One of the most wonderful things about cinema is that there are productions and genres to suit the audience’s every mood. Whether we need to laugh out loud or escape from reality for a while, movies are there to keep us company. Even if what we really want is a film that makes us cry our hearts out, and for this, there is nothing better than a dog movie. Indeed, most movies centered on dogs foretell a dramatic ending that leaves the audience crying their eyes out, and that’s why these kinds of productions tend to tear people apart, with many moviegoers refusing to even watch them in the first place, or choosing productions in which they know for sure that the dog is not going to die.
However, one of the main reasons why these films strike such a chord with people is the way they portray the bond between dogs and their owners and how important these animals are in people’s lives, something that all of those who have had pets can relate to. Dramatic movies in which dogs die make us cherish the time we have with our pets a lot more, and sometimes, they even help us deal with our own emotions if we find ourselves facing a similar situation. Here are 15 sad dog movies to watch next.
15 Year of the Dog
The 2007 film Year of the Dog is a production that marked Mike White’s directorial debut and highlights the enormous impact a pet can have on our lives. It stars Molly Shannon as Peggy, an administrative assistant who doesn’t have many friends nor an active love life, and spends her days in the company of her dog Pencil. After her pet dies unexpectedly, Peggy finds herself shattered and looking for ways to move on with her life, which leads her down a very unexpectedly path. Joining Shannon in this production are Laura Dern, Regina King, John C. Reilly, Peter Sarsgaard, and Thomas McCarthy.
14 All Dogs Go to Heaven
All Dogs Go to Heaven is one of those productions that many of us watched as kids and forever scarred our hearts, but it still deserves its place on this list. This 1989 Don Bluth film features Charlie, a con-artist German Shepherd who finds his way to heaven after being murdered by his former friend and business partner, Carface Caruthers. Determined to get revenge on this dog, Charlie manages to delay his fate and heads back to Earth on a mission, but on his way he meets an orphan girl named Anne-Marie who forces him to rethink everything he knows and teaches him some important lessons. Burt Reynolds voices the title character in this animated film joined by Dom DeLuise, Judith Barsi, and Vic Tayback.
13 Turner & Hooch
Many relationships between dogs and their owners start off on the wrong foot. That’s exactly what happens to the main characters in Turner & Hooch, the 1989 buddy cop movie directed by Roger Spottiswoode and starring Tom Hanks and Beasley the Dog. In it, Hanks is Scott Turner, a California police investigator who ends up inheriting a friend’s dog after he passes away, something he’s not too happy about. Turner’s life is not suited for a dog like Hooch, but that doesn’t stop them from becoming the best of friends soon after meeting and they even work together on criminal cases. The popularity of this film prompted the development of a TV series that premiered on Disney+ in 2021, although the latter was canceled after one season.
12 My Dog Skip
Pets can be a huge companion during childhood, especially for kids who are shy or have a harder time socializing with their peers. My Dog Skip follows Willie, a boy with not many friends whose life changes dramatically after his mother gifts him a puppy named Skip. From that moment on, Willie and Skip become inseparable, and the audience follows them through the many stages of their lives as they witness Skip’s influence on the boy. This 2000 film is directed by Jay Russell and stars Frankie Muniz, Diane Lane, Luke Wilson, and Kevin Bacon. Skip is played by two dog actors, Enzo and Moose.
Frankenweenie is another movie that portrays how important pets are during one’s childhood, and the things that people can do to have them around for more time. This animated film by Tim Burton, which also pays homage to the horror classic Frankenstein, introduces Victor, a very smart boy who relies on science to bring his dog Sparky back to life after he dies, unaware of the terrible consequences that this would have. Frankenweenie was inspired by Burton’s short film of the same name, and features a voice cast made up of Charlie Tahan, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, Winona Ryder and Atticus Shaffer.
10 Old Yeller
1957 marked the premiere of Old Yeller, a Walt Disney film directed by Robert Stevenson and starring Dorothy McGuire, Tommy Kirk, Fess Parker, and Kevin Corcoran. This production, based on a Fred Gibson novel of the same name, features the Coates, a Texas family who are left in the care of their teenage son after their father leaves home to go to work far away. Eventually, they cross paths with Old Yeller, a runaway dog with a knack for getting into trouble who somehow manages to become the newest member of the family.
9 Eight Below
Paul Walker stars in this dreary 2006 Disney survival film alongside Bruce Greenwood, Moon Bloodgood and Jason Biggs helmed by Frank Marshall. Eight Below is a remake of the Japanese film Antarctica, released in 1983, and follows a group of scientists who are forced to abandon an expedition in Antarctica after an accident caused by weather conditions. However, this is not the end of their journey: the group’s sled dogs are stranded there trying to survive, and the team will go to great lengths to find them alive.
8 A Dog’s Purpose
What is the meaning of life when you are a dog? That is the question the leading animal in this 2017 film tries to answer as he reincarnates in one life after another to keep his different owners company. Josh Gad leads the cast of Lasse Hallström’s A Dog’s Purpose, joined by Dennis Quaid, KJ Apa, Juliet Rylance, Peggy Lipton and Britt Robertson, among other actors. This production is based on W. Bruce Cameron’s novel of the same name, and its huge success at the box office prompted the development of a sequel released in 2019.
7 I Am Legend
I Am Legend is one of the most emblematic films of Will Smith’s career. This 2007 production directed by Francis Lawrence is the third adaptation of Richard Matheson’s novel of the same name. In the film, Smith plays Robert Neville, a scientist who is among the few people who survived a plague that turned almost all of humanity into mutant creatures. Thus, he wanders around New York City with his dog Sam, searching for other survivors while dodging the infected who want to kill him. I Am Legend became a box office and critical hit, and made headlines again last year after the announcement of a sequel, with Smith and Michael B. Jordan serving as leads and executive producers.
6 Where the Red Fern Grows
Where the Red Fern Grows is a 1974 film based on Wilson Rawls’ novel of the same name. It is directed by Norman Tokar and stars James Whitmore, Beverly Garland, Stewart Petersen, and Jack Ging. In it, Petersen plays Billy, a young boy who loves to hunt racoons with Little Ann and Old Dan, two puppies he bought after working hard for a while. In 2003, Walt Disney released a remake of this production, with Joseph Ashton, Dabe Matthews, and Dabney Coleman heading the cast.
5 Red Dog
Red Dog is a 2011 film by Kriv Stenders inspired by the true story of a stray dog that landed in Australia’s Pilbara region and became the local pet, building up a bond with different people who became his temporary owners. This production stars dog actor Koko alongside Josh Lucas, Rachel Taylor, John Batchelor and Noah Taylor. The popularity of Red Dog prompted the development of a sequel and a documentary, released in 2016 and 2019.
4 John Wick
John Wick is among the most successful action franchises of recent years. It stars Keanu Reeves as the titular character, a hitman who long ago gave up his days as a professional to enjoy a quiet life with his wife. But after she passes away and a gang hijacks his car and kills his dog, Wick resumes his activities to track them down one by one and take his revenge on them. Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Adrianne Palicki, and Bridget Moynahan are some of the actors who join Reeves in this production whose overwhelming success launched a film series that already boasts three additional installments.
3 The Art of Racing in the Rain
The Art of Racing in the Rain is a 2019 Simon Curtis film starring Milo Ventimiglia inspired by Garth Stein’s novel of the same name. In this production, Ventimiglia plays Denny, a man pursuing a career as a car racer while escorted by his puppy, a Golden Retriever named Enzo. Kevin Costner voices Enzo, while Amanda Seyfried, Kathy Baker and Martin Donovan join Milo in the cast of this production that, despite its mixed reviews, was well received by audiences.
2 Hachi: A Dog’s Tale
Hachi: A Dog’s Tale is yet another film on this list inspired by a true story. This 2009 production, directed by Lasse Hallström with Richard Gere serving as producer and lead star, features the bond between college professor Parker Wilson and Hachi, an Akita dog he finds at the train station who becomes his most loyal companion even after his death. In addition to Gere, the cast is made up of Joan Allen, Sarah Roemer, and Robbie Collier Sublett, with Layla, Chico, and Forrest playing Hachi.
1 Marley & Me
The 2008 film Marley & Me is, hands down, the first one that comes to people’s minds when they think of movies where dog die, and it’s one that strikes a chord with all of us dog owners, resulting in a whirlwind of emotions. The film is directed by David Frankel and inspired by John Grogan’s book of the same name. Marley & Me follows John and Jenny, a newlywed couple who expand their family by adopting Marley, a quite mischievous Labrador that becomes their most faithful companion. Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston star in this production that captured the audience’s heart and also became an absolute box office hit.