Editors' Picks: 8 Animal Movies We Love

Hachi

Based on a true story, Hachi follows the relationship between a kind-hearted college professor (Richard Gere) and an Akita puppy he rescues from a train station. Hachi is a one-man dog, following his master everywhere. When he can't go to work with the professor, he waits patiently at the train station every day for his human to come home. Hachi's devotion to his master and their mutual love — which spills over to encompass the rest of the family — make this an ideal movie for your family. But be warned: This is a tear-jerker, of almost epic proportions.

Born Free

This 1966 film (with its Academy Award-winning score) recounts the efforts of George and Joy Adamson as they raised and returned to the wild what may be the world's most famous lioness, Elsa. Born Free is credited with helping to spark the modern-day wildlife conservation movement. The movie includes some harsh life lessons about the lives of wild animals that may be tough for younger children to understand, but otherwise, this is a terrific family film. The African flora and fauna are beautiful to watch; for us, though, the most amazing part of the movie is the bond between the Adamsons and their lions. The film is so realistic that you almost forget that these actors aren't the real Adamsons. The stars of the film, Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, insisted on working with the lions themselves, instead of using trainers or stunt doubles. The experience not only permanently bonded them to their leonine costars but also turned them into real-life advocates for wild animals.

Dolphin Tale

Kids love this movie, which is based on the true story of a young bottlenose dolphin who is crippled for life after getting tangled in a crab trap. The sure-fire formula of a lonely, misunderstood boy learning lessons of love, loyalty and perserverance via an animal leads both of them to learn to live with their imperfections and, in a way, to thrive because of and in spite of their limitations. Dolphin Tale teaches kids to respect differences and not see physical infirmities as something to fear, dismiss or denigrate.

If you are ever around Clearwater, Fla., you can visit Winter the dolphin at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and see other animals who have been inadvertently hurt by cars, fishing line and motorboats — an obvious yet touching reminder of how humans can and do negatively affect the lives of other creatures. We don't imagine anyone leaves without making a secret promise to be more aware and careful.

Balto

When it comes to inspiring animal heroes, it doesn't get much better than Balto. The film, which made the Siberian Husky a star,tells the story of the 1925 serum run that ended a diphtheria epidemic in Nome, Alaska. We adore the animated movie's cast, with Kevin Bacon as the voice of Balto, Phil Collins as Muk and Luk (two polar bears who don't know how to swim), and Bob Hoskins as a goose who gets "people-bumps." Balto has its great comedic moments, but what it really leaves you with are lessons in altruism, fearlessness and self-acceptance. Balto himself puts it best: "Since when do you need a pedigree to help someone?"

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