Hop to this line-up of hare-riffic flicks.
Halloween has its jack-o-lantern. Christmas has Santa Claus. St. Patrick’s Day used to have various Kennedys of note. Easter, of course, is symbolically represented by the bunny that bears the holiday’s name and comes but once a year—swinging a basket, hiding colored eggs, and doling out spring-specific diabetes-bombs to observant Christians and/or fertility-honoring pagan cultists everywhere.
With Easter upon us, and fluffy, long-eared cottontails overwhelming everything in sight for the next few days, let’s look beyond the jellybeans and chocolate bunnies at hand to appreciate the rabbit as a cinematic talisman.
The following playlist compiles movies—some classic, some not—that feature rabbits as core plot points or even main characters. Grab a basket of marshmallow Peeps in lieu of a popcorn bucket and enjoy a long burst of alternative Easter weekend programming.
Donnie Darko (2001)
Jake Gyllenhaal stars as the time-tripping teen of the title whose existential adventures are guided by Frank, a large, menacing figure in the world’s least cuddly rabbit costume. Writer-director Richard Kelly created a genuine cult-cinema icon with Frank, as well as one of the most creepy-cool metallic masks in the realms of horror, sci-fi, and perverse interpretations of otherwise warm and friendly critters.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
King Arthur and his crusading cabal of noblemen fall prey to the adorable appearance of the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog. Upon approaching the typical, twitchy-nosed white bunny, one knight after another loses his head in a gory (and hilarious) onslaught as the rabbit bares razor-sharp fangs and launches into a full attack that can only be countered with the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.
Fatal Attraction (1987)
As a woman scorned, Glenn Close’s fury (which Hell hath none like) focuses on Michael Douglas as the married man with whom she had an affair and extends out to every aspect of his professional and family life. Even his daughter’s pet rabbit feels the heat. A hot pot stewing atop a simmering stove supplies one of cinema’s great jump scares when the cover comes off and the camera cuts to the boiled bunny bubbling away inside.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
The live action-animation hybrid Who Framed Roger Rabbit busts out every major (and many minor) cartoon character of vintage Hollywood in a loopy, loony film-noir send-up about a crime wrongly pinned to the wild-eared, buck-toothed yuk-meister of the title. Aside from Roger, Toon Town’s reigning rabbit supreme, Bugs Bunny, cameos in a skydiving gag alongside his only top-tier rival (and fellow rodent), Mickey Mouse.
Night of the Lepus (1972)
DeForest Kelly (Dr. McCoy of Star Trek) and Janet Leigh (Norman Bates’s shower buddy in 1960’s Psycho) play scientists overrun with mutant rabbits the size of VW buses in an unintentionally uproarious camp classic. Footage of actual bunnies hopping rampant over miniature sets intercut with veteran character actors pretending to be scared is a pleasure you must experience.
Meet the Feebles (1989)
Peter Jackson’s sick-joke splatter puppet romp is an over-the-top explosion of outrageousness that inventively answers the question, “What would the Muppets be like with obscene outbursts, unsanitary sex, and machine guns?” Hard-partying Harry the Rabbit scandalizes his fans and co-stars alike by attempting a live performance while wracked with the repulsive physical effects he’s suffering as a result of “Bunny AIDS.”
Jimmy Stewart charms even more than usual (which is saying something) as Elwood P. Dowd, a warm man-about-town and lovable booze enthusiast whose best friend is Harvey, a six-foot-tall rabbit that only he can see. You will believe his eyes.
Art-film provocateur Harmony Korine’s white-trash fantasia follows the tracks of Bunny Boy, a mute kid sporting pink bunny ears, as he wanders tornado-wracked Xenia, Ohio, carrying the heinously hypnotic narrative from one grotesque encounter to another.
Controversial 40 years ago, Coonskin would likely melt down social media if released today, as animation auteur Ralph Bakshi follows his X-rated cartoon masterworks Fritz the Cat (1972) and Heavy Traffic (1973) with a fearless, ferocious satirical update on the Uncle Remus tales of Brother Rabbit (voiced here by Philip Michael Thomas) that goes down in blaxploitation-era Harlem.
Actors clad in 1950s attire and quaint, oversized bunny heads live out a sitcom existence in four short videos by avant-garde cinema champion David Lynch. Five years later, the rabbits of Rabbits returned, peppered throughout Lynch’s feature-length SoCal fever dream, Inland Empire.
Watership Down (1978)
An extremely British animated fable based on a heavy-duty allegorical novel, Watership Down weaves a sad, soulful, complex tale of rabbit mythology awash with apocalyptic visions, interspecies warfare, and cute cartoon bunnies grappling with notions of God, the role of rodents in the universe, and mortality in the form of the Black Rabbit of Inlé.
Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (1972)
Truly a film for all seasons, Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny consists of berserk, no-budget footage of guys in bargain basement costumes as they frolic seaside with happy children and annoyed livestock (including an albino mule) in the Florida sun. These segments frame two 1970 kiddie matinee cheapies, Thumbelina and Jack and the Beanstalk, which are edited into almost hallucinogenic shorts. In more recent years, Santa and the Ice Cream Bunnywas popularly roasted by Rifftrax, the wisecracking offshoot of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Get to Know Your Rabbit (1972)
Funnyman Tommy Smothers stars as Donald Beeman, a business exec who ditches his big bucks gig to hit the low-rent show biz circuit as a tap-dancing magician in director Brian De Palma’s absurdist comedy. To perfect his craft, Beeman studies with magic master The Great Delasandro (Orson Welles) who, upon giving his student a bunny to pull from a hat, earnestly advices him, “First, get to know your rabbit.” The relationship between the mesmerist and his rodent assistant only deepens from there.
The Nasty Rabbit (1964)
The father-son drive-in flick team of writer-producer Arch Hall Sr. and actor-musician Arch Hall Jr. created a fascinatingly odd spate of films including the caveman thriller Eegah! (1962), the rock-and-roll romp Wild Guitar (1963), the genuinely chilling thrill-kill saga The Sadist (1964), and this bunny-brained spy spoof. Junior stars here as a teen idol turned secret agent out to thwart a rabbit contaminated by the Soviet Union. The songs are better than the comedy, and the songs kind of stink.
Repurposed from Kindland with thanks.