Like what we witnessed in the action movie I Am Legend and the classic Old Yeller, a canine companion’s death hurts like nothing else. Showing how unbreakable the bond between a human and his/her dog is among the best ways movie directors can appeal to our emotions.
Viewers can watch humans die in the most horrific ways without blinking, but kill a German shepherd and everything falls apart. Why is that happening? What makes us cry our hearts out when man’s best friends end up perishing? These stories will certainly bring back memories.
Old Yeller in Old Yeller (1957)
Although the pop-culture references have more or less already given out how the dog died in this movie, the moment remains powerful. The film Old Yeller proves to be timeless because it still strikes a chord to this day. A misty-eyed maiden viewing of Old Yeller is an early rite of passage at this point.
Holly’s Dog in Badlands (1973)
Typically, disobeying your father would result in getting grounded. However, young Holly Sargis’s (Sissy Spacek) psychotic father has a different kind of punishment. In Terrence Malick‘s crime classic, her father’s punishment for “running around” behind his back is a death sentence for Holly’s innocent pet dog. Soon after, she runs off for good with Kit (Martin Sheen), and by now, the reason should be pretty obvious.
Old Dan and Little Ann in Where the Red Fern Grows (1974)
Where the Red Fern Grows describes how the relationship between man and dog shapes a young boy’s coming-of-age, much like Old Yeller. Only that instead of having to sacrifice only one pet, you get two harrowing pet sacrifices instead. Young Billy’s beloved coonhound, Old Dan, suffers a grim victory against a rabid wolf. To make things worse, Little Anne, Billy’s other coonhound, dies on top of Old Dan’s grave because she was so shaken up by the loss of her companion that she lost her will to live.
Mad Max’s Dog in The Road Warrior (1981)
A brave Australian cattle dog is the Road Warrior’s only companion in the dystopian world of Mad Max. Unfortunately, Max’s poor dog gets the receiving end of a crossbow during a run-in with the marauders. It seems that the laws of the Dystopian Action Movie Handbook does not allow man’s best friend to live happily ever after.
Dinky in National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
Knowing the Griswold family, who put a major dent in their cross-country mileage before noticing that Aunt Edna had been dead in the backseat for some time, it’s not shocking that they tend to forget and disregard things from time to time. But when they discovered that they’d forgotten to untie Dink from the bumper before leaving a rest stop on their way home, it’s impossible you didn’t wince at that moment.
Sparky in Frankenweenie (1984, 2012)
For Victor and his necro-canine, Sparky, the end is indeed a happy one since the premise involves a miraculous resurrection of the dead dog. Still, there were moments that were pretty emotional.
You knew the pup is in for a bad moment when an angry mob chases Sparky into a burning windmill, thus fulfilling the Frankenstein parallel. Thankfully, the mob had a sudden change of heart and they pitch in for a communal resurrection miracle that gives Sparky a second chance in life, going from angry to gracious.
Charlie in All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989)
Seeing Charlie (Burt Reynolds) drown as he saved Ann-Marie is pretty painful, especially when you know that at that moment, the pearly gates of heaven are slowly pulling him in. You can’t help but cry too hard for Charlie while he was displaying such a heroic act.
The Golden Retriever in The Fly II (1989)
A scientist at Bartok Industries conducted some experiments on a golden retriever, which his son Martin has befriended, using some of the late Seth Brundle’s teleportation device. Though the sequel is forgettable in general, here’s one scene that is probably one of the most memorable.
After the experiment, the dog transformed into a horribly deformed mass. Just looking at the poor thing would make you want to end its misery and perform euthanasia on it.
Jay’s Dog in Revenge (1989)
You know what usually happens in any of those late-eighties or nighties thrillers, and this guy (Anthony Quinn) was not an exception. What he did is what every antagonist is expected to do in those movies: exact the meanest revenge he can think of.
When he caught his hot young wife (Madeleine Stowe) cheating on him with his best friend Jay (Kevin Costner), the guy did a lot worse than any disgraced husband you know. He didn’t only slash his wife’s face, she also dumped her in a Mexican whorehouse and had her get hooked on heroin. He also didn’t let Jay’s dog get off the hook, so he and his goons gunned down the innocent pup.
Hooch in Turner & Hooch (1989)
Unlike almost all films on this list, this movie made us believe that there’s going to be a happy ending, making the trauma brought by Hooch’s untimely death pretty heavy. Not to mention the fact that a big part of the movie is spent establishing an unusual, cross-mammal buddy-cop routine between Tom Hanks‘s character and the slobbery, endearing Douge de Bordeaux.
While most movies feature a dog protecting his master from a fellow animal, the events in Turner and Hooch got pretty more realistic. Hooch takes a bullet for his master by jumping in front of him. Then Hanks breaks down, and Hooch eventually dies.
Two Socks in Dances with Wolves (1990)
Two Socks’ ruthless murder is somewhat gut-wrenching and definitely an Oscar-baiting scene as it clinched the Best Picture award for Costner’s American epic film. Two Socks is technically a wolf. However, the bond between Dunbar (Kevin Costner) and his wolf is just as strong as any relationship between a man and a dog in all of the film industry.
Zowie in Pet Sematary Two (1992)
Of course a pet has to bite the dust before it can become a pet zombie, and in Pet Sematary 2, that undead honor goes to Zowie, a pet shot in cold blood by its owner’s sadistic stepfather. As a viewer, you know it’s only a few minutes until Zowie rises again, but the animal cruelty in this Mary Lambert film is still tough to watch.
Nicole’s Dog in Fear (1996)
In Fear, Mark Wahlberg plays David, a sadistic psycho who ropes rebellious teen Nicole (Reese Witherspoon) into a whirlwind romance that turns out into a nightmare.
Along with the graphic, unnecessary beheading of the family dog, all of the typical romance-thriller story plots are here, including David threatening Nicole’s mail friends and her overprotective father before gradually stepping up to home invasion, rape, and murder.
But it doesn’t end there. David and his fellow degenerate goons drop the dog’s head through the doggy door flap in an effort to step their scare tactics up a notch.
Parker’s Dog in Urban Legend (1998)
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Urban Legend, the awesomely bad horror classic, is full of homages to some of pop culture’s best myths, both goofy and scary, which are all stuffed in a who’s who of the late 90s slasher bait. You won’t bat an eye for Joshua Jackson or Tara Reid.
What makes this movie a no-no for pet lowers? In one of the scenes, the Urban Legend killer decides to “warm” the dog up in the microwave. We can give her the benefit of the doubt; maybe the the dog feels cold. Regardless, the killer saw it fit that the best thing to do at the time is to have the dog microwaved.
Skip in My Dog Skip (2000)
As the closing moment of this film nears, Skip’s death packs a serious emotional punch, putting a definitive end on Willie Morris’s (Frankie Muniz) coming-of-age. Skip’s death isn’t so much of a tragedy as it is a bittersweet, peaceful passing from old age.
The Hobo’s Dog in American Psycho (2000)
Patrick Bateman is a certified mammal slayer who doesn’t give a damn whether the mammal he’s killing is human or not. After he feeds a stray cat to that demanding ATM in the third act, he then stumbles upon a hobo and his dog. Although you haven’t seen much of it on the screen, the chilling behind-the-scene yelp is enough to crack your heart open.
The Test Terrier in Hollow Man (2000)
Before he became known as the violent former FBI agent in The Following, Kevin Bacon was the unhinged lead scientist in Hollow Man.
When news about a government-funded invisibility experiment reaches Bacon’s character, Sebastian Caine, he elects himself for the human trials to be conducted. Using his new-found freedom as an invisible man, Caine slowly gets mad with the power he was given, then proceeds to commit disturbingly horrifying deeds.
Sebastian warms himself up for future murder by taking out a lab dog and fellow invisibility test subject, just like what most serial killers do. What makes the scene even more terrifying is the fact that the viewers watch it happen on the lab’s thermal camera, as all the character’s are cloaked to the naked eye.
Old Jack and Dewey in Eight Below (2006)
In Eight Below, Paul Walker‘s character, Jerry Shepard, rescues snow dogs using a wooden sled. Although the movie seemed to have a Disney-appropriate plot and an almost-happy ending, it turns out that he was a little too late for two of the original eight dogs.
Old Jack is the oldest of the pack; he isn’t in the right state anymore to even go out of the base camp, so Jerry has no choice but to leave him there. However, another dog meets a painful end. Dewey falls down a slope and suffers a painful and prolonged death while the others march forward, and that’s when the real tragedy starts.
The youngest of the pack keeps his fallen friend company during his final hours in a truly tear-inducing scene.
Sam in I Am Legend (2007)
Those who have seen at least one dystopian film long before I Am Legend was made would have already expected that the pet German shepherd and sole companion of Dr. Robert Neville (Will Smith) will suffer an extremely harsh tragedy at some point during the film.
The happenings in the movie left the viewers on the edge of their seats as Sam and Neville fought off a bunch of zombies and their demonic dogs. Unfortunately, Sam got bit a lot of times, and things went as expected. Sam turned into a zombie and, eventually, had to be killed by Dr. Neville himself.
Pencil and Valentine in Year of the Dog (2007)
If a film is centered on the life of a socially awkward person who’s isolated all her life and whose only companion is her pet dog, it’s expected that the pet will die at the end. The film Year of the Dog showed exactly just that. In a very harrowing scene, Peggy (Molly Shannon) is not able to stop her beloved’s death because when she arrives, it was already put down a pound.
Actually, it was already the second dog death in the movie. The first one was caused by a mysterious, unexplained poisoning, which killed Peggy’s longtime friend, Pencil. One one occasion, Peggy left Pencil out for a whole night and woke up only to find him already knocking on death’s door.
The Farber’s Dog in Funny Games (2007)
Funny Games talks about the torture duo Paul (Michael Pitt) and Peter’s (Brady Corbet) who takes their pranks seriously. Looking like he is taking a break from his hideous acts, Paul plays a game of Warm and Cold with Ann (Naomi Watts). When Ann gets to finally answer a question right, she opens the SUV’s trunk. What she sees is just plain horrifying: their family dog’s lifeless carcass.
Red in Red (2008)
It seems no revenge thriller movie is without death. Most of the time, it’s the protagonist’s family who suffers from the brutal hands of the enemies, driving the lead character to exact vengeance. In Red, however, it’s not the wife or the dear children who died, it’s his dog. So when Avery Ludlow’s (Brian Cox) beloved pet is murdered in a robbery scene that would have otherwise been pretty easy to handle, he sets on a warpath against the teens that took his dog’s life.
Marley in Marley & Me (2008)
The addition of the yellow labrador named Marley to the Grogan family livens up the whole house. He does not only become a crucial part of the clan, he also grows to becoming John’s (Owen Wilson) inspiration for his weekly column. Marley is a witness to the family’s ups and downs, adjustments, and few more additions.
After thirteen years of toughing the times out, age takes its toll on Marley, and the family is left to decide whether to perform euthanasia on him. How the Grogans continue to live in Marley’s absence is left up in the air, but his impact on their formative years is indelible and evident. Marley’s misadventures are all reflected in John’s columns and understood by his readers, making his presence much more valued even up to the time of his death.
Hachi in Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (2009)
Hachi is a ninety-minute testament of undying and unwavering loyalty. It proves that a dog’s loyalty to his owner is a surefire way to tug every viewer’s emotional chords.
In the movie, Hachi fails to comprehend that a heart attack has already ended his and his partner’s daily routine, so he continues to patiently wait for his master at the train station as he always does. This movie will really bring tears to your eyes, especially when you feel how strong Hachi’s love for his deceased master is.
Despite the attempts of his master’s wife and other relatives to take him in, Hachi insists on waiting at the station until he draws he himself draws his last breath and perishes at the station.
Joseph’s Dog in Tyrannosaur (2011)
In a blind fit of rage, Joseph (Peter Mullan) commits a terrible mistake and accidentally kills his dog in a traumatic accident. It’s extremely hard to watch since you can feel the guilt and pain as Joseph carries his dog. Oh, and this is how the film opens. That’s right, this heartbreaking scene opens the film. Wow!
There’s no question about it, the death of dogs in movies really affects us. Maybe it’s because we have grown to love them as family and not just a pet. Nevertheless, we have to keep in mind that unlike us, dogs have a shorter life span, so we have to make the best out of every minute we have with them.
Watch some of these dogs on these poignant endings with these videos below.
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