The Incredible Power of Animals in Movies

Animals: better than humans.
Ahh, animals. Is there anything they can’t do? Well, yes. Their lack of opposable thumbs does tend to hinder their accomplishments. But the ability of certain special animals to completely overhaul the lives of the humans around them has led to some truly astounding films. Whether it’s dogs, penguins, apes or even magpies, some of the best stories are about people whose lives have been totally changed by the animals around them.

Penguin Bloom

Based on a frankly incredible true story, Penguin Bloom is about a wide-eyed, jet-setting young mum whose life is brought to a screeching halt after she suffers a terrible accident. Unable to walk and suddenly housebound, Sam Bloom (Naomi Watts) ends up caring for an injured magpie chick. As both Sam and the magpie (named Penguin) heal, the family manages to grow stronger. Penguin Bloom is based on the real-life story told in the bestselling book of the same name by Cameron Bloom & Bradley Trevor Grieve.

Life of Pi

Based on the global smash hit book, Life of Pi is a deeply surreal and vivid film about a boy trapped on a boat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Oh, and an injured zebra, a resourceful and wily orangutan, and a hyena. Life of Pi is an utterly fantastical story about what happens to a young boy forced to share a small space with huge creatures, but it also asks a whole bunch of really challenging questions about human nature, truth, and trauma.


We’ve all had pets we’ve cared about. But in Okja, Mija (a young Korean girl) has been friend and companion to Okja, a huge (fictional) animal in her mountainous hometown. But when the evil Mirando corporation (run by Tilda Swinton’s snarling villain) kidnaps Okja and takes it to the big city for nefarious purposes, Mija does what any good friend would do. She embarks on a single-minded rescue mission.


Whilst Penguin Bloom doesn’t have any actual penguins in it, Oddball is all about penguins. And it, too, is based on a true story! When a colony of endangered penguins is on the verge of being wiped out by foxes, a local eccentric (played by Shane Jacobsen) comes up with an idea: train his enormous dog, Oddball, to serve as champion of the colony, fighting off foxes and saving the town’s one drawcard in the process. 

Red Dog

Red Dog is the kind of film about animal companions that will absolutely ruin you (in a good way). It follows the story of Red Dog, a dog with no master who wanders around a completely busted community and ends up tying the whole place back together again. Sure, it’ll make you cry, but it’s based on a completely true story. Plus, the performances are top notch, and Red Dog, the hero, is now one of cinema’s most enduring animal heroes.

Planet of the Apes

Don’t think Planet of the Apes belongs on a list called ‘The Incredible Power of Animals in  Movies’? Oh, OK, smarty pants. Fine. First off, the apes in Planet of the ride horses, hold guns, and can yell at people in fluent English. Sounds pretty powerful to us. Next up, they have a whole planet named after them. Also, they’ve totally flipped the script and treat us, the humans, like animals! Check… and mate.

Recommended reading

The Big Sick

Movies Based on Beautiful True Stories

Who said the truth can’t be beautiful?
RAMS (2020)

Feel-good Aussie Movies

RAMS is feel-good Aussie cinema at its best. But what other iconic films fit that bill?

7 pets that deserve their own spin offs

Pets bring so much joy to our lives, even more so when they are on TV. Here are seven pets who deserve their own shows in our humble opinion.