Greatest Tearjerkers
Scenes and Movie Moments
of All-Time


The Greatest Tearjerkers of All-Time
Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Brief Tearjerker Scene Description

Life is Beautiful (1997, It.) (aka La Vita E Bella)


  • the life-saving, imaginative illusion and play-acting that clowning, child-like hotel waiter Guido (Oscar-winning Roberto Benigni) gave his young son Giosue/Joshua (Giorgio Cantarini) to shield him from the ugly horrors of a Nazi concentration camp where they were interned - the fiction that the first prize in the game they were playing was a brand-new armored tank: ("The first one to get a thousand points wins. The prize is a tank!")
  • Guido's shocking death scene after he was caught by a soldier during an escape and deliberately clownishly marched to his execution by machine-gun fire (offscreen) when he realized his son (hidden in a sweatbox) was watching through a peep-hole
  • the joyous scene in which Giosue was reunited with his mother Dora (Nicoletta Braschi) after American troops liberated the camp, thinking he'd won the "game"

Giosue Watching His Father Through Peephole

Guido Play-Acting For His Son's Benefit

Guido's Death

The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe (1979) (TV)

  • the cruel torture/sacrifice of the saintly lion Aslan (voice of Stephen Thorne) at the Great Stone Table by Jadis, the White Witch (voice of Beth Porter), as her evil minions taunted, stoned, shaved and muzzled the lion before the Witch stabbed him with a dagger.

    [Note: This scene was memorably redone in the live-action version The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005).]

Aslan's Sacrifice

Aslan Stabbed With Dagger

Grieving Over Aslan's Death

The Lion King (1994)

  • the extremely sad scene of the cruel death of "Lion King" ruler Mufasa after rescuing young son Simba from a large stampeding herd of wildebeests (the disastrous stampede was engineered by Mufasa's wicked, power-hungry brother Scar and the hyenas), and then falling to his death from a rock cliff to the valley floor far below when Scar wouldn't help him up. Instead, Scar pierced Mufasa's paws with his own claws, sarcastically exclaimed: "Long live the king", and tossed him off
  • afterwards, Simba vainly attempted to awaken his father, shed some tears, and then cuddled up next to him. Adding to Simba's misery, Scar led him to believe that he was responsible for his father's death, told him to run away, and then ordered his three hyena cohorts to kill Simba.

Scar's Lethal Fight With His Brother Mufasa

Young Simba's Grief Over His Father's Death

Little Women (1933)


  • the reassuring words of dying Beth March (Jean Parker) to her older sister Jo (Katharine Hepburn): ("I'm not afraid anymore! I'm learning that I don't lose you, that you'll be more to me than ever, and NOTHING can part us, though it seems to. Oh, Jo! I think I'll be homesick for you - even in heaven")
  • Jo's written ode to her sister titled "My Beth": ("Oh my sister, passing from me / Out of human care and strife / Leave me, as a gift those virtues / Which have beautified your life / By that deep and solemn river / Where your willing feet now stand")
  • Beth's last words: ("I think I can sleep now. Oh look, Jo. My birds. They got back in time") - at the moment of her death when the birds fly off from the window sill.

Beth: "I'm not afraid anymore!"

Jo's Poem to Her Sister Beth

Beth's Passing

The Lives of Others (2006, Germ.) (aka Das Leben der Anderen)

  • the scene in which beautiful actress Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck) - the devoted lover of successful Socialist playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) cleansed herself in the bathtub/shower of the filth (both physically and emotionally) after a forced sexual encounter with Cultural Department head Minister Bruno Hempf (Thomas Thieme) in the backseat of his limousine, in exchange for prescription drugs and protection
  • the heart-breaking scene in which a distressed Christa-Maria committed suicide by running in front of a truck after she believed that she had betrayed Dreyman by revealing the location of his incriminating red-ribboned typewriter that he had used to author an anonymous article (ironically about suicide in East Germany) for West German magazine Der Spiegel - made more tragic by the fact that sympathetic "guardian angel" secret police Stasi survelliance agent Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) had just before secretly removed the typewriter from under the apartment's doorsill to protect her and Dreyman - and the scene of Georg's anguish over her bloody death in the street
  • the scene in which a demoted Wiesler quietly walked out of his dead-end mail-steaming job nearly 5 years later when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989
  • the sequence in which Georg discovered that Wielser had protected him when he read the declassified surveillance transcripts on himself, and discovered a thumbprint smudge of red ink (from the red-ribboned typewriter) next to his official notation HGW XX/7. Then, he located Wiesler (now a newspaper deliveryman) but decided not to introduce himself to the humbled man
  • the final scene two years later when Wiesler saw a bookstore poster advertising a new book written by Dreyman titled "Sonata For a Good Man" and its dedication: "HGW XX/7 gewidmet, in Dankbarkeit. (Dedicated to HGW XX/7, in Gratitude)"
  • the film's final line - Wiesler's subdued, double-entendre reply to the cashier's question if he'd like the book he was purchasing gift-wrapped: "No, it's for me."
Years Later - Weisler's Purchase of Dreyman's Book

Forced Sexual Encounter

Cleansing Bath

Christa-Maria's Suicide

Wiesler (Ulrich Muhe)

Longtime Companion (1990)


  • the character of David (Bruce Davison), the lover of a deteriorating AIDS patient and 'longtime companion' - soap opera scriptwriter Sean (Mark Lamos), and his loving, calm and reassuring advice to his dying partner: "It's OK, you can go. Let go now, baby. It's all right. Don't be afraid. I'm here...You let go of everything. Don't hold on...Let go. Just relax, let everything go. Let go. Let go...I know you're tired. Just let go. I've got ya. Now nothin' bad's gonna happen. Let go of everything. Don't worry. Let go. All your pain. Just let it all go. Just let go. There you go."
  • the famous and poignant closing "Fire Island Fantasy" in which the three surviving friends Willy (Campbell Scott), Alan/Fuzzy (Stephen Caffrey) and Lisa (Mary-Louise Parker) strolled on an empty Fire Island beach, and imagined a time in the future when AIDS had ended; Willy wistfully mused: ("It seems inconceivable, doesn't it... there was ever a time before all this, when we didn't wake up every day wondering who's sick now, who else is gone?...I just want to be there if they ever do find a cure"), as bluegrass singer Zane Campbell's haunting Post-Mortem Bar was heard in the background
  • the heart-breaking fantasy of the joyous reunion/party of the three survivors, watching as they saw loved ones and friends they'd lost running torward them on the beach
  • in the fantasy, all of the dead reverted back to their healthy selves for a few moments and were greeted by the threesome before cutting back to them on the beach, when Willy repeated: "I just want to be there" - the film's last line

David With Dying Lover Sean

Trio of Survivors Strolling on Beach

"Fire Island Fantasy"

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

  • the farewell finale, in which weary and damaged hobbit Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), after succumbing to the One Ring's evil influence atop Mount Doom (where he destroyed the Ring) left Middle-Earth to journey to the Undying Lands with his uncle Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm), who was reaching death from old age; he was also accompanied in the goodbye scene by wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen), who bid farewell to the rest of the Fellowship (Frodo's three Hobbit friends); Gandalf reminded Frodo: "It is time, Frodo" before departing with him for the Grey Havens (the elves' Undying Lands)
  • the scene was highlighted by Frodo's explanation to his best friend and companion Sam Gamgee (Sean Austin) about why he was leaving: "We set out to save the Shire, Sam. And it has been saved. But not for me." Sam begged: "You don't mean that! You can't leave!" Frodo presented Sam with his handwritten book of The Lord of the Rings story, known as the Red Book of Westmarch: "The last pages are for you, Sam."
  • after hugging Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd), Frodo kissed Sam on the forehead, then boarded the vessel and gave one final look back
  • afterwards, Sam returned home to his Shire family as he remembered what Frodo had written him: (voice-over) ("My dear Sam: you cannot always be torn in two. You will have to be one and whole for many years. You have so much to enjoy and to be, and to do. Your part in this story will go on")

Wizard Gandalf's Departure with Frodo and Bilbo

Frodo Kissing Sam on Forehead

Frodo's Final Look Back

Love, Actually (2003, UK/US)


  • the Christmas morning gift-unwrapping scene in this sentimental tearjerker in which Karen (Emma Thompson) received a Joni Mitchell CD for Christmas from her straying husband Harry (Alan Rickman), instead of the expensive necklace she discovered in his pocket
  • when she retreated to her bedroom, Karen realized tearfully as she listened to Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" (Track 7), and glanced at family photos on her dresser that Harry was having an affair with his seductive secretary Mia (Heike Makatsch) - (an inset sequence showed Mia trying on the necklace)
  • after weeping silently, Karen forced herself to put on a happy face after wiping away her tears when she returned from her bedroom to rejoin her family in the living room
Karen Wiping Away Tears

Karen's Receipt of a Joni Mitchell CD, Instead of a Necklace

Photo of Karen's Straying Husband Harry's Mistress Mia - With Necklace

Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955)

Henry King's adaptation of Han Suyin's novel of the same name was filmed on location in the British Crown colony of Hong Kong in Cinemascopic color. It told of a forbidden, transgressive, cross-cultural and inter-racial, clandestine romance between two lovers during China's Civil War (in the year 1949):

  • Han Suyin (Jennifer Jones), a beautiful Eurasian (half-English, half-Chinese) doctor, the widow of a Chinese Nationalist general from mainland China
  • Mark Elliott (William Holden), a calm, suave American newsman/correspondent, unhappily married (in a trial separation) and unable to obtain a divorce

[Note: There was considerable controversy over the casting of Jennifer Jones as a Eurasian.]

They began to see each other quite regularly, for dinner dates and moonlight dancing. The two engaged in conversation after they had gone swimming, and later returned to retrieve their clothes among some rocks - at nighttime - turning their relationship from platonic to more traditionally heterosexual:

Han: Mark, could I have a cigarette?
Mark: I've never seen you smoke.
Han: I rarely do.
Mark: You still think we have no destiny together?
Han: I have decided one thing. That you must decide. For you are stronger than I am.
Mark: No, I think you're the strong one.
Han: Then you are wrong. For you are gentle and there is nothing stronger in the world than gentleness.

The Oscar-winning title tune swelled in the background as their two cigarettes merged and ignited. They joined their two cigarettes together as a symbol (his burning cigarette lit hers, symbolic of the sexual consummation of their love -- and sublimation of their passion).

In a melodramatic final scene, Mark reluctantly bid her farewell from a hilltop (where they often went to share kisses). He explained that he had been given a new assignment to cover the Korean War. Mark told her that he didn't have time to get a present for her: "I have to go now and I don't want you to be sad...And I don't want you to come down the path with me. I want to look back and see you here." She promised that she would be there for him at their familiar meeting place ("I will be here when you come back to me. I promise") as they kissed and the theme music swelled - with the lyrics:

Once on a high and windy hill, in the morning mist, two lovers kissed, and the world stood still...

[Note: The hilltop meeting place was located in California, not in Hong Kong.]

In the film's conclusion while Mark was on assignment during the Korean War, Suyin (whose residency at the hospital was not renewed) and her adopted daughter Oh-No (Candace Lee) lived with a friend. She received frequent letters from him sent from the war-front. As Mark was typing a news-report, he marveled that a white butterfly landed on it - possibly a sign from Suyin. Then, she received devastating news via newspaper that Mark was killed (he was the victim of an air-attack strafing). At the same time she had just received a letter from him - that stated:

I do not know what is to happen, darling. But this I do know: Life's greatest tragedy is not to be loved. God has been good to us, Suyin.

She was gratified knowing that his letters would continue to arrive one by one for awhile. She began to have rekindled memories of him and his voice. She heard him (in voice-over) tell her - as she rushed through town to rendezvous with Mark's spirit at their favorite hilltop meeting place - words of comfort:

Suyin... there is nothing fair nor unfair under heaven. God has been good to us, Suyin. It makes me very proud of you to know that any unhappiness of your own could never blind you to the pain of others. (Momentarily, she saw Mark from the tree waving to her) (She heard Mark's voice offer: Give me your hand.)

I often think that healing is man's salvation, and I envy your ability to help. You deal with suffering, but you can do something about it. I can only stand and watch. We have not missed, you and I. We have not missed that many-splendored thing.

Rushing to Their Favorite Meeting Place to Rendezvous with Mark's Spirit

Han Suyin with Mark Elliott

Han Suyin (Jennifer Jones)
with Mark Elliott (William Holden)

Farewell Scene

Mark on the Korean War Front Before His Death

Suyin - Reading Mark's Letter at the Time of His Death

Breaking Down and Weeping at the Foot of the Tree

Love Story (1970)


  • the scene in which Radcliffe music student Jennifer Cavalleri (Ali McGraw) made the famous statement to WASP Harvard law student Oliver Barrett IV (Ryan O'Neal) after they had a fight and he apologized, but she cautioned: ("Don't. Love means never having to say you're sorry")
  • the serious scene of the doctor informing Oliver that his 24 year-old wife Jenny was not only incapable of becoming pregnant - she was also dying of an unnamed disease: ("Jenny is very sick... She's dying"); and Oliver's emotionally-numbing walk back to his apartment
  • Jenny's strong reaction to her own diagnosis, and her steadfast insistence that Oliver remain strong and "merry" in the face of her death: ("I'm counting on you to be strong, you god-damn hockey jock...You, after all, you're gonna be the merry widower... Yes, you will be, I want you to be merry. You'll be merry, OK?")
  • and then her lengthy deathbed conversation with Oliver at the Mount Sinai Hospital in a tear-inducing closing. She told him: ("It doesn't hurt, Ollie, really it doesn't. It's like falling off a cliff in slow-motion, you know. Only after a while, you wish you'd hit the ground already, you know"). He stated he fell off a cliff when he met her. Then, she tried to bring up his spirits: ("Now you've gotta stop being sick...that guilty look on your face, it's sick. Would you stop blaming yourself, you god-damn stupid preppy? It's nobody's fault. It's not your fault. That's the only thing I'm gonna ask you. Otherwise, I know you're gonna be OK. (pause) Screw Paris!...Screw Paris and music and all that stuff you thought you stole from me. I don't care, don't you believe that? (He shook his head no) Then get the hell out of here. I don't want you at my god-damn deathbed"). He finally admitted: ("I believe you. I really do")
  • She responded with a last request: ("That's better. Would you please do something for me, Ollie? (He kissed her hand) Would you please hold me? (He half-heartedly hugged her) No, I mean really hold me. Next to me.") He reclined next to her on the bed
  • afterwards, in the hallway, Oliver spoke to Jenny's father Philip (John Marley), who said with a choked-up voice: ("I wish I hadn't promised Jenny to be strong for you"). As he left the hospital, Oliver ran into his father Oliver Barrett III (Ray Milland), who asked: ("Why didn't you tell me? I made a couple of calls, and as soon as I found out, I jumped right in the car. Oliver, I want to help.") His son simply replied: "Jenny's dead." When his father began to reply: "I'm sorry...", Oliver interrupted him and quoted his late wife's earlier remark, when referring to their past misunderstandings: ("Love, love means never having to say you're sorry") - the last line of film dialogue
  • for the remaining three minutes in the touching finale, Oliver walked across the street to snow-covered Central Park as the poignant, award-winning "Love Story" theme music built up and played and he contemplated what life would have been like with Jenny, while sitting on a bench. The camera pulled away from him, shot from behind, before the closing credits

Oliver to His Father: "Love means never having to say you're sorry"

Closing Credits

"Love Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry"

Doctor's Diagnosis of Jenny's Terminal Illness

Jenny to Oliver: "I want you to be merry"

Reclining on Bed with Jenny as She Died

Greatest Film Tearjerkers, Moments and Scenes
(alphabetical by film title)
Intro | A | B | B | C | C | D | D | E | F | F | G | G
H-I | J-K | L | L | M | M | N | O | P | P
Q-R | S | S | S | S | T | T | U-V-W | X-Z

Previous Page Next Page