5 Dog Death Movies that Make Guys Cry

Guy Cry: Dogs: Social

A dog dying in a movie always brings the tears.

The goal of this series is to show that being “manly” and being disconnected with your emotions do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. While the approach to these articles is one of comedy and satire, the emotional core of these movies is very valid. Manly movies make guys cry, for example:

Dog Death Movies

Not all men own dogs. Heck, not all men even like dogs. That doesn’t stop our culture from assigning dogs as a manly pet, while a cat ownership is delegated to crazy cat ladies. It’s a generalization, it’s cliché, but we do it. It does make sense that dogs are a man’s pet, as we and they have much in common. Dogs are loyal, simple, will eat until they feel sick, and sometimes they smell like feet. Cats, on the other hand, are secretive, confusing, exotic, and do what they want. If a cat dies in a movie, it’s generally because someone is evil for killing them, or the cat was evil to begin with. If a dog dies in a movie, shut that shit down because this mother just got emotional. Here’s a list of five movies where we collectively sobbed for our fallen canine friends.

1. Old Yeller

The film came out in 1957, it’s barely through the “Films are now in color!” door, yet when I mentioned movies where the dog dies this came up first in your mind.

Don’t lie, it did.

A Disney film for no reason at all other than to remind the world that Disney loves to kill your family, the plot is basically “Fall in love with this dog, and then watch it die.” I don’t have to work very hard to pick the point that makes us cry (uh, when Old Yeller’s owner has to shoot him because he’s got rabies) but the whole film has a timeless nostalgia that refuses to go away. Even if you haven’t seen the film, it’s a little upsetting to know that somewhere in someone’s movie library there’s a film about a boy who loves his dog and then has to shoot him.

Why Disney? Wasn’t killing Bambi’s mom, Bell’s Mom, Snow White’s mom, Ariel’s Mom…..enough?

I’m not sure what is worse: the fact that the child had to kill his own dog, or the fact that this is the movie that told several generations of children that there’s a situation where you might have to kill your dog. This was the first dead dog ever, real or fictional, for a whole lot of people. This movie started the dead dog device.

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2. I am Legend

Pretty much the only thing this film didn’t screw up or squander is Will Smith’s relationship with his dog Samantha. A present from his daughter pre-apocalypse, the canine serves as a surrogate daughter post-apocalypse. Smith bathes her, tells her to eat her vegetables, and sleeps cuddled up with the dog. This was cinema-speak for “The dog is going to die,” yet many of us were still surprised when it happened.

Surprise or not, to see Will Smith fail to cure his dog/daughter after she was bitten, then hold her, sing to her, and choke her to death was heartbreaking. Say what you will about the special effects, plot, ending, cinematic skill and everything else involved with this movie…

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Okay, but Will is a capable actor. And he acted up a storm making us mourn for this dog.

3. Marley and Me

This film had a very odd marketing campaign. Based off the trailers, I pegged it as a light-hearted comedy where Owen Wilson and wife get a dog by accident and hijinks ensue. I mean, sure that happens, but if you hadn’t read the book you would have no idea that it was a comedy-drama. You also would have no preparation for a film about miscarriages, post-partum depression, and canine euthanasia.

You heard me.

I was not going to see this film because I didn’t want to see a poorly-behaved dog movie. I saw two Beethoven movies, so I’m good on those. Once I found out that the dog (very unlike Beethoven) is put to sleep at the end, it wasn’t really a selling point. I came around to seeing it, and it is good, but light-hearted comedy it is NOT.

4. Signs

Say what you will, I still think this film was pre-Shyamalan meltdown as opposed to the post-meltdown phase everyone lumps it into. Sure, any and all suspense that the bulk of the film built up was completely obliterated at the poorly-done CG alien at the end, but let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Earlier in the movie when creepy and suspense were still the names of the game, Mel “Not fond of the Jews” Gibson’s children are investigating their dog who is freaking the hell out. Once a loving family pet, the dog goes full-Cujo on them and is gearing up to dog-murder the daughter.

Her name is Bo. No, not the dog, the daughter’s name is Bo. But that’s a stupid name, so I’ll call her “Daughter.” The dog is flipping out because it can sense the aliens, and for whatever dog-reason it decides to take out that stress on the little girl. Fast forward, her brother (still a young child himself) had to kill the dog with a BBQ fork in order to save his sister. THAT IS NOT FAIR! The dog was warning everyone, doing his dog duty, and he gets killed for it.

I change my mind, M. Night failed us on this one!

5. All Dogs go to Heaven

It’s an entire movie based on the concept of dogs dying. You couldn’t get away with that today. What Dreams May Come tried it with humans, and try cracking a smile after watching that somber film. This “children’s film” is about a dog that dies, escapes from heaven, and then gambles and steals while having recurring nightmares of going to Dog-Hell. THIS IS A CHILDREN’S FILM!

First off, seeing the main dog Charlie get hit by a car and drown to death the first time is traumatic enough, then seeing his watch (the physical representation of his life) stop ticking and dying again is too much. How anyone could have pitched this movie and gotten any funding is beyond me.

“Hey boss, here’s the pitch: we kill a dog a few times, and throw in a literal ticking clock before he goes to Hell. I’ll take the money to cash, please?”

Not to mention this movie scared me to tears as a child thanks to the creepy Dog-Hell shadow monster and the much creepier Big-Lipped Alligator Sequence ™ that precedes it.

Like what you see? Secure enough in your masculinity for more? Check out more Guy Cry Cinema or watch Dan on No Right Answer, the weekly debate show that knows what’s really important: Pointlessly arguing about geek culture.


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Daniel Epstein
Father, filmmaker, and writer. Once he won an Emmy, but it wasn't for being a father or writing.