Greyfriars Bobby

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
Greyfriars Bobby Movie Poster Image
Dog teaches everyone he meets about love in Disney tale.
  • G
  • 1962
  • 87 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Meant to entertain rather than educate.

Positive Messages

Dogs pick their people. You can buy a dog, but you can't buy its love.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Bobby enjoys his friends and acquaintances, but nothing gets in the way of his continuing devotion to his dead master.

Violence & Scariness

An old man dies of pneumonia. Poverty of 19th century Scotland is crushing.

Sexy Stuff
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Greyfriars Bobby is a 1961 Disney film about an independent-minded dog who models all the qualities that humans might aspire to -- loyalty, friendship, and steadfastness -- after the death of his master. The movie was inspired by a true story about a dog who stubbornly guarded the Edinburgh, Scotland grave of his master until he died himself at age 16 and was buried in the same churchyard. His devotion to his master inspired the city to endow the dog with a special dispensation, giving him "freedom of the city," and thus protection from police and dogcatchers who would otherwise have required he have an owner and a license. An old man dies of pneumonia. Poverty of 19th century Scotland is crushing.

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What's the story?

In late 1800s Scotland, there lived a small, charming terrier called GREYFRIARS BOBBY. The dog belonged to a farm family but he loved no one more than Old Jock (Alex Mackenzie), the family's aged shepherd. When the farmer can no longer afford to pay him, Jock heads to Edinburgh to start again with barely a farthing to his name. Bobby is ordered to stay behind but he breaks free and makes the 20-mile trip to the big city on his own. There he finds his beloved Jock, weak and ill, soaked from the rain, sleeping outside. It isn't long before Jock succumbs to pneumonia and Bobby starts sleeping on Jock's grave in the churchyard, rain or shine, in freezing weather. The churchyard maintenance man, Mr. Brown (Donald Crisp), is a stickler for the rules, among them, no dogs. He shoos the animal off the grave repeatedly but, like everyone else Bobby encounters, Brown is soon beguiled by the independent dog. In the end, a dog who belongs to no one but is loved by all creates a court case over who will claim ownership and pay his expensive license fee. The church man, the restaurant owner, Traill (Laurence Naismith), who served Jock and the dog his meals during trips to the city, and the local urchins, with barely enough to eat themselves, all compete to care for the dog, leading to a surprising and satisfying judicial decision.

Is it any good?

This is the kind of animal love story that brings all viewers together, no matter what age or political persuasion. That the dog demonstrates behavior elevated above the petty human doings around him is the ultimate message of the movie. The unwavering loyalty to the memory of his master eventually teaches something about love and friendship to the people he touches. Because of him, it seems, kindness and generosity increase all around him. Greyfriars Bobby mixes the behaviors of calculating adults, whose actions are guided by envy and jealousies, along with the simpler and purer motives of the street children who adopt Bobby without thoughts of controlling or owning the dog. In the end, it's the poor children's collective selflessness that saves the day.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the poverty that runs through Greyfriars Bobby. Why did Old Jock have to leave the job he had at the farm?

  • Why do you think there were so many poor children in Edinburgh? How can you tell that townspeople were prejudiced against them?

  • In what ways did the restaurant owner try to help the hungry kids?

  • What admirable qualities does the dog have that humans might want to emulate?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animals

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