Greatest Tearjerkers
Scenes and Movie Moments
of All-Time

Part 17

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

Mask (1985)

The tearjerking relationship between teenager Rocky Dennis (Eric Stoltz), who suffered from craniodiaphyseal dyaplasia, and his drug-abusing biker mother Florence/Rusty (Cher), and Rocky's death while sleeping due to his disfigurement.

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


The opening sequence of a radio distress call by squadron leader Peter D. Carter (David Niven) delivered within a burning British RAF bomber plane -- as he fell in love with American WAC radio operator June (Kim Hunter); the trial in Heaven (in B/W) of Carter to prove whether he should remain on Earth or not; the shot of one of June's tears caught on the petals of a rose, which was used as evidence by Dr. Reeves (Roger Livesey)-- and the profoundly romantic, tearjerking sentimental ending in which the two lovers were asked in Heaven to prove their love for one another, and June proved it by taking Carter's place - when the stairs started to move upward, separating the lovers, June and Carter stared at each other, and with a jolt, and in a close-up on the tearful June, the stairs stopped - she ran down the stairs to embrace Carter and Dr. Reeves informed the assembly watching that although the law may be the strongest thing in the universe, "on Earth, nothing is stronger than love" - the film ended with the lovers embracing after being granted a long life by the court.

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"), and 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 - with the finale accompanied by Beethoven's Ninth Symphony as 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!"

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, and the poignant Florida-bound trip when "Ratso" Rizzo expired in the back of the bus quietly as close friend (lover?) Joe speculated about their future together: ("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") before realizing he'd passed away, and Joe's tearful embrace of Ratso as the bus driver (Al Stetson) told the other passengers: ("Okay, folks, everything's all right. Nothing to worry about...Okay folks, nothin' to worry about. Just a little illness. We'll be in Miami in just a few minutes.")

Milk (2008)

The moving final scene of the film, using the framing device in which San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) recorded his will into a cassette tape recorder in 1977, even predicting his own assassination, but still striving for hope: ("...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, 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 got to give them hope. You got to give them hope") - and after his 1978 assassination at the age of 48 by crazed fellow politician Dan White (Josh Brolin), a flashback to his prophetic words when he was celebrating his 40th birthday ("Forty years old, and I haven't done a thing I'm proud of...I'll never make it to 50") -- and the candlelight vigil and march that 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

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.

Afterwards, Frankie's silhouette exited from the hospital - and from boxing altogether.

The Miracle Worker (1962)

The climactic, triumphant water-pump scene in which blind and deaf Helen Keller (Patty Duke) learned to use sign language to say "water."

Mr. Holland's Opus (1995)


The scene in which music teacher Glenn Holland (Richard Dreyfuss) realized his toddler son Cole was deaf; also the later scene in which Mr. Holland sang / signed John Lennon's "Beautiful Boy" to 15 year-old son Cole (Joseph Anderson), replacing "Sean" with "Cole" at the end ("Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful...Cole"); and the tribute to Holland when he retired - the playing of his opus An American Symphony by his former students.

Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol (1962)

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

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

The climactic, emotional scene of the idealist Senator Jefferson Smith's (James Stewart) exhausting filibuster (almost 24 hours) in the US Senate against the graft of distinguished Senator Joseph Paine (Claude Rains), with his exposition on moral integrity, American democracy, and 'lost causes' before collapsing to the Senate floor: "Great principles don't get lost once they come to light. They're right here. You just have to see them again...You think I'm licked. You all think I'm licked. Well, I'm not licked. And I'm going to 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 will listen to me"; and the conclusion in which 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.

Greatest Film Tearjerkers, Moments and Scenes
(alphabetical by film title)
Intro | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10
Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17 | Part 18 | Part 19 | Part 20
Part 21 | Part 22 | Part 23 | Part 24 | Part 25 | Part 26 | Part 27 | Part 28 | Part 29 | Part 30

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