Hollywood often uses animals in movies to manipulate human emotions, heighten drama, or as a convenient plot device to make bipeds behave irrationally or spontaneously. The last category is examined here: Death, the lives of others, apocalyptic disasters — none of that matters to characters in these movies — they must rescue their pets at all costs.
Warning: Big-time spoilers are revealed below.
Chips the dog in the Dawn of the Dead (2004)
The zombie apocalypse arrives in the form of a fast-spreading disease that turns humans into spry bloodthirsty ghouls. A group of people holed-up in a shopping mall find a long-distance colleague in Andy, who occupies a nearby boarded-up guns and ammo store. When an attempt to send the starving man food strapped to a dog’s back takes a tragic turn, Nicole (the dog’s owner) subsequently becomes trapped in Andy’s shop when she tries to retrieve her pooch. A rescue party ultimately frees Chips and Nicole, but the pursuing zombies breach the mall’s defenses in the process — forcing the humans to flee the building unexpectedly and head off to the movie’s bleak conclusion (make sure and watch the end credits).
Jonesy the cat in Alien (1979)
After her crewmates are viciously slaughtered by a Xenomorph, last-woman-standing Ripley sets the Nostromo’s timed self-destruct and is about to make her exit in an escape shuttle…until she hears the ship’s cat Jonesy’s distressed cries. However, in returning to the mother ship to fetch the feline, Ripley is cut off from the escape shuttle by the movie’s titular intruder, leading to a failed mad scramble to override the countdown. Ripley and the orange tabby eventually (barely) escape the nuclear blast that destroys the mothership, but it paves the way for the movie’s climactic showdown in the escape shuttle. For the sequel, Aliens, Ripley left Jonesy at home.
Shelby the dog in Man of Steel (2013)
Determined to protect Clark Kent’s secret identity as an alien with super-human powers, his adoptive father Jonathan sacrifices his life while rescuing Shelby, the family dog. In Smallville, Kansas, an approaching tornado forces drivers to flee their vehicles and take shelter underneath a freeway overpass. Realizing he left his beloved pooch in the car, Clark is about to use his super-human abilities, only to be stopped by Jonathan, who returns to the car instead and releases the dog to safety. Unfortunately, Clark’s dad injures his ankle. Unable to outrun the cyclone, Jonathan accepts his fate: he signals his son to stay put as he’s overcome by the storm — forfeiting his life to save the pooch…and protect his adoptive son’s true identity.
Toto in The Wizard of Oz (1939)
After Toto, a scrappy Cairn Terrier, escapes the clutches of Miss Gulch (an abominable hag hell-bent on having the pooch “destroyed”), her owner Dorothy decides to run away from home seeing it as the only way to keep her dog safe. After meeting with fortune teller on the road, Dorothy returns home, which is in the path of an approaching devastating tornado. Unable to get into the underground shelter, Dorothy suffers a bump on the head and begins her Technicolor journey into the Land of Oz.
Can you think of any movies where humans risked everything to save a pet?