Man's Best Friend (1993 film)

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Man's Best Friend
Mans Best Friend.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Lafia
Produced by Robert Engelman
Robert Kosberg
Dan Grodnik
Written by John Lafia
Starring Ally Sheedy
Lance Henriksen
Robert Costanzo
Fredric Lehne
John Cassini
J.D. Daniels
Music by Joel Goldsmith
Cinematography Mark Irwin
Edited by Nancy Frazen
Michael N. Knue
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release dates
  • November 19, 1993 (1993-11-19)
Running time
97 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $6 million (estimated)
Box office $12.9 million (domestic)

Man's Best Friend is a 1993 American black comedy horror film, directed and written by John Lafia. It stars Ally Sheedy, Lance Henriksen, Robert Costanzo, Frederic Lehne, John Cassini, and J.D. Daniels. It was released on November 19, 1993. The official tagline was "Nature created him. Science perfected him. But no one can control him."

The film's reception was mediocre. However, it was a modest success at the box office, grossing $12.9 million behind a $6 million budget.


Judy Sanders (Robin Frates), an employee of a genetic research facility named EMAX, contacts TV personality Lori Tanner (Ally Sheedy), planning to meet after work so she can show Lori the atrocities and animal cruelty that go on in EMAX's laboratories. Dr. Jarret (Lance Henriksen), a scientist performing vivisection and genetic altering, discovers the plan and sets one of his experiments on Judy, killing her. Lori arrives at EMAX, but when Judy does not appear, she breaks into the laboratory and films the various animals that are being experimented on. She discovers a Tibetan Mastiff named Max who does not appear to have been experimented on and lets the dog out of his cage. Dr. Jarret discovers that there is an intruder in the laboratory and chases Lori out of the building. Max follows Lori and jumps into her car as she drives away. Jarret immediately goes to the police and complains that his dog has been stolen. Later that day, when Lori goes shopping, a mugger (Thomas Rosales, Jr.) steals her purse. Max chases the thief, brutally kills him, and brings Lori's purse back to her.

Unaware that the dog has killed a person, Lori decides to adopt Max. However, her boyfriend Perry (Fredric Lehne) refuses to allow the dog into their house. He finally agrees to let Max stay, but only if he stays in the backyard. Max can understand human conversations and becomes very protective of his new owner and perhaps more possessive than a normal pet, finds Lori and Perry having sex in their bedroom and tries to attack Perry; most likely understanding that Perry isn't too fond of Max.

Jarrett is questioned by detectives Frankie Kovacs (Robert Costanzo) and Emilio Bendetti (John Cassini) about Max. Jarrett confesses to them that Max is a genetically altered dog, spliced with the DNA of various other animals such as big cats, snakes, chameleons, and birds of prey giving him enhanced strength, speed, and senses. Max is also prone to violent rages, and Jarret regularly gives him a drug to keep him relaxed, but he fears that it won't be long before the effects of the drug wear off.

Max acts as a loyal, obedient and loveable dog to Lori, but when her back is turned he starts wreaking havoc in the neighborhood, terrorizing some local children (though he seemed alright with Lori's young neighbor), devouring a cat, destroying the brake lines in Perry's truck, and murdering a mail man (Rick Barker). All of these incidents go unnoticed by Lori. Perry tries to kill Max by feeding him a poisoned hamburger, but Max smells the poison in the meat and chases Perry out of the house. After Perry escapes in his truck, Max eats Perry's pet parrot out of spite.

Noticing Perry's animosity towards their new dog, Lori decides to find Max a new home. She takes him to a junkyard and leaves him with the owner Ray (William Sanderson), who assures her that Max will be taken to a ranch in a few days. Instead, Ray chains Max to the wall and hits him over the head with a shovel, knocking him out. When Max wakes up, he pulls loose from his chain and attacks Ray, attempting to kill him. Ray arms himself with a blow torch and burns Max's face, but is soon overpowered and killed. Max, now severely scarred, leaves the junkyard and makes his way back to Lori's house. Though unknown to him, Perry was quick to replace Max with a puppy of his choice.

So when Max sees Lori and Perry together and happy with their new puppy Spike, he feels completely betrayed and abandoned by his owner which causes him to go into a rage. He breaks in and confronts Perry, burning his face with acidic urine. Much to Lori's shock, now that she sees the horrors that Max can do. After Perry is rushed to the hospital, the police have heard enough about Max to believe that he is a dangerous dog and arrive at the house to apprehend him, but Max manages to evade them and runs off.

In an attempt to get him back, Jarret kidnaps Lori in the hope that Max will follow. As Jarret drives back to the EMAX building, Max attacks, jumping onto the car and causing it to crash. Lori pulls herself free from the car and runs into the building with Max chasing her into the laboratory where she first discovered him. She grabs a knife to protect herself, but Max is still very angered and ready to turn on her. Lori realizes that despite all the bad things he's done, she can't bring herself to kill Max. Due to the factor that she knows he's a victim of what Jarret has made of him and that she still loves him. It's when Lori gives up that Max sees that his owner still loves him and finally calms down.

Suddenly, Jarret arrives with a pump-action shotgun and tries to shoot Lori, but Max protects her by taking the shot to the chest. Before he dies, Max pushes Jarret onto a large cage and a live wire resting on the cage ignites, electrocuting Jarret and killing him instantly. Lori finds Max's dead body and mourns for him.

Three months later, Lori is going for a walk with her new dog and the neighbor who owned the collie Max mated with tells Lori that his dog has just had pups and invites her to see the puppies. Most of the puppies look like their mother, with the one exception being a small black puppy that resembles Max, implying that this puppy has inherited Max's genetic altering....or at least his father's attitude.


  • Ally Sheedy as Lori Tanner, a TV personality who becomes Max's adoptive owner.
  • Lance Henriksen as Dr. Jarret, a scientist at EMAX who is Max's original owner and tormentor.
  • Robert Costanzo as Detective Frankie Kovacs, a detective who investigates Max.
  • Fredric Lehne as Perry, Lori's boyfriend and Max's arch-rival. Max's second tormentor and near final victim.
  • John Cassini as Detective Emilio Bendetti, a detective who investigates Max
  • J.D. Daniels as Rudy, Lori's young next-door neighbor and Max's final victim who survives the attack.
  • William Sanderson as Ray, a junkyard operator, Max's fifth tormentor and victim.
  • Trula M. Marcus as Annie
  • Robin Frates as Judy Sanders, an employee at EMAX who is killed by Dr. Jarrett when he unleashes one of his experiments on her.
  • Frank Welker as the vocal effects of Max, a genetically altered Tibetan Mastiff
  • Rick Barker as Mailman, Max's fourth tormentor and one of his victims.
  • Mickey Cassidy as Paperboy, Max's third tormentor and victim.
  • Thomas Rosales Jr. as Mugger, a man who robs Lori and becomes Max's first victim.




Man's Best Friend currently has a 20% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Despite this, Ally Sheedy was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Actress.

Home media[edit]

Popular culture[edit]

  • Man's Best Friend is seen in the cult film Friday, another New Line Cinema film. Being watched by John Witherspoon's character, the scene shown is of a mailman being chased by the genetically-engineered dog.

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