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 step-father. As a viewer, you know it’s only a few minutes until Zowie rises again, but the animal cruelty from reliable heavy Clancy Brown is still tough to watch.
One of casual torture duo Peter (Brady Corbet) and Paul’s (Michael Pitt) oh-so hilarious gags involves a game of Warm & Cold between Paul and Ann (Naomi Watts) in the driveway. When Ann finally guesses correctly and opens the SUV’s truck, the family dog’s lifeless carcass comes spilling out.
For those unfamiliar with this brutal thriller, trust us when we say that, relatively speaking, this is one of the movie’s lighter moments.
This wasn’t so traumatic for the apathetic Griswolds, who after all, put a major dent in their cross-country mileage before noticing that Aunt Edna had been dead in the backseat for some time, but we winced when, upon returning home, they discovered that they’d forgotten to untie Dinky from the bumper before leaving a rest stop. What a way to go.
This turgid Kevin Costner vehicle features one of the most over-blown antagonists of any of the late ’80s/early ’90s over-blown thrillers: a guy (Anthony Quinn) who exacts the meanest revenge he can think of simply because that’s what’s supposed to happen in these films.
His reaction to catching best friend Jay (Costner) with his hot young wife (Madeleine Stowe)? She not only gets her face slashed, but she then gets dumped in a Mexican whorehouse, AND hooked on heroin for good measure. This ugly revenge is foreshadowed when he and his goons needlessly gun down Costner’s character’s dog when the lustful couple gets caught in the act.
Paul Walker’s character Jerry Shepard rescues snow dogs in Eight Below with the same wooden nonchalance that he displays boosting cars with Vin Diesel (a strong case can be made for the dogs’ acting abilities over his, but that’s another piece). Despite a mostly happy, Disney-appropriate ending, it’s worth noting that his mission is too little too late as far as two of the original eight dogs.
The elder statesmen of the pack, Old Jack, doesn’t even make it out of the base camp, but the real tragedy occurs when Dewey falls down a slope and suffers a prolonged, painful death while the others march forward—except the youngest of the pack, who risks losing them to keep his fallen comrade company for his final hours. Touching stuff.
You can’t weep too hard for Charlie (Burt Reynolds) when Heaven’s promised to him right there in the title, but back in the day it was still rough to watch him drown while saving Ann-Marie, knowing that they’d be forever separated by the pearly gates.
Sure it’s all smiles by the end for Victor and his necro-canine Sparky, but for a minute there things are touch and go. After all, the premise involves a miraculous resurrection of the dead pooch.
When an angry mob chases Sparky into a burning windmill, thus fulfilling the Frankenstein parallel, it’s easy to assume the worst for the pup. Thankfully the mob goes from angry to gracious, and they all pitch in for a communal resurrection miracle that revives Sparky for a second time. That’s two dog deaths in one movie, for those keeping count.
Before immersing himself in a world of inane violence in The Following, Kevin Bacon committed some himself as the unhinged lead scientist in Hollow Man. Electing himself for the human trials in a hush-hush government-funded invisibility experiment, Bacon’s Sebastian Caine becomes mad with power, using his newfound freedom as an invisible dude to commit increasingly horrific acts.
As it goes with most serial killers, Sebastian warms himself up for future murder by taking out a lab dog and fellow invisibility test subject. As all the characters are cloaked to the naked eye, viewers watch it play out on the lab’s thermal camera, which makes the scene even more disturbing.
Most girls get grounded when they disobey their father. In Terrence Malick’s crime classic, young Holly Sargis’s (Sissy Spacek) psychotic father’s punishment for “running around” behind his back is a death sentence for her innocent pooch. It’s no wonder she runs off for good with Kit (Martin Sheen) soon after.
In the dystopian world of Mad Max, the eponymous Road Warrior’s only companion is his road pooch, a brave Australian Cattle Dog. Of course, by the laws of the Dystopian Action Movie Handbook, man’s best friend can’t live forever in a world so bleak, and wouldn’t you know it, a run-in with the antagonistic marauders puts Max’s poor dog on the receiving end of a crossbow.
Have you heard the one about the old lady who dries her wet dog in the microwave? Urban Legend, the awesomely bad horror classic is full of homages to some of pop culture’s best myths, both scary and goofy, inflicted on a who’s who of late ’90s slasher bait. But you won’t bat an eye for Tara Reid or Joshua Jackson.
No, the film’s most harrowing—and random—casualty is the poor frathouse dog that had one too many beers, and ends up in the clutches of the Urban Legend Killer, who decides to nuke it in the microwave. Never mind why the smell of a dog frying in the kitchen doesn’t waft to the partygoers—who can think about logistics after the sight of mushy, overcooked terrier has been seared into your brain?
Skip’s death isn’t so much a tragedy as it is a bittersweet, peaceful passing from old age. Still, as the closing moment of the film, it packs a serious emotional punch, putting a definitive period on Willie Morris’ (Frankie Muniz) coming-of-age.
And, yeah, it’s sad that the homeless guy dies, too.
When the dog reappears, gone are its golden locks in place of a charred, lumpy horribly deformed mass, so much so that its subsequent euthanizing isn’t just gracious, it’s necessary.
This early ’90s thriller finds Mark Wahlberg playing crazy as David, a sadistic psycho who ropes rebellious teen Nicole (Reese Witherspoon) into a whirlwind romance that devolves into a nightmare.
All of the typical romance-thriller story beats are here, with David threatening Nicole’s male friends and her over-protective father before gradually stepping up to rape, murder and home invasion, complete with the graphic, wholly unnecessary beheading of the family dog. As Glenn Close taught us in Fatal Attraction, the spurned lover isn’t truly eeeeeeevil until they murder a pet.
But David and his fellow degenerate goons step it up a notch, going so far as to ramp up their scare tactics by, get this, dropping the dog’s head through the doggy door flap. Puns?
If a film follows a socially awkward or isolated person whose strongest relationship is with their pet, it’s a given that that pet is gonna die. Of course, that’s exactly what happens to Peggy (Molly Shannon), a forty-something with no life outside of her dogs, in an especially harrowing scene that sees her arriving hours late to stop her dog from being put down at the pound in Year of the Dog.
That’s well and expected, only, it’s the second dog death of the film! Peggy’s first pet casualty kicks things off when she leaves her longtime friend Pencil out overnight and awakens to find him on death’s door thanks to a mysterious, unexplained poisoning.
This movie isn’t suitable for sensitive humans.
Throughout all of the Grogan family’s typical ups, downs, family additions and adjustments, the one constant is Marley, the destructive yet lovable yellow lab that becomes a crucial member of the family and creative inspiration for John’s (Owen Wilson) weekly column.
That Marley’s misadventures relate to John’s readers makes his presence that much more valued, setting the stage for his inevitable death. After thirteen years, old age takes its toll and Marely is euthanized. How the Grogans fare without him is left up in the air, but his impact on their formative years is indelible. Go dry your eyes, now.
The inciting incident for just about every revenge thriller involves the brutal murder of someone the (male) protagonist holds dear, typically wife or children. Red on the other hand, takes the bond between man and dog to the extreme, sending Brian Cox’s Avery Ludlow on a warpath against the local delinquent teens that murdered the eponymous pet during what would otherwise have been a pretty tame robbery.
With Red dies, Avery is left without a family. His quest for justice is the more hard to watch because of its weariness and grief.
Exploring the lengths of a dog’s loyalty to his master is one of ten surefire ways to tug an audience’s emotional chords, and Hachi, dog and film, is a ninety minute testament to fatally unwavering loyalty. It’s like the movie’s been tasked by some malevolent force to see how many times it can depress you with a different shot of Hachi waiting at the train station for his master to return, as he always does, unable to comprehend that a heart attack has ended their daily ritual.
Dude’s wife moves, other family members try to take him in, and yet, Hachi insists on waiting at the station, until he finally dies there himself.
Everyone that had seen at least one dystopian future movie before I Am Legend came out knew from the trailer—hell, from the movie poster—that, at the very least, the pet German Shepherd and sole companion of Will Smiths’ Dr. Robert Neville, would suffer a harrowing experience at some point during the film. Probably, the dog would perish.
But film knowledge be damned, we were on the edge of our seats as Neville and Sam fought off zombie goons and their demonic dogs, and though it went as expected, it didn’t diminish Neville’s grief by any means. There’s a reason the Fresh Prince is Hollywood’s most bankable star: We cared more when he put Sam down after she showed the first signs of infection than any mercy killing in The Walking Dead.
The trauma in Hooch’s untimely death lies in the fact that, unlike almost every other film on this list, this is one where we genuinely expected a happy ending. Most of the movie is spent establishing a bizarre, cross-mammal buddy-cop routine between Tom Hanks’ character and the slobbery, endearing Dogue de Bordeaux, and Hanks, bless him, manages to establish believable chemistry with the pooch that you can imagine studio executives salivating harder than Hooch over franchise possibilities.
And then Hooch dies. Most movies feature a dog protecting his master from a fellow animal, but things get all the way real here: Hooch literally jumps in front of a bullet for his master, and Hanks breaks down (early shades of Cast Away?) and nails the hell out of the scene.
Joseph’s (Peter Mullan) dog is killed in a traumatic accident, an extremely hard to watch sequence that’s especially rough because it’s Joseph himself, in a blind fit of rage, committing the fatal abuse.
Did we mention that this is how the film opens? If there’s a better rock-bottom incident to spur a journey of redemption, we don’t know it.
Much like Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows describes how the relationship between man and dog shapes a young boy’s coming of age—only you get two harrowing pet sacrifices for the price of one. Sub in a mountain lion for the rabid wolf, and it’s not long before young Billy’s beloved Coonhound Old Dan suffers a grim victory, and as if that wasn’t enough, Billy’s other Coonhound Little Anne is so shaken up by the loss of her companion that she oses her will to live, dying on top of Old Dan’s grave.
The definitive pet tragedy to end all pet tragedies, Old Yeller is timeless because it still strikes a chord to this day, and although the pop culture references more or less spoil the dog’s death for new viewers, the moment remains powerful. At this point, a misty-eyed maiden viewing of Old Yeller is an early rite of passage.
Two Socks is technically a wolf. But besides having the flyest pet name ever, the bond between Dunbar (Kevin Costner) and his wolf is just as strong as any classic relationship between man and dog in all of cinema. Which makes Two Socks’ ruthless murder the kind of gut-wrenching, Oscar-baiting scene that clinched the Best Picture win for Costner’s American epic.
You hear that? They’re giving out Oscars for dog deaths. It gets no realer.