Old Yeller: Everett Collection
EW Staff
November 22, 2003 AT 05:00 AM EST

Why ”Old Yeller” is a top tearjerker

When the stray mutt they name Yeller shows up on a dirt-poor family farm, he quickly becomes a loyal companion and gallant protector. While bonding with young Travis (Tommy Kirk), Yeller saves various family members from various dangerous critters, repeatedly displaying the heroism that will be his heartbreaking downfall.

KLEENEX MOMENT Having rescued the family from a rabid wolf, Yeller becomes infected, and the boy who loves him best must put him out of his misery. What gets you most isn’t when Travis pulls the trigger, but just before that, when he realizes he has to.

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