Since ancient times, birds have served as major symbols in human stories. They can symbolize peace, death, hope, fertility, wisdom, motherhood, and even the working class. How they are associated with so many symbols is a mixture of their diversity as well as human superstition and fascination.
Like any connection humans have with their world, the associations we have with birds have been part of the film industry for some time. Even in movies that are not centered on birds, minor birds can often take on a memorable role, like the giant eagles in Lord of the Rings or Hedwig in the Harry Potter series.
Bird fans are in luck though, as there plenty of movies just about birds in general. Like the birds themselves, the genres are diverse and range from horror to fantasy and comedy.
10 Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls Of Ga’Hoole (2010): Score 6.9
This movie with worth watching just for its beautiful animation alone. The detail in the feathers can make any bird fan happy. Also, there are owls wearing helmets! The visual effects are stunning and won the movie an award for Best Visual Effects at the AACTA Awards. This action-adventure fantasy story had a poor box office performance, but pleasantly surprises any family that picks it up.
The movie is based on the book series, Guardians of Ga’Hoole. While the movie had an 80 million dollar budget, it only made 140 million back so it is not totally likely that the film will get a sequel.
9 Chicken Run (2000): Score 7.0
This claymation movie takes place on a chicken farm where the chickens want to rise up against their cruel human owners. The movie is an action-adventure comedy that is rated G for general audiences.
The film is commended for having something for everyone no matter the age-range. There is humor to be enjoyed both by children and adults. The movie won many awards such as Best Family Film and Best Animated Feature.
8 Leafie: A Hen Into the Wild (2011): Score 7.1
Leafie: A Hen Into the Wild is a hidden gem. It is a South Korean drama movie about a hen who raises a duckling in the wild after leaving her farm. The animation is bright and charming while the main character, Leafie, is a dedicated and loving mother in a cruel and wild world. The movie is actually based on a children’s book by South Korean writer, Hwang Sun-mi.
Fair warning: the movie can be brutal in the same way as Bambi is. There will likely be crying at a first viewing of this movie.
7 Crimson Wing: The Mystery Of The Flamingos (2008): Score 7.3
This British-American documentary was filmed in Tanzania and takes an intimate look at the lives of lesser flamingos. It played in UK theaters but was a direct-to-video movie in the United States. It actually won an award for its music score at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival.
Crimson Wing: The Mystery Of The Flamingos was actually the first movie released by Disneynature, a studio arm of Disney that specializes in making nature documentaries. Despite its Disney mark, it may be harsh for some young children to see as the reality of nature does show flamingos at the mercy of predators.
6 Birders: The Central Park Effect (2012): Score 7.4
Birders: The Central Park Effect is a movie about birds that is also deeply about people. The documentary shows how the birds of Central Park have changed the lives of New Yorkers. Even if you are not into birdwatching, the movie is a fascinating look into how special Central Park and the birds within it are to all who visit.
The movie shows how different birds are available to be seen in Central Park depending on the season due to their migration. It is also pretty short for a movie, at only one hour long.
5 March Of The Penguins (2005): Score 7.5
Penguins are one of the most beloved birds out there. They don’t fly and live in some of the most uninhabitable places on the planet. Due to that, they have been the subject of all kinds of films. None however have matched March of the Penguins in terms of ratings.
March of the Penguins is a French documentary that followed emperor penguins in Antarctica. The film covers their breeding, taking care of the egg, and the eggs hatching. It won awards such as Best Documentary, Best Cinematography, and Best Editing.
4 The Eagle Huntress (2016): Score 7.5
This documentary’s main focus is not a bird but a 13-year-old girl named Aisholpan and her journey to become the first female eagle hunter to participate in the eagle festival at Uglii, Mongolia. The movie follows how she, with her father’s help, trains her own golden eagle and competes in the Uglii festival.
The movie is a great look into a culture, the Kazakhs, which is rarely explored in film. It is important to note that the film did face some criticism in its portrayal of the culture. Most notably, the documentary is known to have distorted how much women lacked involvement with eagle hunting until Aisholpan came to the picture.
3 The Birds (1963): Score 7.7
Have you ever known someone with a bird phobia? If so, never show them Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. The Birds is a truly iconic horror movie. In fact, it sits in the National Film Registry for its cultural significance.
In the ’60s, the movie got mixed reviews. Today, it is viewed positively by critics and audiences. What changed? As time passed, perhaps everyone began to recognize The Birds for its influence on future horror titles and thrillers.
2 The Wild Parrots Of Telegraph Hill (2003): Score 7.8
Taking place in San Fransisco, this documentary focuses on a flock of cherry-headed conures that hang out in the Telegraph Hill region. The movie is not just about the birds though. The real magic is in their relationship with Mark Bittner, a homeless musician living in the city who forms an intimate relationship with these birds.
This movie is another hidden gem, as it was directed, produced, and edited all by one person: Judy Irving
1 Winged Migration (2001): Score 7.9
This French documentary won an award Best Editing and as its title suggests, focuses on the migration of birds. It was shot over all seven continents of the world and took about four years to make. The film used a lot of aerial shots with the camera flying alongside the birds. A ton of work went into the movie, with segments being filmed from hot-air balloons, remote-controlled robots, and even a navy warship. (These details are shared in the DVDs “Making of” special feature).
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