Not too long ago, the wonderful Ronlyn Domingue, TNB contributor and novelist, suggested I create just this sort of list after she’d enjoyed seeing Cosmo the Jack Russell terrier in Beginners, and what better time to assemble ten cinematic canine greats than the week of The Artist’s DVD release, the film that featured that other recent Oscar-season darling, Uggie. Like Cosmo and Uggie, all of the dogs on this list aren’t the main characters in their respective films but bona fide scene-stealers (just in case you’re wondering why Lassie didn’t make the cut). Now brace yourselves for a huge dose of cute:

The Artist — Uggie

As Good As It Gets — Verdell

Bringing Up Baby – George

The Wizard of Oz – Toto

Up — Dug

Annie – Sandy

The Thin Man and its sequels – Asta (Trivia: same dog as in Bringing Up Baby)

Beginners – Cosmo

The Jerk — Shithead

Back to the Future — Einstein

As is the way of lists there’s sure to be some deserving pooch I’ve omitted, so sound off below.

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TNB Arts and Culture Editor CYNTHIA HAWKINS teaches creative writing at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Most of what she thinks she knows comes from movies, including how to tango, how to take someone down with a ballpoint pen, how to curse in French, and how to catch a moving train. Her work, on movies and otherwise, has appeared in literary journals and magazines such as ESPN the Magazine, Parent:Wise Magazine, The Good Men Project, New World Writing, Strange Horizons, and numerous alternative weeklies and anthologies. You can find Cynthia on Twitter and at cynthiahawkins.net.

29 responses to “Top 10 Scene-Stealing Dogs in Films”

  1. Gloria says:

    I’d forgotten all about Shithead. What a great movie. I think I want to watch it again.

  2. James D. Irwin says:

    Surely the greatest cinematic canine is the one Patrick Swayze throws at Keanu Reeves in Point Break!

  3. Too much cute in one place. It’s almost as overwhelming as kittenwar.com.

    I’ve seen AS GOOD AS IT GETS more times than I care to count simply to watch that dog.

    What did you think of BEGINNERS?

    • I can’t believe how long it took me to see it, for one thing! I loved it. It was really nice to see Melanie Laurent in something so different from Inglorious Basterds, which is the only other thing I’d seen her in. I get the best movie recommendations from TNB peeps 🙂

  4. D.R. Haney says:

    I thought the dog in There’ s Something About Mary was the only funny thing in the movie. Truly a scene stealer. Although it was meant to be, I guess, which means it wasn’t truly a scene stealer. I think scene stealing generally only occurs when it’s unexpected.

    On the other hand, kids and dogs…

    • That’s a good one! The dog and the “hair mousse” are the only things I remember about Something About Mary, so that speaks well of the dog and not so well of the rest of the movie.

      I’d also considered Precious from Silence of the Lambs, but I’m not so sure Precious is truly a scene stealer either. Since her competition in her scene is Buffalo Bill dancing in a human skin suit, probably not ….

  5. Rachel Pollon says:

    Aw, sweetness. I loved Beginners. Everything about it. The dog relationship was out of this world, I loved seeing that connection on screen. Felt it really mirrored the bond I feel with my dogs. (As this picture here of me — that funnily enough just this morning I was thinking of changing because it’s about four years old but then realized I’d also need to update my bio since I mention my dog, so it’s going to take me a little longer to make that change — shows.) Dogs!

  6. I apologise in advance.
    Happiness (Todd Solondz)

    I apologise in arrears.

  7. Sorrow from Hotel New Hampshire, although maybe he’s more of a supporting character than a scene-stealer, even after he’s dead. Also, Bonkers from The World According to Garp. – “Garp bit bonky!”

    • This is why I like it when you stop by to add to lists. You always draw attention to something I hadn’t thought of and should have. Good ones!

      • The understated, underexposed, under-seen Wendy and Lucy is an essential dog film. Lucy (real name) is a proper dog, not a cutesy scene-stealer; it’s a pretty tough film but it’s essentially about decent people, something that comes through more on a second viewing.

        Before I link to the trailer I’ll say: Don’t read the comments. Partly because they’re full of spoilers, and partly because they’re YouTube comments and they’ll make your brain itch. Wendy and Lucy trailer

  8. My dog, Barnaby, approves. Had him review these with me and he did a little alpha growl at Shithead. I explained to him about the scene later where Steve Martin uses Shithead in place of pants.

    This is no major classic, but the dog in I Am Legend was a heartbreaker and the scene (spoiler coming) where Will Smith finds himself alone for first time without his dog is surprisingly touching, possibly the best moment of the whole film in fact.

    In E.T., Eliot’s dog, Harvey, is a classic example of the canines always being the first to know.

    • Steve Bieler says:

      Cynthia: I’m stumped! I can’t think of a scene-stealing cinema dog you haven’t already impounded. But Nat mentioned I Am Legend, which made me think of A Boy and His Dog, which doesn’t count, since the dog is one of the main characters. Here’s another one that doesn’t count: Candy, the hero of Disney’s Little Dog Lost, which I offer for all of the corgi owners who read TNB.

    • Yes, these are terrific additions!

      The Jerk. One of the many inappropriate films I managed to see repeatedly and love as a kid. Who would I have become without this early influence? We shall never know. This ashtray and this paddle game, and that’s all I need! And this remote control. And that’s all I need!

  9. D.R. Haney says:

    Does this guy count? He was famous for many short films, not a single feature.


  10. dana says:

    Nice, Cynthia! I have to get a dog. I hate coming home to 3 cats. I mean, I love them, but damn I miss my pooch and her happy prance when I got home. The cats stretch and yawn. D’oh.

    Since the whole movie is about dogs, Best in Show probably doesn’t count, but there is some awesome dog “acting” in that movie. It came immediately to mind as it’s one of my favorites of all time. Looking through your list I notice that they’re almost all terriers of a sort. Probably has something to do with their scruffy, disheveled looks and the ability to move their eyebrows. They are damn cute.

    Thanks for the cute overload!

    • Best in Show is fantastic. Have we had a conversation about the Christopher Guest films? I feel we have …. Anyway, love them! Cats would be tougher to think of, though DeNiro’s cat in Meet the Parents comes to mind, heh.

  11. dana says:

    ps. also for the recommend of Beginners. Looks like something I’d like.

  12. Hank cherry says:

    Anyone who can acknowledge the brilliance of Shithead in a list about films is AOK by me! Hooray Shithead!

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