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

The Miracle Worker (1962)

  • the climactic, triumphant water-pump scene in which blind and deaf Helen Keller (Patty Duke) learned to use sign language, and first spoke "wah - wah" with the assistance of her teacher Annie Sullivan (Anne Bancroft), associating sounds with objects: (Annie: "All right. Pump. No, she's not here. Pump. W-A-T-E-R. Water. It has a name. W-A-T..." Helen: "Wah... wah. Wah... wah." Annie: "Yes. Yes. Yes. Oh, my dear. Ground. Yes! Pump. Yes. Tree. Step. Mrs. Keller. Mrs. Keller! Bell. Mrs. Keller! Mrs. Keller. Mrs. Keller. Mother. Papa. She knows! Teacher. Teacher. Teacher.")
Helen: "Wah... wah. Wah... wah."

Water-Pump Scene

Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol (1962) (TV)

  • the surprisingly tearjerking song "All Alone in the World" sung by young Scrooge (voice of Marie Matthews), who was "all alone, nobody wants him, poor lad" during Christmas vacation at his boarding school after everyone else had left. The song was about loneliness and not fitting in or belonging - he traced his hand on a blackboard - hoping to find a hand to join with his: ("When you're all alone in the world...A hand for each hand was planned for the world, Why don't my fingers reach? Millions of grains of sand in the world, why such a lonely beach?")
  • the young lad was joined (in duet) by an unseen adult Ebenezer Scrooge (voice of Jim Backus) who was taken back by the Ghost of Christmas Past to view his lonely childhood - he put his arm on the shoulder of the young lad as their voices mingled

Lonely Young Scrooge Tracing a Hand on a Blackboard

Ebenezer Scrooge Taken to View His Past

Mr. Holland's Opus (1995)


  • the scene in which Portland, OR music teacher Mr. Glenn Holland's (Richard Dreyfuss) wife Iris (Glenne Headly) realized that their toddler son Coltrane (or "Cole") had hearing difficulties (he was born with 90% hearing loss, not diagnosed at first) - when he didn't wake up and react to a loud fire engine siren; later that day, she spoke to her husband and shared the devastating news: ("There's something wrong with Cole.... I don't know. I've tried different things. Uhm, sneaking up behind him and banging pots and screaming his name and stomping on the floor. He turned when I did that - big smile. He thought I was playing a game.... I don't think he can hear"); Glenn started to try to call out to his son ("Cole? Cole?!"), with no response
  • the later concert scene in which Mr. Holland, in front of an audience, sang and signed (in ASL) John Lennon's "Beautiful Boy" to long-haired 15 year-old son Cole (Joseph Anderson), replacing "Boy" with "Cole" at the end ("Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful...Cole")
  • the final inspirational scene - a surprise gathering on Holland's last day at work, in which a tribute speech was given to now-retiring music teacher Mr. Holland, sitting in the audience, delivered by the governor and John F. Kennedy HS alumnus Gertrude Lang (Joanna Gleason), honoring him for 30 years as an inspiring teacher: ("Mr. Holland had a profound influence on my life - on a lot of lives I know. And yet I get the feeling that he considers a great part of his own life misspent. Rumor had it he was always working on this symphony of his, and this was gonna make him famous, rich - probably both. But Mr. Holland isn't rich, and he isn't famous. At least, not outside of our little town. So it might be easy for him to think himself a failure. And he would be wrong. Because I think he's achieved a success far beyond riches and fame. Look around you. There is not a life in this room that you have not touched. And each one of us is a better person because of you. We are your symphony, Mr. Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus, and we are the music of your life")
Tribute Speech to Retired Mr. Holland by Gertrude Lang
  • the concluding tribute to Holland was the first performance ever of his "opus" - An American Symphony by his former students (including Gertrude), with Holland directing with a baton

Toddler Cole's Hearing Loss Discovered

Using Sign Language To Sing: "Beautiful Boy" To Son Cole

Holland's 'Opus' Directed by Holland Himself

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

  • the scene of betrayed idealist Senator Jefferson Smith's (James Stewart) late-night visit to the Lincoln Memorial when he felt downtrodden and was ready to leave town: ("This is a whole new world to me. What are you gonna believe in? And a man like Paine, Senator Joseph Paine gets up and swears that I've been robbin' kids of nickels and dimes - a man I've admired and worshipped all my life. I don't know. There are a lot of fancy words around this town. Some of them are carved in stone. Some of 'em, I guess the Taylors and Paines have put 'em up there so suckers like me can read 'em. Then when you find out what men actually do - well, I'm gettin' out of this town so fast and away from all the words and the monuments and the whole rotten show")
  • Smith's secretary Clarissa Saunders (Jean Arthur) encouraged him to remain, go against the odds, and tell the truth: ("You can't quit now. Not you! They aren't all Taylors and Paines in Washington. Their kind just throw big shadows, that's all. You didn't just have faith in Paine or any other living man. You had faith in something bigger than that. You had plain, decent, every day, common rightness. And this country could use some of that. Yeah - so could the whole cock-eyed world. A lot of it. Remember the first day you got here? Remember what you said about Mr. Lincoln? You said he was sitting up there waiting for someone to come along. You were right! He was waiting for a man who could see his job and sail into it. That's what he was waiting for. A man who could tear into the Taylors and root 'em out into the open. I think he was waiting for you Jeff. He knows you can do it. So do I")
  • the classic, climactic scene of idealist Senator Smith's exhausting, desperate one-man filibuster (that was to last almost 24 hours) in the US Senate - with his exposition on moral integrity, American democracy, and 'lost causes' before collapsing to the Senate floor - when he was on the verge of being threatened with expulsion - at first, he refused to yield to Senator Paine (Claude Rains), and then accused Paine of graft - he also accused Paine of collusion with powerful media magnate Jim Taylor (Edward Arnold), head of a political machine that was pushing for a pork barrel project to build an unneeded dam (the Willet Creek Dam project): ("I was ready to tell you that a certain man of my state, a Mr. James Taylor, wanted to put through this dam for his own profit. A man who controls a political machine! And controls everything else worth controlling in my state!") - he insisted on continuing to speak: "I've got a piece to speak, and blow hot or cold, I'm gonna speak it....The wild horses aren't gonna drag me off this floor until those people have heard everything I've got to say, even if it takes all winter" - the long filibuster caused Senator Smith to become increasingly exhausted
Smith's Exhausting One-Man Filibuster
  • Smith preached to the Senate and offered home-spun insight on democratic ideals: "I wouldn't give you two cents for all your fancy rules if, behind them, they didn't have a little bit of plain, ordinary, everyday kindness and a - a little lookin' out for the other fella, too...And I hate to stand here and try your patience like this, but EITHER I'M DEAD RIGHT OR I'M CRAZY"
  • after almost 24 hours, Smith exhorted the Senate: "Get up there with that lady, that's up on top of this Capitol Dome. That lady that stands for Liberty. Take a look at this country through her eyes if you really want to see somethin'. And you won't just see scenery. You'll see the whole parade of what man's carved out for himself after centuries of fighting. And fighting for something better than just jungle law. Fighting so as he can stand on his own two feet free and decent, like he was created no matter what his race, color, or creed. That's what you'd see. There's no place out there for graft or greed or lies! ...this country is bigger than the Taylors or you or me or anything else. Great principles don't get lost once they come to light. They're right here. You just have to see them again"
  • thousands of "Taylor-made" phony telegrams from constituents in his state were manufactured (at the direction of Taylor), and deposited in front of the Senate chamber; Senator Paine held up a fistful, telling Smith that they all demanded that he yield the floor and give up his filibuster: "The people's answer to Jefferson Smith"
  • Smith grabbed two fist fulls of the phony documents, and in a hoarse voice toward Senator Paine, he delivered an impassioned speech about "lost causes" - accusing Paine face-to-face of betraying his ideals this time around: ("I guess this is just another lost cause, Mr. Paine. All you people don't know about lost causes. Mr. Paine does. He said once they were the only causes worth fighting for. And he fought for them once, for the only reason that any man ever fights for them. Because of just one plain simple rule: 'Love thy neighbor'")
  • Smith spoke one more time directly to Paine about lost causes: ("You think I'm licked. You all think I'm licked. Well, I'm not licked, and I'm gonna stay right here and fight for this lost cause even if this room gets filled with lies like these, and the Taylors and all their armies come marching into this place. Somebody'll listen to me. Some...") - and then Smith collapsed onto the floor
  • in the conclusion, conscience-stricken and remorseful Senator Paine re-entered the Senate floor and admitted that everything Smith said was true - exonerating and vindicating him and the American political system: ("Every word that boy said is the truth! Every word about Taylor and me and graft and the rotten political corruption of our state. Every word of it is true. I'm not fit for office! I'm not fit for any place of honor or trust. Expel me!") - resulting in a mad eruption of support on the floor of the Senate and in the gallery

Late Night Visit with Saunders to the Lincoln Memorial

Paine Challenged Smith with 50,000 Telegrams

Smith Aghast at Phony Telegrams Sent to Senate Chamber

Smith's Final "Lost Causes" and "You Think I'm Licked" Speeches

Smith Collapsing Onto the Senate Floor

Senator Paine's Admission of Dishonesty

The Senate Floor and Gallery Erupting With Joy

Modern Times (1936)

  • the final unforgettable image of the Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) arm in arm with the homeless Gamin (Paulette Goddard) silhouetted together and walking into the sunrise to face a new day, at the film's conclusion

Walking Into the Sunrise Together

Monsoon Wedding (2001, India/US/Fr./It.)


  • the film's title referred to a series of romantic problems and issues that emerged during a traditional and expensive upper-caste Punjabi Hindu wedding in New Delhi, India - an arranged marriage between daughter Aditi Verma (Vasundhara Das) and her unknown selected bridegroom Hemant Rai (Parvin Dabas) from Houston, TX; at the time, Aditi was in an on-again-off-again relationship with her married ex-lover Vikram Mehta (Sameer Arya)
  • Adita's unmarried cousin Ria Verma (Shefali Shah) made the angry and malignant revelation that her uncle - the Verma's family friend and brother-in-law Tej Puri (Rajat Kapoor), who was living in the US but was attending the wedding, had sexually molested her as a girl; there was the realization that he was repeating the same offenses that she had suffered by grooming his 10 year-old cousin Aliya Verma (Kemaya Kidwai): ("It wasn't enough that he touched me when I was a girl. That wasn't enough that you had to teach Aliya how older people kiss?...What did you get out of it? I didn't even have breasts, you sick man!...Seven afternoons. Seven afternoons of how older people kiss. You took my clothes off. Open your mouth, Ria...And now he's doing it all over again to Aliya!"), an example of generational sexual abuse
  • Ria caught Tej driving away with Aliya and she threatened him to let Aliya go: ("You let her go, from you, you bastard"); she stated that if she wasn't believed that she would leave the festivities: ("I'm not a part of this. I'm not a part of you...You know it. You know I don't lie"), yet some of her family members at the wedding doubted her: ("Insolent, crazy girl...Unmarried girls like Ria, they make up all these fantasies")
  • Ria's uncle and adoptive father (and stressed-out, overbearing father of the bride in the wedding) Lalit Verma (Naseeruddin Shah) sobbed and tearfully realized in bed with his wife Pimmi (Lillete Dubey): ("I'm falling, Pimmi, hold me") that Ria was not lying - and that he must break with tradition by confronting Tej and telling him and his wife (Lalit's sister) to never return again
Lalit's Realization With His Wife Pimmi That Ria Was Not Lying About Tej
  • the confrontational scene in which Lalit told Tej to leave, although Tej's wife protested that Tej was part of the family: "For such a small thing," but Lalit affirmatively insisted

The Confrontation Scene: Lalit Told Tej to Leave the Wedding

Tej Told to Leave

Lalit Demanding Tej's Departure

Bride-to-Be Adita (Vasundhara Das)

Adita With Old Flame Vikram Mehta

Ria's Uncle Tej Puri (Rajat Kapoor)

Tej Grooming and Driving Away With 10 Year-Old Aliya

Ria Stopping Tej From Driving Away with Aliya

Moulin Rouge! (2001, US/Australia)


  • the sad ending in which the Moulin Rouge's star and beautiful courtesan Satine (Nicole Kidman) was wheezing and then died of tuberculosis in the arms of penniless writer/lover Christian (Ewan McGregor), causing him to sob uncontrollably; she spoke final words to him: (Satine: "I'm sorry, Christian. I'm, I'm dying." Christian: "Shh. Shh. It's all right." Satine: "I'm so sorry." Christian: "No, you'll be all right. You'll be all right. l know you'll be all right. Satine: "I'm cold. I'm cold. Hold me. I love you. You've got to go on, Christian." Christian: "I can't go on without you." Satine: "You've got so much to give. Tell, tell our story, Christian. Yes. Promise me. Promise me. Yes. That way, I'll, I'll always be with you")

The Death Scene of Satine In the Arms of Christian

My Dog Skip (2000)

  • in a story told in flashback, the touching relationship in 1940's Yazoo, Mississippi between frail, young 9 year-old boy Willie (Frankie Muniz), an only child, and his faithful Jack Russell terrier Skip (played by Frasier TV sitcom dog Moose) given to him on his birthday
  • the scene in which Willie's older best friend and ex-star high school athlete Dink Jenkins (Luke Wilson) returned home after fighting in WWII - now a broken man who never left his home: ("It ain't the dying that's scary, boy. It's the killing") - shell-shocked and a drunkard, he had been dishonorably discharged from the Army, presumably for desertion
  • the baseball game scene in which Willie unexpectedly slapped an enthusiastic Skip (wagging his tail) across his muzzle, for running onto the baseball field to comfort him and cheer him up, when he was embarrassed by his poor performance (and thought he had lost the game for the team)
  • Willie's weeping during a visit to the veterinary office after Skip was seriously injured and near death after being hit by a moonshiner's spade, and Willie's pledge of friendship and love for his dog: ("Please don't die, boy. What would I do without you? You taught me how to play football. You helped me meet the guys and get up enough nerve to talk to Rivers. And understand about Dink. I'll never have another friend like you. Ever")
  • miraculously, Skip awakened and licked Willie's hand ("You're all right! That's my boy. I love you, Skip. I knew you'd make it. I almost lost old Skip that day. Even as he was sleepin' on the operating table he was still teachin' me. That day, l became a young man")
  • Skip's sad death from old age, while sleeping in Willie's old bedroom (in his parents' home) while Skip was overseas; Skip was then buried under an elm tree
  • Willie remembered his favorite companion with the film's final tear-evoking voice-over, speaking about Skip's death at age 11: ("In remembering moments such as these, l retain the sad, sweet reflection of being an only child and having a loyal and lovin' dog. For the struggles of my life, of the dangers, toils and snares of my childhood hymns, loyalty and love are the best things of all and surely the most lasting. The day finally arrived for me to move away from home. I was awarded a scholarship to attend Oxford University in England. A long way from Yazoo, Mississippi, and a long way from my family and friends. The dog of your boyhood teaches you a great deal about friendship and love and death. I was an only child. He was an only dog. Old Skip was 11 - and feeble with arthritis, but he never lost that old devilish look in his eye. He made my room his own. Came across an old photo of him not long ago. His little face with the long snout sniffin' at somethin' in the air. His tail was straight out and pointin', eyes were flashin' in some momentary excitement. He always loved to be rubbed on the back of his neck. And when I did it, he'd yawn, and he'd stretch, reach out to me with his paws as if he was trying to embrace me. I received a transatlantic call one day. 'Skip died,' Daddy said. He and my mama wrapped him in my baseball jacket. They buried him out under our elm tree, they said. That wasn't totally true, for he really lay buried in my heart")
  • the film's final title card stated: "He thought of Skip every day"
Concluding Voice-Over Remembrances of Skip

9 Year-Old Willie's Birthday Gift - Skip

Willie with Dog Skip

Dink Jenkins - A Broken War Vet

Willie Unexpectedly Viciously Slapping Skip During Ball Game

Willie Weeping in Vet's Office

Skip Kissing Willie As He Boarded Bus - To Attend School in England

My Favorite Year (1982)

  • the sad scene in which drunken, washed-up and has-been swashbuckling movie star Alan Swann (Peter O'Toole), hidden sheepishly in his limo, watched his estranged young daughter Tess (Cady McClain) ride her bicycle in Connecticut - and then after Swann had driven away, his daughter rode back to the spot where his car had been parked and looked on, knowing he'd been watching her
  • the sentimental ending after Alan Swann (dressed as a swashbuckling musketeer) entered the stage on live TV before an audience - his last great moment - as young variety show comic writer Benjy Stone (Mark-Linn Baker) looked on and narrated about Swann's role from the control booth: ("The way you see him here, like this. This is the way I like to remember him. I think if you had asked Alan Swann what was the single most gratifying moment in his life, he might have said this one right here")

Alan On Live TV Broadcast - His Last Great Moment

Benjy's Praise of Swann
  • in the epilogue, Benjy continued his narration, about how a newly-confident Swann visited his daughter Tess the next day in Connecticut for a heartfelt reunion: ("The next day, I drove up to Connecticut with him and Alfi (Tony DiBenedetto). This time, he knocked on the door, and when he and Tess saw each other, it was like they'd never been apart. Like Alfi says: 'With Swann, you forgive a lot, you know?' I know")

Alan Watching From Limo As His Daughter Tess Rode Her Bicycle

My Girl (1991)


  • the touching, poignant first kiss between pre-teens: precocious 11 year old hypochondriac Vada Sultenfuss (Anna Chlumsky) and allergy-ridden, geeky Thomas J. Sennett (Macauley Culkin) who discussed the facts of life, before coming around to their first kiss; Vada assertively asked: "Have you ever kissed anyone?" with his response: "Like they do on TV?" and then she suggested: "Maybe we should, just to see what's the big deal"; when he said: "But I don't know how," she proposed that they practice kissing their arms, and then close their eyes for the real thing, on the count of three -- afterwards, she demanded that he say something because it was "too quiet", and being agitated, he began to recite a mangled version of the Pledge of Allegance ("On political agents to the flag of the United States of America...") [Note: The scene won MTV's "Best Kiss" movie award.]
  • Thomas' funeral scene after he died from a bee sting with Vada first coming down the stairs to listen to the minister from afar, and then her tearful, mournful breakdown at Thomas' open coffin: ("Wanna go tree climbing, Thomas J.? His face hurts. And where is his glasses? He can't see without his glasses. Put his glasses on! Put on his glasses! He was gonna be an acrobat...!"); when she was restrained, she went running out of the ceremony
Vada At Thomas' Open Coffin
  • the final scene of Vada reading a poem to her summer writing class about a weeping willow tree - their favorite spot: ("Weeping willow with your tears running down. Why do you always weep and frown? Is it because he left you one day? Is it because he could not stay? On your branches he would swing. Do you long for the happiness that day would bring? He found shelter in your shade. You thought his laughter would never fade. Weeping willow, stop your tears. There is something to calm your fears. You think death has ripped you forever apart. But I know he'll always be in your heart")
  • the film's ending with the playing of the Temptations' "My Girl" on the soundtrack

First Kiss Between Vada and Thomas

Vada Listening to Thomas' Funeral

Vada's Poem About A Weeping Willow Tree

Mystic River (2003)

  • in the opening flashback, when a young boy 25 years earlier, Dave Boyle (Tim Robbins) had been abducted by two pedophiles (who then assaulted him over a 4-day period in a cellar after driving him away in the back seat of a black Ford sedan)
  • the scene of grieving ex-con and corner grocery-store owner Jimmy Markum (Oscar-winning Best Actor Sean Penn) learning of the discovery of a body in the local park - belonging to his 19 year-old daughter Katie (Emmy Rossum) and screaming out to Massachusetts State homicide detective Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon) as he was restrained: ("Sean, is that my daughter in there?!")

The Discovery of the Dead Body of Katie Markum and Aggrieved Jimmy's Question to Detective/Friend Sean: "Is that my daughter in there?"
  • the powerfully-acted scene of Jimmy on the back porch with neighbor-friend Dave Boyle while struggling to grieve and let go with his tears over the hurtful, wrenching loss of his daughter Katie: (Jimmy: "There's one thing you could say about Katie even when she was little. That girl was neat... And it's really starting to piss me off, Dave, because I can't cry for her. My own little daughter, and I can't even cry for her." Dave: "Jimmy. You're crying now." Jimmy: "Yeah, damn. I just want to hug her one more time. She was 19 f--king years old")
  • the scene of an emotionally-scarred Dave with his untrusting, fragile, and panicky wife Celeste (Marcia Gay Harden) recalling his 4-day abuse when he was a child and feeling like an undead vampire: ("Maybe one day you wake up and you forget what it's like to be human...Dave's dead. I don't know who came out of that cellar, but it sure as shit wasn't Dave...It's like vampires. Once it's in you, it stays...")
  • shortly afterwards, a tormented Celeste told Jimmy that she suspected her husband as the killer - however, Dave had only claimed that he beat up a pedophile behind McGill's bar in the parking lot the same night that Katie died
  • Jimmy suspected that the murderer was his childhood friend - the disturbed, violated, and haunted sexual abuse victim Dave Boyle; when confronted by Jimmy, Dave first suspiciously confessed that he got his hand caught in a garbage disposal, using that as the alibi for an injured and bloody hand; however, when pressed further, he said that he had seen a suspected pedophile having sex with a child prostitute behind the bar; he murdered the child molester, then put the bloody body in his trunk, and dumped the body behind the bar
  • a disbelieving Jimmy forced the innocent Dave to falsely confess and admit that he killed Katie by repeatedly demanding: "Admit what you did, Dave, and I'll let you live" - before stabbing him in the stomach, and finishing him off with a gunshot to the head and throwing his body in the Mystic River - only a few hours before the real killers were identified
  • and in the next scene the following day, Sean told Jimmy that they had found the real killers in the case; Jimmy gave a lamenting reaction to Sean: "Thanks for finding my daughter's killers, Sean. If only you had been a little faster" - clueing the detective into realizing that Jimmy had killed Dave; however, Devine didn't appear to want to press charges; Sean observed: "Sometimes I think, I think all three of us got in that car and all of this is just a dream, you know?...The reality is we're still 11 year old boys locked in a cellar imagining what our lives would have been if we'd escaped"
  • Jimmy admitted his regretful mistake to his wife Annabeth (Laura Linney): "I killed Dave. I killed him, and I threw him in the Mystic. But I killed the wrong man. That's what I've done. And I can't undo it"
  • the scene of suspected teen Brendan Harris (Thomas Guiry), Katie's boyfriend, who spoke poignantly about his lost love after her death: ("I'm never gonna feel that again. It doesn't happen twice")

Flashback to Young Dave Boyle's Abduction by Pedophiles

Grieving Father Jimmy on Back Porch: "I Can't Even Cry for Her"

Dave on Porch with Jimmy

Dave Recalling His 4-Day Sexual Abuse Incident to Celeste: "Dave's Dead"

Celeste Ratting Out Her Husband Dave to Jimmy

Jimmy Forcing Dave to Falsely Confess to Katie's Murder - And Then Murdering Him

Jimmy's Regretful Remorse Expressed to Consoling Wife Annabeth (Laura Linney)

Brendan's Thoughts About Katie's Death: "I'm never gonna feel that again"

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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