In the movies, few animals have been depicted with such respect as the rabbit. Whether they’re getting clobbered with anvils, haunting humans, hitting the ground suggestively with their claws, or not quite existing, these cartoon characters with long ears and fluffy tails, from Bugs Bunny to Roger Rabbit, Harvey to Frank, Thumper to Fiver, are images of grace and eloquence.
As a result, in honor of the commercial Easter holiday, I’ve put together this list of 10 must-see movies starring Leporidae. “Easter Bunny Kill! Kill!” didn’t even make the cut, but all of them are memorable. Oddly, none of them are Easter rabbits. Watching these is a surefire way to ensure that your holiday season is filled with cheer.
Judy Hopps aspires to be a police officer, but everyone thinks she’s a moron. Even so, she doesn’t let it stop her. In the face of the anti-rabbit prejudice she has to overcome, she also has to confront her own fox-hating prejudices. You should know that these creatures aren’t just naive carrot eaters and sly orange predators. A $1 billion international box office success for Disney, and the end of racism forever.
‘Night of the Lepus’ (1972)
A village is attacked by enormous bunnies in this midnight trasherpiece headlined by Janet Leigh (Janet Leigh!). Bunnies of all sizes, their nostrils wriggling and all, cavort about menacingly and adorablely on minuscule stages in the original language. If they don’t attack, it’s a costumed rabbit. The whole thing raises more questions than answers.
‘Donnie Darko’ (2001)
Films like this one, starring Jake Gyllenhaal in an ugly, ugly rabbit suit who tells him exactly when the world is going to end, have become cult classics of the new millennium. Frank is the name of the tall, black rabbit, and I don’t suppose you’d open the door for him or buy him martinis. His vacant stare and horrendous overbite might just pierce your psyche just as you’re about to have a 3:47 a.m. sleeplessness anxiety freakout freakout. During the night, you’ll convince yourself, “He’s just a bunny,” and you’ll sweat through your covers.
‘Alice in Wonderland’ (1951)
There are numerous film and television versions of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice” stories, but I’m referring to the most well-known, Disney’s 1951 animated classic. Because Disney is evil and wants us to believe that only pedants will point out such facts, the company has sneakily appropriated the public domain work “Alice in Wonderland” into its canon, making some believe that Mickey Mouse Amalgamated Corp. Inc. owns the likenesses of the characters and stories therein. The White Rabbit – you know, that’s the one “I’m running a few minutes behind schedule! I’m running late! “All of this, and more, can be found in the character who guides Alice through the hallucinogenic Wonderland, making him a long-time favorite of the psychedelic community. That’s not to say that Disney isn’t aware of the dangers of drug use. Ever!
‘Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit’ (2005)
Wallace and Gromit, Aardman Animation’s clay compatriots, give birth to the rabbit in the title via a series of events that can best be described as “unfortunate” and/or “sublimely stupid,” respectively. The beast resembles a combination of Thumper (Bambi’s best friend), the Hulk, and the American werewolf in London if he were a British werewolf instead of an American werewolf. No amount of watching this movie will persuade you otherwise that rabbits have the ability to howl at the moon.
‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’ (1988)
Roger is in such a pickle. He’s a Toontown A-lister who’s been wrongly accused of murder because of his celebrity. In a situation like this, it’s nearly impossible not to succumb to the temptation to be a scapegoat. (Of course, she adores him since he always manages to make her laugh.) Even when you’re not in trouble, it’s hard to take you seriously when your eyes explode out of your head everytime an anvil falls on your foot, and you’re ruining the mood of a dark detective noir with your obnoxious use of Technicolor. But Roger has to deal with that. Fortunately, his tale is one of humor rather than tragedy.
‘Watership Down’ (1978)
If you’re from the ‘80s or ‘90s, you might remember how a Disney-style cartoon about talking bunnies turned out to be an extremely brutal tale about survival and death’s omnipresence in nature. Many of us who saw it as children have a more vivid memory of it than “The Rescuers,” which was also a popular film at the time. When Bigwig labeled General Woundwort a “crashed-brain slave driver” in front of their horrific battle of beautiful bunny claws and fangs, lovely fur flew everywhere, perhaps we were traumatized.
More disturbing to me as an adult than the accurate depiction of quick, terrible killing in the film are Fiver’s fever-induced hallucinatory visions of the future (“I’m so cold,” he shivers, eyes glassed over and milky”). Once you get over the extreme juxtaposition of cuteness and terror, it’s considered something of a classic.
Thumper, Bambi’s bunny pal, is the first of his kind in a Disney cartoon – an animal sidekick who steals the show in comedic relief. To describe this playful forest creature, I can only say that his name comes from the regular tapping of his left leg on the ground, which sets him apart and is likely to win him over the ladies. I’m not sure if that’s innuendo or just whimsy. One of the most well-known examples of the Thumperian Principle, which states, “If you can’t say something good, don’t say anything at all,” is his. Who says he’s nothing but fluff?
‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ (1980)
Should have heeded Tim’s advice: “I don’t know what to say about him, but he has enormous, acute… Observe the skeletons!”
What I can say is that after 35 years of trying, I’m finally able to say that I’ve triumphed over reality. Harvey is James Stewart’s best friend. An average height of 63.5 inches. Invisible. Rabbit. Except for James Stewart, no one else can see him. He’s a lunatic, as everyone around him is of the opinion. My name is Stewart. Harvey keeps to himself most of the time. Stewart, on the other hand, is one of the kindest people you’ll ever meet. He’s certainly a person who enjoys the here and now. A couple too many martinis could be to blame. What’s his name? How did he end up there? Is there a better way to treat those who suffer from mental illness? What does it mean to be “mentally ill,” and how do we define it? What exactly is meant by the term “alcoholic”? Where do the whims of levity meet the gravitas of pathos? The people who can’t see Harvey are those who believe they know the solutions to these problems.