Greatest Tearjerkers
Scenes and Movie Moments
of All-Time

Part 21

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

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 baby girl - their nervousness about keeping quiet and their exhaustion after getting up all night with it, and later the heart-wrenching scene of the aftermath for the heartbroken couple following the death of their six-year-old child Trina.

Persepolis (2007, Iran/USA/Fr.)

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; and 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; and 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"), followed by the closing credits featuring falling jasmine flowers (white flowers on a black background), in Marjane Satrapi's dark autobiographical animated film based on her best-selling graphic novels

The Petrified Forest (1936)

In the death scene at the finale, 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.

She realized that 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!'"); also, 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 then 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

The Pianist (2002)


The upsetting scene in which Polish-Jewish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody) was forced to play the piano for a Nazi under threat of death; the disturbing imagery of piles of corpses strewn on the streets of Warsaw; and the scene in which Szpilman's family was carted off to the concentration camps when the Nazis enacted their "Final Solution", and a ragged, bearded Szpilman wandered through the barren, bombed out streets of Warsaw, and found his piano intact.

Pickup on South Street (1953)

The scene in which embittered, world-weary tie-seller and information street peddler Moe Williams (Thelma Ritter) told her killer Joey (Richard Kiley) in her dingy rooming house: "So I don't get to have the fancy funeral after all. Anyway, I tried. Look, mister, I'm so tired you'd be doin' me a big favor if you'd blow my head off" - the camera panned to the left and a gunshot was heard - with the final image of her bedside Victrola's needle reaching the end of the record (the popular French tune "Mam'zelle"); and the subsequent scene in which pickpocket Skip McCoy (Richard Widmark) reclaimed Moe's body from a tugboat (taking her in coffin # 11 to potter's field) in order to give her a proper burial ("I'm gonna bury her") - fulfilling her sole wish in life.

A Place in the Sun (1951)

The final prison farewell scene in his death cell before his execution between condemned and doomed poor boy George Eastman (Montgomery Clift) and rich society girlfriend Angela (Elizabeth Taylor): (Angela: "...I'll go on loving you for as long as I live." George: "Love me for the time I have left. Then, forget me." (They kiss one last time.) Angela: "Goodbye, George." (She half-turns away and then looks back) "Seems like we always spend the best part of our time just saying goodbye."); George took to his death the superimposed image of dark-haired Angela kissing him.

The Plague Dogs (1982)

The upsetting experimentation on lab animals, including the tests on setter Snitter (voice of John Hurt) who had dreams/memories of his days as a house pet, and the repeated near-drowning of black labrador Rowf (voice of Christopher Benjamin) to see how long he could dog-paddle before he gave up; also the heart-rending scene of a dead puppy being scraped out of its cell; and the ending in which the two dogs swam out to sea - choosing to be dead and free rather than captured: (Snitter: "I can't swim anymore, Rowf...", Rowf: "We must... be near the island...There is. There. Can't you see it? Our island...").

Platoon (1986)

The startling scene in which the saintly and compassionate Sgt. Elias (Willem Dafoe) staggered out of the jungle after being shot by sociopathic, malevolent and murderous Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger) and left for dead in the Vietnamese jungle - his arms outstretched upwards in slow-motion in a sacrificial, crucifixion pose (while Samuel Barber's Adagio For Strings played) as he was repeatedly shot by VC enemy forces - viewed from a chopper overhead.

Powder (1995)

The scenes of cruelty aimed at a mystical outcast - a lonely albino teenager Jeremy "Powder" Reed (Sean Patrick Flanery) by his peers, including bully John Box (Bradford Tatum); and the climactic yet bizarre ending in which Powder bid farewell to his sole friends: social worker/special educator Jessie Caldwell (Mary Steenburgen), compassionate Sheriff Doug Barnum (Lance Henriksen) and high-school science teacher Donald Ripley (Jeff Goldblum), who told him while referencing Albert Einstein: "It's become appalingly clear that our technology has surpassed our humanity...when I look at you and I, I think that someday our humanity might actually surpass our technology"; under a threatening and dark cloudy sky, Powder (with his shirt open and arms outstretched) ran into an open field where he was pursued by everyone; after a lightning flash struck him, a brilliant and colorful ring of light exploded or emanated from him and he dissipated into the sky as pure energy; his friends were stunned but ecstatic about his electromagnetic transformation..

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

Previous Page Next Page