A Vet Votes for Her Top 10 Oscar-Worthy Animal Movies

My sister is a documentary filmmaker and my brother produces and directs TV commercials, so I’m always getting an earful about the best of the best in movies.

Luckily, they love animals too, which makes it easy for me to get the lowdown on what film geeks like in an animal movie.

For me, it’s all about the message — but it’s also occasionally about the cinematography and the cute overkill. Hot on the heels of last night's awards gala, here are my favorites.

Best in Show

If you're suffering from Westminster withdrawal, check out this mockumentary. (Spinal Tap has nothing on this one.) In the category of it's-so-funny-because-it’s-so-true kind of humor, this flick’s unabashed depiction of dog show people, in all their wacky glory, is irresistible. And Parker Posey is pitch-perfect as the neurotic Weim mommy. If it’s not in your collection for the occasional must-watch moment, you need to get it now!


You’ve seen it, right? If you haven’t, then you’re seriously missing out. How perfect an animal movie is this one? It’s like Charlotte’s Web, only super well made and with more twists and turns than a simple kids' book.

Food, Inc.

This was the best documentary of 2010 for those who love all kinds of animals. Or for anyone who eats animals. Or for anyone who eats, period. It’s got a message that’s hard not to take seriously. And it’s offered up in a way that makes it easy for anyone to grasp, including kids, for whom I consider this movie indispensable. Knowing where our food comes from, and how we eat, is an issue we can no longer ignore.


Hands down the best modern animated animal movie. In fact, it’s probably the best food movie made in decades, since Babette’s Feast. I’m a big fan of this rat — and the dish, which I make at least once a month.

Pedigree Dogs Exposed

The storm that followed this influential BBC documentary has not yet abated. It’s still being discussed and debated in purebred dog, veterinary and animal welfare circles. As it should be. It details how a great many breeds are unhealthy by design, earning creator Jemima Harrison accolades and epithets alike.

The Adventures of Milo and Otis

How gorgeous is this puppy-kitten romp? If you’ve never seen it, indulge yourself. It’s cute overkill to the max. Orange tabby Milo, a curious kitten born in a barn, encounters a Pug puppy by the name of Otis — and spectacularly adorable shenanigans ensue. Their tale of cross-species animal companionship is one for the ages.

The Birds

I know, I know. It’s a strange choice for favorite animal films. But I love this movie. And — get this — it’s my contention that the birds are not evil. Hitchcock’s barely concealed secret? We humans deserve every peck!

King Kong

An ecological cautionary tale. A love story. A celebration of the human-animal bond. What’s not to like? This classic boy-meets-girl-and-girl-meets-beast, man-versus-nature story is the quintessential human-animal-Earth love triangle.

March of the Penguins

Not only was this a beautifully shot, sensitively scripted, gorgeously narrated documentary, but the fact that it resonated so widely gave me goose bumps. When an animal movie like this one breaks into the mainstream, it’s got to give you hope for the future of our planet.

National Velvet

Is it sappy for me to say that I love this horsey movie? Even if it is, I don’t care. Liz Taylor was such a star! It’s Hollywood’s finest hour — and I adore every minute of it, from the glossy manes and rippling muscles to the saucy dialogue.

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