Bears have a long and proud cinematic tradition, going back to at least 1925 when Charlie Chaplin wrestled with a bear in The Gold Rush. More than any other animal, bears are ripe for humor. They’re charming, stuffed panaceas for young children when in toy form, but large and menacing beasts in their natural state. I’m human with human emotions and even I’m not that versatile. Here are the nine best movie bears.
Oksana, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)
The Borat bear served three functions. First, it was a pet for Borat. Second, it helped him sell ice cream to children. And third, it was a therapeutic representative of his departed wife, Oksana, who had been mauled by a bear.
Fozzie, Multiple Muppet Movies
Kermit said it best in “Pictures in my Head” from The Muppets (2011). “They might have been unbearable, but I still loved your jokes.” Who doesn’t love Fozzie and his awful punch lines, other than Statler and Waldorf?
The Bear from The Bear (1988)
The bear from the The Bear was so cool that I loved the movie, even at age 12, even though it was almost exclusively dialogue-free and had subtitles. The bear from The Bear was so cool that it made nature a big deal for viewers. Most importantly, the bear from The Bear was so cool that he took a trip on hallucinogenic mushrooms.
Charlie Chaplin’s Wrestling Partner, The Gold Rush (1925)
Leave it to Chaplin to use a bear for humor. It’s made all the more amusing by the fact that it’s obviously a guy in a bear suit, imitating a guy who LOOKS like a guy in a bear suit. But Chaplin sells it whole-heartedly. It doesn’t end well for the bear.
The Polar Bear in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
Speaking of bears that are obviously guys in bear suits, hooooooleeeeeey shit, you must see the polar bear scene in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. It might as well have been a dude with a bunch of cotton balls taped all over him. It’s one of my all-time favorite moments in movie history.
The San Diego Zoo Bears, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)
What’s better than a bear at the zoo? Several bears at the zoo, fighting a TV news team. You and I haven’t always seen eye to eye on humor, Will Ferrell, but thank you so much for this.
Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear, Toy Story 3 (2010)
All of these other bears have played it straight as funny, or menacing, or charming, or natural. Only one bear runs the gamut of bear emotions- the ironically named Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear. He’s great to the kids, aware that they could spell his demise. He’s downright ruthless to Woody and the crew. He’s sort of like a stuffed pink version of Tony Soprano, capable of turning on the charm to hide his sociopathy.
The Exterminating Angel (1962)
You might think that a bear at an upscale dinner party simply doesn’t belong, that the surrealism of it is so out-of-place as to be jarring. But rest assured, it’s accompanied by sheep and a severed hand. That is to say, the bear fits right in somehow.
Baloo, The Jungle Book (1967)
This list has it all except for a bear that can sing… until right now. Baloo is so likable that even his soul-shredding wordplay about “bear” necessities doesn’t bug audiences. That’s impressive. There’s something amazingly zen about this song.