You're home for the holidays and the whole family is gathered in front of the TV. Paralyzed by indecision, you hover between ten different options as everyone throws out conflicting choices. Dad loves war films, Mom's hoping for a comedy, and your little brother is holding out for something animated. What's a family to do? This scenario occurs every time I head to my parent's house for a visit. Truth be told, I can be pretty picky when it comes to Netflix. And it gets particularly difficult when my family's only mutually agreed upon show, Chef's Table, has been rewatched a total of twenty times.
Before you give up and turn to your respective smartphones, give my foolproof family holiday hack a try. If you're related to a group of animal lovers, Netflix has a handful of delightful pet-centric shows, films, and docs that are easy to rally everyone behind. A few have become my all-time favorites! Give Tiger King Season 2 a pass in favor of these six family-friendly animal shows and films that you can watch on Netflix, as of December 2021.
1. Dogs (2018)
Dogs is an American documentary series that premiered on Netflix in 2018. Each episode follows a different dog and highlights their relationships with humans, compassionately showcasing exactly why man's best friend is so special. It spans a variety of countries and cultures, all of which share a love and respect for dogs. One of my favorite episodes, Ice on the Water, documents an Italian fisherman and his aging Labrador Ice, who accompanies him day in and day out on solo fishing trips. It's quite poignant to witness this traditional Italian man express pure adoration for his animal companion - Ice is clearly more than just an animal to him. And in case you're wondering, yes, I did sob several times while watching. View the trailer here.
Like the aforementioned Dogs, Cat People is a documentary series that sheds light on the deep bonds between cats and their people. It tells the story of six different cat lovers - all from different cultures and backgrounds - who have dedicated their lives to their feline friends in one way or another. As the Atlantic smartly observes, in pop culture, cats are often portrayed as the cunning, devilish counterparts to loyal and lovable dogs. But to those who have a cat in their lives, these beings are so much more than their Hollywood caricatures suggest. One subject featured in the series, Sterling Davis (aka the OG Trap King), works in cat rescue and advocacy and has made it his mission to bring awareness to these beautiful creatures. He also emphasizes the importance of expanding the animal rescue world wider than its stereotypically white, female image to bring people of color into the conversation at large. These stories are so important, and I finished the series wishing there were even more seasons to binge. Watch the trailer here.
Sometimes you're just in the mood for a romantic comedy featuring an adorably mischievous pug. I must admit, normally I skip over this genre in favor of a documentary or otherwise, but this film is charming no matter how hard you try not to like it. It follows an unlucky-in-love schoolteacher (Sarah) who inherits her Grandma's pug (Patrick) and has to learn how to deal with her newfound houseguest. In my own pet parent journey, I could relate to Sarah's frustrations surrounding Patrick and his mischievous ways. But, as romantic comedies seem to do, these antics turn into a secret blessing that helps her get her life together and grow to adore her dog in the process. Is it a work of cinematic art? No, not exactly. But I recommend giving Patrick a try if you're looking for an uplifting watch for the whole family. View the trailer here.
If you loved exploring the relationship between humans and pets in previous entries, might I suggest departing from the domesticated animal theme for a trip deep beneath the sea? My Octopus Teacher is an Academy Award-winning documentary, a heartfelt foray into the bond between sea creature and filmmaker. In it, producer Craig Foster spends a year diving in South Africa and gets to know a particular octopus resident. As the weeks go by, he notices more and more evidence of creativity, intelligence, and personality within the eight-legged being. Don't be surprised if this film sneaks up on you - my own sister was so touched after watching it, she gave up eating octopus entirely (previously her favorite seafood). Older kids will likely come away with more from this film, and it's a tear-jerker for sure, but it certainly is a watch that the whole family can appreciate. View the trailer here.
This show is on every animal and nature-loving documentary list, I know. But, for good reason! If you ever want to ride the wave of emotion that is witnessing stunning exhibits of nature and mankinds' impact on them, jam-packed within hour-long episodes and narrated by the legendary David Attenborough, then phew - look no further! If you're an animal lover, you'll likely agree with how important it is to reflect on the effect we have on our planet and the creatures that inhabit it. Plus, there's nothing quite like seeing a majestic narwhal up-close and personal in HD. That's an experience I can pretty confidently say I'll never be able to have IRL. Give it a try, Our Planet is sure to thrill. Watch the trailer here.
This may be a controversial entry to the list, but I think Okja is a really moving watch that animal lovers of all ages can enjoy. Directed by Parasite's Bong Joon Ho, the film follows a young girl and her "super pig" Okja, who falls into an epic battle against greedy corporate entities and morally-corrupt scientists looking to exploit Okja and the species at large. The aforementioned controversy stems from the film's overall critique of the modern meat industry, but beneath it is a message that I think all pet parents can appreciate. Okja fights for the deep connection between pets and their caretakers and argues that our animal companions do have souls, and deserve to be treated as such. This one is another tear-jerker (or maybe animal movies just make me particularly sensitive) but wholly worth the watch. Take a look a the trailer here.
Lizz Caputo is a Content Strategist at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.
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