In the world of pandering movie posts this has got to be the worst sin I personally have ever committed, but I wanted to find something related to the new “Peter Rabbit” adaptation this weekend and this is what I cooked up. Now Peter Rabbit isn’t the first big eared mammal to hit the big screen, and he won’t be the last. Cinema has certainly given us some highlight characters to enjoy, whether they’re anthropomorphic rabbits or something a little creepier. So to celebrate the release of the cinematic take on the classic children’s story character Peter Rabbit I took a look at some of the most iconic of his fellow rabbits and bunnies in movies. These are my picks for the Top 10 Iconic Movie Rabbits…yup I’m doing this.
The qualifications for this list should be obvious. I looked at rabbits featured in cinematic movie releases, whether live action, imaginary or animated, who have had an impact on the cinema world and have become iconic in their own right. As long as a character was a “rabbit” of some sort it counted. The more memorable and significant the character was the higher it ended up on this list. Simple as that. Also no toys. I mean a toy that comes alive, sure but the bunny from “Con Air”, while memorable, defeats the point of this list. Some movies featured multiple big-eared characters but only one per film was considered for this list. Also yes animated characters that were featured in movies but are more prominent in television were also considered, I simply looked at one of the their most notable appearances on the big screen. As long as they were in a theatrical film they count.
So without further ado here we go. What’s your favorite movie rabbit or bunny? Let me know in the comments below and, if you’re interested, be sure to check out “Peter Rabbit” and my review of the film this weekend.
10. The Were-Rabbit, “Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit”
The “Wallace & Gromit” series is a classic and in 2005 American audiences were given the chance to understand the greatness of the stop motion character and his trusty pooch first hand. Interestingly enough their first foray into American cinemas was with “Curse of the Were-Rabbit”, a movie that put an interesting spin on the Werewolf tales of old only this time it was a rabbit terrorizing the neighborhood as a gardening competition loomed. I won’t spoil the identity of the were-rabbit here, but there are several in the story and the one that counts for this list is the rabbit that dominated the second half of the movie and created the biggest problem for our heroes. With rabbits in general being a theme of this film due to their penchant for garden mischief, “Curse of the Were-Rabbit” worked in one of the cutest and most memorable giant rabbits you’ll ever see while paying homage to a horror legend that, to that point, had become nothing short of an overdone cliché.
9. The Easter Bunny, “Rise of the Guardians”
As children we cherish the existence of holiday characters and the Easter Bunny is no exception. However we probably never thought of the egg-hiding legend as a badass until this 2012 animated movie came out. Based on a book series, “Rise of the Guardians” introduced us to a more combat-ready Easter Bunny, played by Hugh Jackman, who joined with other characters like Sandman, Santa Claus and Jack Frost to take on the Boogeyman. The film itself was a fantastic animated adventure and the Easter Bunny was one of its best characters. As the Guardian of Hope, the Easter Bunny held the faith of many in his hands and it’s a responsibility he didn’t take lightly. While it might not be too faithful to the gentle rabbit children imagine when Easter comes around, this adaptation of the legendary being proved to be entertaining and memorable in his own way by making the magical holiday rabbit a true force to be reckoned with as an unspoken second-in-command of the Guardians in the film.
8. The Rabbit of Caerbannog, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”
Whether you love or hate this iconic comedy film, chances are you’re familiar with the Rabbit of Caerbannog. Also known as the “Black Beast of Arrrghhh” for the final noise of anyone who sees it the rabbit was meant to be an unassuming foe for King Arthur and his crew who soon found out it was much more than the cute white rabbit it appeared to be on the surface. The knights eventually won, but not before this rabbit cemented itself in cinematic history with probably one of the most notable scenes in “The Holy Grail” even to those who have yet to see the film. The Rabbit was meant to be a satire of the much larger and more menacing beasts knights of legend have been said to face on their journeys. It was a ridiculous and over the top parody that worked to perfection to the point where the rabbit might just be the most famous character in the film. It was a hilarious movie monster and a legendary rabbit that deserves to be here on this list.
7. Bugs Bunny, “Space Jam”
There are a lot of possible movies that could have qualified Bugs Bunny for this list, but I chose his most famous appearance outside of his standalone skits in “Space Jam”. This is the film where Bugs stood out among the crowd of Looney Tunes characters as the leader of the Tunes and the one who convinces basketball legend Michael Jordan to play for the Tune Squad against a team of aliens hoping to take ownership of the Tunes for their own theme park. A classic 90s movie that helped Bugs Bunny remain a household name for a new generation, this film appearance also brought Bugs into the modern age with a sleeker look and a more polished leadership role and personality among his fellow Tunes. Unafraid to take charge and even willing to bend the truth to motivate his fellow Tune Squad teammates, this was a Bugs Bunny we could appreciate and relate to and one who really felt like a living creature with a personality all his own. It may not be his only appearance on the big screen, but it’s the one all modern interpretations of the character are compared to today making this new 90s iteration of the famed carrot eating bunny iconic even within his own history.
6. Hazel, “Watership Down”
Despite the fact that the legendary animated movie “Watership Down” has an infamous history of controversy, there’s no denying its iconic status or the memorability of the rabbits that made up its cast. Set in the world of the wild where rabbit society is a stand in for human society and their ignorance has made them a targeted population, “Watership Down’ focused on a group who rebelled from their society to seek a better tomorrow, led by Hazel a wise rabbit voiced by John Hurt who became somewhat of a Moses character for his brethren leading them away from the apocalypse towards a safe, new home. Things didn’t go quite as planned, leading to brutal and graphic violence along the way, but Hazel helped his crew make their way to their new home all the same and, in the process, became a leader to those who were by his side. The entire rabbit cast of “Watership Down” could have made this list, but my rules say only one can be recognized and considering Hazel’s impact on the story and his eventual role as an elder among his fellow rabbits that make him the most memorable and iconic of them all.
5. Frank, “Donnie Darko”
“Why are you wearing that stupid rabbit suit?”…These are the words uttered to Frank by the namesake of the 2001 mindbender “Donnie Darko” to the creepy Frank, a time traveling figure whose origins appeared to be rooted in a Halloween costume. Frank was Darko’s guide in the movie, the one who spouted philosophical wisdom like his response, “Why are you wearing that stupid man suit?” and who warned Darko of upcoming dangers and the time he had left to make a change. As memorable as he was creative, Frank stole the show in this film and became the central figure for the movie’s marketing and the one character many remember from the movie, quoting him and even replicating his look for Halloween. It’s never really told whether or not Frank is real or a figment of Darko’s imagination, but it doesn’t matter as by the end of the film it appears his time travel warnings come true and Darko rewinds to the beginning of the movie. Frank is among the scariest original characters in movie history in terms of image alone, and his iconic look is part of the reason why he was so memorable even before we got to know more about him as the story progressed. He might not be an actual rabbit, but human or time-traveling being of the unknown his image is that of the big-eared creature so here he is at the halfway point.
4. The White Rabbit, “Alice in Wonderland”
He’s late for a very important date, and he’s here at #4 on this list. The White Rabbit and March Hare were among the two most popular characters in Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland” and while I toyed with putting the 2010 live action version of the March Hare, who overshadowed the White Rabbit in that film, on this list I went with the original Wonderland rabbit, the White Rabbit of the 1951 Disney classic. The White Rabbit was the first Wonderland resident Alice met and it was him who led her down the ….errhmm…”rabbit hole” so to speak. A servant of the Red Queen the White Rabbit didn’t seem to enjoy his servitude but took his job seriously all the same. This same White Rabbit became a much wiser, more rebellious figure in the live action sort-of-sequel in 2010, but his original incarnation is his most popular and is still how many remember the legendary character today.
3. Harvey, “Harvey”
The only character on this list we never truly “see” with our own eyes on screen, Harvey is a six-foot talking invisible rabbit that serves as the friend of the “Harvey” film’s main character, Elwood Dowd. “Harvey” consistently hinted at Dowd possibly being insane, however we later saw the invisible rabbit open a gate (or maybe it was just the wind). As it turns our Harvey was real, in the film’s world at least. He was a pooka, a mischievous Celtic creature who is fond of outcasts and made friends with Dowd and several of Dowd’s acquaintances as well. Harvey was one of the first rabbits of the big screen and is probably one of the most interesting characters on this list due to his enigmatic and invisible nature. All the same, his existence and his film have long been the punch lines for rabbit based jokes for years. Hell, even “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” made a joke about Harvey. Often overlooked by the uninitiated in film history, but never forgotten by those who experienced his story Harvey is as iconic as they come. Oh, and speaking of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”…
2. Roger Rabbit, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”
A personal favorite of mine, Roger is the central character of a series of books and the 1988 masterpiece “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”. A stuttering goofball and massive cartoon star, Roger is framed for the death of the owner of the Acme Corporation as part of a larger scheme that unfolds over the course of the film. Roger’s goofy ways and tendency to be ignorant of danger lead him and detective Eddie Valiant into some very dangerous and questionable situations but each time they manage to escape. Roger was a funny and well-designed cartoon character that took elements of his predecessors and perfected them into one character. While his film is much more famous than him alone he remains a popular rabbit in the eyes of children and adults even 30 years later. When people think of animated rabbits today Roger is probably one of the first they will ever turn to and for good reason. However, he’s not the most memorable of rabbits to ever hit the big screen. That honor belongs to a very different rabbit from the Disney cannon, one who you probably should have guessed was always going to top this list….
1. Thumper, “Bambi”
Seriously…..did ANYONE think I would choose anyone else??? Speak honestly, was there really any doubt? Thumper is the original big eared animated mascot that Disney brought to life in 1942, before many of the characters on this list were even conceived. The best friend of Bambi the deer, Thumper was a fun-loving ball of energy who helped Bambi learn to walk and talk, cementing himself among the most trusted of allies to the “young prince”. As time went on Thumper became an icon of his own, earning a place on merchandise and in the hearts of countless fans through generations. He remains the most iconic cinematic rabbit to date as a bright and shining example of energetic youth at its finest. His famous quote “I’m thumpin’, that’s why the call me Thumper!” is one of the most iconic in Disney history and even those who haven’t watched the legendary Disney animated feature for years can’t help but smile at the thought of this blue bundle of joy. Noone holds a candle to Thumper and if nothing else this goofy list of mine is a fine way to honor him for what he is, a truly iconic, memorable and unforgettable big eared personality who puts all other cinematic rabbits to shame.