There is just something special about dogs. With their superhero ability to turn a frown into a grin, a dog chases away loneliness and turns a house into a home.
This week, with the release of the new film “A Dog’s Way Home,” we are looking at ten Very Good Dogs. Each of these became a movie star in their own right, and some have even more memorable moments than their human co-stars.
10Bodger and Luath, “The Incredible Journey” (1963)
dir. Fletcher Markle
While some may say this a tie and therefore cheating, the fact is that these two pups (and their feline friend, Tao) are a package deal. Together, they survive 250 miles of Canadian wilderness in Disney’s 1963 live action film. And unlike the remake, “Homeward Bound,” these animals had no human voice to convey their fears, anxieties, and sadness. This also made their journey all the more compelling and terrifying to watch.
9Verdell, “As Good as It Gets” (1998)
dir. James L. Brooks
In a career that has put Jack Nicholson toe to toe with some of the strongest actresses and actors in the history of film, there is something endearing about seeing him match wits with a tiny Brussels Griffon named Verdell. Watching him win over this four-legged neighbor is almost as fun as watching Nicholson’s Melvin fall in love with Carol. It’s a sweet pairing. And, admit it. You’ve tried the bacon trick too.
8Bruiser Woods, “Legally Blonde” (2001)
dir. Robert Luketic
Bruiser Woods has to be the coolest Chihuahua ever. He’s got it made, with his Mommy and Me matching outfits, regular trips to the spa/groomer, and everything a tiny dog could want in life. Elle Woods is a great character in her own right, but she took the accessory dog and turned him into something even more.
7Winky, “Best In Show” (2000)
dir. Christopher Guest
There are a lot of great dogs in Christopher Guest’s dog show comedy, “Best In Show.” But the one that stands out really is best in show. The Norwich Terrier, Winky. Another one of those dogs who is just content to go along for the ride, Winky is doted on by his people, Cookie and Gerry. But he also has a sweet disposition and always seems to be making just the right expressions at the camera. God really does love a terrier.
6Dug, “Up” (2009)
dir. Pete Docter, Bob Peterson
Golden Retrievers are the most loving and loyal dogs in the world. The creative team at Disney and Pixar knew this when they created Dug, sweet and lovable outcast in “Up.” He may be easily distracted by squirrels or tennis balls or a light breeze, but Dug is true to his Golden nature. He loves every person, dog, and Snipe without a moment of hesitation.
5Uggie, “The Artist” (2011)
dir. Michel Hazanavicus
Based on some other dogs of the classic film era, the Jack Russell terrier Uggie won over hearts in 2011’s Oscar-winning, “The Artist.” He is cute, very intelligent, and gets to be a hero before the movie’s end. In the afterglow of the film’s release, Uggie did as much press and promotion as any member of the cast. He appeared on late night television shows, commercials, and in the Oscar telecast. Even as sentiments have cooled on the film over the years, there is no doubt that Uggie is one of the best parts.
4Asta, “The Thin Man” (1934)
dir. W.S. Van Dyke
Speaking of classic film dogs upon which a later character was based, Asta steals the show in “The Thin Man.” And not just in the first film. This brilliant pooch helps solve the case in each installment in the series. Asta was one of the most popular movie dogs of his or any time, because of his easy temperament and a permanent grin. It’s no wonder that he was also known as Skippy.
3Max, “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (1966)
dir. Chuck Jones, Ben Washam
In every incarnation of Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” it’s really Max that steals the show. He is a loyal companion, even when it isn’t deserved. Perhaps especially when it isn’t deserved. Max goes along with every hairbrained idea The Grinch can come up with. And he doesn’t even complain when The Grinch slaps an antler on his head and declares him Santa’s reindeer. Max serves as a reminder that even the most unpleasant of people deserve to be loved.
2The Beast/Hercules, “The Sandlot” (1993)
dir. David Mickey Evans
Was there ever a more misunderstood dog than The Beast? This terrifying creature was actually a sweet dog named Hercules and wanted nothing more than to be friends with the kids playing stickball in the sandlot. Hercules may be a giant, slobbering mess. But once you get past all that, he proves that a dog really is man’s (or boy’s) best friend.
1Toto, “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)
dir. Victor Fleming
His fate might have been sealed as the most iconic dog in film when Dorothy uttered those unforgettable words, “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.” And Toto isn’t merely along for the ride. He helps alert Dorothy to dangers and ultimately unmasks the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz. Plus, he conveys so much with the littlest bark. Toto is one incredible dog.