Greatest Tearjerkers
Scenes and Movie Moments
of All-Time


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

Magnificent Obsession (1954)


  • the long-overdue reunion scene in which reckless, rude and wealthy playboy Dr. Bob Merrick (Rock Hudson), who had portrayed himself as a poor medical student named Robbie Robinson, was warmly greeted, hugged and kissed by Helen Phillips (Jane Wyman), the blinded widow of Dr. Wayne Phillips (whose death he had indirectly caused); however, although she knew his real identity, she had fallen in love with him; he promised that she would have "the time of your life" with him ("I want to take you to all the places you've been too busy to visit and show you how to have fun"), and: "Let me be your eyes again"; he urged her to get dressed up ("I'm not only gonna show you the town, I'm gonna show the town you!"), and it was obvious that she was buoyed by his presence
  • and the concluding scene in which Helen woke up from her successful, sight-restoring brain surgery operation performed by Dr. Merrick himself (who had become a doctor to make amends and right all the wrongs in his life), and told him that she thought her sight had been returned: "It doesn't hurt so much." He reassured her: "You're going to get better." Grateful that Bob was there, she asked him to hold her close, and then hoped: "I think I see some light...But I'm going to see, I know I am. Am I?" He replied: "Yes, my darling. You are going to see." Although told to be quiet and not to get too excited, she asked: "May I, may I get excited tomorrow?...And you'll be with me?" He responded positively: "Yes, darling, I'll be with you tomorrow. Starting tomorrow, we'll never be apart."
  • the inspiring words regarding service and self-sacrifice of famous artist Edward Randolph (Otto Kruger), Dr. Phillips' close friend (who was also in the hospital), were recalled in Dr. Merrick's mind, when delivered in the film's final line (in voice-over): ("Once you find the way, you'll be bound. It will obsess you. But believe me, it'll be a magnificent obsession")

Man on the Moon (1999)

  • the excruciating scenes in which abrasive comedian and practical joker Andy Kaufman (Jim Carrey) tried to cure his lung cancer with various quackery and miracle remedies, such as New Age crystals, Philippine Islands faith healers, etc.
  • the sing-along at Andy Kaufman's funeral, with the mourners singing along with his huge projected b/w video behind his open casket
  • the poignant final scene staged as a tribute to Andy Kaufman a year after his death, performed at the Comedy Club, when the rude "Tony Clifton" lounge singer character (Kaufman's writing partner and friend Bob Zmuda (Paul Giamatti), Kaufman's 'alter ego') gave a costumed creation of a comeback appearance ("You guys wanna see Andy tonight? Anybody got a flashlight and a couple of shovels? OK guys, let's do our dirt"); he defiantly sang: "I Will Survive" - as Zmuda also looked on in the audience (seen after a pan to the left)
  • the film ended with music group R.E.M.'s singing of their 1992 hit "Man on the Moon" as a tribute to Kaufman: ("Mott the Hoople and the Game of Life (yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah) Andy Kaufman in the wrestling match (yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah) Monopoly, twenty-one, checkers, and chess (yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)...")

Manhattan (1979)

  • the heartbreaking scene when 42 year-old Isaac Davis (Woody Allen) proposed a breakup with his 17 year-old girlfriend Tracy (Mariel Hemingway): ("Now I don't feel so good") in a malt-soda shop with Tracy's tearful rejection of his attempts to get her to stop crying ("Leave me alone")
  • the scene of Isaac stretched out on a couch recounting all the things that he genuinely loved (his jazz, acting, and sports heroes, and Tracy's face): ("Why is life worth living? It's a very good question. Um... Well, there are certain things I guess that make it worthwhile, uh... Like what... okay... um... For me, uh... ooh... I would say... what, Groucho Marx, to name one thing... uh... um... and Willie Mays... and um... the 2nd movement of the Jupiter Symphony... and um... Louis Armstrong, recording of Potato Head Blues... um... Swedish movies, naturally... Sentimental Education by Flaubert... uh... Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra... um... those incredible Apples and Pears by Cezanne... uh... the crabs at Sam Wo's... uh... Tracy's face...")
  • their romantically poignant and touching final scene when the young lover (now 18) consoled a fearful Isaac after he had run to her apartment - but she was leaving for London for six months: ("Six months isn't so long. Everybody gets corrupted. You have to have a little faith in people"), concluding with the final shot of Isaac's face and its wry, resigned smiling expression, followed by a reprise of the opening montage featuring the Manhattan skyline from dawn to dusk to Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue."

The Marrying Kind (1952)

  • the tragic family picnic scene in which Joey (Christopher Olsen), the six-year old son of bickering couple Florrie (Judy Holliday) and Chet (Aldo Ray), accidentally drowned in a park pond while an oblivious Florence was singing "How I Love the Kisses of Dolores" on a ukelele to her husband; she finally sensed what had happened when she was alerted to the tragedy by a pointing child

Mask (1985)

  • the relationship between teenager Roy "Rocky" Dennis (Eric Stoltz), who suffered from lionitis or craniodiaphyseal dyaplasia (a skull deformity), and his drug-abusing and depressed biker gang mother Florence "Rusty" Dennis (Cher)
  • "Rocky's" close relationship with blind friend Diana Adams (Laura Dern), although her disapproving parents were against him (for his deformed looks) and humiliated him when they first met him (as they drove off, he spoke under his breath: "That damn son-of-a-bitch") - and later prevented her from receiving communications from him
  • Rocky's death while sleeping due to his disfigurement
  • the concluding scene at "Rocky's" gravesite, when "Rusty," Gar (Sam Elliott) and Dozer (Dennis Burkley) visited, and left flowers and ball-cards (1955 Brooklyn Dodgers) near his tombstone, followed by "Rocky's" voice-over of an original poem recitation - "Rusty's" sad remembrance of her son: ("These things are good: ice cream and cake, a ride on a Harley, seeing monkeys in the trees, the rain on my tongue, and the sun shining on my face. These things are a drag: dust in my hair, holes in my shoes, no money in my pocket, and the sun shining on my face")

A Matter of Life and Death (1946, UK) (aka Stairway to Heaven (1946, US))


  • the opening sequence of a radio distress call in May of 1945 by squadron leader Peter D. Carter (David Niven) delivered within a burning British RAF bomber plane that had lost its undercarriage and the rest of the crew; as he delivered his final message, he fell in love with American WAC radio operator June (Kim Hunter): ("I'm bailing out, but there's a catch. I've got no parachute....Hello, June, don't be afraid. It's quite simple. We've had it and I'd rather jump than fry. After the first thousand feet, what's the difference. I shan't know anything, anyway. I say, I hope I haven't frightened you...June, are you pretty?...Can you hear me as well as I hear you?...You've got a good voice. You've got guts, too. It's funny. I've known dozens of girls, I've been in love with some. But an American girl who I've never seen and never shall see will hear my last words. That's funny. Rather sweet. June, if you're around when they pick me up, turn your head away...No, no-one can help. Only you. Let me do this in my own way. I want to be alone with you, June...I love you, June, you're life and I'm leaving you...I'll be a ghost and come and see you! You're not frightened of ghosts?...I was lucky to get you, June. Can't be helped about the parachute. I'll have my wings soon, anyway, big white ones...I'm signing off now, June. Goodbye. Goodbye, June")
  • the subsequent meeting of Peter - still mistakenly alive - and June riding on a bike near the military base after he parachuted and washed up on a beach: ("You're Peter! How did you get here? I'm glad you're safe. What did you do? What happened?... Are you hurt?...There's a little cut in your hair. Oh, Peter, it was a cruel joke.... I've been crying ever since we said goodbye")
  • during brain surgery to rid him of alleged hallucinations, Carter's spirit was put on trial -- (in b/w) -- to appeal his death before a celestial court, and to prove that he should remain on Earth rather than journey on to the afterlife; the image of one of June's single, glittering love tears caught on the petals of a pinkish rose was to be used as "the only real bit of evidence we have" by Carter's recently-deceased British counsel and friend Dr. Reeves (Roger Livesey) in the case prosecuted by Abraham Farlan (Raymond Massey), an American
  • the profoundly romantic, tearjerking sentimental ending in which the two lovers were asked in Heaven to prove their love for one another, and June affirmed that she was willing to "die for him" and would "take his place in the balance sheet" - she proved it by proposing to take Carter's place when the stairs to the Other World started to move upward and separated the lovers; a tearful June and Carter stared at each other (with a close-up of the tearful June as she said 'goodbye darling'), but then with a jolt, the stairs stopped; Dr. Reeves informed the assembly watching that "nothing is stronger than the law in the universe, but on Earth, nothing is stronger than love"
  • in the film's ending, June ran down the stairs to embrace Carter, after having his appeal granted and he was given a long life by the court; words of Sir Walter Scott were intoned by God/the Judge (Abraham Sofaer): ("Members of the jury, as Sir Walter Scott is always saying, 'In peace, love tunes the shepherd's reed; in war, he mounts the warrior's steed; in halls, in gay attire is seen; in hamlets, dances on the green. Love rules the court, the camp, the grove, and men below and saints above. For Love is heaven, and heaven is Love'")

Meet John Doe (1941)

  • the melodramatic final scene of common man "John Doe" (Gary Cooper) threatening to jump off City Hall on a snowy Christmas Eve in which reporter Ann Mitchell (Barbara Stanwyck) hysterically sobbed and urgently begged him not to kill himself - and admitted her love for him: ("I won't let you, I love you, darling")
  • the upbeat conclusion in which John Doe walked away from the ledge toward his supporters with Ann in his arms, after the John Doe club members had renewed their faith in him and he had decided to not commit suicide - accompanied by Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Managing editor Henry Connell (James Gleason) (with his fist) told off the oppressive and evil Norton in the final line: ("There you are, Norton! The people! Try and lick that!")

Midnight Cowboy (1969)


  • the scene of Joe Buck (Jon Voight) wiping off the sweaty head of ailing friend Enrico "Ratso" Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) in a stairway before attending an underground film-making party in Greenwich Village
  • the poignant Florida-bound trip when "Ratso" Rizzo expired in the back of the bus quietly as close friend (lover?) Joe speculated about their future together: ("When we get to Miami, what we'll do is get some sort of job, you know. 'Cause hell, I ain't no kind of hustler. I mean, there must be an easier way of makin' a living than that. Some sort of outdoors work") before realizing he'd passed away
  • Joe's tearful embrace of Ratso as the bus driver (Al Stetson) told Joe and the other passengers: ("We'll just drive on in. Right? Nothin' else we can do. Okay, folks, just a little illness. We'll be in Miami in a few minutes. (on the intercom) Okay, folks. Nothin' to worry about. Just a little illness. We'll be in Miami in just a few minutes")

Milk (2008)

  • the moving final scene of the film, using the framing device in which San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) recorded his will into a cassette tape recorder in 1977, even predicting his own assassination, but still striving for hope: ("...I ask this, that If there be an assassination, I would want five, ten, a hundred, a thousand to rise. If a bullet should enter my brain, let it destroy every closet door. I ask for the movement to continue because it's not about personal gain, it's not about ego and it's not about power. It's about the 'us's' out there. Not just the gays, but the blacks and the Asians and the seniors and the disabled. The 'us's'. Without hope, the 'us's' give up. And I know you can't live on hope alone. But without hope, life is not worth living. So you, and you, and you, you got to give them hope. You got to give them hope")
  • and after his 1978 assassination at the age of 48 by crazed fellow politician Dan White (Josh Brolin), a flashback to his prophetic words when Milk was celebrating his 40th birthday ("Forty years old, and I haven't done a thing I'm proud of...I'll never make it to 50") -- and the candlelight vigil and march that stretched for miles in tribute and honor to the brave, martyred gay activist (and slain Mayor George Moscone (Victor Garber)) by 30,000 supporters who marched from the Castro district to City Hall

Million Dollar Baby (2004)

  • in the dark, emotionally-wrenching and controversial ending of the melodramatic sports film, mentor/manager Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) finally honored paraplegic boxer Maggie Fitzgerald's (Hilary Swank) request one evening. The irascible but caring trainer Frankie entered her room and told her the meaning of the Gaelic phrase on her green fight robe: "Mo chuisle" ("Pulse of my heart" or "My pulse") that cheering crowds had chanted. After kissing her and saying goodbye (a tear ran down her cheek), he turned off her life-support machine, unhooked her breathing tube and injected her with an adrenaline overdose, to cause her instant death
  • in the aftermath, Frankie's silhouette exited from the hospital - and from boxing altogether

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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