The Best Killer Dog Movies You’ve Never Seen

The Breed (2006)

Five college friends head to a remote island where some of them vacationed as kids, but the vacation isn’t nearly as relaxing as they would have liked. A pack of wild dogs has turned the place into their own private game reserve, and the humans are just their latest prey.

I’ve seen a lot of “killer dog” movies in my day, and this unassuming little thriller is easily among the best. There are a few reasons why, but chief among them is the dog action that never looks less than real. Editing, animatronics, and even a little CG go a long way here, but most of the credit goes to the extremely well-trained dogs and a clear effort to have the cast interact with them and without stunt doubles where possible. It’s filled with intense sequences, thrilling attacks, and dogs that know their marks better than some actors. And no, that’s not a dig on a cast that includes Michelle Rodriguez, Oliver Hudson, and Taryn Manning.

The script is surprisingly strong too as with only a single exception you won’t find yourself yelling at the characters’ stupidity. (And even that one instance is easily excused.) Rather than be a fast slaughter these characters put up a smart and strong fight – Hudson takes out several of the killer canines through wit and brute force – like real people would, and they don’t start biting it until nearly the third act. It’s played straight too with Rodriguez’s stone-faced, pre-kill quip “Give Cujo my best” being a rare dip into silliness. The film is legitimately suspenseful at times and even manages some stunts, and the practical nature of it all makes for a terrific ride.

The Breed is available on DVD.

White God (2014)

A teenager and her mutt Hagen are sent to stay with her estranged father for the weekend, but like too many others Lili’s dad is no fan of the mixed-breed dog. He drops it at the edge of town sending Hagen on a violent adventure to reunite with Lili. It’s a journey fraught with suffering, but things are due for a change when Hagen and hundreds of other abused dogs decide they’re not going to take it anymore.

This Hungarian drama is an at-times breathtakingly beautiful film with a simple and effective commentary at its core. Humanity can stand to do a lot better as a species. It’s a gorgeously lensed allegory for man’s treatment of those beneath them, whether human or otherwise, and it’s ultimately an exciting adventure about the desperate need for understanding despite differences. Think the heartwarming reunion from Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco meets the flesh-rending carnage of Cujo, and you’ll be in the ballpark.

While its allegory can be applied in numerous areas, its most direct and intentional target is the most recent wave of nationalism and anti-immigrant arguments. Characters here despise the mutts for not being purebreds, and the symbolism is unmistakable. The clash grows increasingly violent and builds towards an inevitable confrontation, but the film allows for a note of hope between “sides” that’s both emotionally affecting and wholly optimistic. If only the real world shared the same screenwriters.

White God is available on Blu-ray/DVD and to stream.

The Pack (2015)

A family struggling to make ends meet on their rural Australian farm finds a different kind of fight when wild dogs come looking for prey. Cut off from outside help, the family of four are forced into a nightmare as the animals bust into their house with savagery on their minds.

Yes, this is a second killer dog movie called The Pack, but this time the mutts are Australian! While its predecessor from the 70s pairs its terror with a strong commentary on human behavior, this Aussie effort is far more straightforward. Gone is any semblance of a backstory or explanation, and instead, the focus is on the family’s problems and split desires. They can’t afford the place, the teen daughter hates it there anyway, etc., and time spent getting to know their dynamic in turn helps viewers care more once they’re under attack.

As the most recent film on the list you might expect the animal action to be accomplished via CG to avoid exploiting or endangering animals, but while it doesn’t go that route it instead is very particular in its editing. We get plenty of atmosphere and wide shots taking advantage of the landscape and approaching beasts, but with only a couple exceptions the attacks are almost exclusively close-ups. It works well enough, though, making for a fairly intense little thriller.

The Pack is available on Blu-ray/DVD and to stream.

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