Culture Trips

From Watership Down to Sexy Beast: the best rabbits in pop culture | Culture

What would be the opposite of the gift-dispensing Easter bunny? How about a kleptomaniac who repeatedly targets his neighbour’s vegetable patch? Peter and his fellow Beatrix Potter creations have been scoffing Mr McGregor’s carrots for more than 100 years; his atrocities peaked in 2018 when he began speaking in the voice of James Corden.

General Woundwort from Watership Down (1978)
Available on DVD

While the film’s Grim Reaper-like Black Rabbit has caused nightmares aplenty, at the centre of Watership Down’s dark 180BPM heart is General Woundwort, whose scalpel-sharp claws, psychotic personality and colourless eyes indicate that he belongs not in a hutch, but in a flat-roof pub.

The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Hopping around the cave’s mouth is a small white buck that Tim the Enchanter (John Cleese) describes as a killer. As Bors (Terry Gilliam) advances to kick it aside, the floppy-eared terror decapitates him and then many of his fellow knights in a bloodbath worthy of David Cronenberg.

To be Frank ... Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone and Frank in Donnie Darko.
To be Frank … Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone and Frank in Donnie Darko. Photograph: Allstar/Cinetext/20th Century Fox

If you thought your teens were a struggle, imagine having to contend with someone in a rabbit costume who tells you the world is ending. Is “Frank” real or a side-effect of the time warping that Donnie experiences? Either way, we don’t want him in our garden.

Night of the Lepus (1972)
Available on Blu-ray

This misfire may be the reason we haven’t seen a resurgence of 70s nature-run-amok movies. The film is so ashamed of its killer rabbit premise that it keeps the villains off the poster. But these ferocious burrowers can leap through glass – so play your Chas & Dave records at your peril.

Eighty one years old this July, Mel Blanc’s Bugs might be the most lasting realisation of the rabbit-as-trickster deity. Able to outwit anyone who wants to cook, stuff or scam him – most notably gun-nut Elmer Fudd – perhaps it’s Bugs who should be heralded as the true “rabbit god”.

Miss Rabbit from Peppa Pig (2004)

Mummy Rabbit’s hardworking twin seems to prop up the gig economy of Peppa Pig’s home town. Active jobs on her CV include firefighter, ice-cream vendor, librarian, cabbie and front-of-house staff at the shop on the moon. A much more realistic depiction of how you have to graft and graft to pay the rent than that charlatan Thumper from Bambi.

Uzi think he is ... Sexy Beast.
Uzi think he is … Sexy Beast.

The nightmare from Sexy Beast (2000)

Almost as terrifying as Don Logan – whose temper was based on Ben Kingsley’s grandmother – is this bipedal rabbit armed with a submachine gun. Every time Ray Winstone sits down to have his tea, it comes clanking into his subconscious, and takes aim. Scariest of all: unlike other fictional rabbits, it wears trousers.

Noodles from Monkey Dust (2003)
Available on DVD

Poor Roger Rabbit earned a living having fridges dropped on his head. But spare a thought for the Looney Tunes-esque Noodles who, in the nightmare world of Harry Thompson’s Monkey Dust, finds himself clocking on at Simplex Biosolutions: an animal test centre where he’s injected with everything from cologne to killer viruses.

Mary Chase’s Pulitzer prize-winning play (adapted into a 1950 film starring James Stewart) introduced us to bachelor Elwood P Dowd, and his friendship with an invisible 6ft rabbit. Elwood’s sister and the town are happy to feed Harvey his imaginary carrots, but a spell in a sanitorium and a shot of chemical cosh threaten to make the bunny disappear.

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