The Easter Bunny and his brethren have long been a part of our pop-cultural landscape. In film, TV, and literature, a long line of irresistible, cotton-tailed characters have imparted valuable life lessons to young and old alike — beyond being good at delivering candy. From that silly cereal rabbit’s lesson (”Trix are for kids!”) to the more ominous warnings of Donnie Darko’s looming sidekick, Frank, these long-eared lagomorphs come with a tale to tell. When you think about it, everything we really need to know we learned from rabbits.
Fatal Attraction rabbit
Little Ellen’s bunny takes the hit for Michael Douglas’ infidelity after what turns out to be a not-so-harmless fling. Glenn Close cooks up a little revenge stew in this film that scared the fidelity into men.
LESSON: Listening to Madame Butterfly doesn’t mean you’re sophisticated. It means you’re crazy.
This patty-cake playing sexy cartoon bunny voiced by Kathleen Turner not only had Roger Rabbit falling at her paws, but humans, too.
LESSON: Men will drool over almost anything, including cartoon rabbits.
The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog (from Monty Python and the Holy Grail)
Rabbits tend to be quiet grass-eating pacifists. Not this homicidal psycho monster bunny, which uses its nasty, big, pointy teeth to decapitate any knights who dare to approach. Run away!
LESSON: Every cute rabbit in the world is secretly waiting to bite your head off. —Darren Franich
The Tortoise and the Hare
Who hasn’t gotten a bit off-track because of a little daydreaming or a well-deserved nap? Most of us can make up the slack before quitting time. Not so in Aesop’s famous fable. This presumptuous hare learns his lesson in a way that rivals Ethan Frome for cruelly ironic outcomes. He loses to a turtle. A turtle!
LESSON: Confidence is bad.
Okay, fine. His best friend is an invisible six-foot-three-and-a-half-inch rabbit, but is that any reason to try to put Jimmy Stewart’s beloved Elwood P. Dodd character away? In this 1950 crowd-pleasing film, Harvey the Rabbit may be invisible, but he’s also thoughtful and giving. Together, this lovable pair teach us that it’s better to be pleasant than smart.
LESSON: Hallucinations are good.
In Beatrix Potter’s cautionary tale, the irresponsible Mrs. Rabbit leaves her son, Peter, and daughters, Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail, at home while she goes shopping. Peter ignores his mother’s orders, sneaks into Mr. McGregor’s garden and ravages all the vegetables. The angry gardener spots Peter and tries to kill him.
LESSON: Vegetables are hazardous to your health.
ADDITIONAL LESSON: Children’s books are scary.
Step by step, this fuzzy-faced soft rocker hopped up the charts in the early ’80s. Oh, he loved a rainy night, oh, yes he do. He loved a rainy night, and loved us, too. And we loved him because — showers washed all our cares away…we woke up to a sunny day!
LESSON: Rainy nights can make you high. Ooh. Ooh.
Before Flavor Flav lifted the idea, it was White Rabbit who wore an oversized clock and led women astray. Whether it’s Lewis Carroll or Grace Slick telling the story, it seems that it’s best not to follow in the footsteps of a tardy, waist-coated rabbit down the rabbit hole. It can get pretty trippy. Go ask Alice. I think she’ll know.
LESSON: Just say no.
More hip-hop than hippity-hop, this rappin’ Rabbit (played by Eminem) showed everyone in 8 Mile and the 313 that you can rap your way out of the trailer park, even if you are white.
LESSON: Mekhi Phifer is cool.
The Velveteen Rabbit
This rabbit may have been stuffed, but the love he felt for the boy was real. Still, that didn’t stop the boy from abandoning him. The rabbit cried real tears and the magical Nursery Fairy (!) turned it into a real, live bunny. One day the boy spots the former Velveteen Rabbit in the forest and, with longing, remembers his old friend. The rabbit, still harboring resentment, decides that it’s too little, too late, snubs the boy and hops off into the forest.
LESSON: Rabbits are vindictive.
The House Bunny
Ousted from the Playboy Mansion, Anna Faris’ Miss November wannabe finds herself in a college sorority with a bunch of girls (including Rumer Willis) who are desperately in need of slutty makeovers, only to find out that she actually needs a smarty makeover to win the heart of Colin Hanks.
LESSON: Hot isn’t enough. Smart isn’t enough. Now you have to be both.
Fiver, Big-Wig, and Hazel from Watership Down
The bunnies in Richard Adams’ first novel have rich complicated lives including a higher-power belief system. They even went on a grand adventure to find a new home, learning many hard lessons along the way.
LESSON: Bunnies just may have enough going on to warrant creating a Secret Lives of the English Bunny show —Abby West
The Cadbury Bunny
Like Santa’s ho, ho, ho‘s to Christmas, the sound produced by this confusing clucking bunny is the definitive symbol of the Easter season. Disturbing as the nature-bending chocolate egg-laying concept may be, who can call science foul when you’re arguing with an adorable, snow-white ball of candy-producing fur?
LESSON: When it comes to Easter and great commercials, truly nobunny knows better than the Cadbury Bunny. —Sandra Gonzalez
In Nick Park’s delightful Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit inventor Wallace and his dog, Gromit, keep pesky bunnies out of some prized gardens with a Bun Vac that even PETA would approve, but that doesn’t stop the mysterious lycanthropic beast from pouncing on competition veggies at night.
LESSON: Counterparts Davey and Goliath will always be the reigning champs of stop-motion claymation life lessons.
The Energizer Bunny
This rabbit has been annoying us since 1989.
LESSON: Rabbits are not always cute. Sometimes they’re just annoying.
The Of Mice and Men rabbits
The last time John Steinbeck’s classic novel was depicted on the big screen, John Malkovich and Gary Sinise played the Depression-era migrant workers in California. All Malkovich’s simple-minded, big guy really wanted was to live out the rest of his life on a farm and tend the rabbits with George because he loved the little cotton-tailed cuties so very much. And George loved Lennie so very much.
LESSON: Love kills.
Rabbit from Winnie the Pooh
The Tao of Pooh uses A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh characters to explain the principles of Taoism using Rabbit as an example. Rabbit’s overly practical ways illustrate that busy and unnecessary exertion can interfere with the flow of happiness.
LESSON: You’re not lazy, you’re a Taoist.
Frank the Bunny, Donnie Darko
Donnie Darko’s imaginary frenemy has a deliriously warped face that suggests Alien Autopsy crossed with Where the Wild Things Are. But things get really freaky when Frank opens his mouth and brings bad tidings of a coming apocalypse.
Lesson: Rabbits can predict the future, but they’ll only tell you about it if you’re a schizophrenic teenager who stops taking your medication. —D.F.
For more than 50 years this determined hare has chased after innocent children, trying to steal some of their precious fruity cereal. Most of the time he fails miserably — although, you have to hand it to him for his determination — leading the kids to squeal the now-iconic catchphrase ”Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids!”
Lesson: Rabbits are not to be trusted, especially when it comes to sweet processed breakfast foods —Emily Exton
The best-loved and most recognizable rabbit of them all, Bugs Bunny continuously outwits his opponents — Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, and Daffy Duck — with the greatest of ease. How does he do it? Good, old-fashioned trickery and deceit, topped off with a dollop of sarcasm.
LESSON: Being a smart aleck is more rewarding than being smart.