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 Song of Bernadette (1943)

  • Bernadette Soubirous/Mary Bernard's (Jennifer Jones) death scene when her deathbed was surrounded by other nuns and priests as the last rites were read. Bernadette worried that she wouldn't ever see the Virgin Mary (Linda Darnell) again: ("Where are you, Madame? Where are you? She's gone...I won't see her. I'll never see her again. Never, never, I'll never see...")
  • about at the moment of death, she raised her head from the pillow and experienced a final visitation from the Virgin Mary who held out her arms, and smiled. Bernadette responded: ("I love you! I love you! Holy Mary, Mother of God. Pray for me.")
  • after her death, Father Peyramale (Charles Bickford) stated: ("You are now in Heaven and on Earth. Your life begins, O Bernadette"). Superimposed bells began to peal from the church tower, and there was a chorus of "Hallelujahs," as the film concluded

Sophie's Choice (1982)


  • the flashback scene of the excruciating, heart-rending 'choice' that Polish woman Sophie Zawistowska (Meryl Streep) had to make in a concentration camp with a Nazi officer. First, the officer told her that she was beautiful and he propositioned her: "I'd like to get you in bed." He then asked: "Are you a Polack?" She answered, trembling: ("I am a Pole! I was born in Krakow. I am not a Jew. Neither are my children. They're not Jews. They are racially pure. I'm a Christian. I'm a devout Catholic"). He slowly turned and asked a second time: "You're not a communist?...You're a believer," to which she affirmed: "Yes sir, I believe in Christ."
  • after obliquely referring to one of Christ's sayings: "Suffer the little children," he gave her a fateful choice: "You may keep one of your children." Sophie stuttered back: "I beg your pardon?" He repeated his order: "You may keep one of your children. The other one must go." She asked: "You mean, I have to choose?" He responded: "You're a Polack, not a Yid. That gives you a privilege. A choice." She affirmed three times: "I can't choose." He threatened: ("Choose! Or I'll send them both over there. Make a choice!"). She begged: ("Don't make me choose! I can't!") Exasperated, he ordered: ("Take both children away!"). She made a heart-wrenching ultimate decision: ("Take my little girl! Take my baby"). As her screaming daughter was taken away, Sophie's face displayed agonizing pain

Sounder (1972)


  • the sentimental and authentic coming-of-age story of eldest son David Lee Morgan (Kevin Hooks), in a sharecropper family in Louisiana during the Depression Era
  • the jail scene in which a racist guard wrecked young David's cake, under the premise of searching for weapons (while white visitors went unchecked). As he poked in about 10 places into the cake with a switchblade, he explained: ("Can't be too careful, boy, jest might be a steel file or a hacksaw in it"). David was bringing the cake to his jailed father Nathan Lee Morgan (Paul Winfield), who had been convicted of "unlawful trespass and robbery" (he was trying to provide food for his family). Nathan was on his way to serve one year in a labor camp. David had to apologize for the cake's appearance: ("This was a real cake before the man outside put all these holes in it.") Fortunately, his father didn't mind: ("Aw, that don't make no difference. If I know your mama, a few ol' knife holes ain't goin' destroy the soul that she gotta put in this cake. Here, now, have a piece with your Daddy")
  • the return of injured family dog Sounder, although wounded from a gunshot from a deputy's shotgun when defending the family (when Nathan was originally taken by police)
  • David's fantasy-dream sequence of his father's return from prison labor camp, in which he greeted his beloved, returning father Nathan (with outstretched arms in a field)
  • the long odyssey of David and Sounder journeying to the Wishbone Labor Camp to speak to his father, but they couldn't locate him and they were chased away by guards at the gate because it wasn't visiting day
  • the overdue return home of a limping Nathan from the prison camp (a lone figure on the road), let go early because of his leg injury due to a dynamite blast. His return was signaled by Sounder's barking, and he was joyfully greeted by his resolute wife Rebecca (Cicely Tyson)
  • David's worry that soon after his father's return, he would be leaving to go to school: ("You just got home, I want to stay home, and be with you"), after an invitation by a dedicated black schoolteacher Camille Johnson (Janet MacLachlan). David argued with his father and insisted on staying home, although Nathan argued otherwise: (David: "But Daddy, who's gonna help you in the field? Your leg is hurt. You can't work like you used to. Who's gonna help you around the house?" Nathan: "If I had both of my legs cut off, I could do more work in that field than you could in a hundred years"). Rebecca reminded Nathan of the boy's dedication: ("He missed you a grave big while you was gone. He sweated and worried to find out just where you were, and made that long journey. You're home, and it's only a natural thing for him to be with ya now."). Nathan reasoned with David: ("There ain't nobody here but them bastards that sent me..well. Son, don't get too used to this place, because wherever you is, I'm gonna love you. Not only me, your mama, Josie Mae and Earl, we gonna love you even more. We gonna come and see you at that school every chance we get. I love you, son. Don't ever think that I don't love you. Don't you think we're gonna get to be friends?")
  • the final scene of David's departure to school with his father and Sounder on a wagon: ("You know somethin', Daddy...I'm gonna miss this ol' raggedy place. But I sure ain't gonna worry 'bout it!")

Soylent Green (1973)

  • in a moving deathbed sequence, Detective Thorn (Charlton Heston) was at the side of Sol Roth (Edward G. Robinson in his final film role) in an assisted-suicide facility known as the "Home" (within Madison Square Garden). He had chosen a poignant, painless and suicidal death in the euthanasia clinic's chamber. He was put to rest (to "go home") with orange-hued lighting, classical music playing (Tchaikovsky's "Pathetique" Symphony No. 6, Beethoven's "Pastoral" Symphony No. 6, and segments of Grieg's "Peer Gynt Suite") and projected video (of a peaceful and "beautiful" green Earth ages ago when animal and plant life thrived and there was no pollution)
  • Sol died amidst the musical and visual montages with his tearful friend Thorn (who shed real tears due to the real-life poignancy of the dying Robinson) near him in a nearby sealed control room. Before dying, Sol told Thorn: ("I've lived too long.") Thorn replied: ("I love you, Sol.") Thorn was astounded by the images: ("How could I know? How could I, how could I ever imagine?")

Spartacus (1960)


  • after the quelling of the slave revolt, the moment when Spartacus was called forth by the Romans to reveal himself, and all of the slaves cried out to protect him: ("I'm Spartacus!")
  • the duel to the death between Antoninus (Tony Curtis) and Spartacus (Kirk Douglas) when they were forced to fight against each other by Crassus (Laurence Olivier) - with Spartacus' killing of Antoninus to spare him from crucifixion: (Antoninus' dying words: "I love you, Spartacus, as I love my own father." Spartacus: "I love you, like my son that I'll never see. Go to sleep")
  • the closing scene in which Varinia (Jean Simmons) held up their newborn son to a crucified Spartacus: ("This is your son. He's free, Spartacus, free. He's free. He's free. He'll remember you, Spartacus, because I'll tell him. I'll tell him who his father was, and what he dreamed of"). Forced to move along, she grasped his ankle for a few last words, begging him to die: ("Oh, my love, my life. Please die, die. Please die, die my love. Oh, God, why can't you die?...(Looking back) Goodbye, my love, my life. Goodbye, good-bye")

Splendor in the Grass (1961)

  • the school scene of teenaged Wilma Dean ("Deanie") Loomis' (Natalie Wood) interpretation of the "splendor in the grass" - Wordsworth's 1807 poem:
    What though the radiance which was once so bright
    Be now forever taken from my sight,
    Though nothing can bring back the hour
    Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower,
    We will grieve not, rather find
    Strength in what remains behind
    (Deanie: "Well, I think it has some...Well, when we're young, we look at things very idealistically, I guess, and I think Wordsworth means that when we grow up, that we have to forget the ideals of youth and find strength..."), before she became overwhelmed, and asked to be excused from the classroom
  • the emotionally devastating sequence of Deanie's steam bath (and her strict mother's (Audrey Christie) questioning about her being possibly devirginized): (Mother: "Deanie, how serious had you and Bud become? I mean, well, you know what I mean. Deanie - had he - had anything serious happened? Did he - did he spoil you?" Deanie: "Spoil??? Did he spoil me? No. No, Mom! I'm not spoiled! I'm not spoiled, Mom! I'm just as fresh and I'm virginal like the day I was born, Mom!... I'm a lovely virginal creature who wouldn't think of being spoiled! I've been a good little girl, Mom! I've been a good little, good little, good little girl! I've always done everything Daddy and Mommy tell me. I've obeyed every word. I hate you, I hate you, I HATE YOU!")
  • the scene of her being rebuffed and rejected by boyfriend Bud Stamper (Warren Beatty), followed by her drowning suicide attempt
  • the final sequence of her bittersweet reunion with ex-boyfriend Bud years later (who has since married Italian immigrant waitress Angelina (Zohra Lampert) and had an infant son) while wearing a virginal white dress outfit and hat - and her recollection of the Wordsworth poem (in voice-over) and its meaning after being asked by her old high school friends in the car: ("Do you think you still love him?"): "Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, glory in the flower, we will grieve not; rather find strength in what remains behind."

Stage Door (1937)

  • the emotional suicide scene of depressed aspiring actress Kaye Hamilton (Andrea Leeds) - who had ascended the staircase while hearing imaginary applause before committing the deed
  • the reaction to Kaye's suicide by rich/refined actress friend Terry Randall (Katharine Hepburn): ("I've got to get out of here. I'm not going on...Why didn't someone tell me? I would have given up a thousand times rather than have this happen. I'm going to go out there and tell them I'm not going to go on. And I'm going to tell them why"), but then Terry's memorable on-stage tearful rendition of the "calla lilies are in bloom...": ("The calla lilies are in bloom again. Such a strange flower, suitable to any occasion. I carried them on my wedding day, and now I place them here in memory of something that has died...Have you gathered here to mourn, or are you here to bring me comfort?...")
  • Terry's mournful curtain call speech: ("...I'm not responsible for what happened on this stage tonight. The person you should be applauding died a few hours ago...")

Stand By Me (1986)


  • in this coming-of-age film mostly told in flashback, two of four schoolboy buddies in their town of Castle Rock in Oregon in 1959, Vern Tessio (Jerry O'Connell) and Teddy Duchamp (Corey Feldman) walked along railroad tracks as they had a discussion about Mighty Mouse vs. Superman:
    Vern: Do you think Mighty Mouse could beat up Superman?
    Teddy: What are you, cracked?
    Vern: Why not? I saw the other day, he was carrying five elephants in one hand.
    Teddy: Boy, you don't know nothin'. Mighty Mouse is a cartoon. Superman is a real guy. No way a cartoon could beat up a real guy.
    Vern: Yeah, maybe you're right. It would be a good fight, though.

  • intercut with the scene was another conversation between the two other schoolboys walking along behind them at the same time - tough Chris Chambers (River Phoenix) and quiet/studious Gordon "Gordie" Lachance (Wil Wheaton):
    Chris: You could be a real writer someday, Gordie.
    Gordie: F--k writing! I don't want to be a writer. It's stupid. It's a stupid waste of time.
    Chris: That's your dad talking.
    Gordie: Bulls--t!
    Chris: Bulltrue! I know how your dad feels about you. He doesn't give a s--t about you. Denny was the one he cared about, and don't try to tell me different. You're just a kid, Gordie.
    Gordie: Oh, gee, thanks dad.
    Chris: Wish the hell I was your dad. You wouldn't be goin' around talking about taking these stupid shop-courses if I was. It's like God gave you something, man. All those stories that you can make up. An' he said: This is what we got for you, kid, try not to lose it. But kids lose everything unless there's someone there to look out for them. And if your parents are too f--ked up to do it, then maybe I should.
  • and later that night, Chris explained to Gordie that he was always labeled a 'low-life' due to his family's 'black-sheep' reputation as criminals and alcoholics. He told a story about how he had stolen 'milk money' and was given a "three-day vacation" when a teacher betrayed his trust after he gave back the money: (Chris: "It's the way the people think of my family in this town. It's the way they think of me. I'm just one of those low-life Chambers kids...I was the stupid one for even trying to give it back. I just never thought, I never thought that a teacher... Who gives a f--k anyway? I just wish that I could go some place where nobody knows me. (sobbing) I guess I'm just a pussy, huh?")
  • the film's last line (accompanied by Ben E. King's title theme song) in which the Writer (Richard Dreyfuss) lamented as he typed: ("Although I hadn't seen him in more than ten years, I know I'll miss him forever. I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anybody?")

A Star Is Born (1954)


  • the scene of singer Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester (Judy Garland) singing the first chorus of "Lose That Long Face" followed by her breakdown in the dressing room confessional scene with Oliver Niles (Charles Bickford) regarding her alcoholic husband Norman Maine (James Mason): ("What is it that makes him want to destroy himself?...You don't know what it's like to watch somebody you love just crumble away bit by bit, day by day, in front of your eyes, and stand there helpless. Love isn't enough, I thought it was. I thought I was the answer for Norman. But love isn't enough for him....Sometimes, I hate him. I hate his promises to stop, and then the watching and waiting to see it begin again. I hate to go home to him at nights and listen to his lies...I hate me cause I've failed too...All he's got left is his pride"). Afterwards, she forced herself to go back on stage to sing the song again
  • the prelude to Vicki's husband Norman's suicide, when he announced that he was going to start his changed life with a healthy regimen of swimming ("a happy mind...a happy body") - to turn his life around. He said he was "fit as a fiddle and ready for love." He suggested "some changes around the house" to his unsuspecting wife Vicki to liven it up. He suggested she prepare hot soup and sandwiches as a meal for after his swim. When he requested that she sing a song for him, she thought it silly, and said she would open the kitchen windows so he could hear her from there. He then made one final request, stopping short to take one long look at her before she walked away out of view: ("Hey - I just wanted to look at you again"). As Norman walked outside onto the deck, he heard her singing from afar: "It's a New World" - her voice continued to be in the background for the remainder of the sequence. Norman began to walk toward the ocean (seen reflected in the glass doors) and came up to the water, where he removed his outer robe. In a long shot, he began to walk toward the setting sun on the horizon - and committed suicide by drowning himself (off-screen). His cast-aside robe was caught by the rising tide and washed away.
  • the unforgettable poignant ending and closing tribute line by Vicki to her husband was delivered in front of a large audience as she proudly identified herself: "This is Mrs. Norman Maine"

Star Trek: Generations (1994)

  • the sentimental scene of Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) looking at his family memories photo album, and commenting about the death of his brother Robert and nephew Renee in a fire, to ship's counselor Commander Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), when he became choked-up and sobbed: ("These things happen...I've been thinking about, about all the experiences that Renee's not gonna have -- going to the Academy, reading books, listening to music, falling in love ... building a life. Well, it's not going to happen now....I'd come to feel that Renee was as close as I would get to having a child of my own....When Robert married and had a son, I..."). She finished his sentence: ("You felt it was no longer your responsibility to carry on the family line"). He continued: ("Right. Yes. That's it exactly. You know, Counselor, recently I've become very much aware that there are fewer days ahead than there are behind. But I took some comfort from the fact that the family would go on. Now, there'll be no more Picards")
  • the self-sacrificial death of Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) after plunging off a blown-apart bridge into a rocky chasm-ravine - he had just helped Captain Jean-Luc Picard destroy a doomsday missile - designed by crazed maniac Dr. Tolian Soran (Malcolm McDowell) - to blow up the planet Veridian III's sun and consequently kill 230 million people. As Kirk lay mortally-wounded under the wreckage, he was assured by Picard that they "made a difference." He half-whispered his final words to Picard: ("Did we do it? Did we make a difference?...(The) least I could do ... for the Captain of the Enterprise. It (His eyes widened in astonishment, then he breathlessly added before dying) - Oh, my....")
  • the finale in which android Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) - embedded with an emotion chip - was reunited with his cat Spot, when the animal was found alive and well after the U.S.S. Enterprise had crashed. He surprised himself by crying yellow tears: (Data: "At first I was unprepared for the unpredictable nature of the emotions. However, having experienced two hundred and sixty-one distinct emotional states, I believe I have learned to control my feelings. They will no longer control me....(He discovered Spot and was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion.) Spot! I'm very happy to see you, Spot...I am uncertain, Counselor. I am happy to see Spot, and yet I am crying. Perhaps the chip is malfunctioning?" - Deanna reassured Data: "I think it's working perfectly")
  • in the final scene, Picard's delivery of closing thoughts to Cmdr. William T. Riker (Jonathan Frakes), his "Number One", as they surveyed the damage to the USS Enterprise: ("Someone once told me that time is a predator that stalked us all our lives. And I rather believe that time is a companion who goes with us on the journey, and reminds us to cherish every moment, because they'll never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we lived. After all, Number One, we're only mortal"). Riker replied: ("Speak for yourself, sir. I plan to live forever"). The two were beamed up to the Farragut, as Picard mused: ("Somehow I doubt this will be the last ship to carry the name Enterprise")

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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