In his commentary on Armageddon, that ultimate epicure of explosions, Michael Bay notes that the cardinal rule of disaster filmmaking is to “never kill a dog.” Maybe it has to do with their loyalty, or their innocence, but there’s a longstanding cinematic tradition of using dogs in emotionally manipulative ways (anyone else feel betrayed by Turner & Hooch’s family-friendly façade?). And when it’s a real-life canine disaster story, we’re all the more prone to sobbing uncontrollably. Though plenty of movies go the route of driving home an already bleak tragedy with a heartrending finish of caninicide, most of our favorite mass-appeal, special-effects-saturated disaster/action movies opt for the audience pleasing cliché of dogs that, against all odds, miraculously survive. Here’s a list of some of the more implausible canine survival stories in disaster movie history.
Dante’s Peak (1997)
In perhaps one of the most memorable last-minute dog rescue scenes, beloved family pet Ruffy narrowly escapes a fiery death by jumping into a moving, apparently lava-resistent truck.
Independence Day (1996)
Entire cities instantaneously destroyed and millions of people killed by a race of planet-exploiting aliens — but our friend Boomer here was at least fortunate enough to get green-screened onto the lucky side of all the peril.
New York comes crumbling down as asteroids aimed directly at the city’s most iconic buildings seem to annihilate everybody, save one tiny dog named Little Richard. The Rube Goldberg-inspired complexity of this sequence makes Little Richard’s narrow survival all the more gratifyingly implausible.
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Dogs are immune to pretty much any force of cinematic catastrophe, including, as the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead proves, zombies. In one scene, Chips is lowered into the zombie’s midst to transport food and supplies to another human survivor, since zombies obviously don’t eat dogs. Although Chips survives, the human he was sent to rescue is ironically eaten.
Leave it to Sylvester Stallone to risk his life saving a dog from a collapsed section of the Holland Tunnel to honor the wishes of somebody’s dying mother. Stallone passes Cooper to safety before a beam breaks, causing him to fall back down into the water.
What would a classic ’90s disaster flick be without putting a dog dangerously close to certain death and then resolving the peril with some lighthearted canine antics? Roger Ebert probably puts it best: “In a tiny subplot, we see a dog barking at the lava coming in the front door, and then grabbing his Doggy-Bone and escaping out the back. When that happened, not a single dog in the audience had dry eyes.”
Another quintessential ’90s disaster film, Twister opens with a tornado from Jo’s (Jodie Foster) childhood in which her father dies, but somehow her dog makes it, setting up the plot for her lifelong obsession with storm chasing. And, at least one other dog survives a tornado in this film.
The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
In addition to the homeless man and his dog who, after being initially turned away, manage to find shelter in the public library before an epic tsunami wipes out New York City, The Day After Tomorrow also features some escaped CGI wolves capable of enduring unthinkably cold CGI temperatures.