With out current limitations for going out and watching movies, Netflix has become – for those who have subscribed to the service – a way to catch up on TV shows and movies that they haven’t been able to watch while life was much busier.

And for those of us who would like to see more of our animal friends on the screen, Netflix does have a diverse selection of animal-centric content.

“Animal movies”

Netflix has internal phrase for movies or shows you’d like to watch. This writer has found that the search phrase that works best is “animal movies” – and I was incredibly pleased to find many more sub-themes.

In this article, we’ll go and check out some of the gems I found while going through Netflix. Some of them may not be a big hit for you, but with all the different kinds of content on Netflix, there’s sure to be at least a few movies and shows that you will like.

Animals in real life

I’ve decided to go through the various kinds of animal-based content in Netflix, so let’s start with those of actual animals:

1. Our Planet (Series)

This is the classic animal documentary series. Each episode is about a different kind of habitat, and the animals who live in them. The cinematography is also stunning – if you have a large screen, it’s a good idea to pay for the HD option in your Netflix subscription.

2. Benji

Benji is a fox terrier mixed-breed dog, whose adventures were the basis for a string of movies and a set of TV series and one-shots in the ’70s and ’80s. This movie is a reboot of sorts of the franchise, and in it, Benji helps heal a broken family. He also comes to the rescue when the children get themselves into some serious trouble. The current Benji is played by a dog named Fairfield.

3. Zoo

This is a fictional series with a serious story about how the animal world can strike back at human-initiated abuse. It follows the story of Zoologist Jackson Oz and journalist Jamie Campbell as they investigate what appears to be an animal revolt against all humanity.

4. If I Were An Animal…

If you have children at home and you want them to learn more about how our furry friends live, then this series is a delightful educational experience. Viewers will be able to follow the lifestyles of specific animals, told from a story perspective – with nicknames for the lead animals of each segment.

5. Wasao

Japanese films are becoming more popular thanks to Netflix, and in this case, we have a movie about Wasao, an enormous Akita. In search of his owner, Wasao becomes the touchpoint for all the people whose lives he touches in the movie.

Rover to the rescue!

Animals and the silver screen go way, way back. But many would be surprised to find out that what is quite possibly the first major animal movie came out in 1905, named Rescued by Rover. The plot is the classic rescue by animal: it’s about a collie named Rover (named Blair in real life) who leads the human caring for him to his kidnapped baby.

The movie was so popular in its time that they had to re-shoot the whole movie twice, as the negatives for the movie kept on wearing out from requests for reprints.

Another dog who was active in the movies at the time was Jean, a tri-colored Scotch chollie. While Rover may have jumped the gun on being in a movie, Jean’s first movie, Jean and the Calico Doll, and the subsequent movie franchise became the templates for many other animals to become the lead actors in their movies.

Talking-animal movies for the family

When it comes to fanciful movies about talking animals, Netflix has a very extensive library. Here are some of the bright spots in their archive.

1. Pets United

In an age of hero-team movies, why not a team movie about our furry friends? That’s what Pets United is about. It follows the story of a blue heeler mixed-breed dog named Roger and a misfit band of animals who find friednship while surviving a world where their families aren’t there. Notable voice actors are Patrick Roche as Roger, and Natalie Dormer as Belle, a Siamese cat.

2. Cats & Dogs (movie franchise with two movies: the second one is The Revenge of Kitty Galore)

If you’ve ever imagined that out feline and canine companions are actually members of super-secret spy organizations, then this movie series is definitely for you. With an A-list voice cast playing beagles, Anatolian shepherds, Persian cats, and bloodhounds, this film franchise plays with many spy movie call-backs, all wrapped up as a furry and fabulous G-rated (mostly) romp.

3. Shaun the Sheep – The Movie

It’s a film about sheep, yet, but the titular character and his goofy group of ruminants wreak havoc on their farm, while the sheepdog Bitzer is usually roped into their crazy escapades – in this case, it has something to do with an alien. Really. The humor will certainly appeal to the kids, with a joke or two for mom and dad.

Dogs talk!

Some of the very first “talk” movies to feature talking animals in a live action setting were known as the Dogville Comedies, which were produced from 1929 to 1931.

Also known as “barkies,” the actions were various trained dogs who were dressed up for parodies of films that were popular at the time. Voices were dubbed in by actors. Some of the production crew would later end up working in the Three Stooges comedy skit.

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s March-April 2021 issue.

You might want to read:
– Between the lines, behind the scenes: Animals in recent Filipino films
– New documentary shows stray dogs’ life in Istanbul more tragic than those of cats
– An animal-centric reading of Rene O. Villanueva’s The First Pig in Heaven