Greatest Tearjerkers
Scenes and Movie Moments
of All-Time

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

The Bridges of Madison County (1995)

  • the lingering glance between married Iowa farmwife Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep), seated in her husband's truck, and National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid (Clint Eastwood) following their four-day love affair, as he stood in the street a short distance away on a rainy afternoon (Francesca in voice-over: "For a moment, I didn't know where I was. And for a split second, the thought crossed my mind that he really didn't want me. That it was easy to walk away")
  • at a red stoplight behind Robert's truck (from Washington State), she noticed that Robert leaned over in his truck's cab and retrieved something from his glove-box (she remembered, in voice-over: "8 days ago, he'd done that, and his arm had brushed across my leg. A week ago I'd been in Des Moines, buying a new dress")
  • Francesca's heartbreaking, pivotal, and fateful, cross-roads decision to remain with her husband in their truck instead of jumping out (although she partially turned the truck's doorknob), and her thoughts after watching Robert's truck turn left and drive away forever: ("Oh, no. The words were inside of me. I was wrong, Robert, I was wrong to stay, but I can't go. Let me tell you again why I can't go. Tell me again why I should go. I heard his voice coming back to me: 'This kind of certainty comes but once in a lifetime.'")
  • the scene of Francesca's later receipt of a package from Robert's lawyer on his death featuring mementos of their affair




Brief Encounter (1945/1946, UK)

#12
#18

  • the many emotionally potent scenes between middle-class housewife Laura (Celia Johnson) and doctor Alec (Trevor Howard) in their weekly clandestine meetings, including the famous scene of their final day together when they were interrupted by a friend during their last, painful, repressed goodbye (both at the start and end of the film) as Alec gently placed his hand on her shoulder and then disappeared forever (on a medical journey to Africa)

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

  • the scene in which bisexual cowboy Ennis del Mar (Heath Ledger) and lover Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) painfully tried to deal with their mutual sexual and romantic attraction and Jack's painful admission: ("The truth is... sometimes I miss you so much I can hardly stand it...") as they dealt with the secretiveness of their affair, and the pained partings after each tryst
  • the tearful scenes in which their wives learned of their affair: ("You don't go up there to fish")
  • the final break-up between the two when Jack delivered an ultimatum, expressing his pain when they were apart: ("Tell ya what. We coulda had a good life together! F--kin' real good life! Had us a place of our own. But you didn't want it, Ennis! So what we got now is Brokeback Mountain! Everything's built on that! That's ALL we got, boy! F--kin' ALL! So, I hope you know that. If you don't never know the rest! You count the damn few times that we have been together in nearly 20 years, and you measure the short f--kin' leash you keep me on, then, you ask me 'bout Mexico! And you tell me you'll KILL me for needin' somethin' that I don't hardly NEVER get! YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW BAD IT GETS! And I'm not you, I can't make it on a couple of high-altitude f--ks once or twice a year! YOU ARE TOO MUCH FOR ME, ENNIS! You son of a whoreson bitch! I wish I knew how to quit you!") and Ennis' sobbed response: ("Well, why don't you? Why don't you just let me be, huh? It's because of you, Jack, that I'm like this! I ain't got nothing, and I'm, I'm nowhere... Get the f--k off me!...Sorry I can't stand much anymore, Jack")
  • the scene of Ennis visiting Jack's parents some time after his death, and his first discovery of the blood-stained shirts in Jack's childhood bedroom closet. The shirts belonged to himself and ex-lover Jack from when they fought together years earlier on Brokeback Mountain (Jack had died while changing a tire that exploded, although Ennis imagined it as a gay-bashing incident in a field) - Ennis held the shirts to his face and breathed in their scent
  • the melodramatic ending, in which Ennis once again saw their two old shirts (hanging in the back of a closet in the trailer of his father). The two shirts were both together on one hanger, intertwined - Jack's blood-stained shirt was tucked inside of Ennis's - he also saw a postcard of Brokeback Mountain tacked next to the shirts and straightened it - he tearfully and regretfully cried about their forbidden homosexual love affair: ("Jack, I swear...")







Broken Blossoms (1919)

  • the tragic life of the sensitive and frail teenage Cockney waif Lucy Burrows (Lillian Gish), and the scenes of her forced smile by pushing up the ends of her mouth with her fingers
  • the unforgettable death scene as her brutal and bigoted father Battling Burrows (Donald Crisp) savagely broke down a closet door as she cowered there and twisted to avoid him, but later received the fatal blows in the bedroom
  • Lucy succumbed on her pillow while clutching her doll (her link to the Yellow Man) and gave a final finger-smile (her link to her father): (title-card) "Dying, she gives her last little smile to the world that has been so unkind"



The Big Parade (1925)

  • the scene of French girl Melisande's (Renee Adoree) farewell to her lover, World War I American soldier James Apperson (John Gilbert), as he was taken away in an army truck and she ran after it -- James tossed his watch, dog-tags chain and shoe to her, which she clutched to her breast
  • the scene of James' return from war and amputation, as he came down a French road in a traveling suit - hobbling on a wooden leg and steadied with a cane, returning to the girl of his dreams as he promised. In the gripping, moving finale, he tried feverishly to quicken his pace and run into her arms, as they called out: "MELISANDE! JIMMEE!" They were finally reunited and overjoyed as they embraced and hugged each other once more


The Birth of a Nation (1915)

  • mentally and physically scarred Benjamin "The Little Colonel" Cameron's (Henry B. Walthall) homecoming, in which his arrival on the doorstep of his old ruined home was greeted by a hug from his initially reticent sister Flora (Mae Marsh) -- and the brilliant side-shot in which the house itself seemed to beckon him back home as hands and arms of his unseen mother (Josephine Crowell) held him lovingly and pulled him inside

Blade Runner (1982)

  • bladerunner cop Rick Deckard's (Harrison Ford) cruel undressing of Rachael's (Sean Young) humanity when she insisted that she was human (by showing him a picture of her and her mother and by describing her intimate, implanted memories first about playing doctor with her brother and then seeing a spider egg hatching) with his retort: ("Implants! Those aren't your memories. They're somebody else's. They're Tyrell's niece's [memories]") - the retraction of his comments came too late, as a tear flowed liberally down Rachael's cheek -- followed by a long shot of her throwing the photo to the floor and fleeing Deckard's apartment (later, she would tearfully come to terms with her artificiality: "I'm not in the business. I am the business")
  • the famous scene in which replicant Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) gave a poignant, eloquent speech before dying, after he had saved Deckard's life: ("I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tanhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain. Time to die")


Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

  • in a shocking and tense "ballet of blood" finale - an ultra-violent, country backroads ambush was set for outlaw doomed lovers Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) and Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) - in their final freeze-frame of life, with a silent glance at each other, Bonnie and Clyde revealed both panic and love in their faces - knowing that something was ominously wrong and that they were facing their ultimate destruction, the natural result of the escalating violence
  • their frenzied corpses writhed in slow-motion as they were gunned down, 'shot,' and riddled with bullets - they died cinematically-beautiful, abstracted deaths to accentuate the romance of the myths and the larger-than-life legends that surrounded them. Their last moment of 'life' occurred when Clyde rolled over gently in slow-motion and Bonnie's arm dangled unnaturally and then stopped moving. Bonnie's flowing blonde hair, streaked in sunlight and gently blowing in the breeze, cascaded down in many arcs as she hung out of the car



Born Free (1966, UK/US)

#54

  • the scene in which adult lion Elsa, previously an orphaned cub, was released into the wild to enjoy a free life after being tested to assure that she could feed herself and survive, after being raised by two Kenyan game wardens George and Joy Adamson (husband and wife Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna); the couple became very worried and had to shoot a warning shot when a competing lioness fought against Elsa; George assured Joy: ("She's done it. She's crossed the bridge. She's wild now and free. You should be very happy. And proud. We've... you've done something no one else has ever done. And you should be very proud.") Joy was worried: "Suppose we never see her again?"
  • when the Adamsons returned to Africa a year later, they camped in the same spot but feared they would never find Elsa again. At the end of their week's stay, they finally located and saw Elsa who approached their campsite with three cubs of her own: (Joy's voice-over) ("Elsa and her babies stayed with us all the afternoon and she made it quite clear that she was happy to be with us again. I was dying to pick them up and hold them, as I had done with Elsa and her sisters. But I knew that it would be wrong. They were wild and it was better now that they remained wild...We saw her many times again, born free and living free. But to us she was always the same: Our friend, Elsa.") The climactic ending view of Elsa was set to the strains of the Oscar-winning title song and score by John Barry





The Brave Little Toaster (1987)

  • the surprisingly poignant scene in the animated musical-comedy in which nature and technology met: the Toaster (voice of Deanna Oliver), hiding from woodland animals, encountered a yellow flower standing in a single ray of light. The flower saw its own reflection in the Toaster's shiny metal chrome and thought it had found a companion, but the Toaster backed away and dismissively explained: "Oh, no, no. It's just a reflection. It's not real." Undeterred, the flower embraced the Toaster anyway. Panicked, the Toaster then hid behind a bush, took a peek through the leaves and saw that the flower, now wilted and dying, was bent over in sorrow, rejection and loneliness - a petal dropped to the ground like a tear. The Toaster walked away, looking back in guilt and with some pensiveness, learning a lesson about cameraderie, as he would be more friendly and supportive of his other appliance friends from now on (an antique radio, a gooseneck lamp, an electric blanket, and a vacuum cleaner)

Braveheart (1995)

#21

  • Scottish legendary kilt-clad, war-painted hero William Wallace's (Mel Gibson) rousing, emotional speeches to his loyal followers: ("I AM William Wallace! And I see a whole army of my country men, here, in defiance of tyranny. You've come to fight as free men, and free men you are. What will you do with that freedom? Will you fight?...Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you'll live - at least awhile. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willing to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take OUR FREEDOM!")
  • Wallace's heroic death scene as he courageously faced torture: ("I'm not dead yet") and then was brutally beheaded - when he saw the ghost of his dead wife Murron (Catherine McCormack) in the crowd



Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)

#47

  • the final scene in an alleyway during a downpour when NY socialite Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) found her abandoned nameless cat in an alley and kissed neighbor writer and 'kept' man Paul "Fred" Varjak (George Peppard) - with the cat squeezed in-between them and her last lines: "Cat! Cat! Oh, Cat... ohh..."


Breaking the Waves (1996, Den./Swed./Neth./Fr./Norway)

#42

  • the melodramatic plotline was set in North Scotland where paralyzed Danish oil-rig worker Jan Nyman (Stellan Skarsgaard) (with a broken neck) insisted his new kind-hearted wife Bess (Emily Watson) sleep with other men as a way to establish spiritual contact with him: (Bess: "I don't make love with them. I make love with Jan. And I save him from dying")
  • the scene of Bess' tragic rape/murder in a sacrificial martyr's death aboard a ship where even prostitutes wouldn't go
  • during Bess' burial, the discovery that there was only sand in the coffin - Bess was refused a proper burial as a transgressive cast-out from the community, so a miraculously-healed Jan stole her body in order to bury her at sea
  • the on-deck scene just before Bess' burial when Jan kissed her face before she was tossed into the ocean
  • Jan listened joyfully as two heavenly bells mercifully rang over the oil rig in the film's cosmic ending - a view through the clouds of the tiny oil rig was accompanied by two gigantic, pealing church bells




Greatest Film Tearjerkers, Moments and Scenes
(alphabetical by film title)
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H-I | J-K | L | L | M | M | N | O | P | P
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