Anyone who has ever had a pet knows the inevitable will happen, and that the circle of life is cruel and unavoidable. But when a dog, cat, horse or other creature dies in a genre movie, the circumstances are often shaped by bizarre forces — supernatural, weird-science and otherwise — that make a tragic loss even worse. Here are nearly two dozen of the saddest fates of pop culture’s furry friends.
Spoiler alert: This article is a total. Bummer.
1) Church in Pet Sematary
Poor Church. Unfamiliar with the traffic patterns on the rural road by his new home, he’s killed by a truck — and then suffers the fate worse than death of being brought back to life. Zombie Church’s new personality isn’t quite what it used to be, which should have been a mighty strong hint to his owners that they shouldn’t try resurrecting their dead toddler in the same way. (But since this is Stephen King, of course they do… and boy, do they regret it.)
2) Rowf and Snitter in The Plague Dogs
Richard Adams’ Plague Dogs, set in the morally grey world of animal experimentation, was adapted into a great, but crushingly bleak animated movie in 1982. Two dogs, Rowf and Snitter, escape the lab where they’re repeatedly subjected to tests of endurance. But they’re pursued by scientists and feared by the public (as they may have bubonic plague), and their ultimate fate — paddling away from their determined captors into the ocean — is “ambiguous” at best.
3) Artax in The Neverending Story
Young hero Atreyu must lead his horse, Artax, through the Swamp of Sadness, the legendary mire that inspires ineluctable misery in all who breathe its gaseous haze. Artax isn’t able to resist the sadness, so he sinks and drowns. Truly, it doesn’t get much more depressing than that.
4) Krypto in Superman Adventures #40
Hot on the smouldering heels of the Super-Dog’s cremains in Superman #3 (and the inspiration for this article), the most upsetting removal of Krypto from this Earth was naturally in the DCAU, in an issue of Superman Adventures. To make a long, tear-jerking story short, Mr Mxylptlk bring the Kryptonian dog to Earth, where it can’t handle his super-hearing and -smelling and so forth. Superman is forced to take the rampaging dog to outer space, where it asphyxiates. He doesn’t do well on Earth… and he doesn’t survive outer space, as illustrated above. For his cruel prank, Myxzptlk is forced by his council to spend the next 90 days as a sentient fire hydrant on Earth.
5) The Golden Retriever in The Fly II
Trying to recreate Seth Brundle’s genetic experiments, the nefarious Anton Bartok uses a Golden Retriever belonging to Seth’s son, Martin, as a test case for his new line of telepods. Predictably, the dog is horribly deformed in the experiment. When Martin finds him, he tearfully euthanizes his friend with chloroform.
6) Squeaky in The Smurfs
Smurfette nursed a sickly mouse back to health only to have it die from smoke inhalation later in the episode. Papa Smurf requests “a Smurf of silence” at Squeaky’s funeral proceedings. Seriously.
7) The Rancor in Return of the Jedi
After Luke snaps the neck of the Rancor with a rock and a spiky mechanical drawbridge, his trainer Malakili weeps in sorrow. It’s a weird, but genuinely sad moment. Happy ending, though: According to the Aftermath: Life Debt novel, Malakili went on to train Rontos, those CG saurian llamas added to the Mos Eisley scene in the Special Edition of A New Hope.
8) Jibanyan in Yokai Watch
The ghost of a cat run over by a car, Jibanyan held tremendous grief in the afterlife thinking that his owner, Amy, called him a “loser” in his final moments before death. Later in the series, we learn Amy called herself a loser for allowing her pet to die. Ouch…
9) Queequeg in The X-Files
Scully’s adopted Pomeranian — formerly belonging to the victim of a serial killer — lived a good life by her side before being eaten by an alligator.
10) Ella the Helper Monkey in Monkey Shines
Leaning in for a kiss, Ella the capuchin monkey got more than she bargained for from her paraplegic captive — for whom she also served as a rage avatar. Poor Ella only wanted purpose. All she got was her head bitten off.
11) Sparky in Frankenweenie
Poor Sparky’s demise inspired a young Victor Frankenstein to resurrect his beloved pet from the dead. To those less skilled in reanimating dead tissue, a similar trauma may simply lead to a minor obsession with traffic safety PSAs starring Darth Vader and Doctor Who.
12) Antony in Ant-Man
Scott Lang’s favourite ant took a bullet to the head, which morbidly tore the wings from the poor little guy’s segmented body and flattened him into the rough shape of a Tazo. A bullet ant he was not.
13) Antie in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
Mortally wounded protecting his friend Ron from a scorpion, Antie was a good ant. A good ant, indeed.
14) Dog in The Road Warrior
Max’s loyal companion took a crossbow for his best friend. But here’s some behind-the-scenes info from the Mad Max wiki about the dog who played Dog to cheer us all up.
After filming, everyone wanted to adopt the dog because he was so affectionate. After a big argument, it was finally decided that the dog was going to be adopted by stunt coordinator Max Aspin and his wife Dale who was the animal handler, trainer and a stunt performer herself. The dog, being a Blue Heeler, continued doing what he did best – rounding up animals around the farm and also eating the chickens. He was eventually handed to the care of another Mad Max 2 stunt man – Gary Gauslaa with whom he lived out the rest of his days.
15) Samantha in I Am Legend
Showing symptoms of the dreaded Krippen virus, Sam had to be put down. It’s sad. Very sad. Grab a tissue and see the proof, above.
16) Seymour Asses in Futurama
Shaggy pup Seymour waited his whole life for Fry to return from the future, but died without his master ever returning. It didn’t quite pan out until Bender’s Big Score, which revealed an alternate timeline where Fry and Seymour enjoyed a full life together until his fast-fossilisation at the hands of a jealous Bender.
17) Rufus in Re-Animator
Cause of death: Ambiguous. Still, Dr Herbert West was eager to use the kitty as a test subject for his reanimating serum, even with his broken back.
18) Centipeetle in Steven Universe
Neither dead nor a pet, exactly, but a woman made of a crystal who went insane and is kept as a sidekick by Steven Universe. She was crushed by an icicle and lingers in stasis until being sent to live with other “corrupted gems” in a sealed cave.
19) Hedwig in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Harry Potter’s owl takes a Killing Curse from a Death-Eater during the Battle of Seven Potters. As if poor Harry hasn’t already suffered enough.
20) Ben in Ben
It’s uncertain whether Ben the rat survives his extensive flamethrower wounds, but if any rat could — well, I guess it would be Ben, the breakout star of the other rat movie epic, Willard.
21) Fifi in Doctor Who
In The Happiness Patrol, an alien stigorax belonging to a despotic Margaret Thatcher parody named Helen A is killed by an avalanche of crystallised sugar. As she weeps for her beloved pet, the Doctor simply stands there, looming. Judging. Scowling. It goes on for an uncomfortably long while. RIP, Fifi.
22) #3 in We3
Formerly a bunny named Pirate, #3 was outfitted with an exoskeleton along with a dog and cat to become the ultimate political assassins. Sadly, #3 is killed by #4, the top-of-the-line example of enhanced pit bull technology.
23) I-Chaya in Star Trek: The Animated Series
Spock’s childhood pet sehlet I-Chaya is mortally wounded defending both his past and future selves, forcing a time-travelling adult Spock to council his childhood self into euthanizing their beloved pet, instead of subjecting him to a prolonged life of suffering. The young Spock agrees, since it’s the logical thing to do.
Returning to the present, Spock the Elder has corrected the timeline, but laments the death of his pet to Kirk, which didn’t happen the first time around.
“One small thing was changed this time. A pet… died.”
“A pet? Well, that wouldn’t mean much in the course of time.”
“It might, to some.”
To absent friends.