Greatest Tearjerkers
Scenes and Movie Moments
of All-Time

Part 28

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

Superman: The Movie (1978)

Superman's (Christopher Reeve) discovery of a dead Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) after tumbling into a cravasse while in her car during a nuclear warhead-induced earthquake - he reacted by pulling her out of the car, 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, and flying directly 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.

The Sweet Hereafter (1996)

The distressing, long-shot image at the mid-point of the film of a yellow schoolbus filled with children skidding off the road and falling through ice on a frozen lake - and the effects of the tragic accident on the residents of a Canadian town.

A Tale of Two Cities (1935)

The final scene of Sydney Carton's (Ronald Colman) self-sacrifice to the guillotine in order to save another life, holding hands with another victim, a seamstress (Isabel Jewell) as they ascend the scaffold, and Carton's noble delivery of his last words: ( "It's a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done. It's a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known...")

To Each His Own (1946)

In this quintessential unrequited maternal love melodrama/weepie film of the mid-1940s, structured as a flashback, middle-aged American Miss Josephine 'Jody' Norris (Olivia de Havilland, who won the first of two Oscars for her role) made love to young flier Captain Bart Cosgrove (John Lund) - he died soon after in combat. Becoming pregnant after their one night together, the illegitimate baby was delivered healthy (although she had contemplated a therapeutic abortion), and her plan to leave the baby at another's doorstep (and quickly adopt it) misfired. The foundling (named 'Griggsy') was legally adopted by her ex-beau Alex Piersen (Phillip Terry) and wife Corrine (Mary Anderson), whose first child had just died. In the stirring, heart-rending conclusion (a wedding scene), the grown up son Gregory (John Lund also), an air force pilot like his father, was told by his WAC newlywed wife Liz Lorimer (Virginia Welles) about Jody's closeness to him: "I saw the way she looked at you when you signed the register. Anyone would have thought you were her only son." He recognized Jody as his real mother (he spoke haltingly to Liz: "I was her...Excuse me, darling"), and in the closing line of the film, approached his mother: "I think this is our dance, Mother."

Terms of Endearment (1983)


Texas widow Aurora Greenway's (Shirley MacLaine) hospital scene when she panicked and shrieked over her 30 year-old daughter Emma Greenway Horton's (Debra Winger) terminal cancer and demanded that the nurses give her dying daughter (at past 10 o'clock) her overdue shot of morphine: ("I don't see why she has to have this pain....It's time for her shot, do you understand? Do something...My daughter is in pain! Give her the shot, do you understand me? GIVE MY DAUGHTER THE SHOT!!"); and the most tearjerking scene of all - Emma's hospital goodbye scene with her children when youngest son Teddy (Huckleberry Fox) told off his bratty older brother Tommy (Troy Bishop): ("Why don't you shut up?! Shut up!") as she explained to them that she wouldn't be around for her family in the future, that reluctant Tommy should "be sweet" and how he would eventually admit that he loved her after she was gone ("And stop trying to pretend that you hate me. I mean, it's silly...I know you like me. I know it. For the last year or two, you've been pretending like you hate me. I love you very much. I love you as much as I love anybody, as much as I love myself. And in a few years when I haven't been around to be on your tail about something or irritating you, you're gonna remember... that time that I bought you the baseball glove when you thought we were too broke. You know? Or when I read you those stories? Or when I let you goof off instead of mowing the lawn? Lots of things like that. And you're gonna realize that you love me. And maybe you're gonna feel badly, because you never told me. But don't - I know that you love me. So don't ever do that to yourself, all right?"); also the nurse's words to Emma's awakened husband Flap (Jeff Daniels): ("She's gone"), and the final scene of raunchy ex-astronaut neighbor Garrett Breedlove (Jack Nicholson) providing needed support to the older boy following Emma's death.

They Died With Their Boots On (1941)

In the film's tear-inducing, poignant ending, infamous cavalry officer General George Armstrong Custer (Errol Flynn) gave a heart-rending farewell goodbye to his wife Elizabeth "Libby" Bacon (Olivia de Havilland) - Note: it was the stars' final screen pairing also! - she sensed disaster and had written about her fears in her diary (he reacted with astonishment to her written words) - the couple shared a few extended looks and kisses.

She looked into his eyes as he told her before their final kiss: "Walking through life with you, ma'am, has been a very gracious thing." After he left, she stood against a wall and watched him go - and then collapsed in a faint to the floor, as the camera dramatically pulled back.

They Live By Night (1949)

The ill-fated relationship of a newly-married couple was doomed from the start in director Nicholas Ray's debut film - a film noir classic. It was adaptation of Edward Anderson's 1937 Bonnie and Clyde-inspiring novel Thieves Like Us (later remade by Robert Altman as a film with the original title in 1974). Although a crime thriller, it was more an emotionally-told, melodramatic love story of a naive couple on the road and on the run.

In the film's opening before the title screen, two lovers kissed, as the screen's words stated: "This boy and this girl were never properly introduced to the world we live in. To tell their story..." A desperate 23 year-old fugitive criminal - an escaped convict named Arthur "Bowie" Bowers (Farley Granger) impulsively married young and naive Catherine "Keechie" Mobley (Cathy O'Donnell), the niece of one of his hardened criminal associates named Chickamaw 'One-Eye' Mobley (Howard Da Silva). He was forced to engage in more robberies, while struggling to attain their quixotic dream of living a normal life. They drove at night and stayed at various remote cabins to evade the convicts, when Keechie became pregnant.

In the film's downbeat and tragic finale, Bowie was about to leave Keechie to pursue a new life for them (possibly in Mexico or elsewhere) before returning for her. He wrote a goodbye note, and then was persuaded by the one who had betrayed him to police, Chickamaw's sister-in-law Mattie (Helen Craig), to walk to the cabin where Keechie was sleeping and give it to her personally. After Bowie was gunned down outside the room, Keechie took the crumpled note from his hand and read it outloud as the film came to a melancholic close: "Little old girl. I'm gonna miss you but I gotta do it this way. I'll send for both of you when I can. No matter how long it takes. I've gotta see that kid. He's lucky. He'll have you to keep him squared around." She then turned and tenderly mouthed the words as the screen slowly darkened: "I Love You. Bowie. Bowie."

This Is the Army (1943)

Kate Smith's (as Herself) moving, patriotic rendition of "God Bless America" during the World War II-era, morale-boosting film.

Titanic (1997)


The heartbreaking moments after Jack Dawson (Leonardo Di Caprio) and the love of his life Rose DeWitt Butaker (Kate Winslet) had survived the Titanic's sinking, and he helped her onto a large floating piece of debris. She complained of the intense cold and her frozen body, but he encouraged her to not give up: "Don't you do that, don't say your good-byes. Not yet, do you understand me?....Listen, Rose. You're gonna get out of here. You're gonna go on and you're gonna make lots of babies, and you're gonna watch 'em grow. You're gonna die an old... an old lady warm in her bed. Not here. Not this night. Not like this. Do you understand me?...Winning that ticket, Rose, was the best thing that ever happened to me. It brought me to you and I'm thankful for that, Rose. I'm thankful. You must, you must, you must do me this honor. You must promise me that you'll survive, that you won't give up, no matter what happens, no matter how hopeless. Promise me now, Rose, and never let go of that promise." She promised, and he replied: "Never let go." She responded as she shivered: "I will never let go, Jack. I'll never let go." He kissed her hand before his corpse froze in the cold Atlantic Ocean, although they maintained their hand-grip; when she was about to be rescued by a boat by summoning it with a whistle, she let go of Jack's hand, although repeated the phrase: "I'll never let go. I promise" as he sank underwater; also the scene of elderly Rose (Gloria Stuart) tossing the priceless "Heart of the Ocean" blue diamond necklace overboard that she had shared with her now-lost love Jack; and the final dream sequence in which the young Rose imagined herself meeting - and kissing Jack at the top of the elegant Grand Staircase surrounded by an applauding audience of all those who died on the ship -- together forever.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)


The scene in which lawyer Atticus Finch's (Gregory Peck) listened to his children discussing their dead mother; Atticus' touching speech to six year-old daughter Scout (Mary Badham) about his father's urging him to not shoot mockingbirds "because mockingbirds don't do anything but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat people's gardens, don't nest in the corncribs, they don't do one thing but just sing their hearts out for us"; and Atticus' moving closing argument, urging the jury to look beyond race and prejudice: ("In the name of God, do your duty. In the name of God, believe Tom Robinson"); the scene of the blacks in the balcony of the courtroom standing to respectfully honor the defeated lawyer with Rev. Sykes' (William Walker) words to Scout: "Miss Jean Louise, stand up, your father's passin"; and the moving coda in which Scout sat on the porch swing with the timid Boo Radley (Robert Duvall), and then walked - with his hand in hers - to the Radley gate and up their front walk, accompanied by Elmer Bernstein's melancholy music score and Jean Louise's narration as the adult Scout: ("Neighbors bring food with death, and flowers with sickness, and little things in between. Boo was our neighbor. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a knife, and our lives...One time Atticus said you never really knew a man until you stood in his shoes and walked around in them. Just standin' on the Radley porch was enough. The summer that had begun so long ago had ended, and another summer had taken its place, and a fall, and Boo Radley had come out. I was to think of these days many times. Of Jem and Dill and Boo Radley, and Tom Robinson - and Atticus. He would be in Jem's room all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning") - with the camera pulling out of the window in Jem's room, where Scout was cradled in her father's arms, to a long shot of the Finch house.

Touching the Void (2003)


The moment when mountain climber Simon Yates, while returning from an unprecedented climb up the Peruvian mountain Siula Grande, was forced to cut the line - thinking his broken-legged climbing partner Joe Simpson had passed away when he didn't respond to rope tugging (he had actually been accidentally suspended over the side of a cliff and was unable to respond), sending Simpson deep into a crevasse; and the moving description of Simpson "touching the void", feeling utterly alone in the universe, as he stared death in the face.

Toy Story 2 (1999)

Jesse's (voice of Joan Cusack) touching torch song: "When She Loved Me", describing how her beloved owner Emily matured into a teenager - and no longer played with toys - thereby abandoning Jesse under her bed - years later when the toy was rediscovered, Jesse's hopes were dashed when Emily left her in a charity donation box on the side of the road.

Trois Coleurs: Bleu (1993, Fr./Pol.) (aka Blue)

The raw, intensely emotional tale of composer-wife Julie Vignon-de Courcy (Juliette Binoche) who unexpectedly lost her husband Patrice de Courcy and daughter Anna in a car accident that she survived, and her inability to cope with the tragedy - unable to outwardly display any sense of loss or grief except the most subtle displays; the scene at her hospital bed in which she watched the funeral - with the dark shadow of her finger tracing the image of her daughter's coffin on a tiny LCD TV screen; also the scene of her reaction to a neighbor touching her daughter's blue crystal mobile; and the scenes in which Julie - attempting to commit "spiritual suicide" by disassociating herself from her past - swam in a swimming pool bathed in a blue light to escape, destroyed her late husband's last composition and gave his estate to his pregnant mistress Sandrine (Florence Pernel), in the first segment of Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Three Colors" Trilogy.

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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