The Year of the Rat is here! If you love movies, you might be trying to figure out what kind of cool movies you could watch that also have to deal with the misunderstood animal. I’ve got eight films here that run the gamut from childhood whimsy to abject horror. Happy Lunar New Year!
*Some of these films include mice, but we aren’t being hard sticklers in this list.
1. Ratatouille (2007)
Disney-Pixar’s technological achievement made audiences feel like they were in a Parisian five-star restaurant with the amount of attention to detail shown the various food dishes and ambiance. The star of the film is Remy (Patton Oswalt), a rat with culinary talents who is trying to live against his upbringing as a scavenger. He must find the balance between working in the human world and dealing with his family in order to figure out who he is in life.
2. Charlotte’s Web (1973)
The stars of Charlotte’s Web, based on E.B. White’s classic book, are “Some Pig” named Wilbur (Henry Gibson) and a motherly spider named Charlotte (Debbie Reynolds), but the film also includes a rat character named Templeton (Paul Lynde). Unlike Remy, Templeton is very much a scavenger, happily finding treasures in the trash such as scraps from dinner, carnival food and more.
3. Rock & Rule (1983)
This animated film from Canadian animation company Nelvana is a lesser-known film that only intense animation fans have heard about. The film somehow roped in the time’s biggest music stars, including Earth, Wind & Fire, Debbie Harry, Cheap Trick, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, so it’s not as if Nelvana was aiming for Rock & Rule to be a shot in the dark. However, it had a poor American rollout because of its sexual content and because MGM, its American distributor, didn’t care about the film at all. But the film does boast unique animation, so if you truly love the artform, it doesn’t hurt to give it a watch on YouTube.
The question of the hour, though, is if the characters in the film are rats. I think the main characters are at least; they are supposed to be “mutated street animals” who survived after a nuclear World War III to become the new higher animals. And when I think of OG street animals, I think of rats. So it makes sense to me that these characters are some sort of rat or mouse.
4. Cinderella (1950)
As much as I’ve written about my love for the ‘90s Cinderella, my original Cinderella love was for the ‘50s animated version from Disney. One of the film’s most popular elements are the mice who help Cinderella do her chores and make her first dress for the ball. They also become Cinderella’s horses after the Fairy Godmother gets a hold of them.
5. Ben (1972)
I think a lot of us know of Ben solely from Michael Jackson’s strange song. As the song suggests, the film is about a boy and his pet rat named Ben. But Ben isn’t a wholesome movie; it’s a horror film of a rat who leads a colony of killer rats trained by social outcast Willard Stiles (Bruce Davison), who was introduced in the 1971 film Willard. Ben and his killer colony killed Willard despite Willard training them and befriending them. However, Ben doesn’t kill his kid friend Danny Garrison (Lee Harcourt Montgomery). Instead, he offers Danny comfort and friendship, especially in light of Danny’s degrading health. But while Ben is a friend to Danny, he and his colony are enemies to everyone else, killing everal people.
6. The Rescuers (1977)
The Disney film follows two mice who are a part of the Rescue Aid Society, a United Nations-esque organization for mice, based in New York City. Their mission is to help abducted people worldwide. One of our leads, Bernard (Bob Newhart), is a nervous janitor who is paired with our other lead, Miss Bianca (Eva Gabor). Together, they travel to the New Orleans bayou to rescue a small girl from the clutches of a “treasure huntress” (as she’s described by Wikipedia) named Madame Medusa (Geraldine Page).
7. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
In this Wes Anderson insta-classic, Willem Dafoe plays Rat, one of the villains of the film. His character is as charismatic as Dafoe is in person, and he meshes well in Anderson’s dollhouse-esque adaptation of Roald Dahl’s tale of foxes and other forest animals fighting against three farmers out to ruin their lives.
8. The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
Miss Bianca and Bernard are back in the child-saving business again. This time, they’re in Australia trying to help a child who is trying to save his friend, an endangered eagle, from an evil poacher (George C. Scott). But Bernard has to also deal with his jealousy when the Jake, the dashing kangaroo mouse whose an agent of the R.A.S.’ Australian branch, joins Bernard and Bianca on their mission.
Which film is your favorite?