping camera shots also make pleasurable enough viewing for adults who are passed the pony preoccupation stage.

4. Air Bud (1997)

A dog who can shoot hoops using only his tiny nose may sound unlikely. And it is. But it makes the perfect subject for a cheesy American vom fest about a boy with no mates or sporting ability. Enter boy’s best friend and Michael Jordan’s nemesis, Air Bud.

5. The Incredible Journey (1993)

This animal adventure not only chronicles the anguish of losing a pet when you are a worried young owner, but also gives viewers a rare glimpse into the unbreakable bond between cat and dog “pet colleagues”. Not a scratch on the 1964 original but a fully-fledged and fully-furry classic.

6. The Three Lives of Thomasina (1964)

Any children’s film which features a dead cat cartwheeling through space and time until eventually being resurrected in the middle of her own funeral possession cannot forego a place on this list. Honestly? A bizarre viewing experience but it features a truly unique slant on the regular kid/cat story and is well worth a watch. Look out for the brother and sister duo who were the little tykes that Mary Poppins and Dick Van Dyke sorted out earlier in the same year.

7. Turner and Hooch (1989)

So this film does not strictly feature a child/dog relationship. But throw us a bone here…eh hem…it does feature Tom Hanks and a hilarious, slobbering French Mastiff. Hanks plays Turner, a meticulous, hygiene conscious cop who hates the drooling canine at first but after a bit of soul searching…well, you know the rest.

8. Free Willy (1993)

A film which set the bar when it comes to heart-warming/stomach churning tales about misguided youths who have their lives turned around through friendships with animals. In this case, it was a massive killer whale who proved to be Jessie’s BFF (until he jumped to freedom). Honourable mention to the scriptwriter who managed to get “I love you boy, I believe in you, you can do it, you can be free” in the space of 30 seconds. Just watch.

9. Paulie (1998)

The tagline to this film just does not do its emotional content justice. “Life from a parrot’s point of view”, does not even begin to cover it. A parrot turned child speech therapist? Unmissable. This has to make the list.

10. Lassie Come Home (1943)

The canine classic of canine classics. The animal adventure that began all animal adventures. The film which indulged that secret childhood fantasy we all have; The idea that we can talk to our pet doggy, and he can talk to us. Starring Roddy McDowell and a very young Liz Taylor, could this film get any more classic if it tried?

War Horse will be in cinemas from Friday 13th January.