Nowadays, studios lure kids into the cinema with giant robots (Transformers 3), buccaneers (Pirates) comic book heroes (Thor, Captain America) and, of course, CGI animals with Hollywood voices (Hop, Rio, Rango). But back in the day, movie-makers didn’t have access to CGI trickery. So what did they do? They wowed audiences with cartoons and live-action animal capers. So in honour of the seemingly passé work of animal actors, here are 14 of our favourite cute critters, from dogs to penguins, sea lions to orang-utans, all of them stupidly sweet and aggressively adorable. Any we’ve missed that you still love? Let us know in the usual place…
Film:** Lassie Come Home (1943)
*Owner:* Joe Carraclough (Roddy McDowall)
Sure, Lassie is the most obvious answer to the perennial pub question “What’s the cutest animal in cinema?” – hey, it’s a perennial pub question round our way – but how could we not include him? He’s Lassie, the Dogfather of movie mutts. It’s compulsory.
There have been plenty of Lassie sequels but it’s the original that still shines brightest, telling the tale of a Depression-era Yorkshire schoolboy and his beloved long-haired collie.
The poor pup is sold by Joe’s parents to pay the rent, and is carted down south by his new owner. Lassie promptly escapes, and so begins his one-dog journey back home, making new friends along the way and generally looking immaculate. Come on, it’s a good-looking dog. Good hair. Good poise. Good… we’ll stop now. It’s a cute dog, done.
Film:** The Wizard Of Oz (1939)
*Owner:* **Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland)
And if we’re including Lassie, Toto also has to be involved, the inquisitive little so-and-so. After all, without Toto, so much of the story of The Wizard Of Oz would not have come to pass: Miss Almira Gulch wouldn’t have had her leg bitten, Dorothy wouldn’t have run away, Dorothy’s companions wouldn’t have been alerted to her Witch-based peril, she would have gone up in the balloon with The Wizard… the list goes on and on. He’s a very important dog, all in all.
Plus, he’s pick-uppable, and scampers adorably when Dorothy is skipping down the Yellow Brick Road. And perhaps most importantly of all, without Toto around, Dorothy would never have said the immortal words: “Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more.”
So there you have it: a very cute dog who doubles as a personal accessory – that works so well with sparkly red shoes, natch – an essential plot device and a useful way of delivering classic lines. What a special little mutt he is, and no mistake.
Film: Babe (1995)
Owners: Arthur Hoggett (James Cromwell), Esmé Hoggett (Magda Szubanski)
Sure, Babe has the advantage of not only being able to herd sheep – smaller animals with the respect of bigger animals is always cute – as well as being able to, you know, talk, but we’ve got to let him off for that. It’s Babe, and Babe is the cutest damn pig in the world, and that’s that.
You see, CGI was of course used in the film, but as it’s only for speaking, we have to let them off. Sorry Stuart Little, you’re a fine little mouse, but you walk upright and wear tiny versions of human clothing, and that creeps us out a bit.
Anyway, back to Babe. His squeaky voice ups the cute-ocity exponentially, as does his relationship with the ‘real’ sheepdogs Rex and Fly, the wiggly way he runs, and, and, and… Well, that’ll do, won’t it? Yep, that’ll do.
Film: The Adventures Of Milo And Otis (1989)
Owners:** **No-one. Themselves. Um, they’re free as the wind.
The story behind Milo and Otis is a weird one. Originally shot and released in Japan – cut to suit Japanese tastes with a Japanese voiceover – it was a massive hit in the Land of the Rising Sun in 1986. Noting its success, Columbia pictures decided to buy the rights to the footage for the US, edit it, then release it to Western audiences with none other than “Cuddly” Dudley Moore doing the voice work.
The result is one of the sappiest, soppiest, cutsiest-wutsiest movies ever made, featuring a tiny pug named Otis and an orange tabby cat called Milo getting into a series of scrapes as they dart and bound and wiggle their way through the countryside.
They meet bears, birds, bees, deer, then cross rivers, climb trees and act adorable until most of the cinema is cooing in unison. Also, there are pug puppies and tabby kittens involved. Ah Japan, you know how to do cute, we’ll give you that…
Film:** Andre (1994)
*Owners*: Harry (Keith Carradine), Thalice (Chelsea Field) and Toni (Tina Majorino) Whitney
A little girl having a sea lion for a pet not cute enough for ya? How about a little girl having a raspberry-blowing, Hawaiian-shirt-wearing, basketball-playing sea lion for a pet? Is that adorable enough for you, you cold-hearted, sea lion-loathing swine?
Sure, the film is basically a downsized Free Willy, and no, no-one acts that well in it, and yes, okay, it’s all very, very derivative, but with a sea lion as sweet as Andre, no-one gives a flying fish. Look, he’s wearing a yellow baseball cap! And sunglasses!
Then there’s the fact that he can dance, jiggling and flapping and wiggling along to Toni’s movements, generally outclassing Empire’s dance floor manoeuvres with ease, despite not having actual, proper legs, or even knowing what ‘rhythm’ is. And look, he’s wearing a yellow baseball cap!
Film: Beethoven's 2nd (1993)
Owners: George (Charles Grodin) and Alice (Bonnie Hunt) Newton
Sure, Beethoven is a cute ol’ bugger in the original – especially as a little ‘un creeping into the Newtons’ back garden at the beginning – but we achieve total St. Bernard-based cute-ocity when he finds the love of his life, Missy, and proceeds to have four puppies with her.
Called Chubby, Dolly, Tchaikovsky, and Moe, they’re just as troublesome as their dad, proceeding to wee here, there and everywhere, chew things indiscriminatingly, and force Charles Grodin to embarrass himself over and over and over again.
The icing on the cute cake, however, are the little haircuts the fuzzy little fellas get, including a Mohawk. That’s right, a St. Bernard’s pup with a Mohawk, looking up at you with those big eyes… It’s almost like they were actively trying to make them as cute as possible, isn’t it?
Film:** March Of The Penguins (2005)
*Owners:* Themselves, God, the ice.
Ah, penguins… the riddle of the animal kingdom. They have wings but cannot fly, they’re birds but think they’re fish, and every year they have to make an incredible journey to get laid. So not only do you have the absurd cuteness levels inherent in any penguin, but you’ve also got a love story (of sorts) and Morgan Freeman describing it all. Now //that’s// cute.
And have you seen how they walk? What a waddle. And in such a straight, organised, British line to boot – synchronised with each and every step, like a mile of poorly balanced miniature waiters desperate to go to the toilet.
Then, as if all of this wasn’t cute enough, there are the baby penguins, who are small, chirpy, and //fluffy//. Fluffy! That’s just too cute, Mr. Penguin, and you know it. No, wait, it gets cuter – they’re chirruping and huddling under their parents’ bellies! This is too much, we’re nearly crying now. You know, in a good way.
Film: The Green Mile (1999)
*Owner: *Eduard "Del" Delacroix (Michael Jeter)
Mr. Jingles, eh? Cute name, cute mouse. Shame of it is, to truly describe the adorability of Mr. Jingles would require spoilers. That’s right, this is a mouse so important to the plot that to reveal its cutetastic denouement would ruin the film. And let’s be honest, it’s a better film that Marley & Me. Sorry Jen, it’s true.
The cuteness we can describe involves Mr. Jingles’ cross-species bond with Green Mile inmate Del. He runs along his arms to sit on his shoulder, and even plays fetch with him – but only after Del asks him politely, saying, “Tu vas aller chercher?”
Of course he does want to play fetch, retrieving a wooden spool for Del by pushing it along the floor to him. And though there are many emotional moments in the Green Mile, somehow watching a mouse pushing a cylindrical piece of wood still makes some people cry. That’s the power of the cute, people.
Film: Flipper (1996)
Owners: Sandy Ricks (Elijah Wood) and Porter (Paul Hogan).
Admit it, you’d love it if Paul Hogan was your uncle, wouldn’t you? No offence to your real uncle(s) but there’s something about having Crocodile Dundee as your cool relative that makes summers in the Florida Keys that little bit more exciting. You know, as well as having a dolphin as best mate.
This being a kids’ movie, there’s also some peril to be getting into – and quickly escaping – but aside from brief moments of dolphins head butting sharks and the like, Flipper seems to be most useful as a means to attract hot girls.
Not that a young Elijah Wood would need a dolphin to help him pick up chicks in real life, but it’s nice to know that he can pretend. As for Flipper himself, he was almost not included in this list due to some scenes in the movie actually being animatronic (dolphins naturally dislike head-butting sharks, it turns out) but if we’re going to allow talking piglets and smirking dogs, what’s the harm of adding a little mechanical dolphin into the mix? That’s right, nothing. So there. * Spits water at human screen, makes dolphin noise
Film: Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)
Owner: Jamie Burnford (Kevin Chevalia).
You might have expected us to pick one of the three Incredible Journey-ers from the 1963 original movie, but though that film is a classic, it’s not a patch on the 1993 version when it comes to the cuteness stakes. Why? Three little words – okay, two little words and an initial – “Michael J. Fox.”
After all, he’s the human embodiment of cool / cute, so as he’s the voice of the adorable American Bulldog Chance, as well as the narrator of the whole film, he’s a cuteness king.
Especially sweet moments include Chance and the gang meeting a giant bear, and the time when he gets pricked by a porcupine. Michael J. Fox? Voicing a dog? Who’s been attacked by a porcupine? On their amazing journey through a forest back home to their family? We’re welling up just remembering it…
Film:** Every Which Way But Loose (1978)
*Owner:* Philo Beddoe (Clint Eastwood)
Clint Eastwood? Starring in a film… with an orang-utan? As unbelievable now as it was back then, it’s even more unbelievable to discover that Every Which Way But Loose remains one of Clint’s biggest hits ever, and was the number two attraction at the US box-office in 1978.
Still, Clyde’s amazing, whatever you think of the film and its ludicrous gags, appalling pratfalls and terrible script. Imbuing the role with a genuine sense of charm, you’d be hard-pressed not to smile when he high fives Clint or leaps about his car.
Plus, it turns out Clyde is on the only person – sorry, the only animal or person – that Clint’s character, the rough and tumble bare-knuckle boxer Philo, can openly speak to about his innermost feelings. This results in many hugs. Many, many orang-utan-based hugs. And if you don’t think seeing The Man With No Name hugging an ape isn’t cute, then maybe something’s wrong with you.
Film:** The Snow Dogs (2002)
*Owner:* **Dr. Theodore "Ted" Brooks (Cuba Gooding Jr.)
If you like the idea of Cuba Gooding Jr. getting slammed into trees, thrown down mountains, and landing flat on his face over and over, then The Snow Dogs is the movie for you. Also, if you find huskies adorable – as well you might, being a human and all – it’s also the movie for you. Because it’s full of huskies. And you might have guessed.
The lead husky in Cuba’s pack is a dog called Demon. He’s got bright blue eyes, a scary smile, and a general demeanour that seems to say, “I will destroy you, but not before I see you drown in a icy Alaskan lake.” And so for that reason, Demon is out of the cute competition.
The other huskies, however, are still in the game, meaning that you can take your pick from Mac, Scooper, Diesel, Yodel and Sniff, all of whom are huskies, and all of whom are intensely sweet. And yes, of course it’s a Disney movie – after all, it contains a large number of cute animals, and a story of a city boy getting redemption in the countryside. It’s what they do, you know.
Film: 101 Dalmatians (1996)
Owners: Roger Dearly (Jeff Daniels) and Anita Campbell-Green Dearly (Joely Richardson)
What’s cuter that two full-grown Dalmatians? No, not 101 of the buggers, but 15 miniature versions, snuggled up in a basket. Puppies, you could call them – you know, if you fancied being all technical.
Their cuteness is amplified by the fact that an evil person called Cruella de Vil (Glenn Close in an amazing wig) is after the wee little bundles of joy. Firstly, this indicates that the dogs are so cute that the head of a fashion house wants them for their fur, and secondly, peril always increases the cuteness factor. That’s one of the founding rules of cuteness, as we all know.
The fact that they live in an idyllic London flat in its own private road only adds to this sweetness, and what’s more, Hugh Laurie is one of the inept idiots chasing after them, and as everything Hugh Laurie touches turns to awesome, this can only help matters.
Film:** Marley & Me (2008)
*Owners:* John (Owen Wilson) and Jenny (Jennifer Aniston) Grogan
There are certain spoilers that can’t be spoiled any more. Darth Vader, for example, is Luke Skywalker’s dad, and E.T. has the power of making several bikes fly at once. Sorry about that, but it’s seeped into the nation’s collective subconscious, and that’s just the way it is.
As for Marley & Me, allow us to officially and formally spoil the whole movie for you: the dog [REDACTED]. There, we said, it. Glad that’s out of the way.
Anyway, because he’s a tiny, little golden Labrador puppy that eventually [REDACTED] due to [REDACTED], Marley has to be one of the cutest animals in cinema, ever. Plus, he makes a couple who are having relationship difficulties love each other again (sort of) and stares sweetly at the camera, and that’s good enough for us.