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The Most Iconic Bears In Movie History

The bear is a powerful and majestic creature, equally famous for preventing forest fires and lighting up the night sky. From pandas and polar bears to the mighty North American grizzly, humans have long been fascinated by these distant mammalian cousins. As such, it should come as no surprise that bears have always featured prominently in pop culture. Whether they are portrayed as dangerous forces of nature or happy-go-lucky anthropomorphized cartoons, the movies have always loved a good bear.

With 2023's "Cocaine Bear," a chaotic comedy about an American black bear who consumes, well, you can probably guess, the cinematic canon has gained yet another memorable ursine character. While the titular Cocaine Bear is certainly unique, it can't compete with the medium's most famous, iconic, and beloved bears. At least, not yet. The day may come when we all look back and recognize "Cocaine Bear" as the film that changed Hollywood forever, but for now, the coked-up bruin must kneel to the greats who paved the way.

Out of deference and respect for this most mighty of creatures, we've assembled a list of the most memorable and important bears to ever grace the silver screen. Some are friendly souls who taught us valuable life lessons as children. Others are brutal harbingers of nature's immortal power. So hold your teddy tight and lock up that picnic basket, because these are the most iconic bears in movie history.

Winnie the Pooh

Who better to begin our list of ursine legends than the bottomless bear himself, Winnie the Pooh? First introduced in A. A. Milne's 1926 short story collection of the same name, Pooh has been a staple of children's literature and pop culture for nearly a century. After Walt Disney Productions licensed the bear's films rights in the early 1960s, he began his extended career on the big screen.

From Disney's many animated adaptations to more experimental fare like the 2017 Milne biopic "Goodbye Christopher Robin," Pooh has accrued an impressive number of film credits. Kids, families, and nostalgic adults alike continue to turn out for stories involving the yellow bear, and who could blame them? The iconic red shirt with no pants; the warm, wholesome fantasy world of the Hundred-Acre Wood; the unceasing quest for honey. Pooh Bear is truly a one-of-one character, and whether you first encountered him on the big screen or the printed page, there's no doubt he stayed with you.

Though he's always claimed to be "a bear of very little brain," Pooh may be the smartest of us all. A self-professed champion of doing nothing, he takes joy in the simple things — beautiful days, pleasant dreams, and long walks in the woods with friends. A silly old bear? Sure. But maybe the best bear there ever was as well.

Baloo the bear

Like Winnie the Pooh, Baloo the bear of "The Jungle Book" is a bruin with a deep appreciation for the lazy life. Clearly, the animals' hibernation habits have influenced their portrayal in popular media. Baloo himself has something of a complicated origin as a creation of British colonialist writer Rudyard Kipling, who's equally famous for his exoticized children's stories and the as-bad-as-it-sounds poem "The White Man's Burden." The version of Baloo that made it to the big screen in Disney's 1967 animated adaptation of "The Jungle Book" is a fairly different character than the one in Kipling's stories, albeit one that still demands a bit of an asterisk.

Regardless, it would be hard to leave the bear who gave us "The Bare Necessities" off this list. The song itself is an all-time great from Disney's classic animated era and one that's been forever tied to real-world bears in our minds. Throughout the film, Baloo espouses the virtues of lying around, eating your fill, and living the good life — principles he imparts to the young Mowgli early on. However, that lackadaisical attitude doesn't stop Baloo from taking action when it's needed. From the crumbling palace of King Louie to his final confrontation with the fearsome tiger Shere Khan, Baloo proves himself to be a stalwart friend who doesn't think twice before leaping into danger.

And remember, don't pick a prickly pear by the paw — when you pick a pear, try to use the claw.

Po from Kung Fu Panda

Is there anything better in cinema than an underdog story? Rocky, the Titans, Steve "The Pirate" Cowan, and of course, Po the panda. Voiced to perfection by Jack Black in DreamWorks' "Kung Fu Panda" films, Po is the living (well, animated) embodiment of the can-do spirit. His journey to becoming the Dragon Warrior of legend is rarely easy, but he always powers through, unlocking new levels within himself at a pace that would put Son Goku on notice.

Not only is Po perseverant and powerful, but he's also incredibly relatable and grounded. He never loses respect for the simple life he lived before, and that respect gives him even more reason to fight when those close to him are threatened. He's funny, likable, and his films have grossed nearly $2 billion worldwide, making him both one of the most iconic and financially successful movie bears of all time. Of course, given his selfless and spiritual nature, Po likely couldn't care less about frivolous things like box office numbers.

It's also worth noting that the "Kung Fu Panda" films — despite their fantastical, animal-starring nature — have been praised by many for treating their cultural influences with respect and accuracy (per US-China Today). The movies have all earned high marks from critics as well. One need only rewatch any of Po's epic fight scenes to remember just what an iconic protagonist he is.

The Revenant bear

Sometimes, one shining moment in the spotlight is all you need to cement yourself in the pantheon of cinematic history forever. "Napoleon Dynamite" star Jon Heder knows something about that, as does the iconic bear from Alejandro G. Iñárritu's 2015 epic western "The Revenant."

Today, "The Revenant" is best remembered as the film that finally delivered an Oscar to Leonardo DiCaprio. However, the golden boy of "Titanic" isn't the star of the movie's most famous scene. That prestigious title belongs to the mama grizzly bear who mauls his character, Hugh Glass, in the first act. In truth, this is little more than the initiating event of the film's main action, but it's also the last image that many viewers carried away from the theater.

Sure, there were bear attack scenes in movies before "The Revenant," but Iñárritu's expert direction and some exceptional special effects work from Industrial Light and Magic, the 2015 film delivered the gold standard. Think "Psycho" shower murder but for bear carnage, and you'll have some idea of how impressive the whole sequence really is.

Though DiCaprio walked away with the Academy Award, the bear that bested him earned a place in all of our hearts. Maybe if Leo would stop breaking up with women when they turned 25, he'd have a better appreciation for how powerful protective parenting can be.

Iorek Byrnison from The Golden Compass

To be fair, the 2006 Hollywood adaptation of Philip Pullman's "Northern Lights" fantasy novel is far from the story's definitive version. Both the original book and the HBO adaptation, "His Dark Materials," have received much higher praise and success. Even still, the mere existence of the "Golden Compass" movie makes its characters eligible for a list such as this, including the armored polar bear known as Iorek Byrnison.

"I am an armored bear," Iorek tells protagonist Lyra Belacqua upon their meeting. "War is the sea I swim in and the air I breathe." In Pullman's masterfully crafted fantasy universe, the North is occupied by a race of sentient bears with opposable thumbs and incredible mastery of metalwork. Each carrying their own set of sacred armor, they live a life of honor and warfare, not unlike the Mandalorians of "Star Wars" or the Trojans of real-world history. Except, you know, they're bears.

Even among his fantastical species, Iorek is no ordinary bear. An outcast from his own clan, he gets wrapped up in Lyra's battle against the oppressive Magisterium, becoming an important and loyal ally in her crusade. His characterization is a high point of both the novel and the film, but even if it weren't, he'd probably still make this list. There's just something about a massive, armor-clad, blacksmith bear warrior that screams "iconic."


There are gentle movie bears, and there are brutal movie bears. Then there's Ted. Voiced by Seth MacFarlane in his directorial debut of the same name (and in the 2015 sequel), Ted isn't especially ferocious or endearing. Remember that show MacFarlane did about the family guy? Well, Ted's a lot more like that.

A beer-swilling, dirty-talking, sex-crazed teddy bear come to life, Ted spends his days being a general delinquent with his best friend John (Mark Wahlberg). Your mileage on the films and MacFarlane's brand of "remember that celebrity" humor may vary, but there's no denying that Ted is one of the best-known Hollywood bears to debut in the past few decades.

If you are a fan of Ted's comically abrasive nature, then you're in luck, as a "Ted" prequel series is already on its way to Peacock. MacFarlane himself announced on Twitter that filming had wrapped in November of 2022, meaning that the "Ted" franchise will continue to live on and perpetuate the eponymous bear's place in pop culture.

Kenai and Koda from Brother Bear

The early 2000s were a strange time for Walt Disney Animation Studios. After a string of hits in the late '80s and early '90s that included "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast,' and "The Lion King," the studio entered a more experimental phase. The grotesque darkness of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," the epic action of "Mulan," and the classic sci-fi flair of movies like "Atlantis" and "Treasure Planet" all took viewers to vivid and colorful worlds. Then there was "Brother Bear," a 2003 entry that took viewers back to the world of Disney's early days — the woods, and the animals who dwell there.

When indigenous hunter Kenai kills a bear in vengeance for his brother's death, he finds himself transformed into one of the animals himself. His quest to return to human form brings him close to Koda, the cub of the bear he slayed. Their burgeoning brotherhood gives the film its title and serves as the emotional core of the story. If you were a Disney kid in 2003, both bears surely made their way into your heart.

Sure, the film received middling reviews, and it's never been reclaimed for the modern Disney franchise treatment, but it is a movie about bears. Sometimes — particularly if you're making a list of bears — that can be enough.

Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear

Bears are such majestic animals that you might find it hard to imagine a truly evil one. Even the most violent bear attacks can be attributed to fear or protecting one's territory. However, in Pixar's "Toy Story 3," we all learned that bears can be abjectly villainous as well. At least, toy bears can.

Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear, or Lotso for short, is a stuffed pink bear who smells like strawberries. He has a kindly voice (courtesy of Ned Beatty) and the demeanor of a senile grandfather. That is, until people start challenging his authority. Buzz, Woody, and the rest of the "Toy Story" gang go head-to-head with Lotso after being dumped in Sunnyside Daycare. The despotic teddy asserts himself as the most dangerous foe they've ever faced, though he gets his comeuppance in the end.

Though Lotso may not be a real bear, he can be almost as terrifying as the mama grizzly in "The Revenant." His cool, calm, and malicious demeanor made him a terrifying antagonist for any kids in the audience back in 2010, and though he only appears in one film in the whole series, he's definitely one of its most memorable characters.

Fozzie Bear

It's true that the two best-known Muppets are a frog and a pig, but dig just a little deeper into Jim Henson's comical puppet menagerie and you'll find Fozzie Bear. Originally played by legendary puppeteer Frank Oz, Fozzie debuted as a struggling stand-up comedian on the original "Muppet Show." However, thanks to the franchise's many big-screen outings, he's also become one of the most iconic bears in movie history.

Persistently cheerful but frequently coltish, Fozzie is the classic relatable Muppet. He's the kind of character who's easy to find common ground with, even though he's really just a fuzzy prop with a hand jammed up his soul hole. He's also been a co-star in many of the franchise's films over the years. He appears in his usual comedian role in "The Muppet Movie," where he takes the wheel of his now-iconic 1951 Studebaker. Fozzie also features as Kermit's reporter partner in "The Great Muppet Caper," the kindly Fozziwig in "The Muppet Christmas Carol," and the Cowardly Lion in "The Muppets' Wizard of Oz," among other roles.

Kermit and Miss Piggy might be the most famous Muppets today, but Fozzie was right beside them every step of the way. And he did all while being, you guessed it, a bear. Wocka Wocka!

The baffling bears of the Grizzly franchise

In 1975, "Jaws" was the biggest movie in the world. It dominated the Hollywood discourse and made Steven Spielberg a household name. So it only makes sense that someone would try to mooch off that success with their own horror flick. Thus, 1976's "Grizzly" was born.

Released to atrocious reviews but an impressive performance at the box office, "Grizzly" was called out immediately for the rip-off it was. However, it remains a fascinating piece of Hollywood history all its own. For one, the bear in the film was actually played by a real, live Kodiak bear named Teddy — a strategy that would surely be questioned today. The bear was filmed independently and cut together with other scenes to form the action-heavy bits of the movie.

Even more strangely fascinating than the original film is the sequel, "Grizzly II: Revenge," which was filmed in 1983 but wasn't released officially until 2020. "Grizzly II: Revenge" features a totally different story and bear, which this time was played entirely by puppets, mechanical suits, and animatronics. The film's production was such a mess that it couldn't secure a bid from distributors. When it did finally get out to the public decades later, it bore the names of George Clooney, Charlie Sheen, and Laura Dern — young actors at the time who all had tiny parts. It seems the true terror of "Grizzly II" was securing Sheen his SAG card, releasing him upon the entertainment world like a crazed bear in a forest (per The Ringer).

Yogi Bear

Hey, hey, hey, all you bear lovers out there, you didn't think we'd leave Yogi Bear off this list, did you? The classic Hanna-Barbera character may be most famous for his work in the realm of television, but he's also been a movie star since 1964's "Hey There, It's Yogi Bear!" Since then, Yogi has appeared in a wide range of mostly made-for-TV animated movies, a 2010 live-action feature film in which he's voiced by Dan Aykroyd, and 2021's "Space Jam: A New Legacy" in a small cameo role.

Famous for his love of stealing picnic baskets and his ongoing feud with park law enforcement, Yogi is about as iconic as they come. Alongside his best friend Boo-Boo, who's nearly famous enough to justify his own entry on this list, Yogi was a legend of 20th-century animation whose legacy remains intact today.

If you've ever heard anyone say "pic-a-nic" instead of "picnic," you have Yogi Bear to thank, goofy hat and all. He may not have retained quite the same staying power as family-friendly contemporaries like Pooh and Paddington, but Yogi Bear still easily makes it into the big-screen bear hall of fame.

The Care Bears

Though some bears merely chomp and tear, other bears are born to care. The Care Bears about as famous of a squad as you can find in the realm of modern media — characters who've reached pop-culture immortality through various TV shows, toy lines, and an endless stream of internet memes. Thankfully, for our purposes here, they've also at times been stars of the big screen.

In 1985, "The Care Bears Movie" brought the cuddly creatures to theaters for the first time, yielding a successful box office return. Their mission of spreading love and compassion became iconic in the '80s, even if their fluffy cartoonishness is a bit much at times. Is there a more iconic cartoon superpower than the Care Bear Stare? Well, probably, but definitely not one related to bears.

Though real-world bears are generally solitary, the Care Bears are unique on this list by being a proper pack. Their commitment to community and friendship grants them their greatest power, and that should be an inspiration to us all. After all, if typically lonely creatures like bears can team up for the greater good, who says regular human folk can't do the same? In truth, there may be nothing as iconic as the ability to unify, inspire, and turn the simple teddy bear into a multi-million-dollar merchandising extravaganza. Thanks, Care Bears!


The argument of which movie bear is the best of all could go on for an eternity. As evidenced by this list, there are many worthy contenders for the ursine throne. However, in the modern history of cinema, Paddington Bear may have the strongest case. First introduced to the world in Michael Bond's 1958 children's book "A Bear Called Paddington," the beloved character saw something of a reintroduction to the world in 2014's "Paddington." A 2017 sequel, "Paddington 2," followed, which for a time held an incredibly impressive 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes (via IndieWire).

Like many of the entrants mentioned here, Paddington is a simple bear. He loves marmalade, spending time with his friends, and his trademark hat and coat. Always the picture of perfect politeness, Paddington strives to do his best in all scenarios. He's apologetic when he makes mistakes, and he works hard to improve himself day by day. Surely, these are qualities that we can all strive for in life, which may be why his films have been so successful worldwide. Or it's the combination of Ben Whishaw's phenomenal vocal performance and stellar supporting cast.

Whatever the secret formula for Paddington's recent popularity, it's worked. He's become not only a key piece of children's literary history — but a Hollywood star as well.