Lassie (1994 film)

Theatrical release poster
Directed byDaniel Petrie
Written byEric Knight
Matthew Jacobs
Gary Ross
Elizabeth Anderson
Produced byLorne Michaels
CinematographyKenneth MacMillan
Edited bySteve Mirkovich
Music byBasil Poledouris
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • July 22, 1994 (1994-07-22)
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$9,979,683

Lassie, or Lassie: Best Friends are Forever, is a 1994 American adventure family film directed by Daniel Petrie, starring Tom Guiry, Helen Slater, Jon Tenney, Frederic Forrest, Richard Farnsworth, Michelle Williams, and featuring the fictional collie Lassie.


The Turner family moves from Baltimore, Maryland, to the small town of Franklin Falls in Tazewell County, Virginia, hoping to start a new life. The move creates problems for everyone, especially 13-year-old Matt (Tom Guiry), who feels lost and alone in his new surroundings, and still has not come to terms with his father Steve's (Jon Tenney) remarriage to Laura (Helen Slater) after his mother's death. But with the help of a stray Collie dog named Lassie that the family takes in, Matt learns to adjust to his surroundings and his family's situation. After Lassie saves Matt's life from an aggressive gray wolf one night, the two form a bond.

However, as his father’s planned job falls through, Matt, with help from his grandfather, Len Collins (Richard Farnsworth), helps convince the family to start a sheep farm, which had been his mother's dream. While the Turners get to work, a ruthless neighbor and wealthy sheep farmer, Sam Garland (Frederic Forrest), will stop at nothing to prevent them from succeeding, because it means that they will be occupying some grazing land that he's used in the past. In addition, Sam has two sons, Josh (Clayton Barclay Jones) and Jim (Charlie Hofheimer) who attend school with Matt. Both boys dislike Matt, but Josh's hatred mainly stems from jealousy because a fellow student, April Porter (Michelle Williams), whom Josh likes, is more interested in Matt.

Eventually Sam, with the help of his sons and henchmen, steals the Turners’ new herd of sheep, and kidnaps Lassie. However, she manages to escape, and she and Matt get their sheep back. However Josh and Jim catch up to them, and in the ensuing scuffle Josh finds himself struggling in a raging river, heading for massive rapids and a waterfall. Matt manages to rescue him, but is unable to save himself. Lassie then rescues Matt, but ends up going over the waterfall herself, to Matt's horror. Sam, after learning that Matt had saved Josh's life, apologizes to the Turners for his actions and for the loss of Lassie. The Turners hold a memorial for Lassie at a nearby tree where Matt's mother had carved her initials years before, and Matt carves Lassie's name above his mother's initials. However, Lassie manages to survive the waterfall, and although injured, she returns home shortly afterwards and is reunited with Matt at his school.


  • Howard as Lassie
  • Tom Guiry as Matthew Turner
  • Helen Slater as Laura Turner
  • Jon Tenney as Steve Turner
  • Brittany Boyd as Jennifer Turner
  • Frederic Forrest as Sam Garland
  • Richard Farnsworth as Len Collins
  • Michelle Williams as April Porter
  • Joe Inscoe as Pete Jarman
  • Yvonne Brisendine as Mrs. Jarman
  • Clayton Barclay Jones as Josh Garland
  • Charlie Hofheimer as Jim Garland
  • Jody Smith Strickler as Mildred Garland
  • Margaret Peery as Mrs. Parker
  • David Bridgewater as Customer
  • Earnest Poole, Jr. as Highway Patrolman #1
  • Jeffrey H. Gray as Highway Patrolman #2
  • Robert B. Brittain as Grommet Fireman
  • Rick Warner as Timid Neighbor
  • Kelly L. Edwards as Smoking Girl
  • Jordan Young as Smoking Boy
  • Katie Massa as College Student

Filming locations

Lassie was primarily filmed in New York, Naro. It was also filmed at Boomer Island Thompson Valley, VA.


Lassie was released to positive reviews.

Peter Rainer of the Los Angeles Times, stated that "one of the drawbacks of the film’s syrupy approach—at least from a family-entertainment point of view—is that you keep waiting for danger and bad guys to liven things up. And, sure enough, the presence of Frederic Forrest as Sam Garland, the biggest and baddest sheep farmer in the state, turns out to be a boon. Perpetually scowling and sunglass-clad, Sam is a rude dude; he looks over his flock of sheep and sees only lamb chops on the hoof. His two young sons (Charlie Hofheimer and Clayton Barclay Jones) are like a pair of range-riding homunculi. You keep expecting the Garlands to get seriously nutty and take over the picture—maybe try to mate Lassie with a lamb, or spike the ol’ swimmin’ hole, or force-feed Matt’s kindly granddad (Richard Farnsworth) Puppy Chow. The producer of 'Lassie,' after all, is Lorne Michaels, executive producer of 'Saturday Night Live.' But even the Garlands are ultimately redeemed by the love of a dog. Their bark is worse than their bite. (On the other hand, Lassie’s bite is worse than her bark. Go figure.)"

Janet Maslin of The New York Times called Lassie "a stubbornly sweet, picturesque children's film" which "is inadvertently revealing about the people for whom it was ostensibly made. The mood is nostalgic but knowing; after all, no dog story with a soundtrack featuring the Beatles, Bob Dylan and the Allman Brothers can be considered precisely quaint. This film (from the producers of 'Coneheads') even presumes a degree of viewer cynicism about Lassie lore. Early in the story, a little girl named Jennifer Turner (Brittany Boyd) watches "Lassie" on television while her older, hipper brother Matt (Thomas Guiry) sneers. Matt doesn't believe in Santa Claus, and he doesn't think a 50's canine rerun can beat MTV." Maslin added:

"Lassie," directed in prettily innocuous fashion by Daniel Petrie, is too intent on a vague feel-good spirit to provide real conflict. The film's villains, a rich sheep-ranching family headed by Sam Garland (Frederic Forrest), are more obnoxious than evil. Chewing tobacco, toting guns and disparaging animals (sheep are "just wool and good eatin'") are their principal sins. For today's viewers, maybe that's supposed to be wickedness enough. Lassie, a live-action, non-animatronic, eighth-generation descendant of the original star, is exactly what might be expected: a dog who appears to be responding to the orders of an off-screen trainer. With a more limited range of stunts and expressions than past canine actors have had, this Lassie depends on the camera, the adoring actors and the swelling soundtrack to turn her into a love object. Of course, she gets some help from our memories.

Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly gave the film an A− grade and said that the film was "a remarkably clean, bracing production that does a difficult thing exceptionally well, depicting believably modern young people in a believably old-fashioned plot."

As of July 2021, the film holds a "fresh" rating of 88% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 15 reviews.

Box office

The movie debuted at No. 9 at the US box office.

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