To Top

When it comes to animals starring in Hollywood films, we tend to assume that they’re treated with the same care that the biggest stars are, but that isn’t always the case. In more circumstances than necessary, in fact, animal actors are injured and even killed on set. Is it fair that our furry friends make the ultimate sacrifice for our entertainment? Here are some films where, sadly, animals were hurt during production.

1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

In 2011 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey shot in New Zealand, and there weren’t just animals injured, there were deaths. A total of 27 animals including sheep and goats died during production from either drowning, dehydration, or exhaustion. Despite the deaths the film was given the credit that they “monitored all of the significant animal action. No animals were harmed during such action.”

hobbit animals

2. Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now was one of Francis Ford Coppola’s most intense films, and a lot of the cast felt the heat. At one part in the film there is a ceremonial slaughter of a buffalo which actually took place. The only upside is that the Ifugao tribe in the Philippines where the film was shot were planning the slaughter whether it was filmed or not, but that doesn’t mean that the American Humane Association approved. They didn’t.

apocalypse now

3. The Charge of the Light Brigade

The 1936 film The Charge of the Light Brigade starred Errol Flynn and told the real life story of the Battle of Balaclava. The battle was between Russia and the Ottoman Empire which is modern day Turkey. To shoot the battle scene they laid out trip wires to make it appear that the horses were being shot down. At least 24 horses lost their lives however, as did one stuntman. Trip wars were banned in film from there on out.

the charge of the light brigade

4. Life of Pi

The film Life of Pi stars a tiger as one of the main characters, who is adrift at sea alongside a boy named Pi. For most of the film CGI was used, but in some shots they used a real tiger named King. During one of the shots where King had to swim in a tank, something went wrong where King almost died before his handler could pull him to safety. The American Humane Association had a representative on set named Gina Johnson, but he got caught trying to downplay the situation when an email leaked. “This one take with him just went really bad and he got lost trying to swim to the side. Damn near drowned. I think this goes without saying but DON’T MENTION THIS TO ANYONE, ESPECIALLY THE OFFICE! Have downplayed the f—k out of it.” Busted.

life of pi

5. Heaven’s Gate

1978’s Heaven’s Gate about the old west has been referred to by many as the worst film ever made. The stories about what went down with animals are truly insane, and include cutting cows to provide fake blood for the actors, staging real cock fights, gutting cattle, and blowing horses up with dynamite. After that mess, the Screen Actors Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers passed the rule that the American Humane Association had to be on set of any film using animals from there on out.

animals injured on set of Heaven's Gate

6. The Adventures of Milo and Otis

The Adventures of Milo and Otis was originally released in Japan in 1986 and then in the U.S. three years later. The result of the film is a cute story about the relationship between a cat and a dog, but unfortunately it doesn’t sound like the experience was quite as cute for the animals involved. Some say that up to 20 kittens died during filming, and while this hasn’t been proven, there are plenty of shots in the film where it doesn’t look like things ended well. This includes a scene where a cat falls off a cliff, one being attacked by a crab, and a dog fighting a bear.

milo and otis
Milo and Otis

7. Snow Buddies

The Disney film Snow Buddies is about golden retriever puppies who get stranded in Alaska and then learn to become sled dogs. Since the puppies grow so fast, there were many of them used to shoot the film. The problem was that some of the puppies were taken away from their moms too early and were not inoculated, so they came down with diseases like parvovirus, giardia, and coccidia parasites. Twelve of them got sick, and five died.

snow buddies

8. Speed Racer

The film Speed Racer had a chimpanzee character named Chim-Chim who was played by a few different chimps. One of them reportedly bit an actor and was then beat for it. Later there was another incident where a trainer hit a chimp, and the film was given an “unacceptable” rating by the American Humane Association.

speed racer

9. Manderlay

The film Manderlay takes place on a farm and has a scene where a donkey gets slaughtered. They first attempted to use a fake donkey, but then later purchased a donkey who was scheduled to be slaughtered and gave it a lethal injection and used it in the film. Actor John C. Reilly quit his role over the situation. The scene was later cut anyway.


10. Ben-Hur

The film Ben-Hur bascially has a reputation for being terrible to animals. A chariot race scene in the film took four weeks to shoot, and over 100 horses died during the process. After all that, the 1925 film that cost $3.9 million to make bombed at the box office.

ben hur

11. Jesse James

Jesse James was one of the biggest movies of 1939, but it had a terrible fate for the horse that starred in it. One of the shots was of horse and rider falling into the river which was supposed to take two takes, but the horse died in the first one.

jesse james

12. Oldboy

The 2003 film Oldboy features a scene where actor Choi Min-sik eats a live octopus. The scene took multiple takes and four octopuses to shoot. Choi had an issue with it, being a Buddhist, and prayed for each as well as apologized to them all before consuming them.


13. Luck

Luck is one TV show that makes the list. There were some big names such as David Milch, Michael Mann, Dustin Hoffman, and Nick Nolte involved in the 2010 HBO production, but it was ultimately shut down. Two horses were killed during a racing sequence, and then another got spooked and fractured its skull, leading to it being put down.


14. Dry Summer

In 1964’s Dry Summer there is a scene where a chicken is decapitated, and then the body of the chicken continues to run around in circles. It seemed to have really happened for the shot.

dry summer

15. The Rules Of the Game

1939’s Rules of the Game has a scene where some rabbit hunting goes down, and they used real rabbits to get the shot. They did not shy away from showing the aftermath, but instead focused in on a dying rabbit to foreshadow another death later in the film. Do you think animals should be sacrificed like this for art?

the rules of the game

More in Movies