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Cecil the lion’s death has been mourned internationally, after the popular Zimbabwe lion was hunted and killed by Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer.
The issue of animal death was at the center of controversy this week, with many people saying that the public cares more about Cecil the lion’s death than the unjust death of human beings covered in the news every day. While Cecil’s death was tragic, critics argued, there are more important problems the media should focus on.
In a 2013 sociological study, research showed that people had more sympathy for battered adult dogs and puppies than they did for battered adults. (The difference in children with puppies however, was “statistically nonsignificant.”)
There’s something about the death of animals that pulls at people’s heartstrings, and this sentiment undoubtedly seeps into the film experience.
Here’s a look at the saddest animal death moments in film.
The Lion King: Mufasa
It’s difficult not to sob when a grieving Simba crawls under his father’s paw after Mufasa is killed in a stampede. Scar, who pushed Mufasa into the stampede, convinces Simba it was his fault, adding to his pain.
Bambi: Bambi’s Mom
Bambi and his mother are looking to find food in the winter when the mother is shot by a deer hunter in the forest. The fawn, scared and alone after his mother is killed, is then raised by his father, the Great Prince of the Forest.
The Land Before Time: Littlefoot’s Mother
Littlefoot’s mother saves Littlefoot and Cera from Sharptooth but is harmed in the process, just as an earthquake occurs. When Littlefoot finds her she is already dying. She tells him to let his heart guide him to the Great Valley.
Finding Nemo: Nemo’s Mother
Marlin and Coral are discussing what to name their children when a barracuda appears, threatening their family. Coral dives away from her sea anemone home to lure the barracuda away and Marlin gets knocked out. When he wakes up he finds Coral and all of their eggs but one gone. He names the remaining fish Nemo in honor of the name Coral wanted to use.
Charlotte’s Web: Charlotte
Charlotte was a wonderful friend to Wilbur, befriending him in the barn and helping him to become famous with her web messages. When she dies after winning Wilbur a medal at the fair, Wilbur helps protect her egg sac, and three of her baby spiders keep Wilbur company on the farm.
All Dogs Go to Heaven: Charlie
Charlie dies twice in All Dogs Go to Heaven, first when he is run over by a car and again when he sacrifices his life to save Anne-Marie. The second death is much more emotional since Charlie is risking going to hell in order to push Anne-Marie out of the water to safety.
Where the Red Fern Grows: Old Dan and Little Ann
Old Dan is killed by a mountain lion while helping to save Billy, and Little Ann dies of heartbreak and starvation while mourning him. Billy and his family deeply grieve the two dogs’ deaths but are comforted when a red fern grows between their graves. A Native American legend says only an angel can plant the seeds of a red fern.
The Neverending Story: Artax
Atreyu and Artax are traveling through the Swamps of Sadness in Fantasia when Artax gives up and lets the swam overtake him. “You’re letting the sadness of the swamps get to you! You have to try!” Atreyu pleads, but to no avail.
I Am Legend: Sam
Sam is Robert’s loyal companion as he fights off loneliness in an empty New York City, but when she is bitten by an infected dog, Robert is forced to kill her. He first tries to save her with his anti-viral medicine, but it doesn’t work, and she ultimately dies in a heartbreaking moment for Robert.
Old Yeller: Old Yeller
When the Coates family is threatened by a rabid wolf, Old Yeller fights the wolf off but is bitten in the process. Travis is forced to shoot his precious pet when he starts showing signs of rabies.
Marley & Me: Marley
Marley’s death is not as unexpected as the other animals’ deaths on this list but it is sad nonetheless. Marley starts to get very sick in his old age and must be put down by the family, who owned the faithful and spirited dog for 14 years.
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