Some of the greatest films that have touched our hearts belong to the ones where animals were the stars. Whether it be scenes of peril, admiration, survival, ingenuity, or playfulness, no one can argue that an animal costar can quickly steal the limelight. There is something there that stirs our imaginations, plucks at our heart strings, and never lets us forget that animals, in all their capable wonder and capacity, are just as important as we humans.
The Bear (1988)
A story of survival takes place in 1895 in British Columbia as an orphaned bear cub befriends a massive Kodiak Grizzly. The two support one another as they hunt, travel, avoid trophy hunters and other wild animals.
The Incredible Journey (1963)
When Luath, Bodger, and Tao’s owners leave them in the care of a neighbor as they travel abroad, the animals take it upon themselves to find their way back to their home. Traveling 200 miles through rugged Canada, the trio encourage and support one another through hunger, weather, and numerous dangers.
The Adventures of Milo and Otis (1989)
A precocious kitten named Milo and a pug puppy named Otis experience a great adventure through the woods when Otis attempts to rescue Milo after he floats downstream in a floating box. The two encounter virtually every creature in the woods and eventually find one another and helping each other survive the winter and the journey home.
The Birds (1963)
Something has the birds of Bodega Bay unsettled. Numerous avian attacks on humans are being reported. The tale follows a group of people as they struggle to understand and escape the terrifying menace.
Free Willy (1993)
Jesse, an orphan living on the streets, finds himself cleaning up the vandalism of his peers at the local water theme park. Whilst there, he befriends Willy, an Orca recently captured and brought to the park for amusement. The two form a powerful bond and when the scheming owner attempts to kill Willy for the insurance on him, it’s up to Jesse to help him escape back to the ocean.
White Fang (1991)
Based on the Jack London novel, this story follows the adventures of a wolfdog as he survives the wilderness, Indian camps, and dog-fighting rings and eventually befriends the young gold-hunter who saves him.
The Journey of Natty Gann (1985)
A young girl, left behind by her work-seeking father during the Great Depression, seeks out to find him and travels from the squalor of Chicago to the wilds of Washington state. Along the way she befriends a wolf who follows and supports her along her intrepid journey.
Cat’s Eye (1985)
A street-tough stray tabby runs the gauntlet in this anthology of stories. Moving from one adventure to the next, he is constantly seeking a little girl whom he knows he must protect, all the while avoiding and supporting the seemingly crazy humans all around him.
Old Yeller (1957)
The classic tale of a boy and his dog, Old Yeller follows the adventures of young Travis and his “Old Yeller” Blackmouth Cur dog. Though wary of each other at first, the two eventually form an unbreakable bond and save each other from numerous dangers.
Lassie Come Home (1943)
The original incredible journey follows a rough collie named Lassie as she travels the vast countrysides of Scotland in several hundred mile journey to be reunited with the boy who owns her. Facing violent weather, dangerous obstacles, and finding friends and aid along the way, the courageous story of canine loyalty captured the heart of a nation.
It is sad to see a decline in the level of animal stars, but seeing as how they rely so heavily upon us humans to ensure their safety and well-being while shooting a film, it grows ever more expensive to have an animal as a major co-star. However, the past 60 years have seen some of the greatest actors grace the silver screen, many of them leaving us with heartfelt memories of incredible performances and acts of daring-do. And many of these actors only had one name. A salute and our fondest gratitude to all the animals who reminded us that nature is as vastly awe-inspiring as any film ever made.