Greatest Tearjerkers
Scenes and Movie Moments
of All-Time

Part 6

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

The Color Purple (1985)


The scene in which young Celie's (Desreta Jackson) teenaged sister Nettie (Akosua Busia) was forcibly thrown off the farm by Celie's brutish husband Albert (Danny Glover) after she had painfully rebuffed his sexual advances, as Nettie cried out asking: "Why? Why? Whhhhhyyyy?"; also the emotional scene in which juke joint singer Shug Avery (Margeret Avery) sang "Maybe God Is Tryin' To Tell You Somethin'": ("Speak to me! Speak to me!") to her estranged preacher father Rev. Samuel (Carl Anderson) who hadn't uttered a word to her in decades, and her tears of absolute happiness when he returned her hug after she whispered in his ear: "See, Daddy? Sinners have soul too"; and the joyous reunion of a middle-aged Celie (Whoopi Goldberg) with Nettie (who had emigrated back from Africa), beginning with Celie happily calling out "NETTIE!" - and followed by the kisses the sisters gave each other, barely daring to believe the other was real, and Celie's introduction to her two adult children, not seen since they were born.

Coming Home (1978)

The stark, violent breakup scene between housewife Sally Hyde (Jane Fonda) and her returning husband-vet Bob (Bruce Dern) (Sally: "It happened. I needed somebody. I was lonely..." Bob: "Bulls--t...if it's over with us, it's over...What I'm saying ISSSS! I do not belong in this house. And they're saying that I don't belong over there"); and wheelchair-bound Vietnam vet Luke Martin's (Jon Voight) impassioned speech to high school students: (".... I don't feel sorry for myself. I'm a lot f--kin' smarter now than when I went, and I'm just tellin' ya, there's a choice to be made here.")

Common Threads: Stories From the Quilt (1989)

The six compelling, emotional stories told by the friends and families of AIDS victims (four gay men -- including film historian and AIDS activist/storyteller Vito Russo --a straight man and a hemophiliac boy) and the making of their personal quilts, accompanied by the news broadcasts following the development of AIDS from its euphemistic origin as GRID (gay-related immuno-deficiency disease) in 1980; also the famous speech by 36 year-old victim Roger Gail Lyon: ("This is not a political issue. This is a health issue. This is not a gay issue. This is a human issue. And I do not intend to be defeated by it. I came here today in the hope that my epitaph would not read that I died of red tape"); and the unfolding of the giant AIDS Memorial Quilt in Washington, DC composed of thousands of quilts, each a separate, personalized tribute to an individual AIDS victim -- all accompanied by jazz musician Bobby McFerrin's affecting a capella lullaby "Common Threads".

Contact (1997)

The heartwarming, poignant scene when agnostic scientist Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) sees her long-dead father Ted (David Morse) when she arrives on a beach on the planet Vega - after her mystical journey, he tells her as a proxy for the alien beings: "You're an interesting species, an interesting mix. You're capable of such beautiful dreams and such horrible nightmares. You feel so lost, so cut off, so alone, only you're not. See, in all our searching, the only thing we've found that makes the emptiness each other"; and the finale when Ellie, after testifying about her quasi-religious experience (" I... had an experience. I can't prove it, I can't even explain it, but everything that I know as a human being, everything that I am tells me that it was real. I was given something wonderful, something that changed me forever. A vision of the universe...") is greeted by thousands of supporters outside the court with signs saying "We Believe You", etc.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000, HK/US)

The tearjerking death of heroic warrior and martial arts master Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat), poisoned by arch-villain Jade Fox (Cheng Pei-pei) with the Purple Yin, and his final, long overdue declaration of his love for fellow warrior Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) with his dying breath: ("I've already wasted my whole life. I want to tell you with my last breath that I have always loved you"), followed by small, passionate kisses, and his final romantic farewell: "I would rather be a ghost drifting by your side as a condemned soul than enter heaven without you. Because of your love, I will never be a lonely spirit."

The Crying Game (1992)

The tearful and vengeful "interrogation" scene between a gun-toting Dil (Jaye Davidson) and IRA volunteer soldier Fergus (Stephen Rea), whom Dil had tied to his bed after finding out he had been complicit in the accidental death of his ex-lover - British soldier Jody (Forest Whitaker), as the song "The Crying Game" played on Dil's tape deck; Fergus told Dil that he loved him, would do anything for him and would never leave him - with Dil responding, as he laid his head on Fergus' chest/shoulder: "I know you're lying, but it's nice to hear it." In the following scene, after Dil had killed IRA assassin/femme fatale Jude (Miranda Richardson) in his apartment, he turned the gun on Fergus, but admitted: "I can't do it, Jimmy. He (Jody) won't let me." Fergus reassuringly took the gun away when Dil put the gun in his mouth to commit suicide, and asked him with deep love and caring to run away - promising Dil he would see him again. After Dil fled, the police arrived on the street below - so Fergus took the gun, wiped Dil's fingerprints from it, and told Jody's smiling picture: "You should have stayed at home." He then sat down as he waited for the police to arrest him in Dil's place

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

The tearjerking, strained relationship ("under unusual circumstances") between young childhood sweetheart and later youthful Broadway dancer Daisy (Cate Blanchett, or as younger Elle Fanning/Madisen Beaty) and reverse-aging miracle-baby Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt), when for a brief moment their lives intersected when they were both in their 40s; and Button's decision to leave Daisy as a wanderlust when a child Caroline (young Joeanna Saylor, older Julia Ormond) was born to them out of wedlock in 1968, so as not to burden Daisy ("You can't raise the both of us") - and writing postcards each year about regretfully missing various important events in Caroline's life (e.g., 2nd birthday: "Happy Birthday. I wish I could have kissed you goodnight"; "Five - I wish I could have taken you to your first day at school"; "Six, I wish I could have been there to teach you to play the piano"; "I wish I could have been your father. Nothing I ever did will replace that"), etc.; also Benjamin's words of life-advice for his daughter Caroline, as he roamed the world: "For what it's worth, it's never too late or, in my case, too early, to be whoever you want to be. There's no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. And I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that will startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. And I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of. And if you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again"); and the instance of Benjamin's death as an infant in Daisy's arms in the spring of 2003 ("He looked at me, and I knew that he knew who I was. And then he closed his eyes as if to go to sleep"); and the concluding coda after Daisy's last words: "Good night, Benjamin" - a poignant tribute to the characters in Benjamin's life ("Some people are born to sit by a river. Some get struck by lightning. Some have an ear for music. Some are artists. Some swim. Some know buttons. Some know Shakespeare. Some are mothers. And some people dance"), in David Fincher's sweeping but overwrought historic recreation

Dances with Wolves (1990)

The downbeat ending in which Lt. John Dunbar (Kevin Costner) left his adoptive Sioux tribe with Stands With a Fist (Mary McDonnell), because of the threat he posed living with them, and the epilogue in which a placard revealed that in the next 13 years, all of the Sioux were either wiped out or put on reservations.

Dark Victory (1939)

The scene of Judith Traherne (Bette Davis) realizing that her prognosis is "negative"; and her true acceptance of her coming death with her husband/Dr. Steele (George Brent) before he leaves for a conference: ("You know I used to be afraid. I died a thousand times. When death really comes, it will come as an old friend, gently and quietly"); also the ending scenes of her comforting her best friend Ann King (Geraldine Fitzgerald) in the garden: ("Don't, Ann. I'm happy, really I am. Now let me see, is there anything else? Oh yes, one more thing. When Michael runs Challenger in the National, oh, and he'll win - I'm sure he'll win - have a party and invite all our friends. Now let me see, silly old Alec, if he's back from Europe, Colonel Mantle and old Carrie and, oh yes, and don't forget dear old Dr. Parsons. Give them champagne and be gay. Be very very gay. I must go in now. Ann, please understand, no one must be here, no one - I must show him I can do it alone. Perhaps it will help him over some bad moments to remember it. Ann, be my best friend. Go now. Please"); and then in her house, Judith greets her dogs and then makes a request of maid Martha to leave her to die in peace alone in the upstairs bedroom - with dignity: ("Is that you, Martha? I don't want to be disturbed").

Dead Man Walking (1995)

The heart-rending, awkward scene in which Sister Helen Prejean (Susan Sarandon) visited the parents of the girl that convicted killer Matthew Poncelet (Sean Penn) had murdered, and the girl's father's (R. Lee Ermey) hostile incredulity at the nun's counseling of Matthew and her claim that God forgave everyone: "Are you a Communist?"; and the tearjerking ending at the Louisiana prison, including Matthew's last words: ("...I just wanna say I think killin' is wrong, no matter who does it, whether it's me or y'all or your government...") and comforting nun Sister Prejean's poignant words to Matthew before he died from lethal injection while strapped on a cross-shaped gurney, as victims' families and the comforting nun witness the capital punishment behind a glass window: "I want the last face you see in this world to be the face of love, so you look at me when they do this thing. I'll be the face of love for you."

Dead Poets Society (1989)


The moving tribute/protest by the Welton Academy students, led by the formerly timid and tongue-tied betrayer Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke), over the expulsion of eccentric, unorthodox 1959 Vermont prep school English teacher Mr. John Keating (Robin Williams) in which they stood on their desks in front of the school's headmaster Mr. Nolan (Norman Lloyd) and recited Walt Whitman's "O Captain! My Captain!" in an emotional chant.

Death in Venice (1971)


The beautifully shot, quiet and lonely death scene of aging, avant-garde German composer Gustav von Aschenbach (Dirk Bogarde) slumped on a deck chair on a Venice beach (accompanied by music from a Gustav Mahler symphony) dying of heart failure with dark hair dye dripping down his sweaty, chalk-white face, while lovingly watching an angelic-looking teenaged boy Tadzio (Bjorn Andresen) on the beach who points out toward the horizon of the ocean - Gustav's expression mixed contentment, pain, and acceptance.

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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