The 2015 Dog Film Festival in NYC got us thinking—what were the year’s best cinematic moments for dogs?
Compared to other years, 2015 was a little sparse for dogs in movies. Still, we’ve found memorable and animated offerings for your viewing pleasure: five official entries with an honorable mention, questionable short film, and favorite trailer thrown in for a treat.
Honorable Mention: Jupiter Ascending
Some labeled this entire movie as a dog, but that’s beside the point. The character Caine is a genetically altered human spliced with canine attributes, so this technically doesn’t count. Still, when your loyal, protective partner is part pooch, part Channing Tatum, who’s complaining?
His dogged (heh) determination to help Mila Kunis’ character Jupiter reflects what we’d expect from a four-legged friend, paired with Magic Mike’s physique. Can I get a woof?
Kingsman: Secret Service
When a special British spy service recruits the streetwise Eggsy, an atypical choice for the typically upper class institution, he’s anxious to prove himself. Part of their training involves choosing a puppy and caring for it, teaching it, and more. “Where you go, the dog goes.”
At first Eggsy regrets his choice of the tiny, adorable pug, but when it comes time for his final test he’s fallen in love with his four-legged friend, naming him JB: not for James Bond, or Jason Bourne, but Jack Bauer. The final test with JB features prominently in whether or not Eggsy will become a Kingsman.
Shaun the Sheep Movie
Mossy Bottom Farm may generally shine the spotlight on its wool-producing protagonist, but Bitzer the dog deserves equal billing in their cinematic outing this year. Shaun and Bitzer can be at odds many days, but when the farmer gets amnesia it takes a team-up to save the farm.
The film also gives us a sweet narrative of Slip, a dog many view as ugly and unwanted who helps our sheep and canine heroes. Without giving spoilers, let’s just say the film reinforces what many dog lovers know: beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
The most obvious choice for our list, this heartrending story begins with the relationship of the titular Belgian Malinois with his Marine handler as they work in Afghanistan. When Kyle is killed in action, Max bonds with Kyle’s younger brother Justin. Not only does the relationship help them process the loss of brother and friend, the circumstances behind Kyle’s death come to light and they must unravel a complicated and dangerous truth.
The compassionate focus on war dogs and their trainers, and post-war stress for both dogs and human families, makes this the highlight of our list.
Scooby Doo and Kiss: A Rock and Roll Mystery
It’s the team-up the whole world has been waiting for since…well, since never, but that doesn’t stop these two ’70s icons from celebrating over 40 years of success with a nostalgic throwback fit for fans of all ages.
Does the titular Great Dane have a longer tongue than Gene Simmons? Will the Scooby gang and KISS uncover whoever’s behind the amusement park hauntings? Expected antics ensue, with some added KISSteria that might just defy Velma’s usually logical explanations. In other words, this is a dog’s tale where everyone’s world gets rocked.
Does This One Count? Enter: The Dogwalker
Is it a real film or not? In the summer comedy Trainwreck, characters watch this Sundance-style indie film featuring a dog-laden Daniel Radcliffe at the park, romancing a dog owner played by Marisa Tomei.
It’s certainly fun to see a grown-up Harry Potter with makeshift leash belt, surrounded by a dozen dogs. Critics are already “reviewing it” and people are clamoring to see a complete version, so perhaps we’ll see the short film in full on the Trainwreck Blu-ray.
The Peanuts Movie
How better to end this list then with Snoopy? Right? Right.
Best Trailer: The Secret Life of Pets
This movie may not come out until 2016, but it’s certainly got our tails wagging and our tongues hanging out in anticipation for this behind-the-scenes look at what our dogs (and cats and birds) do when we leave for the day. From mixer massages to rock-fueled pooch parties, this picture will make us laugh and make us paranoid.
Of course it’s a shame more dogs didn’t take center stage in cinema this year, but the Dog Film Festival should help with entries from around the world, including “Game of Bones” and “998 Miles Home.” Here’s hoping 2016 sheds more light on dogs and their pet parents, bringing more bark to the box office.