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13 Sad Dog Movies When You Need a Good Cry

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Dogs are undoubtedly a human’s best friend and by far the number one most owned pet in the country. We consider them a part of the family, and we pet parents love to see our favorite furry friends depicted on screen. “Dog movies are great because they fully display the loyalty and connection dogs have with their owners, a connection that can run deeper than we can ever have with one another,” says Kayla Rose, an entertainment blogger at In My Theater and podcast host of Sips & Scripts

Good dog movies show a family’s pet somehow helping their owner be a better person, serving as a wingman in finding their humans a mate, and giving us a glimpse of their unique personalities, which can oftentimes make us laugh. Dogs are the ultimate companion, so when they’re having fun on screen, we’re happy. And when a dog has a bad day on screen, we’re ready to reach for the tissues.

We all love a good comedy or drama, but sometimes you’re just in the mood for a tear-jerker. And why is that, you may wonder? Research has shown that watching sad movies can actually make us happier! That’s right, a sad or traumatic film boosts feel-good, painkilling endorphin levels in your brain, which increases physical and emotional pain tolerance. Researchers at Oxford University also claim that watching sad films can increase group bonding. So, watching a good sad dog movie can be therapeutic and bring families closer together!

There are plenty of sad movies about dogs that all of us pet parents can relate to (and even learn from), but our favorites are the ones with redeeming and inspiring qualities. While, yes, these movies can make us feel sad, that  doesn’t mean they can’t have a happy ending. 

Here are our picks for the best sad dog movies that will give you a good cry but still leave your heart warmed at the end.

13 Best Sad Dog Movies

Old Yeller (1957)


When people think about a sad movie about a dog, this is often the first one that comes to mind. This Disney classic sad dog movie features a Black Mouth Cur named “Old Yeller,” named after his yellow coat (“yeller” being a Southern dialect of “yellow”). Based on a 1956 novel, the film takes place on a Texas ranch in the 1860s where a family adopts a stray dog who ends up protecting the kids and winning the love of the family, especially the teenage son, Travis. 

After an encounter with a wolf, Old Yeller contracts rabies, which leads to a bittersweet ending. 

A Dog’s Purpose (2017)

This is one of the best inspirational dog movies out there. It follows a dog named Bailey, whose soul repeatedly gets reincarnated as he tries to find his purpose in life. While it isn’t one of the saddest dog movies we’ve seen, Bailey inevitably dies multiple times to be reincarnated. And even though you kind of see it coming, it does get you every time. Each of the dog’s lives are stories filled with adventure, loyalty, grief, and drama. 

A Dog’s Purpose has a surprisingly heartwarming ending, as Bailey narrates an uplifting message about what he learned to be the purpose of life. 

The Call of the Wild (2020)

Based on Jack London’s 1903 novel, The Call of the Wild stars Harrison Ford and a large Saint Bernard/Scotch Shepherd mix named Buck. One of the best sad movies with dogs, this classic story takes place during the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush, where Buck is stolen from his home in California and sent to the Yukon to be sold as a sled dog. The film follows Buck’s adventures, including the challenges of surviving extreme weather conditions and abusive owners, dealing with the pack of sled dogs, and the struggle between loyalty to his owner and following his call to the wild.

Marley and Me (2008)


This comedy/drama stars Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, and Marley, a Labrador Retriever named after Bob Marley. Young couple John and Jennifer (Wilson and Aniston) adopt an adorable puppy to test their parenting skills before having kids of their own, but Marley ends up growing into a big, mischievous puppy, wreaking havoc in the household and failing obedience training. Nevertheless, the couple bonds with the pup, and Marley even becomes the topic of John’s twice-weekly newspaper column.

Marley and Me takes place over the span of Marley’s life and is filled with many laughs and tears. 

Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (2009)

This film is based on a true but sad dog story of a dog named Hachikō that lived in Japan in 1920. Starring Richard Gere and Joan Allen, it’s about a stray Akita dog named Hachi who was found by Parker (Gere) in a railway station. Hachi has such a strong love for his new owner that he walks with Parker every day to the railway station, then comes back at 5 p.m. to accompany his owner home, until one day Parker doesn’t return from work. 

Hachi: A Dog’s Tale is a sad movie about a dog, but it shows a pup’s love and loyalty to his master. (Bonus! It has a happy ending involving a puppy.) 

Max (2015)

This is another one of our favorite inspirational dog movies about a heroic Belgian Malinois military dog named Max who was trained to help U.S. Marines in Afghanistan. After going through a traumatic experience overseas, Max returns to the United States and is adopted by his owner’s family. Not everyone may consider this film a sad dog movie per se; it’s more of a family adventure drama where Max is the hero canine that rescues his owners, helps to take down the cartel, and saves lives. There are definitely some happy/sad moments throughout, though. 

I am Legend (2007)


Starring Will Smith as U.S. Army virologist Robert Neville and a German Shepherd named Samantha (Sam), this post-apocalyptic action thriller takes place in New York City after a deadly virus has wiped out most of mankind. Neville is immune to the virus and is the last human in New York, accompanied by his canine companion, Sam. Together they fend off nocturnal mutants called “Darkseekers” while searching for a cure. 

I am Legend is a dark film with a sad dog story, but it shows the unconditional love and companionship of a dog. Get ready for the ultimate heroic ending! 

Turner & Hooch (1989)

This police comedy film stars Tom Hanks as police investigator Scott Turner and a slobbery Dogue de Bordeaux named Hooch. Turner reluctantly becomes the caretaker of Hooch, which he regrets at first, especially with the amount of drooling that Turner loves to do. Eventually the two bond and Hooch becomes Turner’s partner in helping to solve a case and even saves his life. 

Though Turner & Hooch involves a sad dog story, there are many funny parts and valiant canine moments. Plus, the ending involves cute little puppies!  

The Fox and the Hound (1981)


Oh boy, Disney. You really know how to do it. While the characters are adorable, this is also one of the saddest dog movies the studio has made. The classic animated drama film features a red fox named Tod and a hound dog named Copper. The two meet as pups and become best friends, despite their instincts to be enemies. As the two grow up and Copper turns into an expert hunting dog, they struggle to maintain their friendship. The end does have a redeeming quality about forgiveness, but overall, The Fox and the Hound is a pretty sad dog movie.

Eight Below (2006)

Set in 1993, this survival drama film is based on a true story of a pack of Huskies stranded in Antarctica and features Paul Walker (Jerry Shepard) as a sled dog trainer who will do anything to save his pups. Eight Below is an inspirational dog movie showing how eight sled dogs struggle to survive extreme weather conditions in Antarctica. This isn’t one of the saddest dog movies (spoiler alert!) because in the end, most of the dogs end up surviving, but it’s a really good dog movie about love, loyalty, and the amazing survival skills of canines. 

All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989)


This classic animated musical film is a sad dog story of a German Shepherd named Charlie that is killed by his former friend and gives up his place in heaven to return to Earth to take revenge. We know this sounds morbid and not like the plot for a children’s movie, but there is redemption after Charlie meets a young orphan girl named Anne-Marie. The movie teaches us about the power of forgiveness, friendship, and love.  

My Dog Skip (2000)

My Dog Skip is another sad dog movie with a good message. This comedy-drama film tells the story of how a Jack Russell Terrier named Skip influenced a boy’s life by helping him make friends, find love, and learn life lessons that make him a better person. My Dog Skip stars Luke Wilson, Kevin Bacon, and Frankie Muniz, who plays Willie, a lonely 9-year-old boy who just wants to be accepted and fit in. Even though it’s a positive movie plot, you’ll definitely need the tissues at certain parts of this film, especially (spoiler alert!) the end.

Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)


Yes, this movie also involves a cat, but we had to include Homeward Bound on our list of sad dog movies – it’s a real tear-jerker! This film tells the story of two dogs (Chance and Shadow) and a cat (Sassy) who are separated from their human family and make the long trek through the Sierra Nevada to reunite with them. Along the way, this trio encounters many ups and downs, but their determination to get home keeps them going. We’ll be honest, the final scene of this movie makes us tear up just thinking about it!

Where to Watch Sad Dog Movies Online

You can find most of these sad dog movies on Disney+, including Old Yeller, Marley and Me, The Call of the Wild, Turner & Hooch, The Fox and the Hound, Homeward Bound, and Eight Below. 

“There are also plenty of sad dog movies on Netflix (and even some not-so-sad ones!). And if you don’t have Netflix or Disney+, you can find these and many other sad dog movies on Amazon Prime, Hulu, Roku, and Max.

Tips for Watching Sad Dog Movies

Ready to nestle up for a sad dog movie? First off, grab a box of tissues. There’s a good chance that if you come across a movie that features a canine star as a leading actor, there will be a mix of happy and sad moments.

Treat yourself to some comfort food or drinks to make the viewing more tolerable. We also recommend watching it with your family or loved ones for support and a little bonding time – and don’t forget to include your dog! You’ll definitely want to snuggle up with your pet during a sad dog movie. These flicks help us to appreciate our four-legged friends a little more than we did before.

Lastly, try to focus on the overall message and redeeming qualities of the stories. In most sad dog movies, there is a good life lesson and a positive message that will leave you feeling content and comforted.