Best Animal Movies
Eric Norcross: Since Jurassic Park is one of my all time favorite movies and one of my must-watch movies before every projects, it’s obviously I have to go with that. As far as book-movie adaptations go, it’s not the best, but as a stand alone Hollywood movie, it’s impeccable at nearly every level. The approach to portray the creatures as animals and not monsters was probably the most important decision in the whole production and it made the movie much more grounded than it would have otherwise been.
Derek Ciapala: Jurassic Park. That movie kept me on the edge of my seat when I saw it in the theater and even scared the crap out of me in a couple scenes. It remains one of the most spell-binding movies of the era. It’s unfortunate that none of the ensuing sequels were able to live up to it.
Oh, I just want to mention the Piranha reboot as an honorable mention. It had a great mix of comedy, inappropriate behavior and gore. It definitely kept me entertained.
Ruby Le Rouge: The birds, it’s the first animal feature I’d seen that was truly ominous. Starting with an innocent gift, and ending with malice, Hitchcock truly is a master. It’s also an interesting topic of conversation, since there are so many theories about the film. From the Lovebirds actually being the cause, to the attacks heralding the beginning of the apocalypse. It also backs up my theory that anything in abundance is scary. True fun fact, the birds attacking scenes were done at Walt Disney Studios by Ub Iwerks, who was a major innovator in the world of special effects.
Derek Johns: Jaws- Countless B-movies on SyFy have attempted to duplicate what Spielberg accomplished in 1975 but even now almost forty years later none of them have even come close (especially not their sequels). To this day, Jaws still makes people think twice about ever swimming in the ocean and it’s not hard to understand why. Also, who could ever forget that legendary theme song from the equally legendary John Williams?
Calibertholomew Winfield: Lake Placid – Everyone already chose Jaws & Jurassic Park, which are obviously better movies. However, Lake Placid isn’t really far behind, and people shouldn’t be discouraged due to the absolutely atrocious sequels. A strong cast with standout characters from Betty White & Oliver Platt, with great organic effects, and a monster you can believe. It’s a definitely underrated film that people have seem to forgotten.
Shawn S. Lealos: I absolutely love Lake Placid. I think the best parts of the movie for me are Oliver Platt and Brendan Gleason trading some perfectly timed comic barbs at each other. This was also where I felt Betty White proved she could be absolutely hilarious. To be honest, the only thing about the movie I didn’t like was Bridget Fonda, who was so unlikeable that I wanted her to get eaten by the giant crocodile. The effects were good, the tension was good, the water scenes were good and this is one of the best animal attacks movies I think I have ever seen. Honestly, it is a guilty pleasure, but it is a damn good one.
Bethany Lewis: I thought The Grey (2011) was going to be just another fun, mindless, ridiculous Liam Neeson action movie – which would have been fine with me, mind you – but it turned out to be much more than that. It’s a movie about not only man against nature, and how terribly small we are when confronted with the terrible, wondrous beauty and danger that it poses, but its also about man against himself, and how we can sometimes discover how very mighty we can be, even when faced against unbeatable odds. The movie itself is frighteningly sparse and all the more beautiful for its unflinching depiction of nature’s desolation. Neeson displays a quiet strength but also a deep vulnerability that is mirrored by the environment he is trapped in and the ever dwindling troupe of companions he has sworn to protect. In the end, as tense and action oriented as The Grey can be, it is ultimately a thoughtful, philosophical movie that is more than what it seems.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Caleb Masters: Rise of the Planet of the Apes was one of the biggest surprises to come out of 2011 thanks to Caesar’s moving origin story(as acted by the criminally overlooked Andy Serkis) and its modern relevance in the man vs nature discussion.
It works on a number of levels by pulling off the fun popcorn action blockbusters are made of while also tackling some bigger ideas of man’s desire to control nature. It’s a common theme that runs throughout moves featuring antagonistic animals(Jurassic Park, Jaws), but I think this Apes movie hits it best by demonstrating how man is responsible for both Caesar and the virus that would eventually destroy the human race in an attempt to control disease. After a number of silly Planet of the Apes sequels and one truly awful remake, it was great to be surprised by a reboot that captured the ideas and the fun of original.