What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than with a top-twelve list of the most beautiful butterflies in the world? Yes, there are butterflies. Also moths. Even if you’re looking for a more seasonal topic, there are plenty of other options out there for you. As an excellent reason to keep a butterfly list in the fall, I’d point you to a radio announcement on the dangers of raking your leaves in the fall for the sake of protecting butterfly eggs and cocoons. The fact that I don’t regularly rake my leaves means that I’ll gladly accept any excuse to avoid doing it.
List of the most important butterflies and moths in film is what I’m looking for here. When it comes to butterflies, there are a slew of titles to choose from, including Butterflies Are Free and the Mothman Prophecies, as well as M. Butterfly, Blue Butterfly, Butterfly’s Tongue and several just called Butterfly, so I’m only going to include films that I’ve actually seen all the way through. There are also a few television butterflies that deserve a special mention, including the “killer” butterfly from the classic SpongeBob episode titled “Wormy” and the pussycat swallowtail hunter from Gilligan’s Island. As a side note, I’m sure I’ve overlooked numerous beautiful lepidopterans, so feel free to comment if you think I’ve omitted one. To the next!
12. Alice in Wonderland (1951, 2010)
In all versions of Alice in Wonderland, the hookah-smoking caterpillar is a distinctive figure, but his transformation into a butterfly does nothing to brighten his melancholy. Even the bread and butterflies should be mentioned.
11. TIE: Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2001) and Paprika (2006)
A tie was inevitable because I couldn’t select which anime film to give the advantage to. Cowboy Bebop’s standalone picture features a terrorist’s poison gas, which induces hallucinations, particularly of shimmering butterflies as death approaches. Satoshi Kon’s Paprika also features a terrifying sequence in which the protagonist is pinned as a human butterfly.
10. I Am Legend (2007)
The daughter of Robert Neville (Will Smith), the only non-vampire-ish New Yorker, mentions the butterfly in this scene. Despite the fact that his daughter’s love of butterflies is a mere memory, it plays a significant role in the film’s denouement.
9. Doctor Dolittle (1967)
Rex Harrison’s animal-loving doctor rides the Giant Lunar Moth back to England at the end of this great musical. Anyone who’s ever wished to ride a moth can use this. Anyone?
8. Papillon (1973)
I always imagined this movie would feature a vehicle chase because it was mistaken for Bullitt. Papillon, which means “butterfly” in French, is Henri Charrière’s nickname when imprisoned on Devil’s Island in South America. He has a butterfly tattoo on his chest, and he once caught a butterfly in the forest. Considering how inconsistent the original was, I look forward to this year’s recreation.
7. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)
In fact, it’s the only film on this list that has the word “butterfly” in its title, and that’s only because I recently watched it, which may have put me in the mood for butterflies. However, the butterfly does not exist. Jean-Dominique Bauby’s narrative relates the scenario to his fantasies and memories as a developing adult in one of the film’s primary visual appearances. “May you be surrounded by butterflies.”
6. A Bug’s Life (1998)
Only in this film, Gypsy (Madeline Kahn), the gorgeous helper of Manny the mantis magician, is a butterfly instead of a caterpillar, like she is in Alice in Wonderland. A butterfly is a butterfly, and I had completely forgotten that Madeline Kahn voiced her.
5. Bunny (1998)
I’m taking a risk here by including a short film by Ice Age director Chris Wedge, the Oscar-winning Bunny, which you can watch above. Angry with the pestering moth, an old rabbit discovers the moth’s deeper symbolism and emotional significance.
4. Bright Star (2009)
In this biopic of John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish), the lovely symbolism of butterflies is particularly poignant. If Fanny keeps collecting dead butterflies after Keats leaves, the love she once felt for him would wither and fade, much like the butterflies she keeps collecting after he leaves.
3. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Anyone who saw this anti-war epic’s climax will never forget it. An previous scene saw Paul Bäumer (Lew Ayres) reaching for one of his butterflies on a World War I battlefield, but a startling gunfire knocks him back. The director, Lewis Milestone, lent his own hand to the project.
2. The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies (2001-3, 2012-14)
The Lord of the Rings, of course, had to be on another list of mine! Big hairy moth messenger Gandalf’s employment of which finally becomes synonymous with the intervention of large birds: saving him from Isengard and entering the battle at the end, and even extending their services into The Hobbit movies. There is nothing better than having a moth like that around! When Bilbo looks out over Mirkwood, he sees a horde of butterflies fluttering about in the early morning light. This image is from The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug.
1. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
The Silence of the Lambs beat out Lord of the Rings, as much as I would have liked to. There’s no doubt about it; just look at the poster! Ted Levine plays the serial killer Buffalo Bill, who raises and inserts the death’s head moth into the necks of his victims. Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) receives one of these moths as a gift, therefore I felt compelled to honor this ominous creature with the highest honors.