Greatest Tearjerkers
Scenes and Movie Moments
of All-Time

H - I

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

Hamlet (1996, UK/US)

  • the brilliant portrayal of Ophelia (Kate Winslet) who was driven insane and strait-jacketed; she was suffering after the death of her father Polonius (Richard Briers), who was murdered at the hands of her ex-lover/fiancee Hamlet (Kenneth Branagh) - who had also rejected her
  • Ophelia offered reeds and called them various flowers: ("There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray, Love, remember: and there is pansies. That's for thoughts...There's fennel for you, and columbines: there's rue for you; and here's some for me: we may call it herb-grace o' Sundays: O you must wear your rue with a difference. There's a daisy: I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died: they say he made a good end --")
  • then she sang before she left and entered her padded room: ("And will he not come again? And will he not come again? No, no, he is dead: Go to thy death-bed: He never will come again. His beard was as white as snow, all flaxen was his poll: he is gone, he is gone, and we cast away moan: God have mercy on his soul! And of all Christian souls, I pray God. God be with ye")
  • soon, she set out to commit suicide (off-screen), and ended up a victim of drowning

Strait-Jacketed Ophelia

Offering of Flowers

Ophelia Singing

Ophelia - Suicidal Drowning Victim

Happy Feet (2006)

  • the scene of baby emperor penguin Mumble's (voice of Elijah Wood) frustrated teacher Miss Viola (voice of Magda Szubanski) discovering that Mumble did not have a heartsong ("A penguin without a heartsong is hardly a penguin at all") - a romantic song that would attract a soulmate
  • Mumble, with a tremendous ability to dance, ostracized from the group that feared that his 'happy feet' were responsible for famine; Mumble counter-argued: ("Wait a minute, happy feet can't cause a famine"), with the elder's retort: ("If thy kind of pagan display didn't cause it, what did?...He drove the fish away, and now he's ranting this rubbish!..And so it follows. Dissent leads to division and division leads us to doom. You, Mumble Happy Feet, must go")
  • the heart-wrenching scene when exiled Mumble futilely chased an "alien" fishing boat through large, choppy waves and ended up half-dead on the beach of a large city - he was placed in an aquarium where he slowly lost his mind, with the achingly-poignant moment when he performed a soft-shoe routine to communicate with a little girl (a biped "alien") and her mother on the other side of the display glass - and soon became a sensation
  • the joyous finale, in which Mumble convinced the other penguins to join in a communal dance to communicate with arriving "aliens" (humans)

Young Mumble

Ostracized by Elders

The Arriving 'Aliens'

High Sierra (1941)

  • the heartbreaking scene of aging gangster Roy "Mad Dog" Earle's (Humphrey Bogart) visit to see a post-surgical club-footed Velma (Joan Leslie) ("We can still be friends...")
  • the film's suspenseful manhunt high up in the Sierra Mountains as police pursued Earle in a doomed last stand when his 'tarnished angel' friend Marie (Ida Lupino) refused to call out to him as she told the authorities: ("He's gonna die anyway, I'd rather it was this way. Go on, all of you, kill him, kill him..."); after Earle's body rolled down the steep rocky cliff, his dog Pard licked his hand
  • after Earle had been shot dead when he called out to Marie in the open, she asked: "Mister, what does it mean when a man crashes out?"; she was told: "Crashes out? That's a funny question for you to ask now, sister. It means he's free"; she sadly repeated the word "Free" - questioning Roy's unnecessary death
  • the final, blurry fadeout on Marie's tear-stained face as it filled the frame before a pan up to the mountains

Earle With Velma

Earle's Last Stand

Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)


  • the emotional ending in which the trio of pets, bulldog Chance (voice of Michael J. Fox), Himalayan cat Sassy (voice of Sally Field), and finally limping golden retriever Shadow (voice of Don Ameche), completed their 250 mile journey home

Cat Sassy

Golden Retriever Shadow

Bulldog Chance
  • the last line was spoken by an appreciative, barking Chance: ("As we turned to go inside the house, a strange new feeling came over me. I had a family, and I had found out that sacrifice, friendship, and even love were more than just the mushy stuff...At last, for the first time in my life, I was home")

Return of Trio of Pets to Family

How Green Was My Valley (1941)

  • the tragic death of Huw Morgan's (Roddy McDowell) father Gwilym (Donald Crisp) when he drowned in a mine shaft accident, with his last words to his son, who was cradling him in his arms: ("There's a good old man, you are")
  • the nostalgic ending in which Huw recalled the happier memories of his youth as a chorus sang during a montage of the Morgan family at supper time, of Huw's first view of Bronwyn (Anna Lee) with the double basket on her hip, of Angharad (Maureen O'Hara) at the gate watching and waving at Mr. Gruffydd (Walter Pidgeon) and Huw returning through a hillside of blooming flowers
  • there was also a view of Huw and his father walking hand-in-hand over the crest of a hill, as they did in the film's opening sequence, and a glimpse of the five brothers in an open field.

Huw's Father Gwilym Dying in His Arms

Nostalgic Ending - Huw Walking With His Father

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)

  • the extremely touching scene in which beautiful gypsy girl Esmeralda (Maureen O'Hara) mercifully offered a drink of water to the deformed hunchback bellringer Quasimodo (Charles Laughton) after a public scourging
  • Quasimodo's heartbreaking closing line next to a gargoyle high atop Notre Dame's Cathedral: ("Why was I not made of stone like thee?")

Esmeralda Offering Water to Quasimodo

"Why was I not made of stone like thee?"

I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang (1932)

  • the visually impressive and chilling, downbeat fade-out ending when hunted, falsely-accused fugitive James Allen (Paul Muni) responded to his fiancee Helen (Helen Vinson) about how he lived - "I steal" - as he receded into the shadowy darkness

"I steal"

I Am Legend (2007)

  • the scene of virologist scientist Dr. Robert Neville (Will Smith) mercy-killing his loyal companion and dog Samantha ("Sam") after it was attacked and wounded by a pack of infected, zombie-ish dogs when trying to protect him from Dark Seekers; anguished, he cradled his beloved German shepherd in his arms after injecting it with an experimental serum and then sang Three Little Birds by Bob Marley ("Don't worry about a thing, 'Cause ev'ry little thing, Gonna be alright") - but after noticing the dog's hair loss, tooth growth and increasingly aggressive behavior, he realized it was infected and snapped its neck (or suffocated it)
  • the next day after burying Sam, Neville's visit to the neighborhood video/DVD rental store where a pretty female mannequin was posed in one of the aisles, and he went up to it - piteously entreating the unresponsive figure: ("I promised my friend that I would say hello to you today. Hello. Hello. Please say hello to me. Please say hello to me")

Mercy Killing of Dog Samantha

Sam with Mannequin

Imitation of Life (1959)


  • a remake of director John M. Stahl's Imitation of Life (1934), with Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers
  • the scene in an alley in which Frankie (Troy Donahue), the date of light-skinned Sarah Jane Johnson (Susan Kohner), racistly asked: "Is it true?...Is your mother a nigger?" - and then accused her of lying and slapped her to the ground
  • and later, the scene in a Hollywood motel room in which estranged black-maid mother Annie Johnson (Juanita Moore) (who was in the employ of actress Lora Meredith (Lana Turner)) met with her daughter Sarah Jane, who was essentially disowning her mother: "I'm white! White!...and if by accident, if we should ever pass on the street, please don't recognize me"; then, Sarah Jane's mother made one last request or wish: "I'd like to hold ya in my arms once more like you was still my baby... Oh, my baby, my beautiful, beautiful baby. I love you so much. Nothin' you ever do can stop that"
  • in the funeral scene finale with Mahalia Jackson singing "Trouble of the World," Sarah Jane unexpectedly returned for her mother's funeral, rushed to the casket, and sobbed uncontrollably as she apologized: ("Mama, Mama, I didn't mean it, I didn't mean it. Mama, do you hear me? I'm so sorry, I'm sorry, Mama. Mama, I did love you...I killed my mother, I killed her. I wanted to come home. Now she'll never know how much I wanted to come home")
Sobbing Sarah Jane at Her Mother's Funeral

Emotional Mother-Daughter Reunion

In a Lonely Place (1950)

  • cynical, hard-living, self-destructive and volatile Hollywood screenwriter Dixon Steele's (Humphrey Bogart) famed line of dialogue, a line of script written for some future work, that he told to his cool, beautiful blonde next-door apartment neighbor Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame) while driving together: "I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me." - she repeated the phrase back to him - but hesitated on the last sentence
  • Laurel's teary words when saying goodbye to Dixon as he walked away after their relationship had deteriorated by film's end: ("I lived a few weeks while you loved me. Goodbye Dix...")

"I was born when she kissed me..."

Laurel's Teary Goodbye to Dixon

In Country (1989)

  • the achingly poignant and moving climax in which lively teenaged Kentucky girl Samantha "Sam" Hughes (Emily Lloyd), haunted Vietnam vet and Samantha's uncle Emmett Smith (Bruce Willis), and Samantha's overweight grandmother Mamaw (Peggy Rea) visited the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial in Washington, DC (just built at the time of this film's release) to honor Samantha's father, who had died before she was born while serving in Vietnam
  • Mamaw's reaction: ("I think I'm gonna bawl") - and the moment Emmett located the names of his fallen comrades

Visit to the Vietnam Vet's War Memorial

In the Company of Men (1997)

  • writer/director Neil LaBute's disturbing drama about cruel, premeditated, retributive revenge sought against one innocent female victim
  • the scene in which handsome, misogynistic corporate ex frat-boy Chad (Aaron Eckhart) proposed a "game" to bespectacled business colleague/nice-guy college pal Howard (Matt Malloy) that they find an unattractive woman, date her, and then unceremoniously dump her during their six week stint at a business branch office. Chad selected deaf and naive secretarial assistant temp worker Christine (Stacy Edwards), a dark-haired beauty, as their innocent, targeted female. In week five, Chad slept with her and she believed he was in love with her. Howard, on the other hand, had genuinely fallen in love with Christine, but was dropped by her
  • Howard told Christine (out of guilt, hurt, and jealousy) that Chad's love was a total sham and that they had planned the game together ("He doesn't like you. He loathes you. He detests you and your pathetic retard voice. That's what he calls it...You better wake up. You were used. It was a game"), but she had trouble believing him ("Chad would never do that")
  • in week six, Christine met with Chad in a hotel room, when she asked: "Do you love me?" and then admitted that she knew about his duplicity in the game: ("I know what's going on...You two were playing a game on me, right?"). Chad quickly attempted to explain his participation in a "contest" to date Christine, but then admitted he couldn't keep a "straight face" telling the excuse. When he asked how she felt, she slapped him hard across the face. He asked: "It only hurts that much?" and then promptly left the room, dumping her ("The deed's done"). He left her in the room where the emotionally-devastated Christine sobbed uncontrollably

Chad with Christine

Christine - Emotionally Devastated and Used

Intermezzo: A Love Story (1939)

  • the entire doomed and forbidden love affair between married world-famous virtuoso concert violinist Holger Brandt (Leslie Howard) and his 6 year-old daughter Ann Marie's (Ann E. Todd) comely piano teacher-accompanist Miss Anita Hoffman (Ingrid Bergman in her first American-Hollywood film) - and the scene of their passionately playing a duet together
  • the sequence during a holiday in France, after Anita had served on an extended musical tour with Holger as his replacement accompanist, when she received a letter and he insisted: "If it's an invitation, you can just turn it down. I'm not going to let you out of my sight for one moment, young lady"; she was offered a coveted, career-advancing Jenny Lind musical scholarship - and later at dinner time, she fatefully decided to burn it in his presence, so that they would not become separated: ("But I don't want it now, Holger. No, I'm-I'm not taking it...This is how I feel about the letter, about anything that could come between us")
  • the scene of the loving couple on a yacht, when Anita wished to escape from reality with Holger forever: ("Oh, no, I don't want to go home. Not yet, please... I am afraid. I don't know why but I am afraid. I wish we could stay out here forever...What a wonderful day this has been!...I can't bear to see it end...Hold me close, Holg, hold me close")
  • the use of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring as a metaphorical idea and musical theme
  • the scene in which Holger begged Anita to not get on a train (she was going away to Sweden to escape their forbidden affair)
  • the scene at a tombstone on the French Riviera with its words: "Mon amour dure apres la mort (My love endures after death)" - and Anita's departure from Holger after realizing their love affair would not last: "I have been an intermezzo in his life"
  • the image of her tears after she had bid Holger good-bye (without telling him that she was leaving him forever) -- followed by her Dear John letter: ("...But we know in our hearts that love like ours is wrong -- that it drags itself down with remorse and fears, and the unhappiness of others...")
  • the startling, heart-breaking scene in which Holger's daughter Ann Marie was struck by a car and seriously-injured when rushing to greet her father
  • Holger's line to his bitter son Eric (Douglas Scott): "You see, Eric, even if you don't need me anymore, now it's I who need you"
  • the last shot in which Holger's wife Margit (Edna Best) descended stairs and sought reconciliation - she forgave Holger for his mid-life crisis/affair: ("Holger ...welcome home ...Holger, welcome home!")

    [Note: Bergman was reprising her star-making role from the original Intermezzo (1936, Swe.), with co-star Gosta Ekman and directed by Gustaf Molander.]

The Iron Giant (1999)


  • the scene in which a deer was shot by hunters with a gun in front of young 9 year-old Hogarth Hughes (voice of Eli Marienthal) and his 50-foot robot friend The Iron Giant (voice of Vin Diesel) - with the life lessons taught by Hogarth to the Iron Giant afterwards: (Hogarth: "I know you feel bad about the deer. But it's not your fault. Things die. It's part of life. It's bad to kill. But it's not bad to die." Giant: "You die?" Hogarth: "Well, yes, someday." Giant: "I die?" Hogarth: "I don't know. You're made of metal, but you have feelings. And you think about things. And that means you have a soul. And souls don't die." Giant: "Soul?" Hogarth: "Mom says it's something inside of all good things, and that it goes on forever and ever." Giant: "Souls don't die.")
  • the climactic ending, when the Iron Giant realized that he must sacrifice himself to save the small Maine town of Rockwell from a nuclear missile. He told Hogarth: ("You stay, I go. No following"), as Hogarth replied: "I love you."
  • just before the explosion in outer space, the Giant soared into the air to neutralize it by striking it head-on; he heard the words of Hogarth: "You are who you choose to be", then realized his heroism and identity: "Superman!" to a swelling score
The Iron Giant's Self-Sacrifice
  • the Iron Giant was then seen memorialized in a statue in the town of Rockwell, Maine, and last seen in a final shot smiling as he self-repaired on an Icelandic glacier - signaling for all his disassembled parts to regroup

Death of Deer

Hogarth with the Iron Giant

Iron Giant in Glacier

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)


  • the sorrowful scene in which George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), while dealing with a "Pottersville" alternate reality in which he wished he had never been born, found his former wife Mary (Donna Reed) - a sorrowful spinster librarian who didn't recognize him, and screamed to get away from him on the street
  • the triumphant scene in which a joyful George Bailey was released from the hellish "Pottersville" reality: ("Ha, ha, ha, ha! My mouth's bleeding, Bert! My mouth's bleeding! Zuzu's petals... Zuzu... Merry Christmas!"), and George ran through the town of Bedford Falls, welcoming back his favorite places
  • the miraculous heartwarming finale in which George ("the richest man in town") was surrounded by all of his friends and associates in his home next to the Christmas tree to sing Hark the Herald Angels Sing and Auld Lang Syne - all his friends had paid his rent, and he was toasted by his war-hero brother Harry (Todd Karns): ("A my big brother, George. The richest man in town"), as he and Mary looked at the handwritten inscription by angel Clarence in the front of the book Tom Sawyer: ("Dear George: - Remember no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings! Love Clarence"); and Zuzu noted how an ornamental bell was ringing on the Christmas tree: ("Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings") - signifying Clarence's promotion to an angel with wings

Mary as Spinster Who Didn't Recognize George

"Zuzu's Petals...Zuzu..."

George's Joy After Returning to Bedford Falls

"Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings"

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

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