The best part of David Lynch’s ‘Dune’ movie is the House Atreides pug

Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Atreides in the 1984 version of 'Dune.'
Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Atreides in the 1984 version of ‘Dune.’ Universal Pictures
  • David Lynch’s 1984 version of “Dune” isn’t perfect, but the highlight of the film is the pug.
  • The dog, part of House Atreides, appears in numerous scenes, and even goes into battle.
  • Herbert’s 1965 book didn’t feature the pug, and neither does Denis Villeneuve’s new adaptation.

Few things bring me greater joy than the random pug in David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation of “Dune.”

Cheerful, adorable, and somewhat unnecessary, the pug is a member of the noble House of Atreides, and seems to be the faithful companion to both Duke Leto (Jurgen Prochnow) and his son, Paul (Kyle MacLachlan).

Viewers first see the dog while the Atreides are still on their home planet of Caladan, and he remains with the family as they travel to and arrive on the desert planet Arrakis.

Kyle MacLachlan, Jurgen Prochnow, and Francesca Annis in the 1984 version of 'Dune.'
Jurgen Prochnow and Francesca Annis in the 1984 version of ‘Dune.’ Universal Pictures

The pug is even present during the Harkonnen and Sardaukar attack on Atreides-held Arrakis. During a particularly memorable scene, Gurney Halleck (Patrick Stewart) leads a battalion of Atreides soldiers into the melee with the pug strapped to his chest.

Patrick Stewart (center) with the pug in the 1984 version of 'Dune.'
Patrick Stewart (center) with the pug in the 1984 version of ‘Dune.’ Universal Pictures

And although most of the Atreides forces are killed during the battle, the pug somehow survives, making his final appearance during Paul’s dramatic knife fight with Feyd-Rautha (Sting) at the end of the movie.

As a diehard fan of “Dune,” I’ve long wondered why the pug was included in Lynch’s film. The filmmaker himself has never really explained why he chose to feature the pup (Lynch later disavowed the film entirely), and there’s no mention of an Atreides pug in Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel, which provided the source material for Lynch’s “Dune” and Denis Villeneuve’s brilliant new adaptation, out October 22.

Maybe the pug in Lynch’s version was meant to be a historical reference, since, according to the American Kennel Club, pugs were first bred for emperors of ancient China and their courts, and were later favored by monarchies in Holland and Britain.

It’d make sense, then, that the Atreides would have a pug as a pet – even though “Dune” takes place thousands of years in the future, the Atreides family is still considered high-ranking members of the Imperial court, and a powerful House in their own right.

But even if that was the rationale for including the pug, his inclusion in the film’s key scenes still raises more questions than answers. For instance, would seasoned warrior Gurney really carry the pug into battle? How did the pug survive the fall of House Atreides and Paul’s journey amongst the Fremen to become the Kwisatz Haderach? Do other Houses in “Dune” have dogs?

It seems like the significance of the pug in the 1984 “Dune” will remain a fun little mystery for now. Regardless, it’s a joy to see him trotting through the halls of the Atreides family palace on Caladan, or sitting calmly on Paul’s lap as the family travels to Arrakis in a spaceship. And the dog playing Pug Atreides seems like an absolute delight, taking his responsibilities as an actor as seriously as his costars in Lynch’s “Dune.”

While the pug would have been (unfortunately) out of place in Villeneuve’s epic, awe-inspiring adaptation, Lynch’s film is already hilariously campy – the jovial House Atreides pug is simply the cherry on top.