While every award show has its categories for Best Actor and Best Actress, one category that seems to be lacking every award season is Best Canine – though there are a few prestigious awards out there for our favorite dogs, but more on that later.

Man’s best friend also shines as man’s best co-star in some of our favorite films, creating some of the most memorable, loving, and often tearjerking scenes on the big screen. Like all leading pups before him, Arthur, a scrappy stray dog, will take his human companion, Michael Light (Mark Wahlberg) on the journey of a lifetime in Arthur the King. Literally, as Arthur joins Michael as he leads Team Broadrail on a grueling ten-day, 435-mile endurance race through the tricky Dominican Republic terrain. Based on a true story, whether Michael and his team win the most challenging race of their lives or not, Arthur has won all their hearts, just as our list of favorite dogs on the silver screen have won our hearts – and sometimes crushed them – time and time again.

Toto – The Wizard of Oz (1939)

The most famous Cairn Terrier that is small enough to fit in a little basket would have to be none other than Dorothy’s (Judy Garland) companion on her journey all the way from Kansas to Oz, Toto. Played by Terry, who also starred alongside Shirley Temple in earlier work, she did all her own stunts for The Wizard of Oz and earned a salary that today would equate to $2,600 per week for her part in revealing the mysterious Wizard’s true identity. But Toto and Terry’s fame go far beyond the 1939 film. In fact, Toto is such a legendary dog that he even supplied the name for the Grammy Award winning band responsible for hits like “Africa” and “Hold the Line”. Treasured by her co-stars, owners, and fans alike, Terry received a permanent memorial at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in 2011.

Lassie – Lassie Come Home (1943)

Society has fooled all of us, because did you know that Timmy never actually fell down the well? The Rough Collie Lassie has saved Timmy from many things in his life – including a speeding truck, a mine field, an escaped elephant, and even radiation exposure – but falling down a well was not actually one of the many life-threatening instances that Little Timmy ever found himself in. The beloved Lassie was originally played by Pal, who met many of his adoring fans at fairs all throughout the United States in the 1950s. Lassie has since appeared in twelve films and fifteen television series, as well as radio shows, books, and even video games. The roll of Lassie has even stayed within Pal’s family throughout the years, as his descendants have taken on the title of America’s favorite Rough Collie in later projects, some as recent as 2020.

Snoopy – The Peanuts Franchise (1950 – Present)

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Originally debuting in a 1950s comic strip, Snoopy has made countless appearances since then with the rest of the Peanuts gang in classic television specials and films, including The Peanuts Movie (2015). Charlie Brown’s beloved anthropomorphic beagle more than earns his keep while being a skilled aviation pilot, an astronaut, a writer, a hockey player, an attorney, a college student – nicknamed “Joe Cool” – and an extraordinary chef. In fact, Snoopy has become so recognizable and cherished over the years that he’s become an official mascot for NASA. Snoopy’s accomplishments make it hard for anyone to compete with him, much less other talented dogs.

Old Yeller – Old Yeller (1957)

A coming-of-age tale of a boy and his dog, Old Yeller remains to be one of the most tearjerking films on this list, and one of the main reasons some audience members may be skeptical about watching a movie with a dog in it unless they know how it ends ahead of time. Played by the yellow Mastador named Spike, Old Yeller has a penchant for both stealing food and saving the Coates family, especially their teenage son, Travis. Over time, the whole family comes to love him, even if he is frequently caught stealing from hens’ nests, and Old Yeller saves them from angry black bears, feral hogs, and wolves. The ending is no doubt heartbreaking, as Travis is forced to face an unfortunate circumstance with Old Yeller, but the film remains a cinematic staple piece.

Scooby-Doo – The Scooby-Doo Franchise (1969 – Present)

A talking dog that loves eating sandwiches and solving mysteries – what more could you want out of a lifelong friend? Created by Hanna-Barbera in the 1960s and the star of his own animated television series, Scooby-Doo is the canine companion of Mystery Inc., a group of teenagers that work together to solve mysteries. More often than not though, Scooby is a bit of a scaredy-cat when it comes to monsters and ghosts. Good thing all the monsters that the group unmasks are just humans in disguise. Scooby is often thought of as one of the greatest cartoon characters of all time, and has since made appearances in countless television shows, films, comic books, and more over the years – both animated and live-action works – including Scoob! (2020) on the big screen.

Benji – Benji (1974)

Dogs are more than just a cuddly companion. They can offer much-needed help and assistance during life’s hardest moments. Audiences everywhere fell in love with this small, mixed dog so much that he quickly became the star of an entire franchise. Originally played by the adorable star animal actor Higgins, a mix between a Miniature Poodle, a Cocker Spaniel, and a Schnauzer, Benji actually is played by an award-winning pooch! The American Humane Society awarded Higgins with a PATSY (Picture Animal Top Star of the Year) Award for his hard work in the industry in 1966, and Higgins even came out of retirement at the age of sixteen to take on the role of Benji. Saving the Chapman children and reuniting them with their father after they are kidnapped, Benji proves that dogs are some of the smartest and most loyal companions we could ask for. Today, Benji remains to be one of the most popular names for dogs.

Marley – Marley & Me (2008)

Another pup-centric film that will rip out your heart is this 2008 comedy starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston. Based on a true story, John and Jenny Grogan navigate the ups and downs of life with the world’s most poorly behaved yellow Labrador Retriever named Marley, named after none other than Bob Marley. After failing obedience school as a puppy, Marley’s antics become the subject of John’s editorial columns, and the family grows to have three children amongst the daily havoc. Even though Marley frequently makes the whole family want to pull their own hair out during the fourteen years of his canine life, they learn just how much of a central part of their family he is, making the film’s ending with an aging Marley even more heartbreaking. Though hilarious at times, there will be no dry eyes by the end of this film, and Marley remains to be one of the top names for dogs today.

Dug – Up (2009)

Who doesn’t love a talking dog? Dug has the biggest Golden Retriever energy of any dog ever, with a jumpy, overly energetic, and fun-loving personality that you can’t help but smile at. Like any dog, Dug loves chasing squirrels, belly rubs, and a delicious treat, but he is also brave while accompanying his new companions Carl, a widowed senior citizen, and Russell, a young scout, through the trails of South America. Dug voices every thought that we have always imagined dogs to have. He proves to be incredibly loyal to his new family and is even adopted by Carl at the end of the film so he can continue to provide him with a lifetime of comfort and companionship.

Snoop – Anatomy of a Fall (2023)

Nominated at the 96th Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director, Justine Triet’s French film gave way to one of the most praised canine performances yet. Messi, a seven-year-old Border Collie, stars as a guide dog named Snoop and has fantastic emotional chemistry with his visually impaired owner Daniel (Milo Machado-Graner) and plays a significant role in the story as a form of evidence in part of a murder investigation. In a film full of unknowns and differing sides, Snoop remains a dependable, loyal, and morally correct key component. Messi was so beloved by critics and audiences alike that he even had his own press tour for the film – with his handler, of course – and took home the Palm Dog Award at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival for his performance.

Meet man’s next best friend Arthur in Arthur the King, only in theaters on March 15. Get tickets now.

  • Editorial