24 of the Best Zoo Movies List to Watch With the Family

Published:
June 3, 2024

Sarah Shelton

Contributor:
Sarah Shelton

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Does your family enjoy learning about their favorite animals and animal conservation? We have put together a zoo movies list of good movies about zoos, as well as more serious documentaries about zoos and how they protect safe species.

tv showing 2 bears in a zoo for zoo movies list

Zoo Movies List

My oldest daughter has loved learning about animals since she was a young girl. When she was struggling to read I would give her easy books about animals and she devoured them. We took many homeschool field trips to our local zoo.

She loves animals so much that she is now attending a special AZA accredited Teaching Zoo College where she is studying to be a zookeeper. She helped me to put together this list of the best zoo movies for the whole family.

Some are animated, some are comedies, and some are dramas with a heartwarming story. We hope that you enjoy them!

Animated Zoo Animal Movies

These animated zoo animal movies are a lot of fun to watch with your kids. Even my teens still enjoy some of these movies and have rewatched them many times.

1. The Wild (2006) PG – Samson, a lion in New York’s Central Park Zoo tells his young cub stories of when he lived in the jungles of Africa. His son dreams of living in Africa and being a real wild animal. He then runs away and is accidentally shipped to Africa. His zoo pals have to work together to bring him back home to New York City.

2. Madagascar (2005) PG – Madagascar is the first film in this popular movie franchise. This animated classic is full of fun and music. A group of animals from Central Park Zoo get shipped to the jungles of Madagascar and must adjust with new friends and other Madagascar animals.

The animals are voiced by Ben Stiller, Chris Rock,  David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer, and Andy Richter.

3. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008) PG – This sequel follows the same animals as they try to return to New York City and end up crash landing in Africa. A crazy adventure ensues as Alex reunites with his family while being chased by a witch doctor and a group of tourists.

4 . Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (2012) PG – The third movie in the series follows the zoo animals as they go through Europe with a traveling circus, and avoiding an animal control office while trying to get back to their zoo in New York City.

5. Zootopia (2016) PG – In a city of anthropomorphic animals, a rooky bunny cop and a sneaky fox work together to uncover a strange virus when an anthropomorphic animal goes missing and turns into a wild animal. This is a funny Disney/Pixar movie that will delight the whole family.

Documentaries About Zoo Animals

These documentaries are movies or tv shows about zoo animals and the staff and families that care for them. We love watching educational documentaries in our homeschool. If your kids are curious about zoo animals or being a zoo keeper they will love these documentary movies and series.

6. Secret Life of the Safari Park (2024) TV PG – This is a new series from the United Kingdom that will take you up close with buffalo, baboons, lions and rhinos at Knowsley Safari.

7. The Zoo (2017) TV PG – The Zoo is an Animal Planet documentary series that takes you behind the scenes of the inner workings of the keepers and the animals from the Bronx Zoo in New York.

8. The Zoo: San Diego (2019) TV PG – Another Animal Planet Series that goes behind the scenes of the most popluar zoo in Southern California. Get an amazing behind the scenes look at the organization behind the San Diego Zoo and how they help save species around the world.

9. The Secret Life of the Zoo (2016) TV PG – This documentary series uses special cameras to document incredible animal behaviors at Chester Zoo, the most popular zoo in the UK.

10. Wild Thing: The Smithsonian National Zoo (2009) TV PG – This documentary shows how the National Zoo preserved endangered species that are close to extinction. Learn about the conservation efforts and the scientists at the zoo that breed endangered species specifically for reintroducing them back to nature.

11. London Zoo: An Extraordinary Year (2020) – The London Zoo and its wildlife park Whipsnade Zoo open their doors to ITV cameras during the lockdown. It shows how the animals and the staff that care for them during coronavirus.

12. Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom (2020) TV PG – Fans of Disney World will love this series that goes behind the scenes and backstage with the animal care team, veterinarians, and biologists at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Epcot’s SeaBase Aquarium.

Secrets of the Zoo Documentary Series

The Secrets of the Zoo is one of our favorite documentary series to watch on Disney Plus. It takes a look behind the scenes of famous zoos in the United States and even in Australia.

13. Secrets of the Zoo – Follow the animal care team of the Columbus Zoo and the Wilds Safari Park as they deal with nearly 6,000 veterinary cases and over 100 births each year.

14. Secrets of the Zoo: North Carolina – This series takes a behind the scenes look at the day to day operations of The North Carolina Zoo and the 1,800 animals in its care on 2,600 acres of large natural habitats.

15. Secrets of the Zoo: Tampa (2020) – Follow the animals, vets, zoo keepers and head keeper that tends to them as you learn about the amazing species at this Florida Zoo. Learn about the project to preserve manatees and other Florida animals and even see the rare Shoebill Stork!

16. Secrets of the Zoo: Down Under (2020) – This is an Australian television series which goes behind the scenes at the Taronga Zoo Sydney and Taronga Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo. It is narrated by Naomi Watts.

Zoo Animal Movies Based on a True Story

These zoo animal movies are based on true stories and historical stories of human and animal relationships, conservation efforts and daring animal rescues. They are heartwarming, inspiring and exciting for all ages.

17. We Bought a Zoo (2011) PG – Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson have the lead roles in this movie which is based on a real life memoir about a family who buys a struggling zoo in need of renovation after their wife and mother dies.

18. Our Zoo – This is a BBC drama series that follows the true story of a young family in the 1930’s and their successful businessman father who was a WW1 Vet and pursued his dream of creating a zoo without bars. The Chester Zoo has a rich history and is now the most popular zoo in Britain.

19. ZOO (2017) PG – This is the unforgettable real life story of Buster the baby elephant, who was rescued from Belfast Zoo during the air raid bombings of 1941 during World War II. When the government orders all the zoo animals to be killed, a young boy and his misfit friends secretly move Buster to safety during the chaos of war.

20. The Zookeeper’s Wife (2017) PG 13 – Based on a true historical account of a husband and wife who are keepers of the Warsaw Zoo during WWII. This is a more intense historical movie and shows how they helped to save hundreds of Jews and animals inside the animal enclosures in the midst of the Nazi invasion in WWII Poland.

Fictional Zoo Animal Movies

These movies are silly, serious and fun all at the same time. They are some of the best animal movies that are great for a fun family movie night.

21. Zookeeper (2011) PG – A hilarious comedy about a kindhearted zookeeper who is more comfortable with animals than he is with woman. He thinks he needs to leave the zoo to find the girl of his dreams. The animals are heartbroken and begin talking to him and teaching him the rules of courtship and help this lovable zookeeper find love.

22. Little Miss DoLittle (2018) Not Rated – Liliane Susewind is an 11-year-old year girl who can talk to animals and they talk back to her. When her class takes a trip to the local zoo she finds out someone has been stealing the animals. She must use her special talent to save the zoo animals from thieves!

23. Mighty Joe Young (1998) PG – This adventure film stars Bill Paxton and Charlize Theron, and is about a fifteen-foot tall mountain gorilla named Joe and the young woman who raised him from a baby in the African wilderness. As Joe grows even larger, he attracts the attention of poachers and needs to be moved to an animal sanctuary in California to be protected.

24. The One and Only Ivan – Based on the best selling classic children’s book, the One and Only Ivan follows the two main characters from the story: a gorilla named Ivan and his best friend, a baby elephant named Ruby. Ivan learns about his childhood and they work together to create a plan to escape captivity from a zoo inside of a shopping mall.

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Movie Response Printable Pack

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