Nobody makes fantastical and emotionally charged animal movies better than Walt Disney Studios. ‘The One and Only Ivan‘ is the story of a gentle and kind silverback gorilla who lives in a cage with other show animals but has no memories of his childhood and how he got to be where he is. Ivan the gorilla is expected to perform as a scary angry beast, as per the instructions of his master Mack (who he shares a special bond with) but cannot understand why people want him to be angry. Ivan is an artist at heart and wants to draw. When a baby elephant arrives in their midst, the performing animals all hatch a plan to escape captivity together, a plan that requires Ivan to step up and lead the way back home.
The genre of animal movies (and the sub-genre of animal rescue movies) is much loved. The premise of a special human-animal bond, animals in captivity breaking free, and talking animals with real feelings makes for the most emotionally moving cinema. If you’re looking to watch more films that are similar to ‘The One and Only Ivan’, here’s our definitive list of the 7 best movies that all fans of the “animal rescue” genre must see. You can find several of these movies like The One And Only Ivan on Netflix, Disney Plus, or Hulu.
7. Born Free (1966)
This is an oldie but goodie! Based on a true story, the movie ‘Born Free’ follows couple Joy and George Adamson as they first raise and then try to set free a lioness that they’ve lovingly named Elsa. Elsa, along with her siblings, was taken in as a tiny cub by hunter George Adamson. But when she grows up to be a big ruckus-creating lion, the Adamsons are forced to teach her the ways of the wild and set her free.
6. Dumbo (2019)
This Disney – Tim Burton collaboration is sure to move you to tears as you cheer for the baby elephant with overlarge ears as he discovers he can fly. This movie too, just like ‘The One and Only Ivan’ shows how kind-hearted humans can form a special bond with animals in their care. It also depicts the utter sadness felt by animals in captivity who are forced to perform.
5. Finding Nemo (2003)
This Pixar classic is a fan favorite and is loved by viewers of all ages. Few films have as powerful a plot as ‘Finding Nemo‘ in which a meek clownfish, along with a forgetful fish, embarks on an epic journey across the big scary ocean (fighting even sharks along the way) to bring home his son after his son was taken by scuba-diving humans. While Marlin the clownfish swims across the Great Barrier Reef to reach his son who he promised to keep safe all his life, the said son Nemo hatches a plan with fellow aquarium residents to escape from P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney. Trust us, this movie is a keeper for ages.
4. Madagascar (2005)
DreamWorks is not far behind in making movies that show animals making a break for freedom. ‘Madagascar’ follows four animals who escape their captivity from the Central Park Zoo and somehow travel from New York all the way to Madagascar, only to land amidst happy lemurs. Their guides? Four fugitive extra-smart penguins who can give trained assassins a run for their money.
3. Rise of The Planet of The Apes (2011)
In ‘The One and Only Ivan’, Ivan has a special bond with his owner Mack and he loves Mack. But he still craves freedom from a life in captivity and makes a break for it. Similar is the plot of ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’, only set to a much darker and violent tone (because this is not a happy Disney movie). Still always worth a watch to see Caesar leading a revolt and setting lose the chimps, but somehow making sure that his “dad” Will knows he loves him.
2. Madagascar 2: Escape To Africa (2008)
This is one of those rare sequels that is even better than their predecessor. The former Central Park Zoo star performer Alex the lion, along with his friends, travels from Madagascar to Africa to find his home and real family, only to discover that he is nothing like a lion of the wild. Alex just wants to dance (and is really good at it) just like how Ivan the gorilla only wants to draw and paint.
1. Free Willy (1993)
A street kid, Jesse, manages to befriend a killer whale that’s kept in captivity in a local theme park and goes to great lengths to set Willy the orca free and send him back to the open ocean and his family. Jesse and Willy’s bond is something so precious that it stays with you long after you’ve watched the film. There’s an evil villain too, who wants to kill Willy for insurance money.
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