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

Magnificent Obsession (1954)


  • the long-overdue reunion scene in which reckless, rude and wealthy playboy Dr. Bob Merrick (Rock Hudson), who had portrayed himself as a poor medical student named Robbie Robinson, was warmly greeted, hugged and kissed by Helen Phillips (Jane Wyman), the blinded widow of Dr. Wayne Phillips (whose death he had indirectly caused); although she knew his real identity, she had fallen in love with him
  • he promised that she would have "the time of your life" with him ("I want to take you to all the places you've been too busy to visit and show you how to have fun"), and to help her adjust to her blindness: "Let me be your eyes again"; he urged her to get dressed up ("I'm not only gonna show you the town, I'm gonna show the town you!"), and it was obvious that she was buoyed by his presence
  • and the concluding scene in which Helen woke up from her successful, complex sight-restoring brain surgery operation performed by Dr. Merrick himself (who had become a doctor to make amends and right all the wrongs in his life), and told him that she thought her sight had been returned: "It doesn't hurt so much." He reassured her: "You're going to get better." Grateful that Bob was there, she asked him to hold her close, and then hoped: "I think I see some light...But I'm going to see, I know I am. Am I?" He replied: "Yes, my darling. You are going to see." Although told to be quiet and not to get too excited, she asked: "May I, may I get excited tomorrow?...And you'll be with me?" He responded positively: "Yes, darling, I'll be with you tomorrow. Starting tomorrow, we'll never be apart."
Post-Brain Surgery Operation
  • the inspiring words regarding service and self-sacrifice of famous artist Edward Randolph (Otto Kruger), Dr. Phillips' close friend (who was also in the hospital), were recalled in Dr. Merrick's mind, when delivered in the film's final line (in voice-over): ("Once you find the way, you'll be bound. It will obsess you. But believe me, it'll be a magnificent obsession")

Dr. Merrick (Rock Hudson) with Blinded Widow Helen Phillips (Jane Wyman)

"It'll Be a Magnificent Obsession"

Man on the Moon (1999)

  • the excruciating scenes of abrasive comedian and practical joker Andy Kaufman (Jim Carrey) on stage - with unconventional, bizarre, improvised, anti-humor comedy routines that were intentionally unfunny

On Stage - Intentionally Unfunny

(Elvis Impersonation)

Kaufman (Jim Carrey) - Mighty Mouse Song
  • the attempts of Kaufman to cure his lung cancer with various quackery and miracle remedies, such as New Age crystals, Philippine Islands faith healers, etc, and ironically realizing that the cures were only a hoax (similar to Kaufman's own routines)
  • the sing-along at Andy Kaufman's funeral of mourning friends and loved ones singing "This Friendly World," along with his huge projected b/w video behind his open casket

Open Casket Funeral For Andy Kaufman

B/W Video of Kaufman Behind Casket

Funeral Sing-Along With Bouncing Ball Lyrics
  • the poignant final scene staged as a tribute to Andy Kaufman a year after his death in 1985, performed at the Comedy Store, when one of Kaufman's most famous characters - the rude "Tony Clifton" lounge singer character - was portrayed on stage; Kaufman's creative writing partner and friend Bob Zmuda (Paul Giamatti), Kaufman's 'alter ego') gave a costumed creation of a comeback appearance ("You guys wanna see Andy tonight? Anybody got a flashlight and a couple of shovels? OK guys, let's do our dirt"); he defiantly sang: "I Will Survive" - as Zmuda also looked on in the audience (seen after a pan to the left)!
Comedy Club - Bob Zmudas' Performance of Kaufman's 'Tony Clifton' lounge singer character
  • the film ended with music group R.E.M.'s singing of their 1992 hit "Man on the Moon" as a tribute to Kaufman: ("Mott the Hoople and the Game of Life (yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah) Andy Kaufman in the wrestling match (yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah) Monopoly, twenty-one, checkers, and chess (yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)...")

Kaufman - as "Tony Clifton" - Lounge Singer

"Milk and Cookies" Carnegie Hall Appearance with the Rockettes

Staged Feud Between Kaufman (In Neck Brace) and Wrestling Opponent Jerry Lawler - on The David Letterman Show

Quack Remedies To Cure Kaufman's Lung Cancer

Manhattan (1979)

  • the heartbreaking scene when 42 year-old Isaac Davis (Woody Allen) proposed a breakup with his 17 year-old girlfriend Tracy (Mariel Hemingway): ("Now I don't feel so good") in a malt-soda shop with Tracy's tearful rejection of his attempts to get her to stop crying ("Leave me alone")
  • the scene of Isaac stretched out on a couch recounting all the things that he genuinely loved (his jazz, acting, and sports heroes, and Tracy's face): ("My idea for a short story about, uhm, people in Manhattan, who, uh, are constantly creating these real, unnecessary neurotic problems for themselves, 'cause it keeps them from dealing with more unsolvable, terrifying problems about the universe. Uhm, let's, uh, well, it has to be optimistic. All right, why is life worth living? That's a very good question. Um... Well, there are certain things I guess that make it worthwhile, uh... Like what... okay... um... For me, uh... ooh... I would say... what, Groucho Marx, to name one thing... uh... um... and Willie Mays... and um... the 2nd movement of the Jupiter Symphony... and um... Louis Armstrong, recording of Potato Head Blues... um... Swedish movies, naturally... Sentimental Education by Flaubert... uh... Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra... um... those incredible Apples and Pears by Cezanne... uh... the crabs at Sam Wo's... uh... Tracy's face...")
  • Isaac made a breathless run through NY streets to stop his (now) eighteen year-old drama student/girlfriend Tracy's departure by plane for London to study at the Academy; in their romantically poignant and touching final scene, the young lover (now 18) consoled a fearful Isaac - she was leaving for London for six months, with a bittersweet line: ("Six months isn't so long. Everybody gets corrupted. You have to have a little faith in people")
  • the concluding shot of Isaac's face with a wry, resigned smiling expression (a farewell version of The Tramp's (Charlie Chaplin) expression in City Lights (1931)), followed by a reprise of the opening montage featuring the skyline from dawn to dusk to Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue"

Tracy's Departure: "You have to have a little faith in people"

Isaac's Concluding Smile

Tracy's Reaction to Break-Up in Soda Shop: "Now I don't feel so good"

"Why is Life Worth Living"

The Marrying Kind (1952)

  • the tragic family picnic scene in which Joey (Christopher Olsen), the six-year old son of bickering couple Florrie (Judy Holliday) and Chet (Aldo Ray), accidentally drowned in a park pond while an oblivious Florence was singing "How I Love the Kisses of Dolores" on a ukelele to her husband; she finally sensed what had happened when she was alerted to the tragedy by a pointing child

Florrie Singing With Ukelele

Drowning Death of Her 6 Year-Old Son Joey

Mask (1985)

  • the relationship between teenager Roy "Rocky" Dennis (Eric Stoltz), who suffered from lionitis or craniodiaphyseal dyaplasia (a skull deformity), and his drug-abusing and depressed biker gang mother Florence "Rusty" Dennis (Cher)
  • "Rocky's" close relationship with blind friend Diana Adams (Laura Dern), although her disapproving parents were against him (for his deformed looks) and humiliated him when they first met him (as they drove off, he spoke under his breath: "That damn son-of-a-bitch") - and later prevented her from receiving communications from him
  • Rocky's death while sleeping due to his disfigurement
"Rusty"'s Remembrance of Her Son "Rocky" (Roy)
  • the concluding scene at "Rocky's" gravesite, when "Rusty," Gar (Sam Elliott) and Dozer (Dennis Burkley) visited, and left flowers and ball-cards (1955 Brooklyn Dodgers) near his tombstone, followed by "Rocky's" voice-over of an original poem recitation
  • "Rusty's" sad remembrance of her son: ("These things are good: ice cream and cake, a ride on a Harley, seeing monkeys in the trees, the rain on my tongue, and the sun shining on my face. These things are a drag: dust in my hair, holes in my shoes, no money in my pocket, and the sun shining on my face")

"Rocky" with His Mother "Rusty"

"Rocky" with Blind Friend Diana (Laura Dern)

A Matter of Life and Death (1946, UK) (aka Stairway to Heaven (1946, US))


  • the opening sequence of a radio distress call in May of 1945 by squadron leader Peter D. Carter (David Niven) delivered within a burning British RAF bomber plane that had lost its undercarriage and the rest of the crew; as he delivered his final message, he fell in love with American WAC radio operator June (Kim Hunter): ("I'm bailing out, but there's a catch. I've got no parachute....Hello, June, don't be afraid. It's quite simple. We've had it and I'd rather jump than fry. After the first thousand feet, what's the difference. I shan't know anything, anyway. I say, I hope I haven't frightened you...June, are you pretty?...Can you hear me as well as I hear you?...You've got a good voice. You've got guts, too. It's funny. I've known dozens of girls, I've been in love with some. But an American girl who I've never seen and never shall see will hear my last words. That's funny. Rather sweet. June, if you're around when they pick me up, turn your head away...No, no-one can help. Only you. Let me do this in my own way. I want to be alone with you, June...I love you, June, you're life and I'm leaving you...I'll be a ghost and come and see you! You're not frightened of ghosts?...I was lucky to get you, June. Can't be helped about the parachute. I'll have my wings soon, anyway, big white ones...I'm signing off now, June. Goodbye. Goodbye, June")
  • the subsequent meeting of Peter - still mistakenly alive - and June riding on a bike near the military base after he parachuted and washed up on a beach: ("You're Peter! How did you get here? I'm glad you're safe. What did you do? What happened?... Are you hurt?...There's a little cut in your hair. Oh, Peter, it was a cruel joke.... I've been crying ever since we said goodbye")
  • there was a discrepancy reported in heaven's celestial court: ("91,716 invoiced, 91,715 checked in") - as Conductor 71 (a guillotined French Revolution aristocrat), an Other World escort, explained the problem: ("Everything was calculated except for the accursed fog! The pilot jumped, he got lost in the fog, I missed him")
  • the view of the marvelous ascending stairway into the heavens (the heaven sequences were filmed in B/W) lined with statues of famous people (Lincoln, Plato, Richelieu, Solomon), as Peter and Conductor 71 rode up - the statues represented potential counsels for Peter for his upcoming trial, but Peter balked at all of them: ("It sounds a grand idea to have all these great men to choose from, but what do they know of our problems today?...Besides, I think it ought to be an Englishman. Nobody famous, but somebody with his head screwed on all right")
  • during brain surgery to rid him of alleged hallucinations, Carter's spirit was put on trial -- (in b/w) -- to appeal his death before a celestial court, and to prove that he should remain on Earth rather than journey on to the afterlife; the image of one of June's single, glittering love tears caught on the petals of a pinkish rose was to be used as "the only real bit of evidence we have" by Carter's recently-deceased British counsel and friend Dr. Reeves (Roger Livesey) in the case prosecuted by Abraham Farlan (Raymond Massey), an American

Heavenly Discrepancy

Stairway to Heaven
  • the profoundly romantic, tearjerking sentimental ending in which the two lovers were asked in Heaven to prove their love for one another, and June affirmed that she was willing to "die for him" and would "take his place in the balance sheet" - she proved it by proposing to take Carter's place when the stairs to the Other World started to move upward and separated the lovers
"Nothing is Stronger Than Love"
June: "Goodbye darling"
June's Self-Sacrifice -
Leading to Peter's Winning of Appeal to Live
  • a tearful June and Carter stared at each other (with a close-up of the tearful June as she said 'goodbye darling'), but then with a jolt, the stairs stopped; Dr. Reeves informed the assembly watching that "nothing is stronger than the law in the universe, but on Earth, nothing is stronger than love"
  • in the film's ending, June ran down the stairs to embrace Carter, after having his appeal granted and he was given a long life by the court
  • words of Sir Walter Scott were intoned by God/the Judge (Abraham Sofaer): ("Members of the jury, as Sir Walter Scott is always saying, 'In peace, love tunes the shepherd's reed; in war, he mounts the warrior's steed; in halls, in gay attire is seen; in hamlets, dances on the green. Love rules the court, the camp, the grove, and men below and saints above. For Love is heaven, and heaven is Love'")

RAF Pilot Peter Carter's Radio Distress Call

Radio Operator June

Peter Meeting June On Beach After Jumping From Plane

Ascending Stairway Into the Heavens

Eyelid POV shot

June's Love Tears Caught on Pink Rose Petals

Peter and June Together

Meet John Doe (1941)

  • the melodramatic final scene of common man "John Doe" (Gary Cooper) threatening to jump off City Hall on a snowy Christmas Eve in which reporter Ann Mitchell (Barbara Stanwyck) hysterically sobbed and urgently begged him not to kill himself - and admitted her love for him: ("I won't let you, I love you, darling")
  • the upbeat conclusion in which John Doe walked away from the ledge toward his supporters with Ann in his arms, after the John Doe club members had renewed their faith in him and he had decided to not commit suicide - accompanied by Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Managing editor Henry Connell (James Gleason) (with his fist) told off the oppressive and evil Norton in the final line: ("There you are, Norton! The people! Try and lick that!")

'John Doe' Threatening Suicide

Ann's Declaration of Love for 'John Doe'

"There you are, Norton! The People! Try and lick that!"

Midnight Cowboy (1969)


  • the scene of Joe Buck (Jon Voight) wiping off the sweaty head of ailing friend Enrico "Ratso" Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) in a stairway before attending an underground film-making party in Greenwich Village
  • the scene of Joe caring for his ailing feverish friend Ratso, who was suffering from the end stages of tuberculosis, and admitting that he was afraid of not being able to walk anymore: ("You know what they do to you when they know you can't... When they find out that you can't wa... walk. Oh, Christ!")
  • Ratso's dying wish was to be taken to Florida: ("You ain't gettin' me no doctor...No doctors, no cops. Don't be so stupid...You get me to Florida...Just put me on a bus....You ain't sendin' me to Bellevue")
  • their poignant Florida-bound bus trip when Ratso complained about his pain: ("Here I am goin' to Florida, my leg hurts, my butt hurts, my chest hurts, my face hurts, and like that ain't enough, I gotta pee all over myself. (Joe chuckled) That's funny? I'm fallin' apart here")
  • ultimately, "Ratso" Rizzo expired in the back of the bus quietly as close friend (lover?) Joe speculated about their better future together in Florida before realizing he'd passed away: ("I got this damn thing all figured out. When we get to Miami, what we'll do is get some sort of job, you know. Cause hell, I ain't no kind of hustler. I mean, there must be an easier way of makin' a living than that. Some sort of outdoors work. Whaddya think? Yeah, that's what I'll do. OK Rico? Rico? Rico? Hey, Rico? Rico?")
  • with tears forming in Joe's eyes, he affectionately wrapped his arm around Rico's shoulder and held him, while palm trees were reflected on the window glass - in a view from outside the bus
  • the bus driver (Al Stetson) told Joe and the other passengers: ("Okay, folks, everything's all right. Nothing to worry about...All right, we'll just drive on in. Right? Nothin' else we can do. Okay folks, Just a little illness. We'll be in Miami in a few minutes. (on the intercom) Okay, folks, nothin' to worry about. It's just a little illness. We'll be in Miami in just a few minutes") - as the film slowly faded to black and ended

Joe Buck's Caring for the Dying Rizzo

Milk (2008)

  • the shocking scene of Harvey Milk's (Sean Penn) 1978 assassination at the age of 48 by crazed fellow politician Dan White (Josh Brolin)
Harvey Milk's Assassination by Dan White (Josh Brolin)
  • the assassination scene was followed by a flashback to Milk's prophetic words when he was celebrating his 40th birthday - musing to his lover: ("Forty years old, and I haven't done a thing I'm proud of...I'll never make it to 50")
  • and in the moving final scene of the film, using a framing device, San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk recorded his will by dictating into a cassette tape recorder in 1977 in his kitchen, even predicting his own assassination, but still striving for hope: ("You've got to elect gay people so that the young child and the thousands upon thousands just like him know there's hope for a better life - hope for a better tomorrow... I ask this, that If there be an assassination, I would want five, ten, a hundred, a thousand to rise. If a bullet should enter my brain, let it destroy every closet door. I ask for the movement to continue because it's not about personal gain, and it's not about ego and it's not about power. It's about the 'us's' out there. Not just the gays, but the blacks and the Asians and the seniors and the disabled. The 'us's'. Without hope, the 'us's' give up. And I know you can't live on hope alone. But without hope, life is not worth living. So you, and you, and you, you gotta give 'em hope. You gotta give 'em hope")
  • a candlelight vigil and march stretched for miles in tribute and honor to the brave, martyred gay activist (and slain Mayor George Moscone (Victor Garber)) by 30,000 supporters who marched from the Castro district to City Hall
Candlelight Vigil and March in Tribute
  • a number of title cards described the tribute march, and Dan White's "Twinkie Defense"; White was found "guilty of manslaughter, the minimum charge for both murders"; the verdict set off 'The White Knight Riots' - the most violent uprising in the history of the gay movement ("The next day, not a single arrest was made"); in the aftermath, in 1984 after serving only five years, Dan White was released from prison. Less than two years later, he returned to San Francisco and committed suicide

Flashback: Musing About His Age: "Forty Years Old, and I Haven't Done A Thing I'm Proud Of"

Recording Will in 1977

End Title Cards

Million Dollar Baby (2004)

  • in the dark, emotionally-wrenching and controversial ending of the melodramatic sports film, mentor/manager Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) finally honored paraplegic boxer Maggie Fitzgerald's (Hilary Swank) request one evening. The irascible but caring trainer Frankie entered her room and told her the meaning of the Gaelic phrase on her green fight robe: "Mo chuisle" ("Pulse of my heart" or "My pulse") that cheering crowds had chanted.
  • after kissing her and saying goodbye (a tear ran down her cheek), he turned off her life-support machine, unhooked her breathing tube and injected her with an adrenaline overdose, to cause her instant death
  • in the aftermath, Frankie's silhouette exited from the hospital - and from boxing altogether

Frankie's Exit From Hospital

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

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