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

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

  • in the death scene of Captain Spock (Leonard Nimoy), he had sacrificed his life (after being exposed to radiation) to save the doomed U.S.S. Enterprise from a deadly explosion, by entering into warp speed (with a repaired drive). Before Spock went to his death, he transferred his katra -- his memories and experience -- to Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy (DeForest Kelley) with the word "Remember"

Spock Using a Nerve Pinch to Neutralize Dr. McCoy

Spock's Transference of His Katra to Dr. McCoy: "Remember"
  • Spock reassured Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner) as he died: ("Don't grieve, Admiral. It is logical. The needs of the many outweigh (the needs of the few). Or the one. I never took the Kobayashi Maru test, until now. What do you think of my solution? (Spock knelt down) I have been, and always shall be, your friend. (Spock placed his hand on the chamber glass) Live long, and prosper"). Kirk placed his hand opposite Spock's hand as his friend slowly collapsed, slumped down and expired next to him. Kirk quietly said: "No" as Spock died.
  • at Spock's funeral, Kirk delivered a heartfelt eulogy for his friend: ("We are assembled here today to pay final respects to our honoured dead. And yet it should be noted that in the midst of our sorrow, this death takes place in the shadow of new life, the sunrise of a new world, a world that our beloved comrade gave his life to protect and nourish. He did not feel that sacrifice a vain or empty one, and we will not debate his profound wisdom at these proceedings. Of my friend, I can only say this. Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most... human") before Spock was ejected into orbit around a newly-birthed planet from the Genesis Effect explosion
Kirk's Eulogy for Spock Before His Burial Casket Was Ejected
  • Kirk was subsequently reconciled with his son Dr. David Marcus (Merritt Butrick), capped by a hug: ("I was wrong about you and I'm sorry...And also that I'm proud. Very proud to be your son")
  • (voice-over): Kirk dictated about the next mission - to rescue the remainder of the marooned Reliant crew on Ceti Alpha V: "Captain's log, Stardate 8141.6. Starship Enterprise departing for Ceti Alpha V to pick up the crew of USS Reliant. All is well. And yet I can't help wondering about the friend I leave behind. 'There are always possibilities,' Spock said. And if Genesis is indeed life from death, I must return to this place again." Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy (DeForest Kelley) added: "He's really not dead as long as we remember him."

The Continuation of the Voyage of the Starship Enterprise

McCoy about Spock: "He's really not dead, as long as we remember him"

Kirk: "It's a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done before"
  • then, Kirk responded, noting his re-discovery of peace and purpose for his life, words taken from the conclusion of A Tale of Two Cities (1935): ("'It's a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done before.' A far better resting place I go to than I have ever known...Something Spock was trying to tell me on my birthday")
  • Kirk replied to his friend Dr. McCoy's question about how he felt: "You okay, Jim? How do you feel?" with Kirk's answer that he felt revitalized and renewed: "Young. I feel young!"
  • the film's ended after a pan over the surface of Genesis to locate Spock's casket amongst jungle growth, with his concluding, tearjerking voice-over rendition of the famous television Star Trek opening monologue:
    • "Space, the final frontier. These are the continuing voyages of the starship Enterprise. Her ongoing mission to explore strange, new worlds, to seek out new life-forms and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before."

"Ship out of danger?"

"Don't grieve, Admiral. It is logical..."

"Live long, and prosper."

Spock Slumped Down and Died

Spock's Torpedo-Casket Ejected From Enterprise Into Orbit Around the Newly-Formed Planet

After Spock's Ejection, Kirk Reconciled With His Son Dr. David Marcus (Merritt Butrick)

Spock's Torpedo-Encased Burial Casket in the Jungle of the New Planet

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)

  • the startling, upsetting but noble death of Genesis planet hostage Dr. David Marcus (Merritt Butrick), who was stabbed in the throat by a Klingon on orders from treacherous Klingon Captain Kruge (Christopher Lloyd), in order to save Lieut. Saavik (Robin Curtis)
  • almost immediately, Admiral James T. Kirk's (William Shatner) sensed his son's death; he gave a stunned reaction when the news of the death of his son Dr. David Marcus was delivered to him by Lieut. Saavik: ("Admiral, David is dead")
  • Kirk stumbled backwards to the floor when trying to sit in his captain's chair on his own hijacked starship USS Enterprise, and croaked with anguish: ("You Klingon bastard. You've killed my son. Oh! You Klingon bastard. You've killed my son! You Klingon bastard")

Stabbing Death of Kirk's Son Dr. Marcus

Kirk Sensing His Son's Death

Kirk Stumbling Backwards at the News of the Death

Starman (1984)

  • John Carpenter's romantic drama and tearjerking science fiction film told about a stranded Starman alien (Oscar-nominated Jeff Bridges) (who cloned or replicated himself, through a DNA strand of hair, into the likeness of the deceased husband (Scott) of recently-widowed Jenny Hayden (Karen Allen)
  • in a race against time while being pursued by NSA federal agents after the Starman's spacecraft crash-landed (shot down by military jets), the Starman compelled Jenny to take him cross-country from her home in Wisconsin to Meteor Crater in Arizona, where fellow aliens in a mothership were scheduled to pick him up within three days and take him back to his home planet
  • during their road trip, a deer hunter (Ted White) had parked outside a bus stop and restaurant, with a dead deer strapped to his car hood; the cloned alien Starman asked Jenny, his kidnapped hostage: "Why?", and she simply responded: "People hunt them to eat for food"; the alien asked pointedly: "Do deer eat people?...Do people eat people?"; he criticized her primitive race: "I think you are a very primitive species"; the hunter interrupted by asking: "What are you, softhearted? You cry when you saw Bambi?"; Jenny called the hunter a "bozo" - further confusing the Starman
  • then later after ordering food inside, Jenny noticed that the Starman had ventured back into the parking lot where he miraculously resurrected and healed the dead deer with his 4th of 7 miraculous silver spheres, and she was deeply moved; the deer's resuscitation and flight angered the hunter and his three buddies who proceeded to beat up the Starman
  • later in their journey to Arizona, the two were dropped off at a trainyard and sought shelter from rain in a box-car on a freight train bound for Las Vegas; they both stripped off their clothes to avoid catching pneumonia, and then made love; afterwards, the Starman told Jenny: "I think I am becoming a planet Earth person," but then confirmed that he had to leave her: ("I must go back"); he told her that he had impregnated her: ("I gave you a baby tonight"), but Jenny was understandably skeptical and disbelieving: "No, that's impossible, I can't have a child"
  • he continued, describing how the child would be human, but would possess all of the Starman's knowledge: "Believe what I tell you. A boy baby. He will be human. A baby of your husband, but also he will be my baby. He will know everything I know, and when he grows to manhood, he will be a teacher"; Jenny was given the option to terminate the pregnancy: ("If you do not want this baby, tell me now, I will stop it"), but she refused his option and delivered her answer with an embrace and kiss; to later show her unborn child where his father came from, he pointed to his home star low in the night sky

Starman to Jenny After Making Love: "I gave you a baby tonight"

Jenny Refusing the Option to Stop the Pregnancy with an Embrace and Kiss

Looking into the Night Sky at the Starman's Home Star
  • on their drive to the rendezvous-point, the Starman described to Jenny what life on his planet was like: "It is beautiful. Not like this, but it is beautiful. There is only one language, one law, one people. There is no war, no hunger. The strong do not victimize the helpless. We are very civilized, but we have lost something, I think. You are all so much alive, all so different. I will miss the cooks and the singing and the dancing, and the eating, and the other things"
  • in a Meteor City Trading Post (Indian Country), a combination store and diner/restaurant very near to the crater where the two stopped for "cherry cobbler," the two found themselves confronted by a State Trooper (Robert Stein) who had identified their Cadillac parked outside; they were soon surrounded by federal authorities
  • SETI scientist Mark Shermin (Charles Martin Smith), a Cornell University graduate, arrived and flashed his SETI credentials (both outside and inside the store) to be able to privately speak to Jenny and the slowly-dying Starman before his belligerent boss NSA director George Fox (Richard Jaeckel) arrived; Shermin asked why the alien had come there to the crater; he listened to the Starman's eloquent speech about the human race - described as both combative and "savage," but also exceptional under difficult circumstances: ("We are interested in your species...You are a strange species, not like any other, and you would be surprised how many there are. Intelligent but savage. Shall I tell you what I find beautiful about you? You are at your very best when things are worst")
Store-Diner/Restaurant Scene: Slowly-Dying Starman's Eloquent Speech to SETI Scientist Shermin About the Human Race
  • after being moved by the speech, Jenny begged Shermin to let the alien go home, since he was dying: ("Let him go, Mr. Shermin, please. If he stays here, he'll die. Can't you see he's dying now?"); Shermin agreed to help - the grateful Jenny gave a 'thank-you' kiss to Shermin - imitated by the Starman; the State Trooper was told that the couple were the "wrong ones" ("The guy we're lookin' for is a lot older") - as they were allowed to drive away toward the crater; Shermin had determined it was best to have the Starman freed and released rather than having him captured, studied and vivisected by the Army
  • the duo drove to Meteor Crater, parked and then began to scramble down the steep and rocky sides of the crater, to get to the middle of its bottom; they were horrified to see that NSA director Fox had pursued them with a squadron of Army military helicopters that were ordered to attack, and were warning them that they would be fired upon; everyone watched at the rendezvous point as the two was met by an alien search party in a giant, mirrored spherical craft; it was viewed in the sky before it settled above Arizona's Barringer Crater (or Meteor Crater)
The Giant Alien Spacecraft at the Rendezvous Point Inside the Crater
  • as snow fell down on them, the dying Starman was rejuvenated by a red light emanating from the sphere; he bid farewell to Jenny and told her again: "I must go"; Jenny hugged him and begged to go with him from Earth: ("Take me with you"), but it was not permitted, since he knew she would die on his planet: ("I cannot...You will die there"); he requested a 'human' goodbye that she had taught him: ("Now, tell me again how to say goodbye"), and she gave him a simple reply: ("Kiss me and tell me you love me"); he told her: "I love you" and kissed her; she was saddened: ("I'm never gonna see you again, am I?"); they kissed again; he requested: ("Tell the baby about me"), and gifted her with his 7th and last small silver sphere: (Jenny: "What should I do with this?" Starman: "The baby will know"); his last words to her were: "Good-bye, Jenny Hayden"

Starman's Final Wave and Farewell to Jenny Before Walking Into the Projected Red Light

Jenny Watching the Starman's Departure - The Film's Closing Image Before a Fade to Black
  • the final lingering, tearjerking close-up shot was of Jenny's face as she watched the healed Starman walk away, wave goodbye, step into a projected red light, and then rise up into space - departing on his starship to return home, to the sounds of Jack Nitzsche's swelling score; the film ended with a fade to black on her majestic face followed by the scrolling end credits (white letters on a black background)

Jenny's (Karen Allen) Reaction

The Starman (Jeff Bridges) Miraculously Reviving the Dead Deer On Hood of Hunter's Car

On the Drive to the Crater, the Starman Described Life on His Planet to Jenny

Jenny's Thank-You Kiss to Shermin

Starman's Imitative Kiss to Shermin

Viewing Meteor Crater From Its Rim

Rejuvenating Red Light Emanating From the Spherical Spacecraft Above the Crater

A 'Human' Goodbye Between the Starman and Jenny - A Kiss and an Expression of Love

His Gift of His Last Silver Sphere

Steel Magnolias (1989)


  • the upsetting scene in which Shelby Eatenton Latcherie (Julia Roberts) collapsed into a diabetic coma - discovered by her husband Jackson Latcherie (Dylan McDermott) as her 1 year-old son Jack, Jr. (C. Houser) screamed in horror
  • Shelby's mother M'Lynn Eatenton's (Sally Field) round-the-clock vigil (humming "Mockingbird" to her, reading beauty tips from a fashion magazine, etc.)
  • the scene of mourning M'Lynn's musings about death and the moment that Shelby died (when everyone else had left after the machine was turned off); M'Lynn reminisced later at the gravesite: ("I find it amusin'. Men are supposed to be made out of steel or somethin'. I just sat there. I just held Shelby's hand. There was no noise, no tremble, just peace. Oh God. I realize as a woman how lucky I am. I was there when that wonderful creature drifted into my life and I was there when she drifted out. It was the most precious moment of my life")
  • the graveyard scene around the casket in which grieving, strong-willed and feisty mother M'Lynn Eatenton reacted to her daughter's death; she wasn't willing to be rejoicing as Annelle (Darryl Hannah) had suggested - due to Shelby's transition to be "with her King" in a better place in Heaven: "You go on ahead. I'm sorry if I don't feel like it. I guess I'm a little selfish. I'd rather have her here" - and shortly later, she added: "Shelby, as you know, wouldn't want us to get mired down and wallow in this. We should handle it the best way we know how and get on with it. That's what my mind says. I wish somebody would explain it to my heart"

At Shelby's Gravesite

M'Lynn to Annelle: "I'd rather have her here"
  • M'Lynn's angry delivery of a post-funeral speech at the injustice of her daughter's death: ("I'm fine! I can jog all the way to Texas and back, but my daughter can't! She never could! Oh God! I'm so mad, I don't know what to do! I wanna know why! I wanna know WHY Shelby's life is over! I wanna know how that baby will ever know how wonderful his mother was. Will he EVER know what she went through for him? Oh, God, I wanna know whyyyy! Whhhyyyyy?! Lord, I wish I could understand. No! No! No! It's not supposed to happen this way. I'm supposed to go first. I've always been ready to go first. I don't think I can take this. I don't think I can take this. I just wanna hit somebody til they feel as bad as I do! I JUST WANNA HIT SOMETHING! I WANNA HIT IT HARD!").
  • the sequence was humorously undercut by Clairee's (Olympia Dukakis) cathartic offer of her sour-puss best friend Ouiser Boudreaux (Shirley MacLaine) as a punching-bag target for M'Lynn's anger: ("Here, hit this! Go ahead, M'Lynn. Slap her!")

M'Lynn: "I'm fine!"

M'Lynn's Extreme Grief

Clairee Offering Ouiser as a Punching Bag

Shelby Discovered on Patio in Coma

M'Lynn's Round the Clock Vigil at Shelby's Bedside

Shelby Taken Off Life Support

M'Lynn at Shelby's Bedside

Stella Dallas (1937)


  • the touching, famous sequence of devoted mother Stella (Barbara Stanwyck) and her daughter Laurel (or "Lollie") (Anne Shirley) waiting at her unattended birthday party - removing plates as regrets were received until they were the only ones at the festivities
  • the train berth scene in which Stella's caring teenaged daughter came down to "cuddle" with her mother who had overheard criticisms (about being "a common looking creature for a mother")
  • a gauche Stella's self-sacrificing renunciation scene with Helen Morrison (Barbara O'Neil) in which she suggested giving up her daughter for a better life
  • the scene of Stella deliberately staging a vulgar appearance for her daughter in her showy, coarse and common style (reading a "LOVE" book, listening to loud music and smoking a cigarette)
  • the unforgettable final wedding scene with Stella's reactions as she was standing alone in the rain at the outer gate gazing lovingly and adoringly - with tears in her eyes (and biting a handkerchief in her mouth) - through the mansion's window at her daughter's high-society wedding
Stella in the Rain Gazing at Her Daughter's Wedding
  • the ending in which the gathering crowd was told by a policeman to move along - and afterwards, Stella joyfully strode down the street as the film faded to black

The Empty Birthday Party Table

Train Berth Scene

Stella's Deliberately Vulgar Appearance

Stuart Saves His Family (1995)

  • the main character - effeminate Public Access Cable TV self-help New Age guru-host Stuart Smalley (Al Franken), whose Chicago-based show ("Daily Affirmation With Stuart Smalley") was moved to 2:45 am (in effect destining the show to be cancelled) by his manipulative and overbearing boss Roz Weinstock (Camille Saviola); on the air, he called her a "grandiose, shame-based over-eater, sick in her own disease and weighs over 200 lbs, and has a hideous haircut - ok, I'm sorry, uhm, that was a big mistake, I probably shouldn't have said that"
  • then shortly later in her Roz Weinstock's office, although he came to apologize (to get his show back), he again insulted her: "You are a horrible, nasty, dysfunctional weenie"
  • afterwards, Stuart retreated home and sulked to himself in his bedroom and told friendly sponsors entreating him outside his door: "Come back later, maybe, maybe when I've run out of Fig Newtons"

Stuart's "Daily Affirmation" Show

His Boss Roz

Stuart After A Change in His Cable TV Show - Eating Fig Newtons
  • when Stuart learned that his Aunt Paula had died, he returned home to Minneapolis by Greyhound bus; he found himself again confronted with the dysfunctionality of his entire family - evidenced by Stuart's nasty, hard-drinking and abusive Dad (Harris Yulin), his overweight, co-dependent, passive-aggressive Mom (Shirley Knight), his divorced, overeating sister Jodie (Lesley Boone), and his bullying, under-achieving, pot-smoking older brother Donnie (Vincent D'Onofrio)
  • the heart-rending unsuccessful rehabilitation or family intervention scene of Stuart's alcoholic Dad by his family members, after he had a hunting 'accident' while drunk; Dad refused his family's help and chose to go to jail: ("If this is what it's like in rehab, send me to jail") - and he walked out; Stuart exclaimed: "Well, that was fun"
  • that night, Stuart again experienced a recurring nightmare of his father falling off a church steeple, and landing in Stuart's arms; Stuart imagined his Dad thanking him: "I'm sorry I'm so helpless, thank you for saving me, I love you"; Stuart ended the dream: "and that's the end"
  • after Stuart returned to Chicago, he recorded a new Christmas-time program in the studio before a crew holiday after-party, explaining how he wouldn't be returning to his Smalley family for Christmas, but was still forever hopeful: "As we say in program: progress, not perfection"
  • in the touching final scene, his older brother Donnie unexpectedly showed up at the studio on Christmas Eve after having fled his dysfunctional life at home with their parents; he found Stuart talking to his best friend and Al-Anon sponsor Julia (Laura San Giacomo): (Julia: "We're gonna have a great Christmas" - Stuart: (seeing Donnie) "The best ever!")

Donnie's Unexpected Arrival

Stuart: "The best ever!"

Stuart and Donnie Hugging

Stuart's Mom & Dad (and Other Family Members) During Rehabilitation Scene For Alcoholic Dad

Stuart's Dream of Saving His Father

Back on the Air on Christmas Eve, Stuart Described How He Wouldn't Return Home for the Xmas Holidays

Summer of '42 (1971)

  • the recounting, in flashback, of a young teen's coming-of-age on 1940s Nantucket Island during war-time
  • the tearjerking romance and sexual awakening by young 14 year-old teenager Hermie (Gary Grimes) with lonely, beautiful 22 year-old neighboring war bride Dorothy (Jennifer O'Neill) after she had learned by telegram that her husband had been killed in action; when Hermie entered her eerily-quiet beach-home, he saw a bottle of whiskey, cigarette butts, and a government telegram
  • with tears in her eyes and slightly drunk, she put her head on Hermie's shoulder, slowly danced (barefooted) with him to the tune (the film's theme song) playing on a phonograph record
  • Dorothy tenderly kissed him a few times (as the phonograph needle reached the end of the record) before beckoning him, taking him by the hand, and leading him to her bedroom for comfort; she slowly removed her white slip over her head, prepared the bed, and then removed her bra and panties before they gently entered her bed naked together
Lying Together in Bed
  • when Hermie left her later that evening, she was outside on the porch in a robe, smoking a cigarette; she gave him a simple "Good night, Hermie" - and that was the last time he saw her
  • the next day, she left a note for Hermie (on her beach house door); he sat down on the porch to read it; she explained (in voice-over) that perhaps the meaning of the event would come to him in time: ("Dear Hermie: I must go home now. I'm sure you'll understand. There's much I have to do. I won't try and explain what happened last night because I know that, in time, you'll find a proper way in which to remember it. What I will do is remember you. And I pray that you be spared all senseless tragedies. I wish you good things, Hermie. Only good things. Always, Dorothy"), to the swelling sounds of Michel Legrande's theme music
  • the final bitter-sweet voice-over came from the Narrator, middle-aged Herman Raucher (voice of Robert Mulligan): ("I was never to see her again. Nor was I ever to learn what became of her. We were different then. Kids were different. It took us longer to understand the things we felt. Life is made up of small comings and goings. And for everything we take with us, there is something that we leave behind. In the summer of '42, we raided the Coast Guard station four times, we saw five movies, and had nine days of rain. Benji broke his watch, Oscy gave up the harmonica, and in a very special way, I lost Hermie forever")

Tender Kisses

Preparing in Bedroom

"Good night, Hermie"

Sunrise (1927)

  • the scenes of the loving reunion of the farmer/husband (George O'Brien) and his presumed-drowned wife (Janet Gaynor) after she had been found alive but unconscious - he rushed to his wife's bedside in the farmhouse where they were joyously reunited. He attentively sat by his wife's bedside, where she slept with their infant until the dawn's light appeared - she opened her eyes and smiled at him with an angelic face and long-flowing hair after releasing her tight bun. She opened her eyes and turned her head on the pillow toward her husband. Their lips slowly drew together for a kiss, dissolving into the bright rays of an art-deco sun filling the screen.
  • the word "Finis" floated upward to take the place of the sun as the music dramatically swelled

Joyous Kiss Between Reunited Husband-Wife

A New Dawn - "Finis" Floating Upwards

Superman The Movie (1978) (aka Superman)

  • Superman's (Christopher Reeve) discovery of a dead Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) after tumbling into a crevasse while in her car during a nuclear warhead-induced earthquake - he reacted by pulling her out of the car and laying her onto the ground, and upon realizing her demise, and his inability to save her, he inarticulately spoke: "Why? Why? Why? Why?", before heart-stoppingly howling with a primal scream
Superman's Anguish At Discovering Lois Dead
  • in reaction, Superman flew directly straight up into the air to attempt to change the past - to circumnavigate the globe at light-speed to reverse time in order to bring Lois back to life

Superman Circumnavigating the Globe to Reverse Time

The Sweet Hereafter (1997, Canada)

  • the distressing, long-shot image at the mid-point of the film of a yellow schoolbus filled with children, in British Columbia (Canada), skidding off a slippery and snowy road, sliding down an embankment onto a frozen lake, and falling through the cracking ice due to its weight - and the effects of the tragic accident (resulting in the deaths of 14 children) and subsequent lawsuit and trial on the families and residents of the Canadian town

The Yellow Schoolbus Accident

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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