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Hare We Go Again! - Bunny Movies For Easter: Part 2

All mentioned films in article
Not released

There's only so much time you can devote to scoffing chocolate eggs on Easter Sunday. So, why not gather the family for an afternoon watching films about the Easter Bunny? Cinema Paradiso has some suggestions in mind.

In the first part of Cinema Paradiso's look at rabbits on screen, we focussed on the (mostly) cute and cuddly world of animation. This time, the tone will be a little darker, as we make the acquaintance of some left-field bunnies and the odd rabbit from hell.

Hop You Like These

Life can be a lot tougher for small furry creatures outside the realms of animation. Take the luckless rabbits that are gunned down during the brutal hunting sequence in La Règle du Jeu (1939), which director Jean Renoir used to comment on the senseless slaughter of the Great War and the need for France to avoid another conflict on a similar scale. Carlos Saura would echo these sentiments in his own rabbit shoot in La Caza (1966).

A still from Easter Parade (1948)
A still from Easter Parade (1948)

On a lighter note, Fred Astaire plucks a toy rabbit from a shop counter with the line, 'A bunny for my honey', at the start of the wonderfully dexterous 'Drum Crazy' routine in Charles Walters's Easter Parade (1948), which concludes with Astaire tucking the rabbit under his arm and sashaying out of the door. There's nothing so elegant in Henry Koster's Harvey (1950), as Elwood P. Dowd (James Stewart) spends much of this adaptation of Mary Chase's hit play under the influence and under the impression that his best friend is a 6ft 3½-in invisible rabbit. Sister Veta Simmons (Oscar winner Josephine Hull) is convinced that this pooka (a benign mythological spirit from Ireland) is a sign of incipient madness and is appalled when Elwood has hit portrait painted alongside his pal.

Mr and Mrs Bunting (Bernard Horsfall and Jane Jordan Rogers) are equally sure that their daughter, Mary (Lesley Roach) is losing touch with reality when she declares that her new best friend is a giant bunny who is visible only to her (Anthony Sheppard) in

Robert Hird's Mr Horatio Knibbles (1971). This delightful tale of faith and finding your own feet can be rented from Cinema Paradiso as part of the BFI's Children's Film Foundation Bumper Box (2018).

There are two rabbits for the price of one in Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam's Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975). The first is the Trojan Rabbit that Sir Bedevere (Jones) proposes to King Arthur (Graham Chapman) as a way of sneaking into the castle of Guy de Loimbard. However, the Knights of the Round Table forget to climb inside the wooden structure, which is catapulted at them from the battlements. Fresh from this embarrassment, the knights fall foul of The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog, the harmless looking white bunny that goes for the jugular and has to be vanquished with the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.

A still from Local Hero (1983)
A still from Local Hero (1983)

The rabbit meets its fate in a more accidental manner in Bill Forsyth's Local Hero (1983). Named Trudy after MacIntyre (Peter Riegert) and Oldsen (Peter Capaldi) rescue it from a misty Scottish road, the brown bunny gets to spend the night on the backseat of their car before being found a comfortable chair in which to recuperate at the MacAskill Arms. Unfortunately, that night, genial mine host Gordon Urquhart (Denis Lawson) serves casserole du lapin for supper. It's more a case of a rabbit appearing in 'It's a Good Life', the Joe Dante-directed episode of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983). Having given young Anthony (Jeremy Licht) a lift home, Helen Foley (Kathleen Quinlan) is treated to a magic show by his Uncle Walt (Kevin McCarthy). The first time he dips into his top hat, he pulls out an adorable white bunny. Second time, he retrieves a mutated monster, which was fiendishly designed by Rob Bottin.

Jean Cadoret (Gérard Depardieu) has plans to breed rabbits on the farm he buys in 1920s Provence. But César Soubeyran (Yves Montand) isn't happy about the booming bunny population and takes matters into his own hands in Claude Berri's exceptional adaptation of Marcel Pagnol's Jean de Florette, which he followed with Manon des Sources (both 1986). A similar sense of mounting dread surrounds the little white rabbit that Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) buys for his daughter in Adrian Lyne's Fatal Attraction (1987). But Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) didn't get her 'bunny boiler' reputation from nowhere.

Nine year-old Celia Carmichael (Rebecca Smart) is determined to prevent the authorities from taking her white rabbit, Murgatroyd, during the infestation that is compared to the Red Scare in 1950s Adelaide in Ann Turner's psychological allegory, Celia (1988). However, the plague that gave its name to Philip Noyce's Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002) results in Celia losing her pet and being menaced in her dreams by the blue, pointy-eared monsters called Hobyahs.

This historical crisis informed Russell Braddon's book, The Year of the Angry Rabbit, which was the inspiration for William F. Claxton's Night of the Lepus (1972). Often ranked among the great turkeys in screen history, this ridiculously unscary picture combined actors in bunny suits with rabbits photographed against miniature sets for its 'special' effects. Bafflingly, this cult favourite isn't available on disc in the UK. But, if you need a paschal chiller, Cinema Paradiso presents for your delectation Chad Ferrin's Easter Bunny, Kill Kill (2006), Carl Lindbergh's Bunnyman Massacare (2011), the Snygg Brothers' The Beaster Bunny (2014), and Chelsea Stardust's Satanic Panic (2019).

Hot Cross Bunnies

A still from The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) With Michael Caine
A still from The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) With Michael Caine

Notwithstanding the age of its protagonist, Celia is not for children. Nor is Peter Jackson's Meet the Feebles (1989), a savage puppet satire in which Harry the rabbit, a leading light in the Feeble Variety Hour troupe, has his mystery illness exposed by scurrilous reporter F.W. Fly. Much more wholesome is Bean Bunny, who keeps popping up at various intervals in Brian Henson's The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992). He's first seen barging into Charles Dickens (Gonzo) and is later hailed by Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine) to fetch a turkey twice his size on Christmas morning.

The leporiphobic Bishop Len Brennan (Jim Norton) would have no such truck with bunnies, as he demonstrates when the parochial house on Craggy Island is overrun after Fr Dougal McGuire (Ardal O'Hanlon) acquires a pet named Sampras in 'The Plague' episode of Father Ted (1995-98). The Easter Bunny similarly haunts Theodore Logan (Keanu Reeves) in Pete Hewitt's Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey (1991), as he pursues him for making his brother cry a decade earlier by stealing his basket of candy.

Further proof that it's unwise to tamper with somebody else's gift is provided by Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) in Simon West's Con Air (1997). The paroled Army Ranger is mocked for his choice of present for the daughter he has never seen. Yet, he tries to stay calm while asking Billy Bedlum Bedford (Nick Chinlund) to 'put the bunny back in the box'. By the time Poe gets home, however, the stuffed toy has gone from being pristine in its plastic wrapping to sodden and bedraggled, after having been held at gunpoint and recovered from a storm drain.

Staying within the criminal fraternity, Jonathan Glazer's Sexy Beast (2000) shows retired gangster Gary 'Gal' Dove (Ray Winstone) being troubled by a dream involving an Uzi-toting rabbit on a white mule. This bipedal creature later returns in an even more menacing form that will remind many viewers of Frank, the rabbit who might well be a time-travelling demon, in Richard Kelly's Donnie Darko (2001). Frank informs the teenage Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) that the world will end in 28 days, six hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds. During encounters such as the one at the Aero cinema, Frank also coaxes Donnie into performing such wilful acts as the flooding of his old high school and the torching of a motivational speaker's home. However, their liaison comes to a head on Halloween.

A still from Rabbit Test (1978)
A still from Rabbit Test (1978)

Bud Clay (Vincent Gallo) stops off at a pet shop to ask about the life expectancy of rabbits in Gallo's controversial sophomore outing, The Brown Bunny (2003). Just as tangentially, former Playboy Bunny Shelley Darlingson (Anna Faris) is turfed out of Hugh Hefner's mansion on her 27th birthday and becomes den mother to the Phi Iota Mu sorority in Fred Wolf's The House Bunny (2008). And, before anyone asks, neither Joan Rivers's comedy, Rabbit Test (1978), nor Ian Denyer's documentary, Rabbit Fever (2006), have anything whatsoever to do with bunnies.

24 Carrot Classics

If you fancy having your mind messed with this Easter, check out the rabbit sitcom interlude in David Lynch's Inland Empire (2006), which was hived off from Rabbits (2002), an eight-part puzzler that was published on the director's website. There's nothing like a laughter track over unfunny dialogue to make you squirm in your seat. You'll also need to pay attention in Robert Shaye's The Last Mimzy (2007), as a stuffed rabbit enhances the intelligence of two children, Noah (Chris O'Neill) and Emma Wilder (Rhiannon Leigh Wryn), who think the have come across a cache of toys, when they have actually been entrusted with hi-tec devices from a distant future that give the Seattle twosome awesome powers.

A still from The Velveteen Rabbit (2009)
A still from The Velveteen Rabbit (2009)

Beloved of generations of children, Margery Williams's 1922 book, The Velveteen Rabbit, was filmed by Michael Landon, Jr. in 2009. Chandler Wakefield voices the toy rabbit who hopes to become real through the love of young Toby (Matthew Harbour), who feels neglected by his workaholic father. In Friends (1994-2003), Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry) buys a copy of the book for Kathy (Paget Brewster) in 'The One With the Dirty Girl' (Season 4, Episode 6) and the title is also mentioned when Monica (Courteney Cox) buys Chandler a pink bunny costume in 'The One With the Halloween Party' (Season 8, Episode 6). And there's another Velveteen connection in Tom Seidman's The Christmas Bunny (2010), as taciturn foster child Julia (Sophie Bolen) loves story so much that she seeks the help of elderly neighbour, Betsy Ross (Florence Henderson), to nurse the injured rabbit she finds in the woods on Christmas Eve.

On the bleaker side, Elang (Abimana Aryasatya) keeps having nightmares about a woman in a car with a man in a rabbit suit in Upi Avianto's Indonesian chiller, Belenggu (aka Shackled, 2012). When he meets Jingga (Imelda Therinne) in a bar, however, he learns a disturbing truth that leads to a confrontation with a knife-wielding maniac dressed in fluffy pink and white. Also, spare a thought for poor old Bunzo in David and Nathan Zellner's Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (2014), as his owner (Rinko Kikuchi) abandons him on a seat on the Tokyo Metro after deciding to fly to Minnesota to find the buried loot from the Coen Brothers' classic, Fargo (1996).

It's a shape-shifting hare that causes the commotion in Robert Eggers's The Witch (2015), as 16th-century siblings Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw) and Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) are surprised by the critter in the woods. Remaining in the Stuart era, the childless Queen Anne (Oscar winner Olivia Colman) surrounds herself with 17 rabbits as a form of consolation in Yorgos Lanthimos's The Favourite (2018). Seizing her opportunity to find a niche at court, Abigail Hill (Emma Stone) makes a fuss of Hildebrand and wins an influential friend.

A still from Jojo Rabbit (2019)
A still from Jojo Rabbit (2019)

Another rabbit provides solace in Niki Caro's The Zookeeper's Wife (2017), as Antonina Zabinska (Jessica Chastain) offers traumatised Jewish fugitive Urszula (Shira Haas) a furball to stroke while they discuss being alone in wartime Warsaw. In Germany, 10 year-old Johannes Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis) can't bring himself to kill a brown bunny while at Hitler Youth camp and winds up getting a new nickname in Taika Waititi's Jojo Rabbit (2019). However, when he make an invisible friend of Adolf Hitler (Waititi), he's encouraged to 'be the rabbit' because 'the humble bunny can outwit all of his enemies. He's brave and sneaky and strong.' Sadly, it's not currently possible to see Caroline Link's adaptation of Judith Kerr's classic novel, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (2019).

The woods provide an Edenic hideaway for 13 year-old Tom (Thomazin Mackenzie) and her father, Will (Ben Foster), an Iraqi war veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder in Debra Granik's Leave No Trace (2018). When they are separated, however, they are relocated to a Christmas tree farm in Oregon, where Tom gets to learn about keeping and showing rabbits at a 4-H youth meeting. Director Jordan Peele wouldn't have enjoyed the experience, however, as he has no time for rabbits. Indeed, he once claimed, 'if you put a rabbit brain in a human body, you have Michael Myers'.

And this from the man who voiced Bunny, the blue and green carnival prize in Josh Cooley's Toy Story 4 (2019). However, Peele proves true to his word in Us (2019), which opens with a long shot of 11 rows of rabbits in cages and continues to make sly references throughout. Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) wears a rabbit t-shirt, while Red (Lupita Nyong'o) does nasty things to a stuffed rabbit in a cabin. We'll say no more, but the Tethered and rabbits have more in common than it first appears.

Cinema Paradiso's Bunny Checklist

It seems a shame to limit ourselves to the aforementioned movie rabbits when plenty more make cameo appearances in the films on offer in the Cinema Paradiso catalogue.

How many of the following do you remember? Order now to revisit your favourites or discover a new leporine pal

this Easter.

Maybe we've missed the bunny you like best. Why not tell us about it on Twitter or Instagram?

  1. Of Mice and Men (Lewis Milestone, 1939) - George (Burgess Meredith) keeps Lenny (Lon Chaney, Jr.) happy with stories about living on a farm with rabbits. John Steinbeck's novel was also filmed in 1992, with director Gary Sinise playing George to John Malkovich's Lenny.
  2. Barbarella (Roger Vadim, 1968) - Barbarella (Jane Fonda) double takes as she sees blue rabbits hopping around Durand Durand's crashed Alpha 1 spaceship.
  3. Bedknobs and Broomsticks (Robert Stevenson, 1971) – Eglantine Price (Angela Lansbury) turns both Charlie Rawlins (Ian Weighill) and Professor Emelius Browne (David Tomlinson) into white rabbits.
  4. The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (Paul Newman, 1972) - Matilda Hunsdorfer (Nell Potts) loves her pet rabbit, even though it annoys her mother, Beatrice (Joanne Woodward).
  5. Pipkins (1973-81) - Hartley Hare (voiced with a West Country accent by Nigel Plaskitt) was a regular in this pre-school infotainment programme.
  6. The Rescuers (Wolfgang Reitherman, John Lounsbery and Art Stevens, 1977) – Bernard (Bob Newhart) and Bianca (Eva Gabor) meet Deadeye (George Lindsey), a rabbit who fishes in the swamp.
  7. Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas (Jim Henson, 1977) - George (Richard Hunt) and Melissa Rabbit (Jerry Nelson) dance at the talent show.
  8. 9 to 5 (Colin Higgins, 1980) - There's a rabbit among the animated creatures when Violet Newstead (Lily Tomlin) imagines herself to be Snow White.
  9. A Christmas Story (Bob Clark, 1983) - Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) is mortified when he receives a pink bunny onesie with matching slippers from his aunt.
  10. Romancing the Stone (Robert Zemeckis, 1984) - The object of the quest is hidden inside a ceramic rabbit.
  11. Real Genius (Martha Coolidge, 1985) - Chris Knight (Val Kilmer) congratulates Dr Meredith (Severn Danden) on his choice of bunny slippers.
  12. Akira (Katsuhiro Otomo, 1988) - While Tetsuo (Nozomu Sasaki) is on the psychiatric ward, he has a nightmare involving a rabbit and a teddy bear in a red car.
  13. Steel Magnolias (Herbert Ross, 1989) - During the climactic Easter Egg Hunt, Sammy (Kevin J. O'Connor) wears an Easter bunny suit.
  14. Cry-Baby (John Waters, 1990) - The Squares get to bunny hop down the street.
  15. Rock-a-Doodle (Don Bluth, 1991) - Minnie (Louise Chamis) is a rabbit at the farm where Chanticleer (Glen Campbell) greets the dawn with his crowing.
  16. The Nightmare Before Christmas (Henry Sellick, 1993) - Jack Skellington's minions accidentally kidnap the Easter Bunny and it leaps out of a sack in bemusement.
  17. Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994) - The twist sequence with Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) takes place at Jack Rabbit Slims.
  18. Rusty: The Great Rescue (Shuki Levy, 1998) - Bandit the rabbit (Rodney Dangerfield) helps Rusty the beagle (Matthew Lawrence) prevent grasping cousins from closing down an animal shelter.
  19. Lost in Space (Stephen Hopkins, 1998) - Dr Judy Robinson (Heather Graham) draws a rabbit on the spaceship window for Major Don West (Matt Le Blanc).
  20. The Matrix (The Wachowskis, 1999) - Neo (Keanu Reeves) is instructed by his computer to 'Follow the White Rabbit'.
  21. One Piece (1999-2016) - Seen in the long-running anime series and its spin-off films, Carrot is a rabbit member of the Warrior Beast Tribe and the Inuarashi Musketeer Squad.
  22. Fantasia 2000 (2000) - Donald Duck is overrun by bunnies as they leave Noah's Ark in the 'Pomp and Circumstance' sequence.
  23. Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001) - The young Amélie Poulain (Flora Guiet) photographs a rabbit-shaped cloud.
  24. Kermit's Swamp Years (David Gumpel, 2002) - Jack the Rabbit (Steve Whitmire) sings a song in the pet shop about why it's better to belong to a caring owner than be free and alone.
  25. Cabin Fever (Eli Roth, 2003) - An old man in a bunny suit appears at the hospital in a homage to the man in the bear suit in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980). He's there in one form or another in the sequels and Travis Z's 2016 remake, too.
  26. Happy Tree Friends (2003-04) - Cuddles is a yellow rabbit with pink cheeks, a white fluffy quiff and pink bunny slippers. He appears both in the series and the spin-off film, Happy Tree Friends: Winter Break (Kenn Navarro, 2006).
  27. Fantastic Mr Fox (Wes Anderson, 2009) - Mr Fox (George Clooney) is helped with food by Rabbit (Mario Batali), who is a chef.
  28. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (David Yates, 2009) - A rabbit appears on a magician's head and vanishes when he lowers his top hat in the mechanical sign outside Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes.
  29. Summer Wars (Mamoru Hosoda, 2009) - The fighting champion of the virtual world is the rabbit avatar, King Kazma.
  30. My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (2010-19) - Fluttershy has a pet rabbit named Angel.
  31. Welcome to the Space Show (Kôji Masunari, 2010) - Five elementary school children go looking for the class rabbit, who is named Pyon-Kichi.
  32. The Walking Dead (2010-20) - In Season Four, a knife-wielding Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino) does unspeakable things to some baby rabbits.
  33. The Amazing World of Gumball (2011-19) - Anais (Kyla Rae Kowalewski) is the pink rabbit sister of blue cat Gumball Watterson.
  34. Littlest Pet Shop: Little Pets, Big Adventures (Joel Dickie, 2012) - Buttercream Sundae is the yellow rabbit who owns the candy store.
  35. Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess (Jamie Mitchell, 2012) - Princess Sofia (Ariel Winter) uses the Amulet of Avalor to communicate with Clover (Wayne Brady), a rabbit who would rather eat than be cuddled.
  36. Khumba: A Zebra's Tale (Anthony Silverston, 2013) - Aussie Riverine Rabbit (Jeff Bennett) befriends the half-striped zebra in Ying's Wildlife Park.
  37. Enchantimals: Finding Home (Karen J. Lloyd, 2017) - Bree Bunny (Maryke Hendrikse) is a pink rabbit with who can also be found in Enchantimals: Welcome to Wonderwood (Homeros Gilani, 2019), in which she's voiced by Rachel Butera.
  38. The Loud House: A Very Loud Christmas (2017) - Gary is the lazy pet of Luan Loud (Cristina Pucelli) and lives in her hat, when he's not eating or blushing because of his droppings.
  39. The Highway Rat (Jeroen Jaspaert, 2017) - A rabbit (Frances de la Tour) has a basket of clover stolen by the greedy rodent (David Tennant), who feeds it to his horse (Rob Brydon).
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