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

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

  • the death scene of Captain Spock (Leonard Nimoy), who had just sacrificed his life (after being exposed to radiation) to save the doomed U.S.S. Enterprise from a deadly explosion. Before Spock went to his death, he transferred his katra -- his memories and experience -- to Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy (DeForest Kelley) with the word "Remember."
  • Spock reassured Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner) as he died: ("Don't grieve, Admiral. It is logical. The needs of the many outweigh (the needs of the few). Or the one. I never took the Kobayashi Maru test, until now. What do you think of my solution? (Spock knelt down) I have been, and always shall be, your friend. (Spock placed his hand on the chamber glass) Live long, and prosper"). Kirk placed his hand opposite Spock's hand as his friend slowly collapsed, slumped down and expired next to him. Kirk quietly said: "No" as Spock died.
  • at Spock's funeral, Kirk delivered a heartfelt eulogy for his friend: ("Of my friend, I can only say this. Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most... human") before Spock was ejected into orbit around a newly-birthed planet from the Genesis Effect explosion
Kirk's Eulogy for Spock
  • the subsequent reconciliation scene of Kirk with his son Dr. David Marcus (Merritt Butrick), capped by a hug: ("I was wrong about you and I'm sorry...And also that I'm proud. Very proud to be your son")
  • (voice-over): Kirk dictated about the next mission - to rescue the remainder of the marooned Reliant crew on Ceti Alpha V: "Captain's log, Stardate 8141.6. Starship Enterprise departing for Ceti Alpha V to pick up the crew of USS Reliant. All is well. And yet I can't help wondering about the friend I leave behind. 'There are always possibilities,' Spock said. And if Genesis is indeed life from death, I must return to this place again." Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy (DeForest Kelley) added: "He's really not dead as long as we remember him."
  • then, Kirk responded, noting his re-discovery of peace and purpose for his life, words taken from the conclusion of A Tale of Two Cities (1935): ("'It's a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done before.' A far better resting place I go to than I have ever known...Something Spock was trying to tell me on my birthday")
  • Kirk replied to his friend Dr. McCoy's question about how he felt: "You okay, Jim? How do you feel?" with Kirk's answer that he felt revitalized and renewed: "Young. I feel young!"
Kirk's Musings About Spock's Death and Life Itself
  • the film's ending, after a pan over the surface of Genesis to locate Spock's casket amongst jungle growth, with his concluding, tearjerking voice-over rendition of the famous television Star Trek opening monologue: ("Space, the final frontier. These are the continuing voyages of the starship Enterprise. Her ongoing mission to explore strange, new worlds, to seek out new life-forms and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.")

"Ship out of danger?"

"Don't grieve, Admiral. It is logical..."

"Live long, and prosper."

Spock's Casket Ejected Into Orbit Around New Planet

Kirk's Reconciling Hug With His Son Dr. David Marcus (Merritt Butrick)

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)

  • the startling, upsetting but noble death of Genesis planet hostage Dr. David Marcus (Merritt Butrick), who was stabbed in the throat by a Klingon on orders from treacherous Klingon Captain Kruge (Christopher Lloyd), in order to save Lieut. Saavik (Robin Curtis)
  • almost immediately, Admiral James T. Kirk's (William Shatner) sensed his son's death; he gave a stunned reaction when the news of the death of his son Dr. David Marcus was delivered to him by Lieut. Saavik: ("Admiral, David is dead")
  • Kirk stumbled backwards to the floor when trying to sit in his captain's chair on his own hijacked starship USS Enterprise, and croaked with anguish: ("You Klingon bastard. You've killed my son. Oh! You Klingon bastard. You've killed my son! You Klingon bastard")

Stabbing Death of Kirk's Son Dr. Marcus

Kirk Sensing His Son's Death

Kirk Stumbling Backwards at the News of the Death

Starman (1984)

  • the scene of the Starman's (Oscar-nominated Jeff Bridges) miraculous resurrection/healing of a dead deer strapped to the hood of a car of a deer hunter (Ted White), parked at a bus stop
  • during a pursuit cross-country to Arizona (for his fellow aliens to pick him up and take him to his home planet), the revelation of the Starman, a cloned duplicate or likeness of deceased husband Scott to recently-widowed, hostage-turned-lover Jenny Hayden (Karen Allen), that after making love to her on a box-car train, he had impregnated her; although she was disbelieving (because she was infertile: "No, that's impossible, I can't have a child"), he reassured her: "I gave you a baby tonight...Believe what I tell you, a boy baby"; he also told her that the child would be human but would possess all of Starman's knowledge: ("He will know everything I know, and when he grows to manhood, he will be a teacher"); she refused his option of stopping it: "If you do not want this baby, tell me now, I will stop it" - her answer was an embrace and kiss
  • in a diner/restaurant while trapped in federal custody, Jenny and the slowly-dying Starman were approached by SETI scientist Mark Shermin (Charles Martin Smith), a Cornell University graduate; Starman delivered an eloquent speech about the human race: ("We are interested in your species...You are a strange species, not like any other, and you would be surprised how many there are. Intelligent but savage. Shall I tell you what I find beautiful about you? You are at your very best when things are worst")

Diner/Restaurant Scene: Starman's Speech to SETI Scientist Shermin
  • Jenny begged Mark Shermin: ("Let him go, Mr. Shermin, please. If he stays here, he'll die. Can't you see he's dying now?"). After Shermin agreed to help the Starman escape rather than having him captured and vivisected by the Army, Jenny gave a 'thank-you' kiss to Shermin - imitated by the Starman
  • the scene of the dying Starman's farewell to Jenny in the middle of Arizona's Barringer Crater - the rendezvous point where he was met by an alien search party from above that would take him from Earth forever. He told her: "I must go"; Jenny hugged him and begged to go with him: ("Take me with you"), but was not permitted, since he knew she would die on his planet: ("I cannot...You will die there")
  • he requested a 'human' goodbye that she had taught him: ("Now, tell me again how to say goodbye"), and she gave him a simple reply: ("Kiss me and tell me you love me"). She was saddened: ("I'm never gonna see you again, am I?"). He requested: ("Tell the baby about me"), and gifted her with his last small silver sphere: (Jenny: "What should I do with this?" Starman: "The baby will know").
  • the final lingering close-up shot of Jenny's face as she watched the healed Starman departing on his starship to return home, to the sounds of Jack Nitzsche's swelling score

Starman's Spaceship to Return Him Home

Jenny Watching Starman's Departure

Starman Reviving Dead Deer

"I gave you a baby tonight"

Jenny's Thank-You Kiss to Shermin

Starman's Imitative Kiss to Shermin

'Human' Goodbye

Gift of Silver Sphere

Leaving Jenny

Steel Magnolias (1989)


  • the upsetting scene in which Shelby Eatenton Latcherie (Julia Roberts) collapsed into a diabetic coma - discovered by her husband Jackson Latcherie (Dylan McDermott) as her 1 year-old son Jack, Jr. (C. Houser) screamed in horror
  • Shelby's mother M'Lynn Eatenton's (Sally Field) round-the-clock vigil (humming "Mockingbird" to her, reading beauty tips from a fashion magazine, etc.)
  • the scene of mourning M'Lynn's musings about death and the moment that Shelby died (when everyone else had left after the machine was turned off); M'Lynn reminisced later at the gravesite: ("I find it amusin'. Men are supposed to be made out of steel or somethin'. I just sat there. I just held Shelby's hand. There was no noise, no tremble, just peace. Oh God. I realize as a woman how lucky I am. I was there when that wonderful creature drifted into my life and I was there when she drifted out. It was the most precious moment of my life")
  • the graveyard scene around the casket in which grieving, strong-willed and feisty mother M'Lynn Eatenton reacted to her daughter's death; she wasn't willing to be rejoicing as Annelle (Darryl Hannah) had suggested - due to Shelby's transition to be "with her King" in a better place in Heaven: "You go on ahead. I'm sorry if I don't feel like it. I guess I'm a little selfish. I'd rather have her here" - and shortly later, she added: "Shelby, as you know, wouldn't want us to get mired down and wallow in this. We should handle it the best way we know how and get on with it. That's what my mind says. I wish somebody would explain it to my heart"

At Shelby's Gravesite

M'Lynn to Annelle:
"I'd rather have her here"
  • M'Lynn's angry delivery of a post-funeral speech at the injustice of her daughter's death: ("I'm fine! I can jog all the way to Texas and back, but my daughter can't! She never could! Oh God! I'm so mad, I don't know what to do! I wanna know why! I wanna know WHY Shelby's life is over! I wanna know how that baby will ever know how wonderful his mother was. Will he EVER know what she went through for him? Oh, God, I wanna know whyyyy! Whhhyyyyy?! Lord, I wish I could understand. No! No! No! It's not supposed to happen this way. I'm supposed to go first. I've always been ready to go first. I don't think I can take this. I don't think I can take this. I just wanna hit somebody til they feel as bad as I do! I JUST WANNA HIT SOMETHING! I WANNA HIT IT HARD!").
  • the sequence was humorously undercut by Clairee's (Olympia Dukakis) cathartic offer of her sour-puss best friend Ouiser Boudreaux (Shirley MacLaine) as a punching-bag target for M'Lynn's anger: ("Here, hit this! Go ahead, M'Lynn. Slap her!")

M'Lynn: "I'm fine!"

M'Lynn's Extreme Grief

Clairee Offering Ouiser as a Punching Bag

Shelby Discovered on Patio in Coma

M'Lynn's Round the Clock Vigil at Shelby's Bedside

Shelby Taken Off Life Support

M'Lynn at Shelby's Bedside

Stella Dallas (1937)


  • the touching, famous sequence of devoted mother Stella (Barbara Stanwyck) and her daughter Laurel (or "Lollie") (Anne Shirley) waiting at her unattended birthday party - removing plates as regrets were received until they were the only ones at the festivities
  • the train berth scene in which Stella's caring teenaged daughter came down to "cuddle" with her mother who had overheard criticisms (about being "a common looking creature for a mother")
  • a gauche Stella's self-sacrificing renunciation scene with Helen Morrison (Barbara O'Neil) in which she suggested giving up her daughter for a better life
  • the scene of Stella deliberately staging a vulgar appearance for her daughter in her showy, coarse and common style (reading a "LOVE" book, listening to loud music and smoking a cigarette)
  • the unforgettable final wedding scene with Stella's reactions as she was standing alone in the rain at the outer gate gazing lovingly and adoringly - with tears in her eyes (and biting a handkerchief in her mouth) - through the mansion's window at her daughter's high-society wedding
Stella in the Rain Gazing at Her Daughter's Wedding
  • the ending in which the gathering crowd was told by a policeman to move along - and afterwards, Stella joyfully strode down the street as the film faded to black

The Empty Birthday Party Table

Train Berth Scene

Stella's Deliberately Vulgar Appearance

Stuart Saves His Family (1995)

  • the main character - effeminate Public Access Cable TV self-help New Age guru-host Stuart Smalley (Al Franken), whose Chicago-based show ("Daily Affirmation With Stuart Smalley") was moved to 2:45 am (in effect destining the show to be cancelled) by his manipulative and overbearing boss Roz Weinstock (Camille Saviola); on the air, he called her a "grandiose, shame-based over-eater, sick in her own disease and weighs over 200 lbs, and has a hideous haircut - ok, I'm sorry, uhm, that was a big mistake, I probably shouldn't have said that"
  • then shortly later in her Roz Weinstock's office, although he came to apologize (to get his show back), he again insulted her: "You are a horrible, nasty, dysfunctional weenie"
  • afterwards, Stuart retreated home and sulked to himself in his bedroom and told friendly sponsors entreating him outside his door: "Come back later, maybe, maybe when I've run out of Fig Newtons"

Stuart's "Daily Affirmation" Show

His Boss Roz

Stuart After A Change in His Cable TV Show - Eating Fig Newtons
  • when Stuart learned that his Aunt Paula had died, he returned home to Minneapolis by Greyhound bus; he found himself again confronted with the dysfunctionality of his entire family - evidenced by Stuart's nasty, hard-drinking and abusive Dad (Harris Yulin), his overweight, co-dependent, passive-aggressive Mom (Shirley Knight), his divorced, overeating sister Jodie (Lesley Boone), and his bullying, under-achieving, pot-smoking older brother Donnie (Vincent D'Onofrio)
  • the heart-rending unsuccessful rehabilitation or family intervention scene of Stuart's alcoholic Dad by his family members, after he had a hunting 'accident' while drunk; Dad refused his family's help and chose to go to jail: ("If this is what it's like in rehab, send me to jail") - and he walked out; Stuart exclaimed: "Well, that was fun"
  • that night, Stuart again experienced a recurring nightmare of his father falling off a church steeple, and landing in Stuart's arms; Stuart imagined his Dad thanking him: "I'm sorry I'm so helpless, thank you for saving me, I love you"; Stuart ended the dream: "and that's the end"
  • after Stuart returned to Chicago, he recorded a new Christmas-time program in the studio before a crew holiday after-party, explaining how he wouldn't be returning to his Smalley family for Christmas, but was still forever hopeful: "As we say in program: progress, not perfection"
  • in the touching final scene, his older brother Donnie unexpectedly showed up at the studio on Christmas Eve after having fled his dysfunctional life at home with their parents; he found Stuart talking to his best friend and Al-Anon sponsor Julia (Laura San Giacomo): (Julia: "We're gonna have a great Christmas" - Stuart: (seeing Donnie) "The best ever!")

Donnie's Unexpected Arrival

Stuart: "The best ever!"

Stuart and Donnie Hugging

Stuart's Mom & Dad (and Other Family Members) During Rehabilitation Scene For Alcoholic Dad

Stuart's Dream of Saving His Father

Back on the Air on Christmas Eve, Stuart Described How He Wouldn't Return Home for the Xmas Holidays

Summer of '42 (1971)

  • the recounting, in flashback, of a young teen's coming-of-age on 1940s Nantucket Island during war-time
  • the tearjerking romance and sexual awakening by young 14 year-old teenager Hermie (Gary Grimes) with lonely, beautiful 22 year-old neighboring war bride Dorothy (Jennifer O'Neill) after she had learned by telegram that her husband had been killed in action; when Hermie entered her eerily-quiet beach-home, he saw a bottle of whiskey, cigarette butts, and a government telegram
  • with tears in her eyes and slightly drunk, she put her head on Hermie's shoulder, slowly danced (barefooted) with him to the tune (the film's theme song) playing on a phonograph record
  • Dorothy tenderly kissed him a few times (as the phonograph needle reached the end of the record) before beckoning him, taking him by the hand, and leading him to her bedroom for comfort; she slowly removed her white slip over her head, prepared the bed, and then removed her bra and panties before they gently entered her bed naked together
Lying Naked Together in Bed
  • when Hermie left her later that evening, she was outside on the porch in a robe, smoking a cigarette; she gave him a simple "Good night, Hermie" - and that was the last time he saw her
  • the next day, she left a note for Hermie (on her beach house door); he sat down on the porch to read it; she explained (in voice-over) that perhaps the meaning of the event would come to him in time: ("Dear Hermie: I must go home now. I'm sure you'll understand. There's much I have to do. I won't try and explain what happened last night because I know that, in time, you'll find a proper way in which to remember it. What I will do is remember you. And I pray that you be spared all senseless tragedies. I wish you good things, Hermie. Only good things. Always, Dorothy"), to the swelling sounds of Michel Legrande's theme music
  • the final bitter-sweet voice-over came from the Narrator, middle-aged Herman Raucher (voice of Robert Mulligan): ("I was never to see her again. Nor was I ever to learn what became of her. We were different then. Kids were different. It took us longer to understand the things we felt. Life is made up of small comings and goings. And for everything we take with us, there is something that we leave behind. In the summer of '42, we raided the Coast Guard station four times, we saw five movies, and had nine days of rain. Benji broke his watch, Oscy gave up the harmonica, and in a very special way, I lost Hermie forever")

Tender Kisses

Preparing in Bedroom

"Good night, Hermie"

Sunrise (1927)

  • the scenes of the loving reunion of the farmer/husband (George O'Brien) and his presumed-drowned wife (Janet Gaynor) after she had been found alive but unconscious - he rushed to his wife's bedside in the farmhouse where they were joyously reunited. He attentively sat by his wife's bedside, where she slept with their infant until the dawn's light appeared - she opened her eyes and smiled at him with an angelic face and long-flowing hair after releasing her tight bun. She opened her eyes and turned her head on the pillow toward her husband. Their lips slowly drew together for a kiss, dissolving into the bright rays of an art-deco sun filling the screen.
  • the word "Finis" floated upward to take the place of the sun as the music dramatically swelled

Joyous Kiss Between Reunited Husband-Wife

A New Dawn - "Finis" Floating Upwards

Superman The Movie (1978) (aka Superman)

  • Superman's (Christopher Reeve) discovery of a dead Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) after tumbling into a crevasse while in her car during a nuclear warhead-induced earthquake - he reacted by pulling her out of the car and laying her onto the ground, and upon realizing her demise, and his inability to save her, he inarticulately spoke: "Why? Why? Why? Why?", before heart-stoppingly howling with a primal scream
Superman's Anguish At Discovering Lois Dead
  • in reaction, Superman flew directly straight up into the air to attempt to change the past - to circumnavigate the globe at light-speed to reverse time in order to bring Lois back to life

Superman Circumnavigating the Globe to Reverse Time

The Sweet Hereafter (1997, Canada)

  • the distressing, long-shot image at the mid-point of the film of a yellow schoolbus filled with children, in British Columbia (Canada), skidding off a slippery and snowy road, sliding down an embankment onto a frozen lake, and falling through the cracking ice due to its weight - and the effects of the tragic accident (resulting in the deaths of 14 children) and subsequent lawsuit and trial on the families and residents of the Canadian town

The Yellow Schoolbus Accident

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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