*Spoilers for dog deaths, obviously*
Dogs are humans’ best friends.
They only see the good in our horribly faulted, yet dominant species. The dog is the eternal optimist. We love dogs so much we’ll pick up their poo for them (well, the good humans will). Cats by and large are four-legged conspirators who would score high on the Psychopathy Checklist, if only they were stupid enough to admit they know what we’re saying and answer the questions.
They’re just biding their time, you mark my words…
I’ll admit this is a very personal list. Some canine snuff cinema I’ve never seen, for whatever reason, but these are my most memorably sad and noteworthy dog deaths in cinema (and one cheat).
I am Legend – Sam
Will’s Smith’s Robert Neville has literally nobody left except for his faithful German Shepherd, Sam. And it’s all thanks to a virus which wipes out most of the population, turning almost all of the ones left into bloodthirsty vampire-esq killing machines. The scientist diligently hunts, forages and attempts to find a cure for the virus, kept company by Sam.
Smith’s performance makes the bond between man and dog so strong – it’s literally the central relationship in the film. When Sam gets bitten and the inevitable change begins to take hold, watching Neville euthanise his companion is absolutely soul destroying.
The Royal Tenenbaums – Buckley
The titular family’s pet, a Beagle named Buckley, is killed off-screen.
Buckley’s sombre passing is the catalyst for the viewer’s oddly humorous insight into the overly dramatic, somehow maudlin and self-concerned effect of the Tenenbaum family. Poor Buckley, merely a plot device.
Tyrannosaur – Bluey
In Paddy Considine’s Tyrannosaur, Joseph (Peter Mullan) is plagued by violence and rage and in the opening scene, brutally kicks his dog to death.
Mullan’s Joe is a damaged, angry man. The film opens with him kicking his own dog to death, and ends with the death of another dog, though Joe’s poor pooch near the beginning is what sticks in the throat.
But even considering this atrocity, somehow, both Mullan and Considine manage to create a sympathetic character in this brilliant, hurtfully human drama.
Tyrannosaur is an expansion of short film, Dog Altogether – written and directed by Considine and winner of the Best Short Film BAFTA in 2008.
Turner & Hooch – Hooch
Turner & Hooch, for some reason, was the film we’d always watch at my cousins’ house as kids. My aunt wasn’t a fan of dogs, so perhaps that’s why, although they did end up getting a dog. So here’s to Biba and Marian.
A buddy comedy between a man and his pooch, Hooch, aimed at kids, it was always going to be the canine who got killed in the line of duty. Hank’s death simply saved to traumatise those of the same age when they grew up and saw Saving Private Ryan a few years later…
Game of Thrones – Lady and Grey Wind (the cheat picks)
People complaining there wasn’t enough build up to the ending of Game of Thrones and the final ruining of the Lannister family’s desire for barbarity, clearly weren’t watching properly.
Seventy-one episodes before The Bells, the quite literally purebred sociopaths proved their psychopathic premiership early on. No, not Bran. Frankly, I’d slam the door shut if someone walked in on me, too.
Yes I know four of six Stark direwolves met dire ends, but the bastard Lannisters essentially murdered two, both while being too damn cowardly to do it themselves.
Ned Stark was ordered to kill Lady by Lannister order and poor Grey Wind was trapped and murdered, like his owner Robb Stark while in the ‘care’ of Walder Frey et al, again on Lannister orders.
It’s strange just how much emotion the death of a dog on screen does to influence the viewer’s opinion of the BASTARDS doing the killing (except, maybe, in Robert Neville’s case).
Humans killing each other is often easy to gloss over, but should they kill a dog, almost all humans with a heart will hate the character. Not cat killers though, that’s just self-preservation.