- Killer dog movies have a long history, with early examples like “Killer-Dog” focusing on innocence and justice, while later films emphasize the terror of beloved pets turning into out-of-control killers.
- The subgenre of killer dog movies is diverse, featuring rabid dogs, genetically engineered killers, and demonic influences, and some even use the dogs to explore social commentary.
- Killer dog movies elicit fear by showing men, women, and children fighting to survive against terrifying and ruthless movie dogs, creating a thrilling and suspenseful experience.
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There are a lot of monsters in horror movies, but the killer dog movies are much more terrifying as the threat comes from deadly beasts that were once beloved pets. One of the earliest examples of this wasn’t a horror movie but was a tense drama from 1936 called Killer-Dog, a story about a family dog accused of killing sheep. However, before the dog gets put to death, the family asks a judge to determine its fate. While that was mostly about proving the dog’s innocence, the killer dog movies that arrived decades later caused great fear by showing a family pet turning into an out-of-control killing machine.
Even though it’s a specific horror subgenre, killer dog movies remain varied. There are several movies that show what happens when a dog goes rabid, but there are others that are more fantastical in nature. In some cases, the dogs are genetically engineered as killers and in some cases, there might be a demonic presence influencing the once docile family pets and driving them to murder. There are even a select few that use the killer dogs to tell a more nuanced story, including some social commentary. What they all have in common is men, women, and children fighting to survive scary movie dogs.
12 Dracula’s Dog (1978)
Stan Winston Created The Practical Effects Of Dracula’s Dog
One of the most bizarre killer dog movies arrived in 1978 with Dracula’s Dog, which was also called Zoltan… Hound of Dracula. As the title suggests, Zoltan is a pet dog, a Doberman Pinscher turned over 300 years prior by Dracula himself. When a Romanian dog finds a dead dog in a crypt with a stake in its heart, he removes it and Zoltan comes to life. After he revives his master, Veidt, they set off to find the only known descendent of Dracula, so they both will have a new Master to serve. The movie received lackluster reviews, but practical effect maestro Stan Winston created the terrifying undead dog Zoltan, making it noteworthy.
11 The Breed (2006)
Michelle Rodriguez Faces Off Against Genetically Modified Killer Dogs
The Breed is a 2006 horror movie where two brothers go to an island cabin with some friends for a weekend vacation. However, what they don’t realize is that there are genetically engineered dogs living on this island, and they are bred to kill anyone who comes close to a facility located on the island. Wes Craven produced this horror movie, and it featured some familiar faces, including Michelle Rodriguez (Fast & Furious), Oliver Hudson (Scream), and Taryn Manning (Orange is the New Black). Critics weren’t impressed, but the movie featured some vicious kills and frightening dog attacks.
The Breed is available to stream on Peacock.
10 Devil Dog: The Hound Of Hell (1978)
A Satanic Possession Killer Dog Movie
Underrated filmmaker Curtis Harrington directed several worthy horror films in his day. One such title is the 1978 TV movie Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell, in which a rabid German Shepherd goes on a murder spree after being possessed by Satan. When Mike (Richard Crenna) realizes his new pet dog is acting strangely, he learns the beast is an immortal satanic minion with a penchant for human blood and the ability to control people’s minds. The movie received mixed reviews but is a cult classic as it is a throwback tale of man vs nature, and it even ends with a fun twist that the story isn’t over with yet.
Devil Dog includes a role for future Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Kim Richards as Mike’s daughter Bonnie.
9 The Pack (1977)
Dogs Rampaging On An Island Resort
Not to be confused with the 2015 killer canine film of the same name, the ’70s version of The Pack is one of the most brutal PG-rated horror films on record. The film follows vacationers at Seal Island resort, where they are accosted by a vicious pack of neglected dogs that turns into cannibalistic beasts. The killer dog movie stars Joe Don Baker as Jerry, a family man who must protect his family from the lethal canine onslaught. The movie does a good job of making the audience both terrified of and sympathetic to the abandoned and poorly treated killer dogs. The movie received mixed to positive reviews when it was released.
8 Trapped (1973)
An ABC Movie Of The Week With Josh Brolin
James Brolin stars in the made-for-TV movie Trapped in which he plays a man who is robbed and beaten unconscious in a department store after hours. When he comes to, he realizes he’s locked in the store alone with six voracious attack dogs. Written and directed by Frank De Felitta, the most fun part of the movie is seeing how Chuck (Brolin) methodically brings the dogs down, one by one, in a variety of different ways. Beyond that, Trapped proves that the sheer terror of being outnumbered six to one by man-eating Dobermans is the stuff nightmares.
7 Man’s Best Friend (1993)
Ally Sheedy Stars In This Killer Dog Movie
Man’s Best Friend is a killer dog horror movie that criticizes animal cruelty in the name of scientific research. Lori (Ally Sheedy) is an animal activist who breaks into a lab and rescues a medically abused Tibetan Mastiff named Max. After she decides to keep him, and Lori and Max grow closer, she slowly realizes he has been genetically altered with predatory DNA and is prone to hyper-violent attacks as a result. With a terrifying mixture of grisly violence combined with genuine sympathy for murderous Max, the film is both scary and endearing at once. Sheedy picked up a Saturn Award nomination and the movie remains a cult classic.
6 Good Boy (2020)
A Part Of Hulu’s Into The Dark Anthology Series
Into the Dark
- Release Date
- October 5, 2018
- Streaming Service(s)
Technically a feature film-length episode of Hulu’s horror anthology Into The Dark, Good Boy takes a refreshingly comedic approach to its deadly dog story. In Good Boy, Judy Greer stars as Maggie, a journalist who is advised to get an emotional support dog following a setback at work. When Maggie soon learns her cute little pet terrier starts gorily pulverizing everyone who is mean to her, she becomes reinvigorated and starts to overcome her anxiety. Fusing sidesplitting humor with heart-pounding horror, Good Boy is a light and breezy horror film with a huge bite.
Into The Dark is available to stream on Hulu.
5 Cujo (1983)
Based On The Stephen King Novel
- Release Date
- August 12, 1983
- Lewis Teague
- Danny Pintauro, Dee Wallace, Ed Lauter, Christopher Stone, Daniel Hugh Kelly
- 93 minutes
Cujo is based on the Stephen King bestseller and traces a St. Bernard’s descent into a murderous rage after a rabid bat bites and infects him with rabies. Cujo has gained a reputation for being one of Stephen King’s darker stories, although the movie lightened up the ending somewhat. Aside from the visceral terror inflicted by Cujo’s bloody attacks, the film has a lasting emotional impact due to the heartening relationship between Donna (Dee Wallace) and her desperate attempt to keep her five-year-old son Tad (Danny Pintauro) safe from this once-friendly dog. Reviews were mixed, but Cujo remains one of the most well-known Stephen King adaptations.
Cujo is available to stream on Max.
4 Baxter (1989)
A French Movie From The Dog’s Point Of View
Baxter is an obscure French horror-comedy about a baleful Bull Terrier who will stop at nothing to be adopted by a new owner. After an elderly woman takes him in, Baxter plans a sinister way to get rid of her. Afterward, Baxter’s dream comes true with the young couple across the street taking him in. However, when they have a baby, Baxter’s jealousy causes him to lash out again. The mordant humor (Baxter’s inner monologue is heard throughout the movie) and stinging violence are handled in a deft manner by director Jerome Boivin, making for a fun, dark, and unpredictable killer dog horror-comedy.
3 White God (2014)
A Cannes Film Festival Winner
To label the Hungarian film White God as just a killer dog film would be a reductive disservice to the brilliance of director Kornel Mundruzco’s vision. The bizarre fantasy drama follows the journey of Hagen, a SharPei-Labrador hybrid who begins as a guard dog for a 13-year-old girl named Lili (Zsofia Psotta). When Lili’s father abandons Hagen on the streets, the dog allies with several hundred nomadic dogs and sets off on an uprising against the humans who have always hurt and shunned them. The performance of Bodie and Luke as Hagen the dog alone is amazing. The movie won the Prize Un Certain Regard at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.
White God is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
2 White Dog (1982)
A Samuel Fuller Movie About Race Relations
As lean, mean, and unrelenting as can be, White Dog tells the tale of a white German Shepherd trained by his former racist owner to kill Black people on sight. An actor named Julie adopts the dog after he protects her during an assault. The dog goes on to kill a handful of people, but Julie protects it. Her boyfriend, a dog trainer named Keys, works to deprogram the killer dog and starts retraining him. Directed by Samuel Fuller, the cutting social commentary asking if racism is a treatable disorder that can be healed helped the movie receive positive reviews, and it ended up receiving a Criterion Collection release.
1 The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1939)
A Sherlock Holmes Mystery With Basil Rathbone
While the 1959 Hammer Horror movie remake is a great killer dog movie, the original Hound of the Baskervilles remains one of the best Sherlock Holmes adaptations. With a trailblazing story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the film follows Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) and Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) as they investigate what people believe is a horrifying hellhound. The first of the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movies, the eerie fog-drenched atmosphere, top-notch performances, and genuinely thrilling mystery make this the definitive killer dog movie. The movie was a success, spawning 13 more Sherlock Holmes movies over the next seven years.