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

Gone With the Wind (1939)


  • the final scene, in which Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), tired of Scarlett O'Hara's (Vivien Leigh) manipulations and indecisions, ignored her pleading to stay with a dismissive line of dialogue before leaving: ("Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn")
  • Scarlett's teary-eyed resolution to keep trying while being reminded by voices of Tara's power: ("I can't let him go. I can't. There must be some way to bring him back. Oh I can't think about this now! I'll go crazy if I do! I'll think about it tomorrow. But I must think about it. I must think about it. What is there to do? What is there that matters?... Tara!... Home. I'll go home, and I'll think of some way to get him back! After all, tomorrow is another day!")

The Good Earth (1937)

  • the self-sacrificing character of O-Lan (Oscar-winning Luise Rainer)
  • the terrifying revolutionary mob scene in which the palace "Great House" was ransacked/looted and pregnant O-Lan's stomach was stepped on during the mad rush (causing a miscarriage)
  • O-Lan's poignant deathbed scene in the film's ending when Wang Lung (Paul Muni) gave her two pearls ("You are the best a man can have") - and as she died - the two pearls rolled from her outstretched hand
  • the delivery of the film's final lines at the final fade-out when Wang Lung quietly walked outside to an adjacent, flowering peach tree planted by O-Lan on their wedding day. As he grasped two limbs, he spoke in a reverential tone as the film concluded: ("O-Lan, you are the earth")

Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)


  • the nostalgic, deathbed scene in which elderly schoolmaster Mr. Charles "Chips" Chipping (Robert Donat) refuted the remark that he had been a lonely man without children, with his exclamation: ("I thought I heard you say 'twas a pity, a pity I never had children. But you're wrong...I have...thousands of them...thousands of them...and all boys!")
  • "Chip's" death as he closed his eyes while smiling, as the camera rose up when he passed on - he dreamily remembered many schoolboys filing past to repeat their names at call-over, while the music of the school song swelled in volume in the background
  • the final lad, the superimposed image of the last Peter Colley, appeared and spoke directly into the camera: ("Goodbye, Mr. Chips...Goodbye...")

Good Will Hunting (1997)

  • the "It's not your fault" scene in which both South Boston psychologist-therapist Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) and 20 year-old troubled, but intelligent genius and MIT janitor Will Hunting (Matt Damon) discuss how they were victims of child abuse, and how the trauma continues to affect Will - with Sean's assurances that it wasn't his fault: (- "It's not your fault." - "Yeah, I know that." - "Look at me, son. It's not your fault." - "I know." - "No. It's not your fault." - "I know." - "No, no, you don't. It's not your fault. Hmm?" - "I know." - "It's not your fault." - "Alright." - "It's not your fault. It's not your fault." - "Don't f--k with me." - "It's not your fault." - "Don't f--k with me, alright? Don't f--k with me, Sean, not you!" - "It's not your fault. It's not your fault." - "Oh, God, Oh God, I'm so sorry")

The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

  • the famous scene of Ma Joad (Jane Darwell) pausing to moon over and then burn her letters/souvenir-keepsakes (a newspaper clipping, a postcard, a china souvenir, and earrings) in the stove before departing in a dilapidated truck on a long drive for California to find employment (including the image of her holding earrings to her ears and viewing herself in a mirror)
  • Ma's son Tom Joad's (Henry Fonda) stirring "I'll be there" farewell speech to his mother: ("...I'll be all around in the dark. I'll be ever'-where - wherever you can look. Wherever there's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever there's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there. I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad - I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry an' they know supper's ready. An' when the people are eatin' the stuff they raise, and livin' in the houses they build - I'll be there, too")
  • the final scene of Ma's final inspiring words in the front seat of a pickup truck: ("We're the people that live. They can't wipe us out. They can't lick us. And we'll go on forever, Pa... 'cause... we're the people")

Grave of the Fireflies (1988, Jp.) (aka Hotaru no Haka)

  • director Isao Takahata's uncompromising, unflinching anti-war melodrama about survival during WWII - from the famous Ghibli Studio
  • the opening image of 14 year-old Japanese war orphan Seita (voice of Tsutomu Tatsumi) telling about his own death (from starvation), with his opening narrated line: "September 21, 1945. That was the night I died"; this was followed by his own distressing glimpse of his body, found on the floor of a Kobe subway-railway station by a sweeper/janitor - followed by flashbacks of his life in the final few months of WWII
  • the scene of the death of Seita's mother (horrifically burned by incendiary bombs) after which Seita lied to his 5 year-old sister Setsuko (voice of Ayano Shiraishi) about it - and his attempt to distract her with gymnastics while she was crying
  • the scene in which Setsuko angrily begged her aunt (voice of Akemi Yamaguchi) not to trade her mother's kimonos in order to obtain white rice ("They're Mama's - don't take them!") -- and their selfish aunt's appropriation of most of the rice, and then accusing Seita and Setsuko of being selfish for wanting more, after giving it away to her daughter and a local worker: ("You think a lazy slug like you deserves the same as people who work for our nation?...You keep saying you want rice, but do you earn it? No, you absolutely do not! I even give you some rice and you still complain"); Setsuko said under her breath: "But it's our rice!" to which the aunt retorted: "Oh, so now I'm cheating you, am I? How dare you say that, after I take you two in. FINE. We'll just make our OWN dinners from now on"
  • after a doctor's obvious advice for a malnourished Setsuko, who was suffering from diarrhea, prickly heat, and rashes: "Medicine? All this child needs is food," Seita delivered an angry and protective response: "Where do I GET food?!"
  • the scene of Seita's futile vigil over Setsuko's lingering death from starvation
  • the fleeting vision of Setsuko playing near the bomb shelter at the lake
  • Seita's burning of the remains of his sister in a funeral pyre on a small hillside
  • and the unforgettable, poignant shot of the red-hued ghosts of Seita and Setsuko sitting on a hill overlooking the modern, night-time skyline of a thriving Tokyo as fireflies danced around the pair

The Great Santini (1979)


  • the outdoor driveway basketball scene in which hyper-competitive Marine Lieutenant Colonel Wilbur "Bull" Meechum (Robert Duvall) became enraged when he lost a one-on-one basketball game to his eldest teenaged son Ben (Michael O'Keefe); he also snapped at his wife Lillian (Blythe Danner), who was congratulating Ben, before she tearfully stormed off, insisting: "Don't you talk to me like that!"; a sore loser, Bull wanted to play more and change the rules, and he also egged Ben on by repeatedly bouncing a basketball off his head as he walked into the house and up the stairs, taunting him: "Come on, Momma's boy, let's see you cry...Come on, little girl, cry!"
  • and later that evening during a thunderstorm, Ben's sarcastic, angry, tearful speech to his forgiving mother when she insisted Bull really loved him: ("He's got a fabulous way of showin' it, Mom...Oh, sure. 'I love you, Ben' - PUNCH! - 'I want you to be the best, Ben' - KICK! - 'And Ben, I think you're great, Ben' - BOUNCE A BASKETBALL OFF OF MY HEAD!"; she admitted: "You've got a strange father, Ben"
  • the scene in the school gym in which Ben's drunken father urged his son, after being fouled, to deliberately seek revenge against a taunting opponent: ("Get that punk and put him on the deck. You get him or I'm gonna get you. Get him or you don't come home, all right?"); during further play, "Bull" shouted to his son from the court's sidelines: "Put him down, put him down!"
  • after deliberately pushing and breaking an opponent player's arm and being ejected from the game, an apologetic Ben's condemnation by Coach Spinks (Joe Dorsey) in the locker room: ("You messed up bad, boy....This team had a chance tonight against a school that's been crappin' on us for ten years. Then along comes this idiot who hadn't got the guts to tell his father to take a flying jump when that father is just about as wrong as he can be. Now what do you think I ought to do about it?...")
  • the scene in which the entire family gang-tackled Bull when he became physically abusive with Lillian
  • and the scene after Bull Meechum died in a military plane crash in which Ben, rife with guilt, admitted that he wished his father would crash

The Green Mile (1999)


  • the flashbacked scenes in which illiterate, mystical child/giant and faith healer - black condemned convict John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) - resurrected or revived Mr. Jingles, a small brown mouse that had been stomped upon by sadistic guard Percy Wetmore (Doug Hutchinson), by blowing life into it in his cupped hands - causing a bright glow to emanate; he also healed Louisiana death row prison guard Paul Edgecomb's (Tom Hanks) urinary infection and the brain tumor of Warden Hal Moores' (James Cromwell) wife Melinda (Patricia Clarkson)
  • the scene of the botched execution of Delacroix (Michael Jeter) when his flesh was literally fried when it caught on fire as he slowly and painfully died. Mean-spirited, vengeful guard Percy had deliberately sabotaged the execution by not wetting the sponge used to quickly and efficiently conduct the electricity into Delacroix' body
  • the execution of the doomed and noble Coffey by the electric chair (for an alleged crime he didn't commit). As he was being prepared, he sang "Heaven, I'm in heaven... heaven... heaven..." (from the movie Top Hat). Head death row prison guard Edgecomb agreed that a required black hood didn't have to be used to cover Coffey's head, because he feared the dark. Edgecomb pronounced: "May God have mercy on your soul," and then hesitated for a long time before giving the fatal order. He first shook Coffey's hand as he remembered his words, spoken in voice-over: "He kill them wi' their love. That's how it is every day, all over the world." Then came the moment that Coffey shared his gifted power with Paul
  • every day, Edgecomb was still feeding a piece of toast to gray-haired Mr. Jingles, while living in a retirement home
  • the bittersweet ending in which the elderly Edgecomb (Dabbs Greer) (after being bestowed with the 'gift of life') - delivered a speech about outliving all of his friends and families, regarded as his punishment: ("I'm 108 years old, Elaine. I was 44 the year that John Coffey walked the Green Mile. You mustn't blame John. He couldn't help what happened. He was just a force of nature. Oh, I've lived to see some amazing things, Ellie. Another century come to pass. But I've, I've had to see my friends and loved ones die off through the years. Hal and Melinda, Brutus Howell, my wife, my boy. And you, Elaine. You'll die, too. And my curse is knowing that I'll be there to see it. It's my atonement, you see. It's my punishment for letting John Coffey ride the lightnin'. For killin' a miracle of God...You'll be gone like all the others. I'll have to stay. Oh, I'll die eventually. Of that I'm sure. I have no illusions of immortality. But I will have wished for death long before death finds me. In truth, I wish for it already...I lie in bed most nights thinkin' about it. And I wait. I think about all the people I've loved, now long gone. I think about my beautiful Jan, how I lost her so many years ago. And I think about all of us walkin' our own Green Mile, each in our own time. But one thought more than any other keeps me awake most nights. If he could make a mouse live so long, how much longer do I have? We each owe a death. There are no exceptions. But, oh, God, sometimes, the Green Mile seems so long")

Groundhog Day (1993)

  • time-stuck weather forecaster Phil Connors' (Bill Murray) heartfelt, romantic speech to sleeping romantic interest Rita (Andie McDowell) after reading James Joyce's poem "Trees" to her: ("What I wanted to say was, I think you're the kindest, sweetest, prettiest person I've ever met in my life. I've never seen anyone that's nicer to people than you are. The first time I saw you, something happened to me. I never told you, but I knew that I wanted to hold you as hard as I could. I don't deserve someone like you. But if I ever could, I swear I would love you for the rest of my life"); when Rita woke up briefly to ask: "Did you say something?", Phil modestly whispered a response: "Good night, Rita"
  • the moment when Phil lept back into bed with Rita the next morning - after verifying that it really was a new day - February 3rd - and cried out about his release from his temporal stasis: ("Do you know what today is?...Today is tomorrow! It happened!")

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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