With Guardians of the Galaxy about to arrive in theaters, Marvel and James Gunn are about to introduce one of the strangest major characters to ever appear in a movie to an unsuspecting populace. Yes, we’re talking about Rocket Raccoon, the genetically modified creature voiced by Bradley Cooper. However, Rocket is not alone! In fact, he joins an established pantheon of talking animal characters. However, he belongs to a more specific subsection: he’s one of cinema’s few truly badass talking animals.
And that brings us to today’s subject: the 10 most badass talking animals in the movies. The rules for this list were simple enough. First, the animal had to interact with human characters (so they’re actually “talking” and not just speaking their own language). Second, the character had to have origins in an actual animal, so nothing mystical (sorry, dragons).
There are fewer truly badass talking animals than you’d expect, but we guarantee you that these are the exactly kinds of critters you’d want to have on your good side.
Rocket Raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy
You’d think that a wisecracking space raccoon would be treated as a cute and cuddly sidekick, but Guardians of the Galaxy takes a hard left with Rocket Raccoon. Although he is a comic-relief character (and he’s very funny), Rocket is never an adorable figure. You don’t want to hug him because he’s lovable — you want to hug him because he’s so wounded and hurt and in such desperate need of someone to love him. Like so many wounded cinematic tough guys, he works through the pain by kicking ass, blowing up bad guys and generally being a pint-sized action star.
Dug the Dog in Up
On the surface, Dug isn’t that much of a badass. In fact, he’s a goofball and a coward who acts more like a “real” animal than any other character on this list. However, this makes his big transition in the third act of Pixar’s Up all the more effective. After an hour of being the silly sidekick to an old man, a young boy and a wacky bird, Dug rises the occasion to face down his dog rivals and save the day. What’s most remarkable is that Dug’s transformation into a genuine hero never loses sight of the fact that he’s still a dog through and through… which implies that all of our real dogs are actually heroes. Awww.
Baloo in The Jungle Book
How do we define a badass? Do you have to kill a bunch of bad guys? Wield heavy weaponry? Be a suave and/or debonair type? Nah. All you really have to do to win that title is be a chill, laid-back, genuinely good guy with great taste who cares about the people around him. There’s a slacker cool to The Jungle Book’s Baloo that sets him apart from the vast majority of Disney characters. You could imagine him hanging out with the Dude from The Big Lebowski. He’s the guy who livens up every party he goes to through sheer good naturedness. He’s a real world badass. He’s also a cartoon bear, but nobody’s perfect.
Remy in Ratatouille
Remy is a smart kid from a blue-collar, low-income family who leaves home, journeys to the city and works hard to fulfill his culinary dreams and become a master chef. Of course, Remy is also a rat, which adds a layer of the fantastic on top of a fairly straightforward character trajectory. Anyone who moves to Paris, masters the art of fine French cooking and single-handedly saves a failing restaurant is a badass and a half, so it’s even more badass when the creature at the center of it all is literally vermin… which means he risks his life every time he wants to pursue his passion. Godspeed, little guy.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Look, there was no way this list would be complete without these guys. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re the prototypical “animals who kick ass” and they’ve ingrained themselves so deeply into popular culture that it’s hard to imagine them not existing. As turtles who are also ninjas who are also mutants who are also teenagers, the iconic team of Michelangelo, Raphael, Donatello and Leonardo are an insane hodgepodge of ideas that have no right to work at all. But here we are: they have a new movie coming out this month and they seem as unstoppable as ever. They’re going to be keeping the streets of New York safe as long as there are 12-year-old boys in existence.
Blood in A Boy and His Dog
Remember how we talked about how uncuddly Rocket Raccoon is? Well, Blood the dog has him beat. The second lead of A Boy and His Dog (he’s the dog), Blood has a psychic connection with his owner, which allows the two of them to act in tandem and survive the postapocalypse together. Wiser than his human compatriot, Blood is the real brains behind the duo, leading them all kinds of dangerous situations and keeping them alive in the face of nuclear horror while taking none of the credit. He’s not glamorous, but there’s no fictional canine we’d rather have in our corner.
Kermit the Frog in the Muppets Series
Kermit the Frog is so kind and decent and giving that he transcends any typical definition of cool and becomes pretty much the Best Guy Ever (never mind the fact that he’s a frog). In many ways, Kermit represents the kind of real world badass that never receives the acknowledgment he deserves: he keeps his show running on time, he keeps his employees happy, and he never truly succumbs to doubt and misery. That makes him pretty freakin’ cool in our book.
Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia
He’s not only a talking lion, he’s a talking lion that’s also a metaphor for Jesus. But it doesn’t end there! He’s a talking lion that’s a metaphor for Jesus who also leads magical armies of mystical creatures into combat against ice witches. But there’s more! he’s a talking lion/Jesus metaphor/warlord with the distinct voice of the one-and-only Liam Neeson. That’s like a quadruple threat, guys.
The Penguins in the Madagascar Series
Amidst all of the bumbling animals that inhabit the Madagascar series, only a handful of characters actually seem to know what the hell they’re doing. Yes, we’re talking about those penguins, who have just as many detractors as fans. Still, it would be tough to leave them out of this particular list/conversation because they could easily destroy 99% of the talking-animal characters in film history and make it look easy. Hell, these four are getting their own spin-off movie where they become the animal equivalent of special forces commandos. Seriously.
Caesar in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Caesar may have the most limited vocabulary of any animal on this list, but he’s probably the toughest. A father, a stoic leader of men (er, apes) and a natural-born tactician, he’s everything you want in a politician and military leader. He’s also deeply complicated — torn between two very different worlds, he struggles to defend his people while keeping peace with the humans who bring conflict to his doorstep. Never before has watching an animal act like a highly competent human being been so thrilling.
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