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

Of Mice and Men (1939 and 1992)

  • one of the saddest scenes of all time - the mercy-killing of child-like brute Lennie (Lon Chaney, Jr./John Malkovich) by his best friend and guardian George Milton (Burgess Meredith/Gary Sinise). Lennie had accidentally killed Mae (Betty Field/Sherilyn Fenn), the wife of the ranch boss' son Curley (Bob Steele/Casey Siemaszko), and George was faced with killing his friend to spare him from Curley's wrath and a lynch mob.
  • before a tragic and tear-jerking mercy killing in the film's final scene, George promised his friend that they would finally have a place of their own - he distracted him with the retelling of their dream of a ranch of their own, before shooting him in the back of the head:

(1939 Version):
George: We're gonna have a little place...We're gonna have a cow, pigs and chickens. And then down on a flat, we're gonna have a field of alfafa.
Lennie: ...for the rabbits...and I get to tend the rabbits.
George: You tend the rabbits.
Lennie: And we could live off the fat of the land.
George: Just keep lookin' across that river. (He turned Lennie around) Like you can really see it.
Lennie: Where?
George: Right there. Can't you almost see 'em?
Lennie: Where, George?
George: Keep lookin'. Just keep hopin'.
Lennie: Aw, I'm lookin', George. Aw, I'm lookin'.
George: It's gonna be nice, Lennie. There ain't gonna be no trouble. No fights, there ain't gonna be nobody mean to nobody, steal from. Things are gonna be right.
Lennie (excitedly): Yeah, I can see it. Right over there. George, I can see it.

(1992 Version):
George: We're gonna get a little place...We're gonna have a cow, and some pigs, and we're gonna have, maybe-maybe, a chicken. Down in the flat, we'll have a little field of...
Lennie: Field of alfalfa for the rabbits.
George: ...for the rabbits.
Lennie: And I get to tend the rabbits...

Lennie's last pitiful words were about his oft-repeated task.

[Note: Memorably remade in 1992 with John Malkovich and Gary Sinise (pictured).]

An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)

  • the tough training of drill instructor Sgt. Emil Foley (Louis Gossett, Jr.) - notably of naval candidate trainee Zack Mayo (Richard Gere) who was powerfully determined to not quit his recruit training: (Foley: "I want your DOR...All right, then you can forget it! You're out!" Mayo: "I ain't gonna quit...Don't you do it! Don't you - I got nowhere else to go! I got nowhere else to g... I ain't got nothin' else. I got nothin' else")
  • the tragic scene of Mayo's buddy Sid Worley (David Keith) committing suicide by hanging (in the nude in a motel bathroom) after a failed relationship with Paula Pokrifki's (Debra Winger) manipulative work friend Lynette Pomeroy (Lisa Blount)
  • the rousing romantic finale (often considered cheesy) in which Zack kissed and then carried a surprised paper factory worker/girlfriend Paula away from her job in his arms: (Lynette: "Way to go, Paula! Way to go!") - to the sounds of "Up Where We Belong" during the credits

The Old Maid (1939)

  • the tearjerker sequences of selfless old maid Aunt Charlotte Lovell (Bette Davis) 'almost' telling her unknowing, free-spirited illegitimate daughter / love child Clementina "Tina" (Jane Bryan) the truth of her parentage on the eve of her wedding day to handsome Lanning Halsey (William Lundigan) - Tina was being raised by her sister Delia Lovell Ralston (Miriam Hopkins)
  • Aunt Charlotte's tender words to Tina at her bedside, about her strict love: "If I've been severe with you at times, I haven't meant it. I love you very much"
  • the final scene of the new bride Tina's last kiss given to her special Aunt, at the special request of Delia


Old Yeller (1957)


  • the devastating scene in which young Travis (Tommy Kirk) had to kill his faithful companion Ol' Yeller (trapped in a barn) with a rifle (off-screen) after the dog contracted rabies

Los Olvidados (1950, Mex.) (aka The Forgotten Ones, or The Young and the Damned)

  • the travails of young gang member Pedro (Alfonso Mejía) who prostituted himself to survive
  • the poignant image of a bloody-nosed, battered Pedro looking forlornly through a dirty window
  • the heart-breaking conclusion - the graceless disposal of slain Pedro's body -- put in a sack and carried out of town on a donkey's back to be dumped down a garbage-strewn cliff -- while Pedro's mother passed in the street, ironically searching for Pedro and not knowing her son was dead

On Golden Pond (1981)


  • the opening sequence when elderly Norman Thayer (76 year-old Henry Fonda) became momentarily lost, fearful and distressed over his failing physical and mental health, and spoke with relief to his wife Ethel (Katharine Hepburn): ("You want to know why I came back so fast? I got to the end of our lane, I couldn't remember where the old town road was. I wandered a way in the woods. There was nothing familiar. Not one damn tree. Scared me half to death. That's why I came running back here to you to see your pretty face. I could feel safe. I was still me"); she responded calmly: ("You're safe, you old poop"); Ethel also offered comforting words: ("Listen to me, mister, you're my knight in shining armor. Don't you forget it. You're gonna get back on that horse and I'm gonna be right behind you, holding on tight and away we're gonna go, go, go!")
  • the teary confrontation and ultimate reconciliation between Norman and estranged daughter Chelsea Thayer (Jane Fonda) at the dock: (Chelsea: "I think that maybe you and I should have the kind of relationship that we're supposed to have....Well, you know, like a father and a daughter....It just seems that you and me have been mad at each other for so long..." Norman: "I didn't think we were mad. I thought we just didn't like each other" - ending with Chelsa's suggestion: "I want to be your friend"); their conversation culminated with Chelsea eagerly doing "a real g-ddamned back-flip" off the diving board for an appreciative Norman
  • the final scene in which Norman's wife Ethel was worried sick when aging husband Norman collapsed due to angina on their front porch; she first prayed: ("Dear God, don't take him now. You don't want him. He's just an old poop"). Then she spoke about death: ("This is the first time that I've really felt that we were gonna die....When I looked at you here on the floor, I could actually see you dead. I could see you in your blue suit and white, starched shirt in Thomas's funeral parlor on Bradshaw Street....You've been talking about death ever since we met, but this is the first time I really felt it...Oh, it feels odd. Cold, I guess. Not that bad, really. Not so frightening. Almost comforting. Not such a bad place to go. I don't know!"); then in a lighter moment as he stood on the porch, he used slang he had learned from 13 year-old Billy (Doug McKeon): (''Wanna dance or would you rather just suck face?'')
  • the film's final line of dialogue, when Norman noticed that the loons had returned to the lake: "The loons, they've come around to say good-bye. Just the two of them now. Their baby's all grown up and moved to Los Angeles or somewhere"

On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969, UK)


  • the famous ending in which just-married James Bond (George Lazenby) lost his new wife Tracy Di Vicenzo (Diane Rigg), when Blofeld's (Telly Savalas) henchwoman Irma Bunt (Ilse Steppat) strafed their limousine with machine-gun fire - missing Bond but killing Tracy. Bond ducked and avoided being hit, and shouted twice: "It's Blofeld" as he jumped into his car, but then realized that Tracy had been hit in the forehead by a bullet through the windshield and instantly killed. He cradled her in his arms, and at first denied her death to a police officer on a motorcycle: ("It's alright. It's quite alright, really. She's having a rest. We'll be going on soon. There's no hurry, you see. We have all the time in the world").
  • the heart-breaking scene and Bond's mournful words were punctuated by Louis Armstrong's beautiful and ironic rendition of: "We Have All the Time In the World"

On the Waterfront (1954)

  • dockworker and ex-boxer Terry Malloy's (Marlon Brando) regretful speech to his brother Charley (Rod Steiger) in the back seat of a taxi-cab: ("It wasn't him, Charley! It was you. You remember that night in the Garden, you came down to my dressing room and said: 'Kid, this ain't your night. We're going for the price on Wilson.' You remember that? 'This ain't your night!' My night! I coulda taken Wilson apart! So what happens? He gets the title shot outdoors in the ball park - and whadda I get? A one-way ticket to Palookaville....You was my brother, Charley. You shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me - just a little bit - so I wouldn't have to take them dives for the short-end money....You don't understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am. Let's face it (pause) ...... It was you, Charley")

Once Were Warriors (1994, NZ)

  • Lee Tamahori's searing melodrama about domestic abuse and alcoholism set in the Maori community in New Zealand
  • the realistic, brutal, difficult-to-watch domestic abuse scene in which Jake Heke (Temuera Morrison) savagely beat his abused wife Beth (Rena Owen) when she refused to cook eggs (she smashed them on the floor) - he punched her repeatedly, slammed her against the living room wall and mirror, kicked her, and threw her into the bedroom, and then raped her (off-screen) (screaming: "YOU DO AS YOU ARE F--KIN' TOLD"), as the four children, including 13 year-old writer Grace Heke (Mamaengaroa Kerr-Bell), huddled and cowered together in a bunk bed listening to the violence
  • Grace's own rape in the middle of the night by Jake's best friend "Uncle" Bully (Cliff Curtis) in her own bedroom, as he told her: ("It's OK, Gracie. Uncle Bully is gonna be gentle with you, as gentle as a lamb"); he excused himself by blaming her for turning him on ("Your mum and dad are gonna be real angry at you turning me on like that, coming downstairs in nothing but that flimsy little nightie. It's our secret, hey, Gracie? You hear me, girl? Keep your mouth shut"); the next morning, she attempted to scrub herself clean in a bathtub, and subsequently committed suicide by hanging herself

Ordinary People (1980)


  • the moving scene of suicidal high-school student Conrad "Con" Jarrett's (Timothy Hutton) breakthrough when he admitted his feelings of guilt and pain regarding his older brother Buck's (Scott Doebler) accidental drowning (during a sailing trip) in his late-night therapy session with the psychiatrist Dr. Berger (Judd Hirsch); he finally acknowledged when asked: "And what was the one thing wrong you did?" - his answer: "I hung on, I stayed with the boat." The therapist reassured him:
    Berger: Now. You can live with that. Can't you?
    Conrad: I'm scared! I'm scared.
    Berger: Feelings are scary. And sometimes they're painful. And if you can't feel pain, then you're not gonna feel anything else either. You know what I'm saying?
    Conrad: I think so.
    Berger: You're here and you're alive, and don't
    tell me you don't feel that.
    Conrad: It doesn't feel good.
    Berger: It is good. Believe me.
    Conrad: How do you know?
    Berger: Because I'm your friend.
    Conrad: I don't know what I would've done if you hadn't been here. You're really my friend?
    Berger: I am. Count on it.
  • the climactic scene in which Conrad's compassionate and warm-hearted father Calvin (Donald Sutherland) admitted his loss of love for his cold and icy wife Beth (Mary Tyler Moore), who had put all her love into her eldest son Buck: ("You're not strong. And I don't know if you're really giving. Tell me something. Do you love me? Do you really love me?...We would've been all right if there hadn't been the mess.You can't handle mess. You need everything neat and easy. I don't know. Maybe you can't love anybody. It was so much Buck. When Buck died, it was as if you buried all your love with him. And I don't understand that. I just don't know. Maybe it wasn't even Buck. Maybe it was just you. Maybe, finally, it was the best of you that you buried. But whatever it was, I don't know who you are. I don't know what we've been playing at. So I was crying. Because I don't know if I love you anymore. And I don't know what I'm going to do without that")
  • the closing scene before the credits in which Calvin reconnected with his son - with pledges of love and a hug

Orphans of the Storm (1921)

  • the scene in which Henriette Girard (Lillian Gish) heard the voice of her blind, kidnapped half-sister Louise (Dorothy Gish) singing in the street below - but was unable to get to her from the balcony before she was arrested
  • the tearful reunion scene between the two sisters (and the miraculous restoration of eyesight for Louise)

The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)

  • the final scene of the reading of a letter of one of the innocent victims lynched by a mob, Donald Martin (Dana Andrews). The letter was read posthumously by Gil Carter (Henry Fonda): ("...A man just naturally can't take the law into his own hands and hang people without hurtin' everybody in the world, 'cause then he's just not breakin' one law, but all laws. Law is a lot more than words you put in a book, or judges or lawyers or sheriffs you hire to carry it out. It's everything people ever have found out about justice and what's right and wrong. It's the very conscience of humanity. There can't be any such thing as civilization unless people have a conscience, because if people touch God anywhere, where is it except through their conscience? And what is anybody's conscience except a little piece of the conscience of all men that ever lived? I guess that's all I've got to say except - kiss the babies for me and God bless ya. Your husband, Donald")

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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