12 Dog Movies That Will Have You In Tears

Lucas TorresJanuary 12, 2023
Photo by Svetozar Milashevich on pexelsPhoto by Svetozar Milashevich on pexels

Need a good cry? Make some popcorn, grab a box of tissues, and pop in one of these doggie-centric movies.

What’s one of the easiest ways to make a dog-lover cry? Show him or her a sad or sappy movie with a dog in it. There’s a good chance that even the most unemotional among us can’t help but dissolve into a puddle of tears at the sight of a dog in peril on a movie screen, or (sob!) a dog that dies heroically at the end of a film. Come on, admit it: Sometimes you cry at dog movies, too.

For your weeping pleasure, here is our list of the top 12 tear-jerking dog movies of all time, in no particular order. Warning for people who might not have seen all of the movies listed: there are some spoilers ahead. With that said, grab your box of tissues: Things are about to get a little teary around here!

1. Old Yeller (1957)

When people think of the words “sad,” “dog” and “movie,” this is probably what pops into their minds. Old Yeller is like the granddaddy of sad dog movies, having made movie-watchers sob uncontrollably for more than 50 years. Based on a Newberry Honor-winning book by the same name written by Fred Gipson, Old Yeller centers on a boy and a stray dog in post-Civil War Texas. The last few scenes are the sad parts, so hold onto your Kleenexes. Old Yeller saves the family from a rabid wolf and gets bitten (and thereby becomes infected with rabies). The dog’s best friend, his boy Travis, has to put him down.

2. Where the Red Fern Grows (1974)

This quote, from a discussion on the Internet about the movie, says it all: “Where the Red Fern Grows made Old Yeller look like a comedy.” Truly one of the saddest movies (and books) of all time, Where the Red Fern Grows is about a boy who owns Old Dan and Little Ann, two Redbone Coonhound siblings. Now, any dog’s death is sad enough, but when death involves being mauled by a mountain lion (Big Dan) and dying of a broken heart (Little Ann), well … just … waaaahhhhh!

3. Benji the Hunted (1987)

This is one of those movies where the dog is fine at the end (whew!), but for him to get there, he encounters all sorts of nail-biting, frightening situations on the way. The title of the movie lets you know what you’re in for poor little Benji the dog is being hunted — along with some cougar cubs he’s trying to save — by a black timber wolf in the wilderness. Yikes!

4. The Fox and the Hound (1981)

They’re the best of friends, this young red fox named Tod and hound named Cooper. Despite being different types of canines, and everyone warning them that they might not be friends in the future, Tod still has hope (sob!). Then Cooper becomes a hunting dog and Tod becomes the hunted (cries!). Tod’s owner leaves him at a wildlife sanctuary in fear of his safety (sniff!). Tod almost loses his life to both a bear and a hunter, until his old friend Cooper steps in and saves him (commence uncontrollable weeping). Whoa, this animated Disney movie will do a number on you if you’re a dog lover — or just an animal lover in general.

5. Hachiko: A Dog’s Tale (2009)

This movie should come with a warning: Do not watch without a steady supply of tissues nearby. Based on the true story of a faithful Akita named Hachiko, it tells the tale of a dog who meets his owner every day at the train station as his owner leaves for and arrives back from work. After his owner dies and never comes back home, Hachiko spends the next 10 years waiting for his deceased master’s train to arrive. It reminds us all of what loyal, steadfast creatures dogs are!

6. Turner & Hooch (1989)

How can you not fall in love with a big galoot like Hooch? Sure, he breaks all of the police officer Scott Turner’s rules — no dogs on the second floor of the house, no chewing on records, no destroying the car — but the Dogue de Bordeaux manages to paw his way into everyone’s heart, including Turner’s. That’s why it’s so sad when (sob!) he dies. But there’s a so-happy-you’re-crying part at the end that’ll make you smile, which we won’t spoil in case you haven’t seen this movie from the ‘80s.

Photo by Lucas Andrade on pexelsPhoto by Lucas Andrade on pexels

7. Marley & Me (2008)

After watching this film, you’ll need to go give your dog (or any dog) a hug. Part of the reason this movie is so sad is that you follow Marley from puppyhood to adulthood, so you feel like you get to know this little Labrador Retriever intimately. The other part is that Marley (wait for it …) dies at the end of the movie, after hip problems and multiple attempts at walking and getting better. We can all relate to a dog who has crossed over the rainbow bridge a little too soon, and a little too painfully.

8. Lassie Come Home (1943)

If you love wholesome movies, and you need a good cry, and you love a young Elizabeth Taylor, then Lassie Come Home is for you. The first in the series of seven films starring “Lassie,” Lassie Come Home follows the story of a Yorkshire boy and the bond he shares with his rough Collie. Good old’ Lassie, that loyal dog, overcomes so many obstacles during the film, that when he finally triumphs, the tears you shed will be tears of relief and happiness.

9. Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)

By now, we know that if a movie stars a dog and he’s on an adventure far away from home, he’s probably going to find himself in some kind of trouble that will undoubtedly pull on our heart-strings and make us cry. That is triply so for Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, which stars two dogs and a cat. This movie — as well as 1963’s The Incredible Journey, which this movie is a remake of — finds an unlikely trio on a journey to find their way home. Hijinks ensue, tears are shed, but ultimately it ends (relatively) happily.

10. Hotel for Dogs (2009)

This movie might be a long-shot for some people. True, no dogs travel over the rainbow bridge. True, no dogs are in any real danger during the movie (except goofy dog catchers). But we dare you to watch Hotel for Dogs and not tear up a little. It stars two down-on-their-luck kids in the foster care system, and a menagerie of adorable dogs who want nothing more than a forever home, too. Crying while smiling? This movie has that for you in spades.

11. All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989)

All Dogs Go to Heaven is the story of a junkyard dog named Charlie who comes back to life to plot his revenge against the person who murdered him. I know what you’re thinking: This movie just screams “kid’s movie,” right? (Or maybe you’re thinking: The dog comes back to life? Sweet — a movie about zombie dogs!) Besides being kind of scary — what with a little ol’ dream sequence about the fiery pits of hell — the movie is also pretty tear-inducing because of the bond that Charlie forges with an orphan girl named Anne-Marie. Good news, all those who were worried about whether Charlie makes it back up to heaven: he does!

12. Frankenweenie (2012)

After unexpectedly losing his beloved dog Sparky (insert sound of nose-blowing here) young Victor harnesses the power of science to bring his best friend back to life—with just a few minor adjustments. He tries to hide his home-sewn creation, but when Sparky gets out, Victor’s fellow students are inspired to revive their animals, but it doesn’t turn out as well for them. The animals take over the town threatening the safety of everyone. Frankenweenie comes to the rescue when Victor is dragged into a windmill by a flying cat. The windmill collapses on Sparky, killing him again (the tears are flowing now). Don’t worry though, Sparky is revived with the help of a few car batteries.