With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, have you found that the trusty standbys in your arsenal of favorite romantic movies are starting to lose their swoon appeal? Are Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal just not cutting it any more? “Annie Hall” failing to do the trick after its 30th viewing? No more "Notebook"?
Well, we have a few suggestions that are completely free of human flings and flirtations and instead feature (exclusively anthropomorphic) animals in various states of (family-friendly) amour. Sure, these films are centered around a variety of animals behaving like humans, but really, is there anything cuter than crush-struck cats, doggy dalliances and forbidden courtships between foxes? We think not. For real animal attraction in all of its often not-very-pretty glory, we recommend watching a nature documentary.
Below, you’ll find our top six picks for romantic movies featuring animals. We’re leaning heavily on Disney, but come to think of it what animated film featuring talking animals doesn’t involve a lovey-dovey subplot?
Do you have a favorite animal-centric romance? A favorite amorous couple from animated film? Please share in the comments section!
'Lady and the Tramp' (1955)
Amorous animals achin' for affection: A “footloose and collar free” mongrel and a well-coiffed, well-heeled (pawed?) cocker spaniel in distress.
Key romantic scene: The ultimate socioeconomic boundary-shattering romance involving anthropomorphic animals, “Lady and the Tramp” was promoted by Disney upon its release as “One of the Greatest Love Stories Ever Told.” We’re going to have to beg to differ — something the film’s scrap-happy reformed lothario excels at. However, there are a few scenes of the unlikely four-legged lovers getting to know each other in that “special” way, and none is more iconic than the two slurping a shared plate of spaghetti and meatballs to the tune of “Bella Notte.” It’s a beautiful night, indeed. Now pass the bread sticks.
Just how amorous? Not to soil the reputation of pedigreed Lady or anything — she is one after all — or suggest that she’s easy, but apparently all a canine Casanova needs to do to get a naïve uptown runaway to hunker down at Lover’s Lane for some quick relationship consummating is to take her out to dinner in the alleyway behind a fancy eye-talian restaurant. Hey, she was probably just feeling vulnerable after that whole awful Siamese cat/muzzle situation. No judgment here.
'The Aristocats' (1970)
Amorous animals achin’ for affection: Cats! Fancy cats from France!
Key romantic scene: The gold standard of animated romantic comedy musicals featuring talking cats, the most lovey-dovey moment in “The Aristocats” comes during a scene when smooth-talking tomcat Thomas O’Malley is spurned by sapphire-eyed single mother Duchess when he offers to fill in as father figure to her three adorable kittens (long story short, even though Duchess has the hots for Thomas, and her kittens give him the full paws up, she’s too loyal to her super-rich owner, Madame Adelaide, to commit to anything serious). Despite the rejection, the rooftop scene is filled with swelling strings, a moonlit Eiffel Tower in the distance and some naughty tail entwining. Tres romantique!
Just how amorous? Thomas O’ Malley is too much a gentleman to make any moves on recently displaced Duchess. And besides, he’s too busy rescuing them from Edgar, Madame Adelaide’s nefarious butler.
'Robin Hood' (1973)
Amorous animals achin’ for affection: A charmer of a fox skilled at philanthropic-minded thievery and a badminton-playing vixen with a heart of gold.
Key romantic scene: Robin Hood’s forbidden romance with Maid Marian isn’t rekindled (they were childhood sweethearts before Robin got involved with the noble but somewhat unsavory “robbing from the rich and giving to the poor” racket) until about midway through Disney’s underrated riff on the tale of everyone’s favorite folkloric outlaw. Ergo, there’s not a whole lot of eyelash batting, swooning and general mushiness to be found in “Robin Hood.” However, when it does happen, it’s pretty special and pretty darned mushy: a moonlit, firefly-specked evening stroll through Sherwood Forest in which Robin, forever the gentleman, puts a ring on it.
Just how amorous? Does absence, as Miss Clucky (Maid Marian’s busty lady-in-waiting) muses, really make the heart grow fonder? Perhaps, but it doesn’t seem to make the libido grow any more urgent as these long-separated lovers are far too busy planning the future — London, Normandy or Spain for the honeymoon? Six children or a dozen? — to succumb to any urges beyond a chaste kiss on the cheek and some hand-holding.
'The Lion King' (1994)
Amorous animals achin’ for affection: Betrothed lioness Nala and her best friend-turned-royal beau, Simba.
Key romantic scene: Six words: “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?”
Just how amorous? Wasn’t the whole theme of — and a hit song from — this “Hamlet”-y Disney renaissance classic “the circle of life?” At the very end, doesn’t Rafiki the mandrill dangle Simba and Nala’s newborn cub from a cliff for all the animal denizens of the Pride Lands to see? Babies aren’t made from excessive head nuzzling, you know. And please, check out the look in Nala’s eyes at the 2:33 mark. We’re not really sure how else to interpret that. On an unrelated note, if your uncle’s name is “Scar” and he has the speaking voice of Jeremy Irons, it probably means that he’s up to no good.
'Beverly Hills Chihuahua' (2008)
Amorous animals achin’ for affection: Small yappy dogs
Key romantic scene: Oh you know … this is just another tale of a pampered Chihuahua from Beverly Hills who gets lost and subsequently dognapped while on vacation in Mexico and then ends up falling for the creepily persistent potential suitor from next door (who sounds suspiciously like George Lopez). Although mostly just ridiculous, there’s an undercurrent of old-fashioned amore in “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” that fully materializes at the end of the film when the pooches safely return from Mexico to B.H. and Chloe finally confesses her love to scrappy Papi (en espanol, natch). Following this, there’s an adorable, full-on lick-fest.
Just how amorous? Papi spends most of the film pining for and then rescuing “mi corazon” so there’s not much room in the plot for any serious dog-on-dog romancing. However, in the direct-to-video sequel we find that the couple are now married and the proud parents of five adorable puppies.
'Alpha & Omega' (2010)
Amorous animals achin’ for affection: Kate and Humphrey, star-crossed lupine lovers hailing from Jasper National Park.
Key romantic scene: In this half-baked, caste-defiance-based romance (think “Romeo & Juliet”/”West Side Story” with a dash of “The Lion King”) from Lionsgate Films, the most tender scenes involve Justin Long and Hayden Panettiere, both in 3-D computer animated wolf form, soulfully howling at the moon while gazing into each other’s eyes. But seriously, it’s some really good howling.
Just how amorous? There’s no time for prurience when everyone’s too exhausted from all that nonstop howling. And, in a departure from most animated family films involving anthropomorphic romance, there isn’t an adorable newborn litter (girls that look just like their moms and boys that look just like their dads!) introduced at the end of this otherwise derivative film.