Panda movies are hard to come by. Thankfully, the ones that are available are generally great quality and well worth a watch.
We’ve combed through the thick bamboo to bring together our list of favourite movies featuring pandas as the central character – or a central component to the main plot line. As always, if you feel like we’ve missed off one of your favourites, do drop us a comment below!
Genre: Animation (CGI)
Back in 2008, DreamWorks kicked off an unlikely animated franchise with a role Jack Black was born to play. With a combination of great humour, some fast-paced action and a memorable cast of characters, Kung-Fu Panda is a wonderful movie from start to finish. It’s also one that still holds up all these years later.
The Chinese setting is brilliantly captured and the voice cast is certainly impressive too. However, Jack Black stands out and brings Po to life in the best possible way. It’s hard to imagine another actor pulling off a charismatic and enigmatic panda quite like him. Because of that, Kung-Fu Panda is easily one of the best panda movies ever made.
Kung-Fu Panda 2
Genre: Animation (CGI)
While the first movie set the scene and lay the foundations for all of our characters to build off of, Kung-Fu Panda 2 takes these concepts and runs with it. Featuring a darker story and a much better villain this time around, the sequel to Kung-Fu Panda is let down only slightly by its formulaic plotting.
Everything else though has been expanded and improved upon, including Po who gets a much more fleshed out character arc this time around. This allows him to move beyond the eccentric Jack Back persona into something much more heartfelt and realistic.
Like many DreamWorks Animation movie sequels, Kung-Fu Panda 2 builds off what’s been done before to deliver something much more personal and darker. In the process, this sequel feels a lot bigger than the first film and manages to maintain all the same ingredients that made the first such a success.
Kung-Fu Panda 3
Genre: Animation (CGI)
Although it’s not as charming or endearing as the other 2 Kung-Fu Panda movies, the third (and final?) film in the franchise introduces new characters and new challenges for Po to face. With Po’s past explored in much moire vivid detail this time, thanks to the Panda paradise he visits, the main storyline falls under the weight of formulaic ideas.
While it’s predictable and does have a very forgettable main villain, Kung-Fu Panda 3 is an enjoyable movie nonetheless.
A lot of that enjoyment comes from the excellent pacing and the humour keeps the movie consistently lighthearted and enjoyable. The animation is much improved from the previous two films too and all of this combines to create a decent movie befitting of the Kung-Fu Panda name
Wild About Pandas
Wild About Pandas is a BBC-produced documentary that takes on two predominant points of view. The first follows two giant pandas, Tian Tian and Yang Guang, as they arrive in Edinburgh Zoo ready to be relocated. The other view whisks us away to China as we see how giant pandas are looked after in their homeland. This ties into the narrative of pandas being released back into the wild.
With narration from David Tennant and a pacey 60 minute run-time, Wild About Pandas is an interesting and informative documentary film. The dual perspectives are handled well and there’s some great footage captured too.
Amazing Panda Adventure
A remake of the Chinese film “Adventure of A Panda”, Amazing Panda Adventure notably ditches the real animals used in the original for an animatronic instead. Of course, it’s also worth noting that this film is primarily designed for kids so do be prepared for some cheesy dialogue along the way. Despite this, and some rehashed ideas, the film remains an enjoyable family movie.
Do be aware though that it hasn’t aged particularly but it’s undoubtedly a movie primarily tailored toward kids. In that respect, Amazing Panda Adventure isn’t quite amazing but it is an enjoyable enough adventure that kids will enjoy.
Wonderfully entertaining and irresistibly heart-warming, Pandas is a short documentary film clocking in at 40 minutes. However, it’s also one that packs an awful lot of punch into that short time. Narrated by Kristen Bell, the film follows a researcher who forms a bond with a cute and cuddly Panda called Qian Qian.
With discussions surrounding the conservation of pandas and lots of Panda shots throughout, this is a movie that intentionally gears the conversation toward children more than adults. That’s not a bad thing though and this, combined with the gorgeous visuals and wonderful establishing shots of China, make for an entertaining documentary film.
Trail of the Panda
It wouldn’t be an animal movie list without Disney’s name cropping up somewhere! Trail of the Panda is an emotionally stirring but simple drama that takes a well-worn concept and adds a splash of panda to the mix.
The story takes place in China as a 10-year-old mute orphan boy called Lu rescues a lost panda cub separated from its mother. From here, the duo form an unbreakable bond while hiding out from a couple of trappers.
This is classic Disney territory and Trail of the Panda unashamedly knows it. What’s particularly great here though is just how real pandas are used seamlessly with the main story. There’s some great individual moments here too and the third act definitely packs an emotional punch. It’s not perfect but it is a thoroughly enjoyable panda movie well worth a watch.
So there we have it, our list for the Best Panda Movies Of All Time. Do you agree? Are there any noticeable omissions? Do let us know in the comments below and if we missed one of your favourites, we’ll be sure to add it to the list!