Everybody loves pets! Whether you’re talking about a loyal dog who would cross the country to reunite with his owner, a loving cat that jumps playfully into your lap, or a reptile whose owners insist feels love—despite not being able to hear anything their master says– we love our pets, and we’re fairly certain that they love us.
So how do movie pets manage to go so terribly wrong? Lots of ways—science gone awry, Satanic influence, rabies, chemicals in the water supply. In the end, the “why” isn’t as important as the “what” and the “who”. We’ve compiled what we think are the scariest pets in all of film. Note: we’re leaving the true story of Grizzly Man‘s Tim Treadwell and his grizzly bears off our list, mainly because treating wild bears like pets led to a terrible tragedy—which we assume is not what anyone is here to read about. Also, and we apologize in advance, there will be no sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads. Sorry, Dr. Evil.
Without further ado, here are Screen Rant’s 20 Most Terrifying Pets In Movie History.
20. Baxter – Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
It may be true that Dobie the shark (from the sequel) seems more terrifying at face value. But let’s look at everything Baxter, the little gentleman, did in the course of the first film. Baxter survives being punted off a bridge by an insane motorcycle enthusiast (Jack Black), and swims off to safety. He has an adventure with bears in the wild. Whatever happens out there, he and Katow-Jo form enough of a bond that Baxter is able to talk his cousin out of killing and eating the entire Channel 4 news team. As if that isn’t impressive enough, Baxter also ate an entire wheel of cheese.
Baxter may not be what anyone calls “ferocious,” but if your dog did what Baxter did, it would go viral immediately. In fact, Baxter’s loyalty to Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) in spite of all that canine badassery is impressive in and of itself. Baxter would never turn on his owner, even when he could easily have run off with the bears.
19. Irina Gallier – Cat People
People who throw shade on horror remakes have usually forgotten about the splendid ‘80s remake of Cat People. Nastassja Kinksi (considered one of the sexiest women in the world at the time) plays Irina, a virginal woman who comes to New Orleans to meet her long-lost brother (the great Malcolm McDowell), Paul. Before long, it becomes clear that something is amiss with Paul. He’s highly jealous and possessive of Irina, despite barely knowing her. As one secret after another is revealed we learn that (spoiler alert!) Irina and Paul are “Cat People”. They are actually were-panthers who will transform if they have sex with anyone who isn’t their sibling. How very Lannister!
Cat People resolves itself with Paul and Irina separated and Irina being kept at a local zoo in panther form. Her boyfriend (John Heard) takes care of her, despite the objections of the woman who loves him (Annette O’Toole). 1982’s Cat People is a fantastic remake, has a kickass theme by David Bowie, and is a highly enjoyable film with Irina as a terrifying and deadly pet.
18. Mogwai – Gremlins
We all know the rules of keeping a mogwai. Ostensibly, the first rule should be “don’t.” But if you insist, “never get them wet, keep them away from bright light, and never…ever feed them after midnight.” Do time zones matter here? They never say, even though Gizmo was probably born on the other side of the planet. Like pit bulls and game cocks, mogwai are sweet and good when left to their own devices. But when humans are involved, things can go bad fast. Of course the human twerp (Zach Galligan) who’s meant to be caring for Gizmo is woefully inept. He spills water on his new pet, creating at least five more mogwai. Being especially clever (not!), they manage to trick David the human into feeding them after midnight—turning the new mogwai into gremlins. And that’s when the horror starts.
Gremlins is one of the reasons we have a PG-13 rating for films. The film was too scary for a PG rating, but didn’t have the language or nudity to warrant an R rating. Plus, the studio really wanted families to go see it. Gremlins was an enormous hit in the ‘80s. Everyone who was anyone had a plush mogwai in their home. Good, since that’s the only kind of mogwai that humans should be trusted with.
17. Mike Tyson’s Tiger – The Hangover
When one thinks of terrifying films, The Hangover probably does not make anyone’s list. A group of guys manages to roofie themselves in Vegas, leading to an array of improbable situations. They care for a mysterious baby, avoid Chang from Community (because that dude is crazy), and deal with a tiger they find in the bathroom. Tigers are already terrifying because it would be so easy for one, even a small one, to kill you without a second thought. And in fact, the tiger does go on the attack inside a car. Yikes! The bigger problem though, is that this particular tiger belongs to Mike Tyson. Tyson, if you don’t follow sports, is not exactly known for restraint or for resolving conflict peacefully. Stealing Tyson’s tiger and then realizing that you have to return it? That’s hella scary, especially for a comedy. I mean, what if that tiger messed up Bradley Cooper’s finely sculpted face? That would be a national tragedy!
16. Devil Dog – Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell
You know what’s good? Made for TV movies from the ‘70s. From When Michael Calls, to Crowhaven Farm, ‘70s TV movies were scary, well-written, and memorable. Well, almost all of them are. In 1978s Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell, we meet a bitch who is unwillingly lured into unholy shenanigans after being adopted by, you guessed it, Satanists. Watch for the hilariously overwrought scene where the poor dog is chained inside a pentagram, waiting for the Devil to do… whatever Satan does with dogs. They really don’t say.
Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell has a surprisingly respectable cast that includes Kim Richards (the girl from Disney’s Witch Mountain movies), Yvette Mimieux (The Black Hole, The Time Machine), and Richard Crenna (Dr. Melfi’s ex-husband on The Sopranos). Is a movie about a satanic dog actually scary? Not really. But the dog itself? Who would really keep a Satan-worshipping dog in their home?
15. Ramone – Alligator
Laws used to be a lot more lax about having exotic animals as pets. Tropical birds were a popular fad, until people realized how hard they were to care for. Ditto owls, Dalmatians, or the bunnies and baby chicks that morons impulse buy to give kids for Easter. For a time, it was popular to buy baby alligators in Florida and keep them at home as pets. When people do this, they’re clearly not thinking of how big gators grow, or how much they’ll want to eat, or even how much aquariums cost (because it’s a lot).
In 1980 film Alligator, a young girl buys an adorable baby alligator and takes it home to Chicago. She names him Ramone, and seems to have every intention of caring for him. After a combination of scientific experimentation gone wrong and being cruelly flushed down the toilet while still alive, Ramone has 12 years to think about how awful humans are. When he escapes from the sewers, it’s chomping time. We can’t really blame Ramone for his lot in life. But we also can’t have him eating citizens willy-nilly. That’s when Robert Forster comes in to save the day.
14. Experimental Bunny – Night of the Lepus
Okay, we admit that Night of the Lepus is considered a notoriously terrible horror movie. In fact, some consider it a horror-comedy because it’s just that bad. Night of the Lepus contains all the usual science-gone-awry and children making the old switcheroo (because they love one of the experimental pets) that usually accompany this subgenre. The paper-thin plot actually comes from a novel called The Year of the Angry Rabbit. Really.
This film has giant, killer rabbits that are big enough to eat people. If you don’t think a giant rabbit can be scary, keep in mind that rabbits are closely related to rats. Giant rats eating humans is way more scary, right? That may also mean we humans are at least as tasty as lettuce and raisins. This rabbit-filled crapfest features a confoundingly good cast that includes Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun, and DeForest Kelly. Sadly, no one thinks to defeat the rabbits using the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.
13. Joe – Mighty Joe Young
While we’re great fans of the 1942 film, we’ve decided to go with the remade Mighty Joe Young for the most terrifying ape pet. Remake Joe is nearly twice the size of the mountain gorilla in the original film– almost 17 feet tall! Like the mogwai we discussed earlier in the list, Joe would have been perfectly fine if evil humans had just left him the hell alone. Joe only loves Charlize Theron, and can you blame him? She’s lovely and sweet, while every other human he meets is a violent jerk. Yes, even Bill Paxton at first. When Joe finally does lash out at people, it’s because their behavior toward him has been, at best, dismissive and uncaring, and at worst, torturous and cruel. He can’t help it if he’s huge and strong. And if someone tried to poach you, you’d probably take off half his hand as well. Mighty Joe Young is a great family film despite having a very powerful and scary protagonist. It also has a happier ending than say, King Kong.
12. Mrs. Bickerman’s Crocs – Lake Placid
Lake Placid is one of those films that is better than it has any right to be. A sparkling cast (Brendan Gleeson, Oliver Platt, Bill Pullman, Mariska Hargitay, Bridget Fonda) and witty dialogue by David E. Kelley makes for a movie that’s scary, funny, and engaging all the way through. Something is killing people at the local lake. What could it be? We already know it’s a croc, a big one. But how did it get there without anyone knowing?
Turns out, an old couple had been feeding and caring for the giant like “a pet who lives outside.” Despite it eating her cows, horses, and eventually her husband, Mrs. Bickerman (a delightful Betty White) continues to feed and care for the crocs—which actually turns out to be two crocs. Despite a lighthearted tone, these crocs are big—like, bigger than a city bus big. They’re also scary, hungry, and into making little baby crocs. We learn in the sequel that despite her sassy attitude and foul mouth, Mrs. Bickerman’s luck with her crocs eventually runs out.
11. Black Mamba – Venom
One might think that someone who worked for a reptile supply house would be pretty careful to keep the deadly snakes away from the docile ones. You’d also think that such a person would have a pronounced ability to tell what species a snake is at a quick glance. After all, they wouldn’t want to send a deadly black mamba to a sickly ten-year-old who was expecting a harmless corn snake. Yet somehow, that’s exactly what happens in this ‘80s thriller that also boasts a kidnapping plot, a mid-shoot director switch, and another confoundingly excellent cast. Venom (which is difficult to google thanks to the Spider-Man villain) was originally directed by Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Salem’s Lot), who left over creative differences. Klaus Kinski chose to make this film over Raiders of the Lost Ark, because he said Spielberg’s script was um…not unlike excrement. Oliver Reed also stars in this film; so I bet he was bummed when it was lambasted by critics. Still, a kid keeping a black mamba as a pet is pretty dang scary.
10. Hellhound: The Omen
Okay, we’re into the top ten. This is when we take the scariness up to eleven. Everything about The Omen is terrifying: an evil child with an angelic face, a British nanny who is also the Devil’s concierge, zoo animals that flee or attack for no apparent reason, and a soundtrack that still gives us the creeps. The Omen was such a brilliant film that it actually saved a failing 20th Century Fox, which went on to release a little film called Star Wars the following year. There are several spooky animal scenes in The Omen, but the hellhound that becomes an unwelcome part of the Thorn household is the scariest by far. It’s a big dog; maybe a mastiff mix. It has a terrifying low growl that says, ‘I’m not even mad, but I’ll still kill you.’ The hellhound, first and foremost, is there to protect Damien. So when it eventually attacks Gregory Peck, we know it means business.
9. Fluffy – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
If you’ve read or watch Harry Potter, you already know about Hagrid. Hagrid is a kindly half-giant, which has given him sympathy for terrifying animals that most wizards steer clear of. Being roughly thrice the size of an average wizard, Hagrid probably has far less to fear from Fluffy than say, a Hogwarts first year student. One of the more intimidating animals under Hagrid’s care is Fluffy, the dog who acts as one of the obstacles to the Sorcerer’s Stone. Fluffy is huge. The eleven-year-old pupils have to look waaaay up to see what’s actually barking at them. And what a menacing bark it is. In fact, Fluffy has three menacing barks—one for each head. Even though Fluffy is probably only a distant relation to Cerberus (the original 3-headed-hellhound), he alternates between heart-stoppingly fear-inducing and adorably docile (when music is soothing the savage beast). Fluffy won’t chase you, but if you invade his space he can’t be held responsible for what happens next. Also, drool. Ew.
8. Bubastis – Watchmen
Whether you’re a fan of the graphic novel or the divisive and controversial film, fans of Watchmen love Bubastis. In the comic, she is a red and stripy cat, impressively huge and very smart. In the film, Bubastis is a silvery-blue color, and just as smart and lethal. She’s the pet of Ozymandius (Matthew Goode) who created her in a lab so he’d have someone cool and clever to hang out with. She is as loyal as a dog, which means she’s equally likely to be turned into a weapon. Adrian Veidt is evil in the way that Magneto is evil. He doesn’t have malicious intent per se. In fact, one could argue that his goals are noble. But he also doesn’t care who has to die in order to achieve a greater good. So when Bubastis meets an unfortunate end at the hand of her loving (really!) master, we can’t help thinking that it’s so much potential wasted. Bubastis probably could have taken out New York faster than an alien invasion, but I guess we’ll never know.
7. Fido – Fido
What kind of a moron keeps a zombie as a pet? If you’ve ever seen Fido, a ‘50s era period piece about doing just that, you know that the answer is basically every kind. The premise: space radiation (à la Night of the Living Dead) reanimates corpses and leads to The Zombie Wars. It ends quickly, and a company called Zomcon develops collars that keep the remaining zombies docile so they can be used as slaves. In addition to slavery being morally repugnant (not to mention what is probably happening to the poor, beautiful zombie Tammy), keeping zombies around is a recipe for disaster. As you’d imagine, occasionally moments of carelessness result in a zombie outbreak in the safe zone. Mostly, though not only, bad people are bitten and turned. Fido is a dangerous pet no matter how much little Timmy loves him. But the living humans are always just a little bit worse. Fido features an awesome cast that includes Dylan Baker, Billy Connolly, and Carrie-Anne Moss.
6. Experiment 626 – Lilo & Stitch
The first time you see Experiment 626, your first thought might be to wonder what the heck it is. It’s not a dog, or a cat, or a bear, or a marsupial of any kind. It’s blue, it does things that suggest intelligence and self-awareness, and its very existence got its creator locked up in space prison. This experimental animal makes it all the way to Earth, but was promptly knocked out and taken to an animal shelter in Hawaii. From the outset, it’s clear that Experiment 626 is capable of creating major havoc in the world. After being taken in by a family (two orphaned sisters, one much older than the other), Experiment 626, now renamed “Stitch,” becomes responsible for even more craziness. At one point, Stitch almost gets Lilo thrown into foster care. Talk about a nightmare! Stitch isn’t an evil pet, nor does he turn on his owners or hurt anyone on purpose. But we get the feeling that if he wanted to destroy all of Earth, he could do it without much effort.
5. Ben – Willard
Willard is another great horror movie where the remake surpasses the first film—at least in terms of creepiness. Based on the disturbing novella Ratman’s Notebooks, the story of Willard Styles (unnamed in the book) is a familiar one. He’s an outcast, unhappy, ineffectual, bullied by his father’s former business partner who had bullied his father before him. Willard (Bruce Davison in the original, Crispin Glover in the remake) befriends the rats that invade his home, eventually welcoming them. His favorite, a white rat named Socrates, is killed by Willard’s terrible boss (Ernest Borgnine in the original film, R. Lee Ermy in the remake) and sparks the urge for revenge in Willard. What Willard doesn’t know is that Ben, the biggest and baddest brown rat, thinks he should lead the rat army—not Willard. After a few glorious acts of rat-based revenge (watch for the fantastic elevator scene in the remake), Willard becomes increasingly worried about the rats’ destructive capabilities as led by Ben. Willard tries to kill the rats, but Ben isn’t having it. The remake has a different ending than the original film, but both are creepy, compelling, and cement Ben as the reigning rat king.
4. Ella – Monkey Shines: An Experiment in Fear
George Romero has been frightening filmgoers since the 1960s. While he’s predominantly known for his work with zombies, the 1988 film Monkey Shines: An Experiment in Fear is a fine departure. After health-nut Allan (Jason Beghe) loses the use of his body after an accident, his helpful friend brings him a super-smart experimental helper monkey to make his transition easier. Yeah, can’t imagine what could go wrong with that. Helper animals are probably different than pets in some ways, and they’re surely alike in others. Allan develops a reliance on Ella the monkey, but also a fondness. Ella loves Allan. A lot. So we shouldn’t be too surprised when Ella starts hurting people who are mean to Allan, or who are close enough to him that Ella gets jealous. Being a monkey, Ella is clever, dexterous, and capable of all manner of nefarious mischief. In Monkey Shines, Romero gives us a compelling and even lovable villain we wish didn’t have to meet the end that she did.
3. Aragog – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
We’ve already talked a little about Harry Potter‘s Rubeus Hagrid and his love of terrifying beasts. When he was a student, he was even more lax about horrific animals, as evidenced by his keeping of Aragog—a blind acromantula (giant spider). This got him expelled from Hogwarts (long story), but Hagrid didn’t give up on his arachnid pal. He found Aragog a home in the Dark Forest, and a girlfriend with whom he multiplied… and multiplied… and multiplied some more. What makes Aragog so scary and deadly? Well, in addition to being a spider the size of a small house, he’s got thousands of descendants—many of whom can actually see and are totally bloodthirsty. Aragog’s loyalty to Hagrid is absolute, but if you’re merely a friend of Hagrid? Not so much. Nobody seems to mention that the Dark Forest is now filled with so many ravenous acromantulas that everyone—thestrals, unicorns, bowtruckles, even centaurs have something to fear from the descendents of Aragog. Even dead, that frickin’ spider is terrifying.
2. Cujo – Cujo
Stephen King has given us some of the scariest stories we’ve ever read, which led to some of the scariest movies of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Cujo is one of King’s favourite film adaptations. In fact, he has said several times that Dee Wallace should have won an Oscar for the role of the mom desperately trying to protect her son (Danny Pintauro from Who’s the Boss) from a rabid St. Bernard that has them trapped in her crappy car. Cujo is really a very sad story. Cujo is a loved and happy St. Bernard who gets bitten by a bat. When the poor doggy comes down with rabies and starts killing people, all of a sudden he’s the villain. Shame, that. One could argue that the real villain is Donna (Dee Wallace)’s husband, who drives a slick convertible and leaves his wife to drive their young son around in a broken-down Pinto. It’s the dead alternator that really puts the mother and son at the mercy of the rabid animal, who is cursed to die from his illness. As bad as we feel for Cujo, he is unmistakably terrifying.
1. Lions from Roar
Every now and again, we hear about someone foolish enough to keep an exotic cat in their home. Why do we hear about it? Because the cat either escaped and had to be killed, or it seriously injured or killed someone. See, that’s what lions, tigers, cheetahs, panthers, and leopards do. They eat, they sit in boxes, eat, jump really high, eat, and make little cats. And that’s all.
Roar is a movie that utilized dozens of lions, tigers, and other dangerous animals in close quarters. If you watch it, you’ll be horrified at the stupidity of the cast and crew for being around these wild, untrained animals for a film that isn’t very good in the first place. The opening credits boast that while no animals were hurt making the film, 70 cast and crew members were. Yes, 70. What’s more, star Tippi Hedren and her family kept lions in their home for years after making Roar. They were attached to them, apparently. Sadly, the lions eventually attached their teeth to the family member’s extremities—which is why Hedren’s daughter, Melanie Griffith, once needed 50 stitches in her face and almost lost an eye.
Did we forget the movie pet that terrified you the most? Let us know!