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

The Miracle Worker (1962)

  • the climactic, triumphant water-pump scene in which blind and deaf Helen Keller (Patty Duke) learned to use sign language, and first spoke "wah - wah" with the assistance of her teacher Annie Sullivan (Anne Bancroft), associating sounds with objects: (Annie: "All right. Pump. No, she's not here. Pump. W-A-T-E-R. Water. It has a name. W-A-T..." Helen: "Wah... wah. Wah... wah." Annie: "Yes. Yes. Yes. Oh, my dear. Ground. Yes! Pump. Yes. Tree. Step. Mrs. Keller. Mrs. Keller! Bell. Mrs. Keller! Mrs. Keller. Mrs. Keller. Mother. Papa. She knows! Teacher. Teacher. Teacher.")

Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol (1962) (TV)

  • the surprisingly tearjerking song "All Alone in the World" sung by young Scrooge (voice of Marie Matthews), who was "all alone, nobody wants him, poor lad" during Christmas vacation at his boarding school after everyone else had left. The song was about loneliness and not fitting in or belonging - he traced his hand on a blackboard - hoping to find a hand to join with his: ("When you're all alone in the world...A hand for each hand was planned for the world, Why don't my fingers reach? Millions of grains of sand in the world, why such a lonely beach?"). The young lad was joined (in duet) by an unseen adult Ebenezer Scrooge (voice of Jim Backus) who was taken back by the Ghost of Christmas Past to view his lonely childhood - he put his arm on the shoulder of the young lad as their voices mingled

Mr. Holland's Opus (1995)


  • the scene in which music teacher Mr. Glenn Holland's (Richard Dreyfuss) wife Iris (Glenne Headly) realized that their toddler son Cole had hearing difficulties (he was born with 90% hearing loss, not diagnosed at first) - when he didn't wake up and react to a loud fire engine siren; later that day, she spoke to her husband and shared the devastating news: ("There's something wrong with Cole.... I don't know. I've tried different things. Uhm, sneaking up behind him and banging pots and screaming his name and stomping on the floor. He turned when I did that - big smile. He thought I was playing a game.... I don't think he can hear"); Glenn started to try to call out to his son ("Cole? Cole?!"), with no response
  • the later concert scene in which Mr. Holland, in front of an audience, sang and signed (in ASL) John Lennon's "Beautiful Boy" to long-haired 15 year-old son Cole (Joseph Anderson), replacing "Boy" with "Cole" at the end ("Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful...Cole")
  • the final inspirational scene - a surprise gathering in which a tribute speech was given to retired music teacher Mr. Holland, sitting in the audience, delivered by the governor and John F. Kennedy HS alumnus Gertrude Lang (Joanna Gleason): ("Mr. Holland had a profound influence on my life - on a lot of lives I know. And yet I get the feeling that he considers a great part of his own life misspent. Rumor had it he was always working on this symphony of his, and this was gonna make him famous, rich - probably both. But Mr. Holland isn't rich, and he isn't famous. At least, not outside of our little town. So it might be easy for him to think himself a failure. And he would be wrong. Because I think he's achieved a success far beyond riches and fame. Look around you. There is not a life in this room that you have not touched. And each one of us is a better person because of you. We are your symphony, Mr. Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus, and we are the music of your life")
  • the concluding tribute to Holland - the first performance ever of his "opus" - An American Symphony by his former students, with Holland directing with a baton

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

  • the climactic, emotional scene of the idealist Senator Jefferson Smith's (James Stewart) exhausting filibuster (almost 24 hours) in the US Senate against the graft of distinguished Senator Joseph Paine (Claude Rains), with his exposition on moral integrity, American democracy, and 'lost causes' before collapsing to the Senate floor: ("Great principles don't get lost once they come to light. They're right here. You just have to see them again...You think I'm licked. You all think I'm licked. Well, I'm not licked. And I'm going to stay right here and fight for this lost cause, even if this room gets filled with lies like these; and the Taylors and all their armies come marching into this place. Somebody will listen to me, some...")
  • the conclusion in which conscience-stricken and remorseful Senator Paine re-entered the Senate floor and admitted that everything Smith said was true - exonerating and vindicating him and the American political system: ("Every word that boy said is the truth! Every word about Taylor and me and graft and the rotten political corruption of our state. Every word of it is true. I'm not fit for office! I'm not fit for any place of honor or trust. Expel me!") - resulting in a mad eruption of support on the floor of the Senate and in the gallery

Modern Times (1936)

  • the final unforgettable image of the Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) arm in arm with the homeless Gamin (Paulette Goddard) silhouetted together and walking into the sunrise to face a new day, at the film's conclusion

Monsoon Wedding (2001, India/US/Fr./It.)


  • Ria Verma's (Shefali Shah) angry and malignant revelation that family friend Tej Puri (Rajat Kapoor) sexually molested her as a girl, and the realization that he was repeating the same offenses with 10 year-old cousin Aliya Verma (Kemaya Kidwai): ("It wasn't enough that he touched me when I was a girl. That wasn't enough that you had to teach Aliya how older people kiss?...What did you get out of it? I didn't even have breasts, you sick man!...Seven afternoons. Seven afternoons of how older people kiss. You took my clothes off. Open your mouth, Ria...And now he's doing it all over again to Aliya!"), an example of generational sexual abuse; Ria caught Tej driving away with Aliya ("You let her go, from you, you bastard"); she threatened that if she wasn't believed that she would leave the festivities: ("I'm not a part of this. I'm not a part of you...You know it. You know I don't lie"), yet some of her family members at the wedding doubted her ("Insolent, crazy girl...Unmarried girls like Ria, they make up all these fantasies")
  • Ria's uncle and adoptive father (and father of the bride in the wedding) Lalit Verma's (Naseeruddin Shah) sobbing and tearful realization in bed with his wife Pimmi (Lillete Dubey) ("I'm falling, Pimmi, hold me") that Ria was not lying - and that he must break with tradition by confronting Tej and telling him and his wife to never return again
  • the confrontational scene in which Lalit told Tej to leave, although Tej's wife protested: "For such a small thing," but Lalit insisted

Moulin Rouge! (2001, US/Australia)


  • the sad ending in which the Moulin Rouge's star and beautiful courtesan Satine (Nicole Kidman) was wheezing and then died of tuberculosis in the arms of penniless writer/lover Christian (Ewan McGregor), causing him to sob uncontrollably; she spoke final words to him: (Satine: "I'm sorry, Christian. I'm, I'm dying." Christian: "Shh. Shh. It's all right." Satine: "I'm so sorry." Christian: "No, you'll be all right. You'll be all right. l know you'll be all right. Satine: "I'm cold. I'm cold. Hold me. I love you. You've got to go on, Christian." Christian: "I can't go on without you." Satine: "You've got so much to give. Tell, tell our story, Christian. Yes. Promise me. Promise me. Yes. That way, I'll, I'll always be with you")

My Dog Skip (2000)

  • the touching relationship in 1940's Mississippi between frail, young boy Willie (Frankie Muniz) and his faithful Jack Russell terrier Skip (played by Frasier TV sitcom dog Moose)
  • the scene in which Willie slapped Skip for running onto the baseball field to comfort him
  • the scene in which Willie's older best friend and ex-star high school athlete Dink (Luke Wilson) returned home after fighting in WWII - now a broken man who never left his home: ("It ain't the dying that's scary, boy. It's the killing")
  • Willie's weeping during a visit to the veterinary office after Skip was seriously injured and near death after being hit by a moonshiner's spade, and Willie's pledge of friendship and love for his dog: ("Please don't die, boy. What would I do without you? You taught me how to play football. You helped me meet the guys and get up enough nerve to talk to Rivers. And understand about Dink. I'll never have another friend like you. Ever") when miraculously Skip awakened and licked his hand ("You're all right! That's my boy. I love you, Skip. I knew you'd make it. I almost lost old Skip that day. Even as he was sleepin' on the operating table he was still teachin' me. That day, l became a young man")
  • Skip's sad death from old age, while sleeping in Willie's old bedroom (in his parents' home) while Skip was overseas; Skip was then buried under an elm tree; Willie remembered his favorite companion with the film's final tear-evoking voice-over: ("In remembering moments such as these, l retain the sad, sweet reflection of being an only child and having a loyal and lovin' dog. For the struggles of my life, of the dangers, toils and snares of my childhood hymns, loyalty and love are the best things of all and surely the most lasting. The day finally arrived for me to move away from home. I was awarded a scholarship to attend Oxford University in England. A long way from Yazoo, Mississippi, and a long way from my family and friends. The dog of your boyhood teaches you a great deal about friendship and love and death. I was an only child. He was an only dog. Old Skip was 11 - and feeble with arthritis, but he never lost that old devilish look in his eye. He made my room his own. Came across an old photo of him not long ago. His little face with the long snout sniffin' at somethin' in the air. His tail was straight out and pointin', eyes were flashin' in some momentary excitement. He always loved to be rubbed on the back of his neck. And when I did it, he'd yawn, and he'd stretch, reach out to me with his paws as if he was trying to embrace me. I received a transatlantic call one day. 'Skip died,' Daddy said. He and my mama wrapped him in my baseball jacket. They buried him out under our elm tree, they said. That wasn't totally true, for he really lay buried in my heart")

My Favorite Year (1982)

  • the sad scene in which drunken, washed-up and has-been swashbuckling movie star Alan Swann (Peter O'Toole), hidden sheepishly in his limo, watched his estranged young daughter Tess (Cady McClain) ride her bicycle in Connecticut - and then after Swann had driven away, his daughter rode back to the spot where his car had been parked and looked on, knowing he'd been watching her
  • the sentimental ending after Alan Swann (dressed as a swashbuckling musketeer) entered the stage on live TV before an audience - his last great moment - as young variety show comic writer Benjy Stone (Mark-Linn Baker) looked on and narrated about Swann's role from the control booth: ("The way you see him here, like this. This is the way I like to remember him. I think if you had asked Alan Swann what was the single most gratifying moment in his life, he might have said this one right here")
  • in the epilogue, Benjy continued his narration, about how a newly-confident Swann visited his daughter Tess the next day in Connecticut for a heartfelt reunion: ("The next day, I drove up to Connecticut with him and Alfi (Tony DiBenedetto). This time, he knocked on the door, and when he and Tess saw each other, it was like they'd never been apart. Like Alfi says: 'With Swann, you forgive a lot, you know?' I know")

My Girl (1991)


  • the touching, poignant first kiss between pre-teens: precocious 11 year old hypochondriac Vada Sultenfuss (Anna Chlumsky) and allergy-ridden, geeky Thomas J. Sennett (Macauley Culkin) who discussed the facts of life, before coming around to their first kiss; Vada assertively asked: "Have you ever kissed anyone?" with his response: "Like they do on TV?" and then she suggested: "Maybe we should, just to see what's the big deal"; when he said: "But I don't know how," she proposed that they practice kissing their arms, and then close their eyes for the real thing, on the count of three -- afterwards, she demanded that he say something because it was "too quiet", and being agitated, he began to recite a mangled version of the Pledge of Allegance ("On political agents to the flag of the United States of America...")
    [Note: The scene won MTV's "Best Kiss" movie award.]
  • Thomas' funeral scene after he died from a bee sting with Vada first coming down the stairs to listen to the minister from afar, and then her tearful, mournful breakdown at Thomas' open coffin: ("Wanna go tree climbing, Thomas J.? His face hurts. And where is his glasses? He can't see without his glasses. Put his glasses on! Put on his glasses! He was gonna be an acrobat...!") When she was restrained, she went running out of the ceremony
  • the final scene of Vada reading a poem to her summer writing class about a weeping willow tree - their favorite spot: ("Weeping willow with your tears running down. Why do you always weep and frown? Is it because he left you one day? Is it because he could not stay? On your branches he would swing. Do you long for the happiness that day would bring? He found shelter in your shade. You thought his laughter would never fade. Weeping willow, stop your tears. There is something to calm your fears. You think death has ripped you forever apart. But I know he'll always be in your heart")
  • the film's ending with the playing of the Temptations' "My Girl" on the soundtrack

Mystic River (2003)

  • the scene of grieving ex-con and corner grocery-store owner Jimmy Markum (Oscar-winning Best Actor Sean Penn) learning of the discovery of a body in the local park - belonging to his 19 year-old daughter Katie (Emmy Rossum) and screaming out to Massachusetts State homicide detective Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon) as he was restrained: ("Sean, is that my daughter in there?!")
  • the powerfully-acted scene of Jimmy on the back porch with neighbor-friend Dave Boyle (Tim Robbins) while struggling to grieve and let go with his tears over the hurtful, wrenching loss of his daughter Katie: (Jimmy: "There's one thing you could say about Katie even when she was little. That girl was neat... And it's really starting to piss me off, Dave, because I can't cry for her. My own little daughter, and I can't even cry for her." Dave: "Jimmy. You're crying now." Jimmy: "Yeah, damn. I just want to hug her one more time. She was 19 f--king years old")
  • the scene of an emotionally-scarred Dave with his untrusting, fragile, and panicky wife Celeste (Marcia Gay Harden) recalling his 4-day abuse and feeling like an undead vampire: ("Maybe one day you wake up and you forget what it's like to be human...Dave's dead. I don't know who came out of that cellar, but it sure as shit wasn't Dave...It's like vampires. Once it's in you, it stays...")
  • the scene of suspected teen Brendan Harris (Thomas Guiry), Katie's boyfriend, who spoke poignantly about his lost love after her death: ("I'm never gonna feel that again. It doesn't happen twice")

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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