Secretariat was released this week – a movie with John Malkovich about a race horse: yet another movie based on a true “against the odds” underdog triumph story. Based on the popular subgenre of uplifting animal movies, we decided to go National Geographic and list 10 uplifting animal titles (with 10 different types of animals). Some major animals were left out of the list – so we hope that bears, mice and sharks won’t be rushing into our office, angry for their neglect:
10. Uplifting Seal: A Shine of Rainbows (2009)
Maire O’Donnell adopts a young orphan named Tomas and takes him to a new home on the remote Corrie Island, off the coast of Ireland. Maire shares with Tomas the joys of her island home and introduces him to the whimsical local folklore, including the secret of the seals. And teaches him that everything you need is inside of you if you really look.
9. Uplifting Camel: The Story of the Weeping Camel (2003)
This movie is a magical tale about a nomadic Mongolian family who reunite a rejected baby camel with its mother. When a mother camel refuses to sustain her child, the keepers of the camels often reunite them in a ritual with folk music and chanting, the results of which elicit deep emotion – even causing the mother camel to weep real tears. Exploring more than just traditional ritual, this film speaks to the very nature of love – the baby camel cannot survive without his mother, just as no animal or person can.
8. Uplifting Lioness: Born Free (1966)
In Kenya, British game warden George Adamson and his wife Joy raise a lioness, Elsa, as a pet – only to discover that they must retrain her to live in the wild in order to prevent the Government from placing her in a zoo. Based on Joy’s book, Born Free is a touching true story the whole family can experience together.
7. Uplifting Wolf: Never Cry Wolf (1983)
Never Cry Wolf is an inspiring adventure story that deals with the all-important concept of man versus nature. The film opens as the government dispatches Tyler, a solitary biologist, into the frozen wilds of the Yukon, to determine whether aggressive wolves are the reason for a greatly reduced caribou population in the region. During the course of his lonely assignment, the scientist comes to understand the wolves’ world, respect it and even want to be a part of it. Not surprisingly, he also discovers that the white man is responsible for the caribou’s depleted numbers – not the wolves.
6. Uplifting Dog: Hachiko: A Dog’s Story (2009)
A true story based on the 1987 Japanese film, Hachiko Monogatari. Hachiko: A Dog’s Story stars Richard Gere as a college professor who finds an abandoned dog and takes the poor lost animal in. The film follows the two as the man and animal soon form a strong and unexplainable bond.
5. Uplifting Penguin: March of the Penguins (2005)
The film explores the mating rituals of the emperor penguin, one of the most resilient animals on earth. Each summer, after a nourishing period of deep-sea feeding, the penguins pop up onto the ice and begin their procession across the frozen tundra of Antarctica. This remarkable story is narrated by Morgan Freeman, whose dignified voice gives the penguins the grave admiration they deserve. But even more incredible is the cinematography, which shows the penguins hunting underwater, sliding on the ice, and what definitely looks like kissing.
4. Uplifting Whale: Free Willy (1993)
Jesse, a homeless orphan who spends his days evading the police, finally gets caught spray painting a whale tank at a local park. Because he distrusts adults intensely, Jesse’s not too happy when authorities place him in a foster home and sentence him to clean up the tank he vandalized. Unexpectedly, Willy, the whale who inhabits the tank, takes a liking to Jesse, and the animal and child develop a bond – a bond that also helps Jesse open up to the adults in his life.
3. Uplifting Cat : Harry and Tonto (1974)
Harry is a 72-year-old widower who takes off on a cross-country odyssey with his cat, Tonto, after he’s evicted from his Manhattan apartment building. Harry’s road trip is filled with small vignettes that remind him of where he’s come from and where he’s going. Inspired by the vitality of the many characters he comes across; Harry is left to ponder his own quiet life. At the end of the road, he remains deeply inspired by his new vision of life, filled with hope for the future.
2. Uplifting Bird: Birdman of Alcatraz (1962)
Robert E. Stroud is a killer sentenced to life in isolation, under the gaze of a harsh warden. One day in the isolation yard he comes across a wounded sparrow, nurses it back to health, and eventually teaches it to perform tricks. With the departure of the warden, Stroud is allowed to have more birds in his cell and begins a study of them. As the years pass, he becomes an expert on caged birds, finally writing a book on the diseases to which they are sensitive. After he wins a prize in a magazine competition, he receives a visit from a woman who suggests they start a business manufacturing avian medicine.
1. Uplifting Horse: The Black Stallion (1979)
When Alec washes upon the shore of a deserted island after a terrible shipwreck, he soon discovers that he isn’t the only survivor. A wild Arabian stallion managed to reach the island as well, giving Alec a new reason to live. Gradually, Alec wins the horse’s trust, instigating a relationship that will change both of them forever. When Alec is finally discovered, he convinces his mother to let the stallion live in the backyard. Soon after, Alec and the stallion begin to train for a racing championship, making their bond even stronger.
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