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In memory of South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem's late, lamented Cricket, the top five dog movies on VOD.

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"Baxter" (1989)

Unity was finally achieved last week in division-torn America when the news broke that the upcoming autobiography of Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota included an anecdote in which she shot her family’s 14-month-old wirehaired pointer Cricket to death because it killed some neighbor’s chickens and spoiled a pheasant hunt. “I hated that dog,” Noem writes in “No Going Back: The Truth on What’s Wrong with Politics and How We Move America Forward,” a yet-to-be-released book that at this point may as well be sent straight to the remainder shredder. Because Cricket had shown herself to be “less than worthless … as a hunting dog,” Noem led her to a nearby gravel pit and put her down with a shotgun. (Then, Noem's blood apparently up, she went and got a goat that had been deemed too smelly and aggressive and killed it, too. That one took two bullets.)

In a fascinating display of interparty togetherness, commentators on the far right and far left of the political spectrum joined in expressing their thorough disgust with Noem, from conservative firebrand Laura Loomer (“You can’t shoot your dog and then be VP”) to Tim Walz, the Democrat governor of Minnesota (“Post a picture with your dog that doesn’t involve shooting them and throwing them in a gravel pit. I’ll start.”). When you lose Catturd2, you’ve lost the nation.

Up until the news broke, Noem was considered a leading candidate to be Donald Trump’s VP pick. Not anymore. You can grab ‘em by the pussy, I guess, but you can't kill their dog.

In honor of this national coming together and after consultation with Bodhi and my legal advisor (a.k.a. Mrs. Movie Critic), I am offering my picks for the five best movies about dogs, ranked in ascending order. No, “Marley and Me” doesn’t make the cut, nor does any movie where the dog dies.

You are invited to suggest and defend your own candidates for canine cinema in the comments.

 5. “Lassie Come Home” (1943, VOD rental on Amazon, Apple TV, YouTube and elsewhere) The first of the “incredible journey” movies, with a lovely long-haired collie named Pal in the role of the dog that travels across Scotland to be reunited with his boy (young Roddy McDowell).

4. “Dog” (2022, streaming on Amazon Prime, for rent on Apple TV, YouTube and elsewhere) Channing Tatum as a traumatized Iraq War vet bringing a traumatized combat dog to a fellow soldier’s funeral. Meat-and-potatoes filmmaking, but Tatum is his usual understated self and the three Belgian Malinoises playing the dog are wonderful.

3. “Babe” (1995, VOD rental on Amazon, Apple TV, YouTube and elsewhere) Yes, I know it’s a movie about a pig – but it’s also about Fly, Rex, and their gaggle of Border Collie pups, whose skills as herders Babe the pig hopes to emulate. It’ll do.

2. “White God” (2014, streaming on Hulu and Kanopy, for rent on Amazon, Apple TV, YouTube and elsewhere) A young girl loses her dog and it finds its way back – along with a lot of other angry strays who’ve had enough of humans. Think “The Incredible Journey” crossed with “The Birds,” with a climactic dog rebellion that has to be seen to be believed.

1.“Best in Show” (2000, streaming on Amazon, Apple TV, YouTube and elsewhere) No other choice is possible. Christopher Guest’s achingly funny satire of dog shows, dogs, and the impossibly ridiculous humans who own them rewards endless rewatches. Screen it with your four-footed pal and a big bowl of kibble.

Top Five Movie Dogs in Alphabetical Order:

Asta ("The Thin Man")

Baxter (see above)

Toto ("The Wizard of Oz")

Messi ("Anatomy of a Fall")

Rin Tin Tin

Bonus review: Back when I worked at Entertainment Weekly in the 1990s, I was called on to cover the video release of a movie called “Homeward Bound” – essentially a remake of “The Incredible Journey,” about two dogs and a cat that find their way back to the family that lost them. Not terribly impressed, I pitched my editor on handing the assignment to my own pup at the time, the Amazing Harry. Here is Harry’s review of the film.

 Feel free to leave a comment or add to someone else's.

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