Elephant in frassfieldLeonardo DiCaprio or Angelina Jolie are some of the biggest stars in Hollywood, but some of the biggest stars of a different kind have been elephants. Elephants have been popular in movies for decades, but unfortunately the numbers of these beloved creatures is dwindling. Elephant poachers kill about 8 percent of the total population each year, slaughtering them for their ivory tusks. Since elephants can’t reproduce fast enough to replace their killed numbers, if nothing is done the only thing left will be their images on the movie screen.


Children have been charmed by “Dumbo,” the story of a little elephant who proves that being different isn’t bad, for decades. What seems to be a disability (his oversized ears) turns out to be a wonderful gift, allowing him to fly. Instead of being an outcast, Dumbo becomes the star of the circus, the world’s first flying elephant. This film has been so popular over the years that it was the highest grossing Disney movie in the 1940s, and the first one they ever released on video.

‘Horton Hears a Who’

Proving once again that elephants are grand and intelligent creatures, Horton hears a small sound and will not be moved from what he knows to be the right thing. “Horton Hears a Who” is a Dr. Seuss story turned into a movie, about an elephant who saves a very tiny civilization. No one believes him when he talks about it, and he’s scorned by everyone around him, but Horton prevails when at last everyone else can hear the Whos. This film may be one of the more disturbing Seuss movies with an angry mob wanting to boil Horton’s Whos, but all but the smallest will understand the message in the end.

‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’

Elephants were one of the major modes of transportation in this film, and occupied a good number of film minutes. It wasn’t well advertised that Harrison Ford was not happy about this. To him, riding on elephants was a very painful experience, and he compared it to being stretched on a Medieval rack. The elephants on the set of must have been a mischievous bunch, as one even ate Kate Capshaw’s red dress.

‘Water for Elephants’

An article about elephant films wouldn’t be complete without this aptly named movie. It’s about a Depression-era drifter who joins a circus as an animal caretaker, with watering the elephants being one of his many daily tasks. It’s a love story, a murder mystery, and a well-written tale for any genre. What’s significant about this movie, though, is that it depicts elephants being mistreated. Later, video evidence appeared that the same elephants in the movie had been mistreated in real life before being filmed. Although horrendous, it served to raise awareness of the plight of mistreated animals in general and elephants in particular.

Guest article by: Mike Brooks