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

Salaam Bombay! (1988, India)

  • the wrenching drama of abandoned eleven-year-old Krishna (real-life street rag-picker Shafiq Syed) who headed to the big city of Bombay (with demands from his mother to not come home until he had acquired 500 rupees to reimburse his brother for damaging his bicycle), where he joined hordes of homeless urchin children and down-and-out adults scrambling to survive the harsh streets
  • the memorable heartbreaking scene when Krishna hired a letter-writer to send a message back home, only to realize that he didn't even know where his village was, or what it might be called
  • Krishna's (now called Chaipau - literally "tea delivery boy") unrequited love for terrified, captive 16 year-old Nepalese virgin "Sweet Sixteen" Sola Saal (Chanda Sharma) who was being sold into prostitution in the red-light district, and his awkward attempt to set her free by lighting a fire
  • the famous image of Krishna running aimlessly down a Bombay street through traffic, after escaping from detainment in a juvenile Indian prison

Same Time, Next Year (1978)

  • the achingly poignant Marvin Hamlisch score and title song: "The Last Time I Felt Like This" - sung by Johnny Mathis and Jane Olivor
  • the 1966 scene in which George Peters (Alan Alda) wept profusely when he finally came to terms with the death of his son Michael in Vietnam, during one of his annual extramarital trysts with lover Doris (Ellen Burstyn), after he had admitted to her: ("I can't seem to cry for him")
  • George's proposal of marriage to Doris after 26 years of meeting sporadically, although she refused because of a sense of duty to her unseen spouse Harry: ("I can't...I'm already married" and because "it's a lot of things - affection, respect, and a sense of continuity. I mean, we share all the same memories. It's comfortable"). He became angry with himself: ("Goddamn it. I was the one who brought you back together six years ago. Why did I do such a stupid thing? Why was I so generous?") Then, she cautioned him: ("You might've been stuck with me for good, and that idea scared you to death"). The scene ended with her assurance: ("I've always loved what I've seen") and she offered him the best alternative to having her: ("You can still have me once a year, same time, same place"). He gave her an ultimatum: "We'll never see each other again...Doris, for God's sake, marry me." When rejected, he said he had to catch a plane and he went out the door
  • in the following scene, George unexpectedly and almost immediately returned ("OK, I'm back, god-damn-it") as she was lying on her bed crying, admitting that he was "desperate." In the tearjerking, crowd-pleasing finale, he promised: "I'm back, and I'm gonna keep coming back every year until our bones are too brittle to risk contact" - as they hugged and kissed

Sansho the Bailiff (1954, Jp.) (aka Sanshô Dayû)

  • Kenji Mizoguchi's very moving and sad drama was about a family torn apart - it ended with the tearful reunion of grown son Zushio (Yoshiaki Hanayagi) with his hobbled, half-mad mother Tamaki (Kinuyo Tanaka) (now aged, lame and blind, and with a shattered life), who had been seized and forced into life as a prostitute on the island of Sado, now a tsunami-devastated beach; they had been separated for twenty years; her husband Masauji Taira (Masao Shimizu), and daughter Anju (Kyôko Kagawa) had perished years earlier under cruel circumstances
  • Zushio heard his mother's singing - at first she didn't believe he was her son, and then was saddened to hear when he revealed that both Anju and her husband were dead: "It's just you and I. We're all alone now" - he also claimed that he had finally adopted his father's teachings: "I could have come for you as a governor, but I gave up my title in order to follow Father's teachings. Please, Mother, forgive me!" - she responded: "What nonsense do you speak of? I don't know what you have done, but I know that you followed your Father's teachings. And that is why we have been able to meet again"

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

  • the poignant, sacrificial death of Capt. John Miller (Tom Hanks) when fatally shot in the chest during battle. His final heroic, weakly-muttered, terse words were an order to PFC James Ryan (Matt Damon) to 'earn' the sacrifices that saved him on the mission, before his eyes flickered and he ceased living: ("James... Earn this. Earn it.")
  • in voice-over, a lengthy letter from General George C. Marshall to Ryan's mother was read informing her that her sole surviving, youngest son was alive and returning home from the European battlefield: ("My dear Mrs. Ryan. It's with the most profound sense of joy that I write to inform you your son, Private James Ryan, is well and, at this very moment, on his way home from European battlefields. Reports from the front indicate James did his duty in combat with great courage and steadfast dedication, even after he was informed of the tragic loss your family has suffered in this great campaign to rid the world of tyranny and oppression. I take great pleasure in joining the Secretary of War, the men and women of the United States Army, and the citizens of a grateful nation in wishing you good health and many years of happiness with James at your side. Nothing, not even the safe return of a beloved son, can compensate you, or the thousands of other American families, who have suffered great loss in this tragic war...")
  • Miller's face transitionally dissolved or morphed into the face of the nameless, elderly teary-eyed veteran (Harrison Young) - revealed to be an older Ryan - visiting the Normandy cemetery at the film's beginning (50 years later) - at the grave site of Captain Miller. The older, teary-eyed Ryan asked his wife for reassurance: ("Am I a good man? Tell me that I have been a good man"), and uncomprehendingly - she reassured him
  • the final image of a back-lit American flag billowing in the wind

Schindler's List (1993)

  • the upsetting, brutal scene of the clearing and liquidation of the Krakow Ghetto, and the fate of a girl in a drab red coat: still wearing her coat, she was later spotted on a small cart with another corpse
  • the exhumation and incineration of the corpses in graves
  • the labored compilation and typing of 'Schindler's List' by Stern as Schindler desperately paces the room - including Stern's eloquent summation: "The list is an absolute good. The list is life. All around its margins lies the gulf"
  • the arrival of a boxcar of female workers at Auschwitz and the intense shower scene
  • Schindler's final address to his workers following the war, and his announcement of the unconditional surrender of Germany: ("The unconditional surrender of Germany has just been announced. At midnight tonight, the war is over. Tomorrow, you'll begin the process of looking for survivors of your families. In most cases, you won't find them. After six long years of murder, victims are being mourned throughout the world. We've survived. Many of you have come up to me and thanked me. Thank yourselves. Thank your fearless Stern, and others among you who worried about you and faced death at every moment. (sighing) I'm a member of the Nazi party. I'm a munitions manufacturer. I'm a profiteer of slave labor. I am a criminal. At midnight, you'll be free and I'll be hunted. I shall remain with you until five minutes after midnight. After which time, and I hope you'll forgive me, I have to flee. (To the Nazi guards) I know you have received orders from our Commandant, which he has received from his superiors, to dispose of the population of this camp. Now would be the time to do it. Here they are, they're all here. This is your opportunity. (murmuring) Or, you could leave, and return to your families as men instead of murderers. (The guards left) In memory of the countless victims among your people, I ask us to observe three minutes of silence")
  • Oskar Schindler's (Liam Neeson) heart-wrenching goodbye to his accountant Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley): ("I could've got more... I didn't do enough")
  • the final coda (in color) pairing real-life survivors with their counterpart actors/actresses as they placed rocks on the real-life grave of Schindler

The Secret of NIMH (1982)

  • the touching scene of tiny little field mouse Mrs. Brisby (voice of Elizabeth Hartman) administering medicine to mortally-threatened pneumonia-inflicted son Timmy (voice of Ian Fried) to the tune of Paul Williams' "Flying Dreams Lullaby"; she assured her other worried children: ("He's just very sick. Mr. Ages called it pneumonia")
  • Nicodemus' (Derek Jacobi) description of the National Institute of Mental Health's (NIMH) laboratory: ("...There were many animals there, in cages. They were put through the most unspeakable tortures to satisfy some scientific curiosity. Often at night, I would hear them crying out in anguish. Twenty rats and eleven mice were given injections.")

Secrets & Lies (1996, UK)


  • the climactic birthday scene in which hidden secrets, evasions and personal issues were finally revealed -- highlighted by frumpy, unmarried, middle-aged working class London mother Cynthia Rose Purley (Brenda Blethyn), a factory worker, admitting to her bitter, sullen, abusive 21 year-old street-sweeper daughter Roxanne (Claire Rushbrook), during her birthday party, that one of the guests - successful, soft-spoken, compassionate, and good-natured 27 year-old black optometrist Hortense Cumberbatch (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) was actually her half-sister ("She's your sister!"); Cynthia was Hortense's long-lost biological mother (who was fathered by a Jamaican boy when Cynthia was 15 years old)
  • Cynthia's silently suffering photographer brother Maurice Purley's (Timothy Spall) angry speech about all of the family's pains and secrets - including his revelation that his wife Monica Purley (Phyllis Logan) was incapable of having children: ("Secrets and lies! We're all in pain! Why can't we share our pain? I've spent my entire life trying to make people happy, and the three people I love the most in the world hate each other's guts, and I'm in the middle! I can't take it anymore!")
  • the final overhead shot of Cynthia, Roxanne and Hortense settling comfortably in the backyard as a new family and having tea, and Cynthia's contented last line: ("This is the life, ain't it?")

Sense & Sensibility (1995, UK/US)


  • the sad scene in which spirited Marianne Dashwood (Kate Winslet) discovered that "good-for-nothing" dashing womanizer John Willoughby (Greg Wise) - the man she had fallen madly in love with during a torrid affair - had sent her a "Dear John" letter; he returned her letters and lock of hair, and announced his engagement to a rich woman (Miss Grey reportedly with 50,000 pounds); Marianne's sister Elinor Dashwood (Emma Thompson) commiserated with her: "He's broken faith with all of us. He made us all believe he loved you," after which Marianne collapsed inconsolable
  • the scene of Marianne staring at Willoughby's mansion estate during a heavy rainstorm - and her trance-like recitation of William Shakespeare's 116th Sonnet: ("Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove. Oh. no. It is an ever fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken") - leading to her near-death of pneumonia
  • in the film's conclusion set at Dashwood cottage, the surprising and unexpected news from stepbrother-in-law bachelor Edward Ferrars (Hugh Grant) to his shy love interest Elinor Dashwood that he had released from engagement his greedy fiancee Lucy Steele (Imogen Stubbs) - and that his brother Robert (Richard Lumsden) had married her the previous week in Plymouth -- and Elinor's exultant, near-hysterical half-laughing/half-crying response of happy tears to the news that he was now available
  • Edward's profession of love to Elinor, explaining how he originally thought they were only friends: ("I met Lucy when I was very young. Had I had an active profession, I should never have felt such an idle and foolish inclination. My behavior at Norland was very wrong, but I convinced myself that you felt only friendship for me, and that it was my heart alone that I was risking. I have come here with no expectations, only to express, now I am at liberty to do so, that my heart is, and always will be yours"); from afar and up in her tree-house, young Margaret Dashwood (Emilie François) reported to Mrs. Dashwood (Gemma Jones) and Marianne that Edward was proposing to Elinor - the film's final words: ("He's sitting next to her...he's kneeling down")
  • the joyous double-marriage of Elinor with Edward and Marianne with the older, wiser Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman), as the Colonel tossed coins in the air for the witnesses

7th Heaven (1927) (aka Seventh Heaven)

  • the love scenes in the 7th floor bohemian loft ("Seventh Heaven") between street angel-waif Diane (Janet Gaynor) and Parisian sewer worker Chico (Charles Farrell) after her attempted suicide by stabbing
  • the climax that featured their jubilant reconciliation in an ethereal shaft of light

Shadowlands (1993)


  • the scene in which a teary-eyed C. S. "Jack" Lewis (Anthony Hopkins) realized he was truly in love with dying, cancer-stricken Joy Gresham (Debra Winger): ("It's impossible. It's unthinkable. How could Joy be my wife? I'd have to love her, wouldn't I? I'd have to care more for her than for anyone else in this world. I'd have to be suffering the torments of the damned. The prospect of losing her...")
  • Jack's marriage to Joy shortly before her death
  • Joy's deathbed scene, with Jack's last words: ("Don't talk, my love. Just rest...just rest" - and kissing her just before she died: "I love you, Joy. I love you so much. You made me so happy. I didn't know I could be so happy. You're the truest person I have ever known...")
  • Jack and Joy's young son Douglas (Joseph Mazzello) sharing tortured grief and uncontrollable weeping in the attic: (Douglas: "I would like to see her again" Jack: "Me too").

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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