They say crying cleanses the soul. Well prepare to have your soul thoroughly rinsed out. Movies have the power to touch our lives in ways that other mediums can’t. From genuine tearjerkers like The Green Mile to superhero movies like Batman Begins (“Why do we fall?”) cinema has the magic to pull at our heartstrings and open up our tear ducts with both joy and sadness. Considering this author has cried at everything from Transformers (“I wish to stay with the boy”) to Transformers: Age of Extinction (“Why are they still making these terrible films?”) selecting just 10 was a very difficult task.
Below is our list of the top 10 Saddest Movie Moments Of All Time. I hope you enjoy!
10. The Notebook (2004)
In the ultimate “chick flick”, Noah (Ryan Gosling) pursues his dream girl Allie (Rachel McAdams) through every obstacle that love can possibly throw up. War, class, undelivered letters… before culminating in a heart-breaking ending when Allie, now suffering from dementia, briefly remembers that the man in the nursing home is Noah. After an all too brief dance, her sickness kicks back in and the rekindling of romance is cruelly snatched away. A heartbroken Noah sits on the bed and begins to sob and audiences everywhere join him.
9. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Every time. Every damn time. I have deliberately sat there knowing what is coming and tried to fight it, but it never works. E.T. and Elliot’s connection has broken and the wilting of the plant symbolizes that the alien has died. Elliot visits his friend to say goodbye and as he leaves, the plant begins to blossom again. The boy then forms a plan to help E.T. escape – get the bikes! God damn it, every time! :’(
8. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
No one has ever gone into a Schwarzenegger movie and expected to leave in tears. Having saved John and Sarah Connor from the shape shifting T-1000 and destroyed the computer chip, Arnie’s T-800 tells them that there is still one more chip that needs to be destroyed – the one inside him. Unable to self-terminate he tells them that they must lower him into the molten steel. The ultimate killing machine shows a flicker of emotion as he tells a frantic John “I know now why you cry.” The kicker is the thumbs-up he flashes as haunting music rises. This is memorably referenced in Spaced, as Simon Pegg’s character uses the scene as an example of how he can be emotional.
7. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Having sacrificed himself to save the rest of the ship, Spock is trapped in the radiation-filled chamber. Kirk arrives on the scene just in time to say a tearful goodbye to his friend. Shatner, and indeed Nimoy, have never been better as the two science fiction icons speak their last words to each other. Spock gets the beautiful line “I have been and always shall be your friend,” as the two men place their hands on the chamber glass. JJ Abrams tried to add his own version of the scene in Star Trek Into Darkness, but it contained none of the weight or emotion of the original. Live long and prosper you Vulcan legend.
6. The Elephant Man (1980)
Enduring a lifetime of torment because of his deformities, John Merrick is given his cruel, titular nickname.
Merrick is treated to a night at the theatre by his doctor, played brilliantly by Anthony Hopkins. Having had the performance dedicated to him by Mrs. Kendal, who had been one of the few people to treat him humanly, Merrick returns to the hospital and removes the pillows he needs to sleep upright in order to breathe, lies down and dies comforted by a vision of his estranged mother. Just as heartbreaking is the moment when chased, unmasked, and cornered by an angry mob. A terrified Merrick cries out the iconic “I am not an elephant! I am not an animal! I am a human being!”
5. Rocky Balboa (2006)
For a series of Stallone movies more famous for its insane boxing scenes (seriously, how did the ref not stop half of those fights?), the Rocky movies have gifted us a surprising amount of heartfelt moments of inspiration and heartbreak. Depending on your preference, you can choose any moment. From The Italian Stallion’s cries of “Adrrrrrian” and the death of Mickey, to Rocky and Apollo becoming friends before its tragic conclusion. There is also the wonderful scene in Rocky Balboa when Stallone speaks with his estranged son and offers him some inspirational advice. “It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” I couldn’t decide on just one so, much like Rocky himself, I have just thrown everything in.
4. Up (2009)
Catching audiences completely off guard, Up managed to have most people in floods of tears before they had even settled into their seats. The astonishing opening few minutes take us through the life of Carl and Ellie as they meet, fall in love and grow old together. Having finally booked their dream vacation to a lost land in South America. Ellie then falls ill and passes away, leaving Carl behind to take the journey alone. However, an 8-year-old boy named Russell accidentally ends up accompanying the curmudgeonly Carl, who finds that he still has life left to be lived and that life is an adventure.
3. The Lion King (1994)
Having lured Simba to a gorge, his villainous uncle Scar orders the hyenas to begin a stampede of a large herd of wildebeest to trample the young heir to the throne. He is rescued by his father and king of the pride Mufasa. But as Mufasa is scrambling to safety he is met by his brother who murders the king by throwing him back into the stampede. It is impossible to hold back the tears as Simba tries desperately to wake up his father, before nestling himself under his paw.
2. The Iron Giant (1999)
One of the most underrated animated films of all time, The Iron Giant deserves to be spoken about in the same breath as The Lion King or Toy Story. A young boy (Hogarth) makes friends with an innocent giant alien robot voiced by Vin Diesel. The unlikely duo bond over comic books, the Iron Giant being particularly fond of Superman. Having mistakenly been seen as a threat by the army, he is targeted by a missile that will not only destroy him but the town as well. Following a devastating goodbye to Hogarth, the giant takes off to sacrifice himself to save his young friend. The kicker is, as he flies away, he hears the voice of the boy telling him “you are who you choose to be.” The Giant smiles, closes his eyes and makes his choice; “Su..per..man”.
1. Toy Story 3 (2010)
Perhaps the finest movie trilogy of all time. The Toy Story series was a constant to an entire generation who grew up with Woody, Buzz and the gang. The finale looked to be heading towards a bleak conclusion as the toys find themselves on a conveyor belt leading to an incinerator. You just know they will get free, but when Lotso abandons them a slight doubt begins to creep into your mind. When the toys accept their fate and begin to join hands you are in full blown tears convinced that you will see your childhood burned alive in front of your eyes. Thankfully, the aliens have found “The Claw”.