Liberated: Animal Rights Inspired Films

by Marjanni | created - 04 Jun 2012 | updated - 14 Jul 2014 | Public

Animal rights issues are rarely explored in film. When they are, they have a powerful impact on audiences of all ages. You don't have to be an animal rights activist to appreciate the themes, however, they will surely leave an impressionable impact on you. NOTE: Not all of these films are suitable for young children, and don't be fooled by their childish, cartoon appeal. Some of these films are quite disturbing and confronting for even adult viewers.

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1. The Plague Dogs (1982)

PG-13 | 103 min | Animation, Adventure, Drama

Two dogs escape from a laboratory and are hunted as possible carriers of the bubonic plague.

Director: Martin Rosen | Stars: John Hurt, Christopher Benjamin, James Bolam, Nigel Hawthorne

Votes: 7,568

This is perhaps one of the most powerful, fictional animal-testing film ever made. Although it's an animation, it is definitely NOT suitable for young children, and some adults will find it disturbing and unsettling. The story follows the journey of Rowf and Snitter, two dogs who have escaped from a horrendous animal-testing facility, and embark on an unforgiving escapade. It does contain some violence, however, that is not what makes this film shocking. It is the unrelenting and realistic nature of animal-testing and survival that make this film truly memorable. Your opinions on animal-testing do not matter, "The Plague Dogs" explores a matter-of-fact account of what vivisection involves. A truly powerful and remarkable film; wholeheartedly recommended!

2. Legally Blonde 2 (2003)

PG-13 | 95 min | Comedy

47 Metascore

Elle Woods heads to Washington, D.C. to join the staff of a Representative in order to pass a bill to ban animal testing.

Director: Charles Herman-Wurmfeld | Stars: Reese Witherspoon, Sally Field, Bob Newhart, Regina King

Votes: 64,348 | Gross: $90.19M

Takes a more "child-friendly" approach to animal testing. No experiments are shown, however, the overall feeling towards it is negative. The ending is completely unrealistic, as the audience is left feeling that animal testing has been ended; hooray! In reality, there's no chance of this.

3. The Shaggy Dog (2006)

PG | 98 min | Comedy, Family, Fantasy

43 Metascore

A man tries to live a normal life despite the fact that he sometimes turns into a sheepdog.

Director: Brian Robbins | Stars: Tim Allen, Kristin Davis, Craig Kilborn, Zena Grey

Votes: 18,873 | Gross: $61.12M

Like the above, the film approaches the topic of vivisection less intensely than "The Plague Dogs". It is a bit more stark than Legally Blonde 2, but no experiments are shown, rather alluded to.

4. Paulie (1998)

PG | 91 min | Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Paulie, a talking parrot, recounts his travels looking for his original owner to a Russian janitor who helps him to the end of his journey.

Director: John Roberts | Stars: Gena Rowlands, Tony Shalhoub, Cheech Marin, Bruce Davison

Votes: 14,939 | Gross: $27.01M

Another kids film that touches on animal testing. No experiment scenes are shown, but like Legally Blonde 2, the overall atmosphere is upsetting.

5. Food, Inc. (2008)

PG | 94 min | Documentary, News

80 Metascore

An unflattering look inside America's corporate controlled food industry.

Director: Robert Kenner | Stars: Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Richard Lobb, Vince Edwards

Votes: 50,620 | Gross: $4.42M

Any documentary style film on this list shows ACTUAL scenes of animal cruelty. Food Inc is an educational expose on the food industry, exploring all kinds of themes, not all are about the welfare of animals. Depicts actual footage from inside slaughterhouses, which are quite but not overly graphic. Not recommended for children, unless you think they can handle it without turning vegetarian. Beautifully constructed film.

6. I Am an Animal: The Story of Ingrid Newkirk and PETA (2007)

Not Rated | 72 min | Documentary

A candid and introspective look at the extreme beliefs and motives of Ingrid Newkirk, the British-born co-founder and driving force behind People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the world's largest animal-rights organization.

Director: Matthew Galkin | Stars: Pamela Anderson, Marc Bouwer, Ralph Dell, Priscilla Feral

Votes: 299

If it's a story about PETA, that should really say it all. Whatever your views are about animal rights and PETA in general, it is still quite an interesting film. It details how PETA became, well, PETA as we know it. It does show some pretty disturbing footage of animal cruelty, ranging from animals being skinned alive on fur farms to slaughterhouse footage. Not recommended for children. An intriguing documentary that may just change your mind about animal rights.

7. Chicken Run (2000)

G | 84 min | Animation, Adventure, Comedy

88 Metascore

When a cockerel apparently flies into a chicken farm, the chickens see him as an opportunity to escape their evil owners.

Directors: Peter Lord, Nick Park | Stars: Mel Gibson, Julia Sawalha, Phil Daniels, Lynn Ferguson

Votes: 183,760 | Gross: $106.83M

A well-rounded wholesome kids flick. In regards to animal rights, it depicts the dismal existence of egg-laying hens, however, it is done in a way that will not upset children. Any parent considering this for their kids' viewing should not be concerned.

8. 101 Dalmatians (1996)

G | 103 min | Adventure, Comedy, Crime

49 Metascore

An evil high-fashion designer plots to steal Dalmatian puppies in order to make an extravagant fur coat, but instead creates an extravagant mess.

Director: Stephen Herek | Stars: Glenn Close, Jeff Daniels, Joely Richardson, Joan Plowright

Votes: 108,089 | Gross: $136.19M

This iconic Disney film 'delicately' explores the nature of the fur industry. Of course we don't see any scenes of puppies being skinned, however, the subject matter is depicted in a way that young children may find upsetting. The animals are 'hoped' to be skinned, bashed on the head, and poisoned, but a happy ending prevails. A good film in a sense it explores the cruel world of fur; a topic that is usually not touched upon in mainstream film.

9. Fluke (1995)

PG | 96 min | Drama, Family, Fantasy

After a man dies in a car crash, he is reincarnated as a dog and attempts to reconnect with his family.

Director: Carlo Carlei | Stars: Matthew Modine, Nancy Travis, Samuel L. Jackson, Eric Stoltz

Votes: 6,809 | Gross: $3.99M

What is it with kids movies and animal testing? Anyway 'Fluke' is pretty appropriate for children, although it may have a 'Bambi' effect, if you know what I mean. Explores the nature of vivisection, not in grapchic detail however. Still may be upsetting to young children, and the overall tone is sad.

10. Free Willy (1993)

PG | 112 min | Adventure, Drama, Family

79 Metascore

When a boy learns that a beloved killer whale is to be killed by the aquarium owners, the boy risks everything to free the whale.

Director: Simon Wincer | Stars: Jason James Richter, Lori Petty, Michael Madsen, Jayne Atkinson

Votes: 72,666 | Gross: $77.70M

11. Babe (1995)

G | 91 min | Comedy, Drama, Family

83 Metascore

Babe, a pig raised by sheepdogs on a rural English farm, learns to herd sheep with a little help from Farmer Hoggett.

Director: Chris Noonan | Stars: James Cromwell, Magda Szubanski, Christine Cavanaugh, Miriam Margolyes

Votes: 121,168 | Gross: $66.60M

12. Earthlings (2005)

95 min | Documentary

Using hidden cameras and never-before-seen footage, Earthlings chronicles the day-to-day practices of the largest industries in the world, all of which rely entirely on animals for profit.

Director: Shaun Monson | Star: Joaquin Phoenix

Votes: 18,655

13. Sharkwater (2006)

PG | 89 min | Documentary

59 Metascore

An investigation of sharks' importance to ecosystems and humankind's mass destruction of shark species worldwide.

Director: Rob Stewart | Stars: Rob Stewart, Paul Watson, Erich Ritter, Boris Worm

Votes: 4,914 | Gross: $0.85M

14. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

PG-13 | 105 min | Action, Drama, Sci-Fi

68 Metascore

A substance designed to help the brain repair itself gives advanced intelligence to a chimpanzee who leads an ape uprising.

Director: Rupert Wyatt | Stars: James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, Karin Konoval

Votes: 509,869 | Gross: $176.76M

15. Project X (1987)

PG | 108 min | Comedy, Drama, Sci-Fi

61 Metascore

An Air Force pilot joins a top secret military experiment involving chimps, but begins to suspect there might be something more to the mysterious "Project X".

Director: Jonathan Kaplan | Stars: Matthew Broderick, Helen Hunt, Willie, Okko

Votes: 11,819 | Gross: $18.53M

16. The Secret of NIMH (1982)

G | 82 min | Animation, Adventure, Drama

76 Metascore

To save her ill son, a field mouse must seek the aid of a colony of rats, with whom she has a deeper link than she ever suspected.

Director: Don Bluth | Stars: Elizabeth Hartman, Derek Jacobi, Dom DeLuise, Arthur Malet

Votes: 39,485 | Gross: $10.14M

17. Watership Down (1978)

PG | 91 min | Animation, Adventure, Drama

64 Metascore

Hoping to escape destruction by human developers and save their community, a colony of rabbits, led by Hazel and Fiver, seek out a safe place to set up a new warren.

Directors: Martin Rosen, John Hubley | Stars: John Hurt, Richard Briers, Ralph Richardson, Michael Graham Cox

Votes: 35,279

18. Rio (2011)

G | 96 min | Animation, Adventure, Comedy

63 Metascore

When Blu, a domesticated macaw from small-town Minnesota, meets the fiercely independent Jewel, he takes off on an adventure to Rio de Janeiro with the bird of his dreams.

Director: Carlos Saldanha | Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, George Lopez, Karen Disher

Votes: 216,249 | Gross: $143.62M

19. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008)

PG | 89 min | Animation, Adventure, Comedy

61 Metascore

The Madagascar animals fly back to New York City, but crash-land on an African nature reserve, where they meet others of their own kind, and Alex especially discovers his royal heritage as prince of a lion pride.

Directors: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath | Stars: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith

Votes: 215,294 | Gross: $180.01M

20. FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992)

G | 76 min | Animation, Adventure, Family

67 Metascore

The magical inhabitants of a rainforest fight to save their home, which is threatened by logging and a polluting force of destruction called Hexxus.

Director: Bill Kroyer | Stars: Samantha Mathis, Christian Slater, Robin Williams, Tim Curry

Votes: 29,000 | Gross: $24.65M

21. The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)

PG-13 | 96 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

After being rescued and brought to an island, a man discovers that its inhabitants are experimental animals being turned into strange-looking humans, all of it the work of a visionary doctor.

Directors: John Frankenheimer, Richard Stanley | Stars: David Thewlis, Marlon Brando, Val Kilmer, Fairuza Balk

Votes: 32,679 | Gross: $27.66M

22. Old Yeller (1957)

Approved | 83 min | Adventure, Drama, Family

84 Metascore

A teenage boy grows to love a stray yellow dog while helping his mother and younger brother run their Texas homestead while their father is away on a cattle drive. First thought to be good-for-nothing mutt, Old Yeller is soon beloved by all.

Director: Robert Stevenson | Stars: Dorothy McGuire, Fess Parker, Tommy Kirk, Jeff York

Votes: 12,855 | Gross: $21.91M

23. Shiloh (1996)

PG | 93 min | Drama, Family

Marty Preston, a small-town Southern boy, must rescue a young beagle from abusive owner and recluse Judd Travers.

Director: Dale Rosenbloom | Stars: Blake Heron, Michael Moriarty, Scott Wilson, Bonnie Bartlett

Votes: 3,304 | Gross: $1.00M

24. The Cove (2009)

PG-13 | 92 min | Documentary, Biography, Crime

84 Metascore

Using state-of-the-art equipment, a group of activists, led by renowned dolphin trainer Ric O'Barry, infiltrate a cove near Taijii, Japan to expose both a shocking instance of animal abuse and a serious threat to human health.

Director: Louie Psihoyos | Stars: Richard O'Barry, Louie Psihoyos, Hardy Jones, Michael Illiff

Votes: 48,854 | Gross: $0.87M

25. March of the Penguins (2005)

G | 80 min | Documentary, Family

79 Metascore

In the Antarctic, every March since the beginning of time, the quest begins to find the perfect mate and start a family.

Director: Luc Jacquet | Stars: Morgan Freeman, Romane Bohringer, Charles Berling, Jules Sitruk

Votes: 57,210 | Gross: $77.44M

Excellent film that explores the true reality of the fur trade with some graphic scenes. Not recommended for the kiddies; stick to 101 Dalmatians for that. If you wore fur before watching this, your morality will be drastically changed. Enough said.

27. 12 Monkeys (1995)

R | 129 min | Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller

74 Metascore

In a future world devastated by disease, a convict is sent back in time to gather information about the man-made virus that wiped out most of the human population on the planet.

Director: Terry Gilliam | Stars: Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt, Joseph Melito

Votes: 597,546 | Gross: $57.14M

28. Your Mommy Kills Animals! (2007)

R | 105 min | Documentary

An in-depth look at the animal rights movement and the FBI's recent declaration calling them the number one domestic terrorist threat to the United States.

Director: Curt Johnson | Stars: Greg Kelly, Paul Watson, Annemarie Lucas, Suzanne Whang

Votes: 202

29. Big Miracle (2012)

PG | 107 min | Biography, Drama, Family

61 Metascore

In small-town Alaska, a news reporter recruits his ex-girlfriend - a Greenpeace volunteer - on a campaign to save a family of gray whales trapped by rapidly forming ice in the Arctic Circle.

Director: Ken Kwapis | Stars: Drew Barrymore, John Krasinski, John Pingayak, Ahmaogak Sweeney

Votes: 19,291 | Gross: $20.11M

30. Felidae (1994)

TV-MA | 82 min | Animation, Action, Drama

A cat must investigate brutal murders of other cats in a neighborhood he has moved into with his owner.

Director: Michael Schaack | Stars: Ulrich Tukur, Mario Adorf, Helge Schneider, Wolfgang Hess

Votes: 4,277

31. Animal Farm (1954)

Approved | 72 min | Animation, Drama

A successful farmyard revolution by the resident animals vs. the farmer goes horribly wrong as the victors create a new tyranny among themselves.

Directors: Joy Batchelor, John Halas | Stars: Gordon Heath, Maurice Denham

Votes: 16,514

32. Bold Native (2010)

R | 105 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

Charlie Cranehill, an animal liberator wanted for domestic terrorism, emerges from the underground to coordinate a nationwide action as his estranged CEO father tries to find him before the FBI does.

Director: Denis Henry Hennelly | Stars: Joaquin Pastor, Randolph Mantooth, Sheila Vand, Matt Shea

Votes: 522

33. The Roots of Heaven (1958)

Not Rated | 126 min | Adventure, Drama

In French Equatorial Africa, an idealist ecologist starts a campaign of public awareness to help save the African elephants from extinction.

Director: John Huston | Stars: Errol Flynn, Juliette Gréco, Trevor Howard, Eddie Albert

Votes: 954

34. The Ghosts in Our Machine (2013)

93 min | Documentary

60 Metascore

A cinematic documentary that illuminates the lives of individual animals living within and rescued from the machine of our modern world.

Director: Liz Marshall | Stars: Marcel Saba, Lori Reese, Perrie Wardell, Martin Rowe

Votes: 665 | Gross: $0.02M

35. Death on a Factory Farm (2009 TV Movie)

TV-MA | 83 min | Documentary

Death on a Factory Farm follows the undercover investigation of Wiles Hog Farm by the animal rights group: The Humane Farming Association (HFA), and the resulting court case against it. The... See full summary »

Directors: Tom Simon, Sarah Teale | Stars: Pete, Bradley Miller, Bob Baker, Ingrid DiMarino

Votes: 219

36. The Animals Film (1981)

Not Rated | 136 min | Documentary

The film offers a comprehensive examination of the exploitation of animals in modern society.

Directors: Myriam Alaux, Victor Schonfeld | Stars: Julie Christie, Richard Course, Sandy Dennis, Robin Howard

Votes: 139

37. The Superior Human? (2012)

73 min | Documentary

A documentary that systematically challenges the common human belief that humans are superior to other life forms. The documentary reveals the absurdity of this belief while exploding human... See full summary »

Director: Samuel McAnallen | Stars: Steven Best, Nick Gylaw, Bernard Rollin, Richard Ryder

Votes: 187

38. Defenders of the Wild: Rangers of Nepal (1993 TV Movie)


A film profile of the park rangers in Bardia National Park who have to protect the mountain kingdom's river dolphins, tigers, one-horned rhinos, gharial crocodiles and elephants from ... See full summary »

Director: Martin Belderson | Stars: Julian Pettifer, Tej Kumar Shrestha, Ram Prit Yadav

39. Blackfish (2013)

PG-13 | 83 min | Documentary

83 Metascore

A documentary following the controversial captivity of killer whales, and its dangers for both humans and whales.

Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite | Stars: Tilikum, Dave Duffus, Samantha Berg, Dean Gomersall

Votes: 64,625 | Gross: $2.07M

40. Giving Thanks (I) (2007)

47 min | Documentary

"Giving Thanks" (2007) redefines the traditional animal welfare film through one woman's unconventional journey with a Thanksgiving turkey. This unique and moving film begins with an ... See full summary »

Director: Danielle Schreier

41. Farmed and Dangerous (2013–2014)

TV-G | Comedy

After a cow explodes from eating petroleum based pellets an organic farmer tries to expose America's more dubious agricultural practices.

Stars: Ray Wise, John Sloan, Karynn Moore, Eric Pierpoint

Votes: 183

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