15 Movies About Animals That Always Make Us Cry

by Shanee Edwards
Sep 3, 2017 at 2:00 p.m. ET

What better day to watch the greatest but saddest animal movies of all time than National Wildlife Day? The holiday, created to remember animal adventurer and conservationist Steve Irwin, is on Sept. 4 and is really putting us in the mood to watch a film that makes us bawl and hold our pets a little tighter.

Most of us can remember the trauma of seeing Bambi for the first time or having our spirits lifted by The NeverEnding Story. The animal-human connection is incredibly powerful, primal even, and these movies prove it. Don't forget the popcorn  and definitely don't forget the tissues. 

1 /14: 'War Horse'

1/14 :'War Horse'

When underaged Albert enlists to serve in World War I after his beloved horse is sold to the cavalry, he makes a desperate search to reunite with the animal. Albert discovers that his miraculous horse has been sent to France and follows him there. Albert ends up fighting on the front lines but knows his horse will help win the war. Sadly, victory comes at a price.

2 /14: 'Marley and Me'

2/14 :'Marley and Me'

Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston play a young couple who decide to adopt a dog until they are ready to have kids. The movie takes place over the course of Marley's comical, messy, irreverent life. Yes, get the Kleenex.

3 /14: 'Where the Red Fern Grows'

3/14 :'Where the Red Fern Grows'

We get choked up just thinking about this movie from 1974. Billy is thrilled when he saves up enough money to purchase two redbone coonhounds to hunt with. Old Dan and Little Ann prove brave during a mountain lion attack, but not everyone comes out alive.

4 /14: 'The Secret Life of Pets'

4/14 :'The Secret Life of Pets'

Ever wonder what your pets do all day? According to this movie, they go on adventures, make new friends and sometimes even make enemies. The best part of the day, however, is when their owners return from work to spend time with them.

5 /14: 'Okja'

5/14 :'Okja'

This sci-fi drama is about a little girl who risks her life to save a giant animal created by a fame-hungry scientist. Sometimes, humans are the cruelest animals of them all. Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano and Lily Collins star.

6 /14: 'The Zookeeper's Wife'

6/14 :'The Zookeeper's Wife'

What's is like to run a zoo during Nazi occupation? Pretty horrific. This movie is based on the true story of the Warsaw Zoo, which many animals escaped when the Nazis bombed it. Even worse, when the Nazis invaded, they shot some of the animals for sport. The good news is that zoo owners Antonina Zabinski and her husband Jan managed to save the lives of hundreds of Jews.

7 /14: 'The Horse Whisperer'

7/14 :'The Horse Whisperer'

When a girl suffers a tragic accident on her horse, her distant, workaholic mother Annie (Kristin Scott Thomas) must quit working to help her daughter recover. Annie then hires Tom (Robert Redford), a cowboy known as the Horse Whisperer, to help her daughter get over the incident. Somewhere along the way, Annie and Tom find they have feelings for each other.

8 /14: 'Bambi'

8/14 :'Bambi'

This movie represents the end of innocence for many people. The loss of Bambi's mother is a brutal way to start off a kids' film, and we dare anyone — child or adult — not to cry while watching that scene. Blubbering yet?

9 /14: 'The NeverEnding Story'

9/14 :'The NeverEnding Story'

A weeping princess and a luck dragon are just part of this powerful tale told by two boys: Bastian and Atreyu. Reeling from the loss of his mom, Bastian reads about a young hero in a fantasy book and discovers he is sharing the miraculous adventure with the hero.

10 /14: 'Old Yeller'

10/14 :'Old Yeller'

In this film from 1957, a family takes in a stray dog while their husband/father is away on a cattle drive. First thought to be a freeloading fleabag, Old Yeller becomes an important part of the family. This might be the tearjerkiest film of all time.

11 /14: 'Free Willy'

11/14 :'Free Willy'

We all know it's bad to keep mammals like orcas in captivity, but back in 1993 when this movie was made, it wasn’t so clear. In the film, a little boy becomes the champion for Willy, a captive killer whale whose fate looks grim.

12 /14: 'The Ivory Game'

12/14 :'The Ivory Game'

The ivory trade has been around for centuries, but now it's hitting critical mass. Majestic elephants are being hunted by poachers threatening their very existence. This heartbreaking documentary follows a group of brave wildlife activists as they hunt down the hunters.

13 /14: 'The Lion King'

13/14 :'The Lion King'

We know the animal kingdom can be brutal, but so much goes wrong for this particular pride of lions. Simba, a young cub, must overcome adversity on the savannah to finally become king of all the beasts.

14 /14: 'Virunga'

14/14 :'Virunga'

This shocking documentary follows an ex-child soldier turned park ranger as he works with other conservationists to save the last of the mountain gorillas from a violent armed militia and heinous poachers struggling to control Congo's rich natural resources. This film will make you weep over the sad fate of these majestic apes that are so much like us.