Benji the Hunted is a 1987 American children's drama film starring Benji the Dog that was released by Walt Disney Pictures on June 5, 1987.
It was the last Benji movie to star Benjean (daughter of the original "Benji", Higgins) in the title role.
| Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about|
the entire movie.
After Benji becomes lost in a remote area of Oregon after a boating accident, he finds himself struggling to survive in the wilderness, avoiding close encounters with a timber wolf, a brown bear, and a territorial female cougar with her cub. Benji made friends with other animals including a great horned owl, a deer, a red fox and a raccoon.
Shortly after washing ashore, Benji sees a cougar gunned down by a hunter. He tries to comfort the dying animal, but is chased away by the hunter, who then retrieves the dead cat and marches off with it draped over his shoulders.
Benji subsequently encounters four orphaned cougar cubs who belonged to the killed cougar & he tries to shield them from predation. He also finds another mother cougar and spends most of the movie trying to introduce the cubs to the mother so she will adopt them.
Meanwhile, Benji's master is searching for him by helicopter and Benji deliberately hides so as not to be prevented from saving the cubs. A black timber wolf (who is shown relentlessly pursuing the cubs) is one of the main antagonists and highlights of the film.
In one of the movie's more tragic scenes, one of the cubs is carried off by an eagle.
In the final encounter and chase with the wolf, Benji tricks the wolf by hiding in the bushes that shields the cliff behind it & sends the wolf flying off the cliff, becoming the victim of his own misjudgment.
In the end, Benji succeeds in having the mother cougar adopt the cubs and in the final scene, he heads in the direction of the search helicopter to be rescued.
- Benjean as Benji
- Frank Inn as Himself
- Red Steagall as Hunter
- Nancy Francis as Mary Beth McLaulin
- Joe Camp as TV Director
- Steve Zanolini as Producer
- Mike Francis as TV Cameraman
- Ben Vaughn as Engineer's Hand
- Karen Thorndike as Countdown
- Guy Hovis as Balladeer
- Dimitri as Timber Wolf
- Gideon as Mother Cougar
- Bart the Bear as Grizzly Bear
The movie was filmed entirely on location in Oregon and Table Mountain in Washington near the town of Cascade Locks. The wild animals in this film were trained by employees of Steve Earl Martin's Working Wildlife (Madeleine Cowie Klein, Mark Wiener, Bobi Gaddy, Neil Egland and Donna Martin) and Paul "Sled" Reynolds.
The movie was first given a limited release on June 5, 1987 and later given a wide release on June 19, 1987.
During its limited opening weekend, “Benji the Hunted” grossed $2,530 and ranked at #7 at the box office, grossing $3,062,616 during its wide opening weekend.
Domestically, the film grossed $22,257,624.
Roger Ebert gave the movie 4 stars as well as a "Thumbs Up” while Gene Siskel gave the film a "Thumbs Down," criticizing Ebert for liking the film more than Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (which was released during that same year).
Rita Kempley of the Washington Post wrote in her review of the movie: “It's like Rambo's "First Blood," with an action hero in dog tags who doesn't talk much.”