Beethoven (film)

Beethoven is a 1992 American family comedy film, directed by Brian Levant and starring Charles Grodin and Bonnie Hunt as George and Alice Newton, respectively. It is the first installment of the Beethoven film series.

Theatrical release poster
Directed byBrian Levant
Written byEdmond Dantès
Amy Holden Jones
Produced byJoe Medjuck
Michael C. Gross
CinematographyVictor J. Kemper
Edited byWilliam D. Gordean
Sheldon Kahn
Music byRandy Edelman
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • April 3, 1992 (1992-04-03) (United States)
Running time
87 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$18 million[citation needed]
Box office$147.2 million[2]

The film was written by John Hughes (under the pseudonym Edmond Dantès) and Amy Holden Jones. Its story centers on a St. Bernard dog named after the German composer of the same name and owned by the Newton family. It costars Nicholle Tom as Ryce Newton, Christopher Castile as Ted Newton, Sarah Rose Karr as Emily Newton, Stanley Tucci as Vernon, Oliver Platt as Harvey, and Dean Jones as Dr. Herman Varnick.


A group of puppies are stolen from a pet store by two thieves. A St. Bernard puppy escapes and sneaks into the Newton family's home. The workaholic father, George, does not want the responsibility of owning a dog, but his wife, Alice, and their children, Ryce, Ted, and Emily, convince him. They give him the name “Beethoven” when Emily plays a portion of Ludwig van Beethoven's Fifth Symphony on the piano and he barks along to it.

Beethoven grows into a fully grown, adult dog and helps Ryce, Ted, and Emily overcome their problems: he helps Ryce talk to a boy she has a crush on, scares off bullies for Ted, and saves Emily's life when she falls into an irresponsible babysitter's swimming pool. George, jealous of the affection Beethoven receives, feels neglected as his family fawns over him. His antics ruin a barbecue he is hosting for Brad and Brie Wilson, unpleasant venture capitalists looking to invest and swindle him out of his car air freshener firm.

The Newtons take Beethoven to a veterinarian named Dr. Herman Varnick for a routine medical examination and immunizations. They are unaware that he is involved in unethical and deadly animal experiments. He tells George of a supposed mental instability among St. Bernards making them potentially dangerous to humans and advises him to watch Beethoven closely for any sign of viciousness. He actually requires large-skulled dogs such as St. Bernards for an ammunition test.

Dr. Varnick visits the Newton home under the guise of doing a follow-up exam on Beethoven. He puts fake blood on his arm, cuts and tears his shirt sleeve, and hits Beethoven until he leaps on him. He pretends to be in agony, warning George that Beethoven may be turning aggressive and must be euthanized or he will have no choice but to press charges. Emily, who saw Dr. Varnick hit him, protests that the attack was fake, but George, fearing for his family's safety, reluctantly takes him to Dr. Varnick's office. It is on the way there that George discovers his own affections for him: he remembers his father had to take their dog to the vet to be euthanized and he never forgave him for it. He fears that his family will hate him now for taking Beethoven to be euthanized. When he returns home with the empty leash and collar, his family leaves the dinner table rather than remain with him, proving his fears true.

After being upset, the Newtons go to Dr. Varnick's office, but he tells them that Beethoven has already been euthanized. However, George remembers that Dr. Varnick's receptionist told him that Beethoven would not be euthanized until the next day. George then notices that Dr. Varnick has no bite marks on his arm and assaults him. The Newtons follow him to his warehouse. Beethoven breaks free but is recaptured by Dr. Varnick's two associates, Harvey and Vernon, while Alice calls the police. George crashes through the skylight just as Dr. Varnick prepares to shoot Beethoven. Before he can, however, a captive Jack Russell Terrier bites him in the crotch, causing him to fire a shot in the air. After hearing it, Ted drives the car through the door and runs it into a cart, launching numerous syringes into Dr. Varnick and sedating him. As the Newtons reunite with Beethoven and free all the captive dogs, they notice Harvey and Vernon trying to escape and send the dogs after them. They escape into a junkyard, only to be attacked by a pack of Dobermans guarding it.

Dr. Varnick, Harvey, and Vernon are arrested for animal abuse. The Newtons are praised as heroes by the news and George takes a new liking to Beethoven. Ryce also gets a phone call from her crush. The Newtons then go to sleep, saying good night to Beethoven and all of the dogs they rescued, who are sleeping in the master bedroom.



The dogs featured in the film were owned and trained by Eleanor Keaton.[3] Beethoven is played by canine actor Chris, who had 12 doubles.[4] Principal photography began on May 1, 1991, in Los Angeles, California.


Critical response

Although the film received mixed reviews from critics, it received acclaim by audiences. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, it has an approval rating of 29%, based on reviews from 28 critics, with an average score of 4.6/10. The critical consensus reads "Fluffy and incorrigible, Beethoven is a good boy who deserves a better movie."[5] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave Beethoven a grade A.[6]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of four, writing in his review, "this is not the sort of entertainment I scour the movie pages for, hoping desperately for a new film about a cute dog. Nor did I find anything particularly new in "Beethoven", although I concede that the filmmakers secured an admirable dog for the title role, and that Charles Grodin, who is almost always amusing, has what fun can be had playing the grumpy dad."[7]

Box office

The film grossed $57,114,049 in North America and $90,100,000 in other territories, for a total of $147.2 million worldwide.[8][4][2]


Genesis Awards

In 1993, The Humane Society of the United States nominated Beethoven for Best Feature Film.[9]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1993 Best Feature Film Won
Young Artist Awards

In 1993, Sarah Rose Karr, Nicholle Tom, and Christopher Castile were nominated for their roles in Beethoven.[10]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1993 Sarah Rose Karr Best Young Actress Under Ten in a Motion Picture Nominated
Best Family Motion Picture Nominated
Nicholle Tom Best Young Actress Starring in a Motion Picture Nominated
Christopher Castile Best Young Actor Starring in a Motion Picture Nominated


The soundtrack to the film was released on December 15, 1992.

1."Opening"Randy Edelman4:20
2."Discovering the Neighborhood"Randy Edelman2:24
3."Ciao, Baby"Randy Edelman0:40
4."Ted and the Bullies"Randy Edelman2:36
5."Beethoven to the Rescue"Randy Edelman2:10
6."A Stroll Through Town"Randy Edelman1:41
7."Puppy Snatchers"Randy Edelman3:01
8."The Dog Has to Go"Randy Edelman2:03
9."Table Spin"Randy Edelman0:49
10."Sparkie's Chase"Randy Edelman1:53
11."George Gets Turned On"Randy Edelman1:29
12."Family In Pursuit"Randy Edelman1:38
13."The Break-In"Randy Edelman1:51
14."Our Heroes"Randy Edelman2:19
15."The Dogs Let Loose"Randy Edelman1:25
16."A Sad Return"Randy Edelman2:19
17."Ryce's Theme"Randy Edelman1:30
18."Roll Over Beethoven (written by Chuck Berry)"Paul Shaffer and The World's Most Dangerous Band4:43
Total length:38:51[11]

Sequels and spin-offs

The film was followed by four sequels and three standalone movies using the Beethoven name and the premise of a St. Bernard but not mentioning previous characters such as the Newton family. Beethoven's 2nd was released to theaters in 1993. The remaining sequels were direct-to-video films: Beethoven's 3rd (2000), Beethoven's 4th (2001), Beethoven's 5th (2003), Beethoven's Big Break (2008), Beethoven's Christmas Adventure (2011), and Beethoven's Treasure Tail (2014). An animated TV series was also created around the films that debuted in 1994. Dean Jones voiced George Newton in it after playing Dr. Herman Varnick in the film and Nicholle Tom reprised her role, voicing Ryce Newton. None of the sequels or related media thereof featured the involvement of Hughes.


  1. ^ "BEETHOVEN | British Board of Film Classification". Archived from the original on 2019-05-01. Retrieved 2018-10-08.
  2. ^ a b "Beethoven (1992)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved June 26, 2011.
  3. ^ Galloway, Doug (October 21, 1998). "Eleanor Norris Keaton". Variety. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  4. ^ a b Wilmington, Michael (April 3, 1992). "MOVIE REVIEW : 'Beethoven': Lightweight Tail-Wagger". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  5. ^ "Beethoven (1992)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved November 21, 2022.
  6. ^ "Cinemascore :: Movie Title Search". Archived from the original on 2018-12-20. Retrieved 2018-10-08.
  7. ^ Ebert, Roger (April 3, 1992). "Beethoven". Archived from the original on 2014-03-04. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
  8. ^ Dutka, Elaine (April 7, 1992). "Weekend Box Office : 'White Men' Outjumps 'Basic Instinct'". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2012-11-07. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  9. ^ "Genesis Awards: 1993 Winners". IMDb. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
  10. ^ "Young Artist Awards: 1993 Awards". IMDb. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
  11. ^ "Beethoven Soundtrack". The OST. Retrieved April 9, 2018.

External links