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

Paper Moon (1973)

  • the final tearjerking scene of young and precocious, orphaned 9 year-old Addie (Tatum O'Neal) being dropped off at her relative Aunt Billie's (Rose-Mary Rumbley) place, and how she left her 'father' Moses Pray (Ryan O'Neal) a picture of herself in his car - of her sitting on a 'paper moon' at a carnival
  • their reunion by film's end when she ran away, so that she could continue swindling and grifting with him on the road, although at first he told her: "I don't want you ridin' with me no more" - but she firmly retorted: "You still owe me $200!" - as his car began rolling away and they both jumped on

Parenthood (1989)


  • the flashback memory (at age 35) in the film's opening in which emotionally-scarred young Gil Buckman (Max Elliott Slade as youth) relived his cold, detached and distant father Frank (Jason Robards) abandoning him at a baseball game on his birthday, leaving an usher named Stan to watch over him until the 9th inning; when the usher asked: "Dad bring you here a lot?", Gil responded why he was alone: "Once a year on my birthday. Then he pays an usher to watch me....You have to understand, my father in his own childhood was without a positive male influence"; Gil then told about his father's damaging upbringing: ("His own father kicked him out when he was 15, so my dad was taught to see child-raising as a job, a burden, a prison rather than a playground")
  • the much-later scene between Gil (Steve Martin as adult) (who was questioning his own abilities as a father) and his father Frank, who asked for advice about parenthood, referring to both Gil's oldest son Kevin (Jasen Fisher) with behavioral problems and Gil's brother Larry (Tom Hulce) who had money problems: (Frank: "I never should have had four. You know, when you were two years old, we thought you had polio. You know about that?...Yeah, well, for a week, we didn't know. l hated you for that....I did. l did. l hated having to go through that - caring, the worrying, the pain. That's not for me. And you know, it's not like that all ends when you're 18 or 21 or 41 or 61. lt never, never ends...There is no end-zone. You never cross the goal line, spike the ball and do your touchdown dance. Never. l'm 64. Larry's 27. And he's still my son. Like Kevin is your son. You think l want him to get hurt? He's my son....Hey, l'm all right. l'll figure it out"); Gil responded: ("Hey. Who's to say who's the shitty father? Kevin's in therapy. We got called to school last year because Taylor (Alisan Porter) was kissing all the boys. Justin keeps ramming things with his head. My career is in the shithouse"); Frank came up and gently slapped Gil's face: ("You worry too much. You always did")
  • the tearjerking exchange between Frank and young Cool (Alex Burrall) - the 8 year-old illegitimate black son of Frank's irresponsible "black sheep" gambling son Larry after the child was deserted when Larry fled for Chile to escape deadly bookie-creditors: Cool: ("Is he ever coming back?"), and Frank's abrupt response: "No!", but then offered: "Would you like to stay here with us?"
  • Grandma's (Helen Shaw) 'roller-coaster' story: ("You know, when l was 19, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster. Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride... l always wanted to go again. You know, it was just interesting to me that a ride could make me so, so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together. Some didn't like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. l like the roller coaster. You get more out of it")

Paris, Texas (1984, UK/Fr./W. Germ.)

  • the poignant bravura peep-show scene of an 8 minute long conversation (through microphones) with Travis' (Harry Dean Stanton) confession to estranged wife Jane (Nastassja Kinski): ("I knew these people. These two people. They were in love with each other. The girl was very young, about 17 or 18, I guess. And the guy was quite a bit older. He was kind of raggedy and wild. And she was very beautiful, you know. And together they turned everything into a kind of adventure. And she liked that....") - and the moment that Travis turned his booth light off so that she could see him, and the overlapping or melting together of their images and then their separation
  • the heartbreaking conclusion - when Travis returned his 8 year-old son Hunter (Hunter Carson) to Jane and then drove away

The Passion of the Christ (2004)


  • the agonizing, unsparing crucifixion death of "Jesus Nazareth/ King of the Jews" (James Caviezel) on the cross - first severely beaten, forced to carry part-way his own wooden cross to the hillside of Golgotha outside Jerusalem, and then was nailed to the cross to suffer and die

Paths of Glory (1957, UK)

  • the final tavern scene in which a captured blonde German girl (Susanne Christian in the credits), timid and with tears running down her cheeks, sang a German ballad for French soldiers - and the look on their faces as they first humiliated her, and then softened, listened empathically and understood her pain. The song evoked memories of their youth, their homes, and their loves in a world they might never see again
  • the scene ended with Commander Dax (Kirk Douglas) giving his weary men the 'short' rest that they were promised: ("Well, give the men a few minutes more, Sergeant"), and then walking off as the sound of drums and military music playing the "Soldier Boy" song rose in volume and drowned out the sound of the folk song

Penny Serenade (1941)

  • the heart-warming scenes, told in flashback, of childless parents Roger Adams (Cary Grant) and his wife Julie (Irene Dunne) who brought home an adopted five week-old baby girl from an orphanage for a one-year probation period - their nervousness about keeping quiet and their exhaustion after getting up all night with it
  • the scene before a judge a year later, when Roger (without an income) movingly begged and pleaded for the official to grant them a continuation of the adoption, rather than return the child to the orphanage: ("...We've had her since she was six weeks old. It just doesn't seem reasonable that we should have to give her back to, to, to strangers ...Look your Honor, she's not like an automobile or an icebox or a piece of furniture or something you buy on time and then when you can't give up the payments they take it away from you!...Anyone could give up those kinds of things, but I ask you Judge, how can you give up your own child? And she is our child just as much as if she'd been born to us!... the first time I saw her, she looked so little and helpless. I didn't know babies were so, so little. And then when she took a-hold of my finger and I held onto it. She, she just sort of walked into my heart Judge and, and she was there to stay. I didn't know I could feel like that... It's not only for my wife and me, I'm asking you to let us keep her Judge, it's for her sake, too. She doesn't know any parents but us. She wouldn't know what'd happened to her. You see, there's so many little things about her that nobody would understand her the way Judy and I do. We love her Judge, please don't take her away from us. Look, I'm not a big shot now, I-I'll do anything, I'll work for anybody. I-I'll beg, I'll borrow, I-I'll. Please, Judge, I'll sell anything I've got until I get going again. And she'll never go hungry, she'll never be without clothes not so long as I've got two good hands, so help me!")
  • and later, the heart-wrenching scene of the aftermath for the heartbroken couple following the death of their six-year-old child Trina after a sudden and brief illness, when the bereaving Mrs. Adams wrote a letter to the saddened adoption agency's representative Miss Oliver (Beulah Bondi): ("Since the night of Trina's death, we have been like strangers to one another. I don't know what to do. It seems as if there is nothing between us any more. I've tried to talk to him, but he does not wish to listen. He is punishing himself, not realizing that he is also punishing me")
  • the final scene in which another child, a two-year old boy, was offered for adoption to the Adams couple, communicated via a phone call from Miss Oliver: ("He's the exact image of the youngster you asked for when you first wrote to me. Do you remember? I have that old letter here in front of me now - 'Curly hair, blue eyes, dimples'. And this is strictly off the record, but really, another couple has the right to see him first, but he's such a remarkable baby that I thought perhaps you and Mr. Adams might take a look"). Julie responded with great anticipation: "Please don't have that other couple see him until we do!"

Persepolis (2007, Iran/US/Fr.)

  • Marjane Satrapi's dark autobiographical animated film based on her best-selling graphic novels
  • the scene set during the 1979 Islamic revolution (against the US-backed Shah) in which 11 year-old Marjane (or Marji) Satrapi (voice of Chiara Mastroianni) visited her imprisoned, soon-to-be executed Uncle Anouche (voice of François Jerosme/Iggy Pop), an Iranian political prisoner, when he gave her a second swan made of hardened bread crumbs, calling it "the uncle" of the first swan he gave her from his first time in jail
  • the scene of Marjane lying in bed with both swans, cursing God and imagining the two swans swimming out to sea
  • also, the demise of one of Marjane's friends, Nima, who tried to escape a raid on a forbidden drinking party and fell to his death trying to leap from one rooftop to another
  • the heartbreaking scene in which political dissident Marjane left repressive Iran forever to live in Europe, and saw her Grandmother (voice of Danielle Darrieux/Gena Rowlands) for the last time: ("That was the last time I saw my grandmother. She passed away shortly afterwards. Freedom always has a price"), and the final voice-over by young Marjane of her memories about how her Grandmother kept smelling fresh: (Marjane: "Grandma, you always smell so nice. How do you do it?" Grandmother: "Well, I'll tell you. Every morning, I pick fresh jasmine flowers, and when I get dressed I put them into my brassiere. That way, I smell nice all day")
  • the closing credits featuring falling jasmine flowers (white flowers on a black background)

The Petrified Forest (1936)

  • the death scene at the finale, as idealistic and disillusioned writer/world traveler Alan Squier (Leslie Howard) died in the arms of culturally-starved waitress Gabrielle (Gabby) Maple (Bette Davis) after being shot by ruthless fugitive gangster Duke Mantee (Humphrey Bogart) in a run-down Arizona desert cafe. Before slumping in her embrace and dying, he told her: ("You know, they were right, Gabrielle, the stars I mean. I had to come all this way to find a reason. The Duke understood what it was I wanted. I hope you...I hope you..."). When she tried to get him to continue talking ("What Alan? What did you say? Alan!"), he was gone
  • Gabrielle's realization that he had found a purpose in his life - his life insurance policy for $5,000 had been made out in her name - allowing her the freedom to leave the town. She planned to bury Alan out in the petrified forest, and then recited the film's final poetic lines, taken from "Ballad Written For a Bridegroom" (Part VI) by Victorian poet Algernon Charles Swinburne:

Thus in your field
My seed of harvestry will thrive
For the fruit is like me that I set
God bids me tend it with good husbandry
This is the end for which
We twain are met.

Philadelphia (1993)


  • the moving interpretation by dying, AIDS afflicted ex-lawyer Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) from Philadelphia, wrongly terminated from his prestigious law firm, to his initially homophobic lawyer Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) about the music in his favorite Maria Callas aria - he spoke over the music and pulled his IV around with him as he accepted his own impending death: ("...The music - it fills with a hope, and it'll change again, listen. 'I bring sorrow to those who love me.' Oh, that single cello! 'It was during this sorrow that Love came to me.' A voice filled with harmony, that said: 'Live still, I am Life! Heaven is in your eyes. Is everything around you just the blood and mud? I am divine. I am Oblivion. I am the god that comes down from the heavens to the Earth and makes of the Earth a Heaven. I am Love! I am Love!'")
  • the hospital scene of Beckett with his long-term male lover Miguel Alvarez (Antonio Banderas) after first bidding farewell to family and friends (Andrew's supportive mother Sarah (Joanne Woodward) whispered: "Goodnight, my angel, my sweet boy"), then alone when he dimmed the lights, told Miguel: ("Miguel, I'm ready") and removed his own oxygen mask
  • in the final scene during the reception held in the Beckett home following the funeral, mourners watched home movies of Andrew's younger days, to the tune of Neil Young's Philadelphia

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

Previous Page Next Page