Movie and television stars get to play human heroes all the time, but there’s nothing quite like when a pup saves the day. Hero dogs have a special place in our hearts. Their names stay in our memories more than most people heroes, and we connect to them on a deep emotional level. We want dogs to live happily ever after and get the praise they deserve for always being there for us. Here are 10 of the best dog heroes of film and television that we know and love.
Lassie might be the most famous dog in the world. Certainly she’s the world’s most famous Collie. You might be familiar with the television show Lassie, which was based on the Lassie films, which were based on a Lassie novel, which was based on a Lassie short story. Lassie was known for saving her boy from dangerous situations by running off to get help or swooping in to take care of business with her agility and intelligence. The show is one of the longest running primetime series in U.S. history, and Lassie has continued to appear in shows, movies, and promotional materials to this day.
2. Old Yeller
Old Yeller has been many children’s first encounter with heartbreak over the years. The friendly, yellow Labrador–Mastiff mix fought off a bear, a wild boar, and a rabid wolf, earning the undying love of his family. Unfortunately, his encounter with the wolf left him infected, and his boy Travis had to–well–I won’t spoil the ending and make you sad. But Old Yeller’s heroism has been immortalized by generations of new fans who need a good cry.
The bumbling Great Dane and his crew of mystery-solving human pals have been traveling around in the Mystery Machine, unmasking villains and fighting all sorts of supernatural creatures for decades. Since the first Scooby-Doo cartoon was created in 1969, the dog hasn’t spent much time off the air, with plenty of revival cartoons and movies, and even some live action films. He’s known for his cowardice, but his clumsiness somehow always manages to put him in the right place at the right time to fight the baddies. He’s a reluctant hero, but a hero nonetheless.
This pup is famous for being Dorothy’s companion in the film The Wizard of Oz, and it’s a good thing he stayed by his owner’s side throughout the adventure because he saves Dorothy’s life. When she is captured by the Wicked Witch, he sneaks off and fetches Tin Man and the gang to come in and break her loose. He also tugs the curtain hiding the man pretending to be a giant, magical, green head and exposes him as a regular guy with a few tricks up his sleeve. Really Toto is the hero of the movie, but he’s most famous for being told, “we’re not in Kansas anymore,” which may be the most obvious observation in the history of film.
Have you ever seen the humble and lovable Shoeshine Boy and Underdog in the same place at the same time? No? I’m sure that’s just a coincidence. Underdog was the hero of his own cartoon show, and could often be seen rushing to the aid of his sweetheart, Sweet Polly Purebred. He was famous for only speaking in rhymes, like his trademark phrase, “There’s no need to fear, Underdog is here!” The pup’s powers were similar to those of Superman, so long as he had his secret energy pills. But with all the phone booths he destroyed, you’d think he’d run out of places to change.
6. Air Bud
Buddy, also known as Air Bud, is a Golden Retriever, or Golden Receiver depending on who you ask, who is better at sports than most humans. And luckily, to this day, there is nothing in the rule book that says a dog can’t play. Buddy is best known for backing up his team at the last minute to win the big game. It must feel pretty bad to know that your sports team can replace you with a dog, but it’s probably an even bigger slap in the face to be the losing team.
I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as hard in a movie theater as I did when I saw Anchorman, and Baxter the dog cracked me up. Baxter was the adorable, cheese-eating, Spanish-barking pup of Ron Burgundy who managed to survive being kicked off a bridge only to return to his owner’s side in his moment of need. Thanks to Baxter’s travels and the friends he made, he was able to talk a group of bears out of devouring his human companion. I’d like to see a movie about that only starring Baxter.
Jake the dog is the newest hero pup on the list. He’s the companion of Finn the human–one of the last humans on Earth–in the show Adventure Time, and he couldn’t be a better best friend for a boy adventurer. Not only does Jake talk, he can stretch his body into any shape and size he wants. He’s even been known to wrap his body around Finn to form a sort of Jake armor. He’s been through a lot with his pal around the land of Ooo, a post-apocalyptic Earth inhabited by candy people. If that sounds absurd, it is in the best way.
The literary master and Jack Russell Terrier, Wishbone, was always able to relate his modern life with his family to a famous work of literature, where he would imagine himself as the story’s hero. He’d save the day adorably dressed as characters from The Odyssey, Romeo and Juliet, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and tons of other classics. But he was mostly my hero for rescuing me from a day of classwork in middle school. When the television rolled into the room and that little pup appeared on the screen, I knew it was going to be a good day.
10. Rin Tin Tin
You may have heard of a place called Hollywood, but if it weren’t for Rin Tin Tin, that might not be the case. The German Shepherd was brought to America from a World War I battlefield by a soldier. He was a talented pup and started getting work in motion pictures before starring in the film Where The North Begins, where he plays a dog raised by wolves who saves a man from certain death. It was that film that saved Warner Bros. from bankruptcy and brought Hollywood back from the brink. He went on to star in many more movies, and his descendants have become stars, too. He’s credited with making the German Shepherd breed popular in the United States. So he’s not just a movie hero, he’s a real life savior, as well.
Which of your favorite hero pups did we miss? Bark your praise for movie and television hero dogs in the comments below!