Ben: A Boy's Best Friend?

In 1972, a movie about a boy and his friend Ben, who was a rat, was released on the big screen. The film was a follow up to the movie Willard, which was also about rats and their relationship with humans. The young boy in the film becomes friends with Ben, who was the leader of all of the rats featured in Willard. His character’s name is Danny Garrison, who was played by Lee Montgomery. Danny suffered from relentless bullying at school and an abusive household, but Ben the rat helped to give him strength. Eventually the rats become violent and overpowering, and trouble ensues. Some of the other rats in the colony end up being killed or destroyed by the police, but Ben survives. Other rats ended up in scientific laboratory facilities. The movie had a bit of controversy. Some people felt as if it were too graphic and disturbing, while others seemed to feel as though Ben had a much greater message. No matter what the viewer’s opinion, there was no doubt that the movie affected all who watched it.

Many people consider Ben to be a cult classic, and some think of it more as a horror film. This is mostly because the rats end up killing people and it is quite disturbing. The rats from Willard caused quite a stir of murder and mayhem, and this carries over into Ben. Of course, the film only received a PG rating, and by today’s standards the scenes are fairly mild. The theme of the film is man’s relationship with animals, and how the power can shift from humans being in control to the animals taking over. The theme song of the movie was recorded and performed by Michael Jackson, and won a Golden Globe Award. It was also nominated for an Academy Award, but it did not win. It was originally written for Donny Osmond, but writer Don Black chose Jackson to sing it on the Motown label. The song was quite soft, bittersweet and mild, which seemed a little unlikely for such a horrific movie, but fans loved it. Jackson sung about a special friendship and how not many people may understand it, but it meant a lot to the friends nonetheless.

  • PETA and the song “Ben” – This page discusses how the organization PETA wants to use Michael Jackson’s song to help lab rats.
  • New York Times Review – A movie review of Ben from the New York Times
  • MJ and the Rat – Some connections between Michael Jackson and the characters in the film
  • Video – The film on YouTube, this features the original 1972 film in segments.
  • Synopsis – An overview and synopsis of the film from Turner Classic Movies.
  • Lee H. Montgomery – A website dedicated to the actor who played Danny, including his complete filmography and links.
  • Lyrics for the song “Ben” – The printed lyrics for the Michael Jackson song.
  • Movie Poster – Image of the original movie promotional poster
  • Review – This page features a movie review as well as a video of the original film trailer.
  • Rats in Film – Discusses the use of rats in various movies, including Ben