10 Movie Scenes That ALWAYS Bring on the Waterworks

I have an imaginary outtake scene in The 40-year Old Virgin, only here, I am cast in Seth Rogan’s character opposite Paul Rudd. The scene goes something like this:

Paul Rudd (to me):     You know how I know you’re gay? 
Me:                              How?
Paul Rudd:                 You create lists of movie scenes that make you cry.

OK, so today I feel like getting more in touch with my sentimental side. What can you do? It happens. Anyway, I managed to catch a scene from a movie a couple of days ago that ALWAYS makes me cry and thought that I’d come up with a list of 10 movie scenes that always make me cry like a little baby. And you know what?! I’m secure in my own masculinity to create such a list, dammit! This is NOT a Top 10 List, as there are surely other scenes out there that bring on the same proverbial waterworks for me. Nor are these scenes you see here in any particular order. They are simply what I think are 10 great, emotional scenes that, for whatever reason, move me to such a point where I have to reach for a tissue. And stop snickering at me…there’s no shame in it!

And hey! Since I’m putting myself out there, I expect you to do as well. Post your comments and share a scene or two that makes you teary-eyed and weepy…unless you have no heart at all!

1. The Final Scene of ‘Running on Empty’

SPOILER ALERT!!! Earlier in Sidney’s Lumet’s wonderful movie, the family clears the dinner table and joyfully starts to sing along to James Taylor’s classic “Fire and Rain.” Arthur and Annie Pope have been running from the FBI since blowing up a bomb to protest the war. Their son Danny (River Phoenix) has had to live with the repercussions of their acts. The final scene always gets me. On the run again, the family is in their truck and Arthur (Judd Hirsch) tells his son to take the bike out of the back — and to get on it. We see the truck drive off, leaving Danny alone to start his own life anew — all played against the backdrop of the very moving “Fire and Rain” song yet again. The combination of the song and this pivotal moment always wrecks me.

2. The Baseball Catch from ‘Field of Dreams’

Maybe it’s because I’m a huge baseball fan. Or maybe it’s because some of the greatest memories I have are when my father managed me in Little League. Perhaps it’s because this marvelous story of Ray Kinsella’s (Kevin Costner) strained relationship with his father, forever seeking his approval just got to me. I think it’s a blend of all three. Near the end of the film, on his utopian baseball field, Ray recognizes his father in the prime of his life. The two shake hands and say goodnight. As his father turns to walk away, Ray asks, with a crack in his voice, “Hey, Dad? You wanna have a catch?” His father simply says, “I’d like that.” What follows is a very simple, moving father-and-son catch. Gets me every friggin’ time…

3. A Connection is Made in ‘Rain Man’

Charlie (Tom Cruise) tries to make a connection, any connection with his autistic brother Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) throughout the film. Of course, Raymond is mentally unable to do so, much to Charlie’s tremendous frustration. Charlie ‘kidnaps’ his own brother from an institution solely for selfish and greedy purposes. As the two brothers spend time together, Charlie undergoes a miraculous transformation of character and begins to feel absolute love for his brother. When he returns his brother, the two are given a moment alone to say good-bye and  Charlie says to him, “What I said about being on the road with you I meant. Connecting. I like having you for my brother.” The two slowly, softly touch heads — and finally, a connection is made…if only for a moment and Charlie repeats with great warmth, “I like having you for my big brother.” It’s a cathartic moment to be sure as the entire film is building to this one emotional moment. Tender, warm, poignant…excuse me, I need a moment….

4. Adrian’s Change of Heart in ‘Rocky II’

I realize this is hokey and very melodramatic, but I don’t care. I love this movie, I love this scene and I love the dynamic that is Rocky and Adrian. Adrian (Talia Shire) has been pleading with her husband not to fight Apollo Creed again because she is worried about his eye. Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) is struggling with himself as to what he should do. He decides to fight, but without Adrian’s stamp of approval, his heart is just not into it. Adrian gives birth to a baby boy and falls into a coma. Now Rocky won’t train at all and spends all of his waking hours at church or at his true love’s bedside, reading to her. After a long while, she finally wakes up. With her new baby in hand, Adrian has a complete change of heart. She looks up at her husband and says, “There’s one thing I want you to do for me.” He leans in. She smiles, and simply says, “Win.” It is at this moment where I lose it. The iconic music starts to play, Rocky finally smiles and we know he’ll go back to training and kick the crap out of the champ.  Throughout the Rocky series, his love for his wife never wavers and I think it is one of the stronger aspects of the franchise. I also think that Adrian is what makes Rocky tick. Without this scene, Rocky gets slaughtered and loses in the rematch.

5. Singing for Prison Inmates in ‘Young @ Heart’

One of the Top 10 films of 2007, this inspiring documentary focuses on a chorus of senior citizens in Massachusetts who perform cover songs by The Clash, Sonic Youth, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix and many others. Many of these real-life people stay with you long after the film is over, reminding us of what is truly important in this life.  Fred’s solo to a packed theatre near the end of the film will no doubt move you, as will many other emotional scenes. There is a lot to laugh at throughout this life-affirming movie, and yes, a lot of times where you can’t help but cry. The emotional climax for me occurs when the Young @ Heart chorus perform a concert — at a prison! After losing one of their own, they go out and sing Bob Dylan’s classic “Forever Young” to the inmates of the prison and…talk about perspective! The looks on the faces of the prisoners are completely genuine as they listen to the elderly singers and yes, the chorus no doubt has their utmost respect. It remains one of the most moving scenes of any film I have seen in recent memory. If you missed this film, I highly recommend that you go out and rent it as I am sure you will be pleased that you did.

6. Helpless Feeling in ‘She’s Having A Baby’

Go ahead, laugh. Then watch this scene once more and I will await and accept your apology for doing so. After much prodding by their parents, newlywed couple Jake & Kristy Briggs start to try and have a baby. They continue trying. Finally, Kristy (an adorable Elizabeth McGovern) is pregnant.  However, there are severe complications with the delivery, leaving Jake (Kevin Bacon) powerless and waiting for a good word. This is such an emotionally draining sequence and John Hughes picks the perfect song (Kate Bush’s moving “This Woman’s Work”) to accompany the montage of watching Jake crippled with fear and anxiety for the well-being of his wife. The song certainly helps, but Bacon is brilliant here. Watch his initial reaction when he is told what is going wrong with the delivery. It is so natural and so genuine, we instantly feel for him. The camera pans out and the beginning of the song begins to play at just the right moment. The beautifully edited montage is so effective as Bacon plays with his wife’s ring, his father’s ‘thumbs up’ to him from afar — giving him his needed space. The symbolic drop of blood to the floor is a nice touch. I get teary-eyed with goose bumps just thinking about it.

7. Final Sequence of ‘Umberto D.’

Vittorio de Sica’s 1952 masterpiece which Time magazine wisely included in their “All-Time 100 Movie” list. I don’t know how any human being alive can watch this film and not shed a tear. Umberto Domenico Ferrari (Carlo Battisti) is an old man in Rome who is poor and trying desperately to keep his modest, shoddy apartment which is becoming quite difficult to do since his landlady wants to throw him out if he doesn’t come up with 15,000 lire. His best friend in the world seems to be his little dog, Flick (called ‘Flag’ in some subtitled versions). Umberto is admitted to a hospital and when he returns home, finds that he is no longer welcome. He also discovers that his dog is gone. After finding him, he looks for a place where Flick can live a carefree life, away from all of his hardships. I will not include the video of this movie, because that would completely spoil it for you. Suffice it to say that the last scenes of this film always manage to break my heart in more pieces than any psychotic ex ever has. If you are interested in seeing this glorious piece of filmmaking, do yourself a favor — read nothing about it beforehand — and get a box of Kleenex…you’ll need it.

8. A Fitting Farewell to Professor Keating in ‘Dead Poets Society’

I am not sure why, but most film bloggers seem to have a great aversion towards this film. I absolutely love it – always have. Is it melodramatic at times? Perhaps. Is this particular scene a bit over-the-top and cheesy? I say, “Not at all” if you understand where it is coming from and it all starts with the character of Todd Anderson (a very young Ethan Hawke). Todd has been the quiet, insecure one throughout the film…always wanting to do, but never actually doing. Professor Keating (Robin Williams) has been unfairly dismissed of his duties at the prep school and the impact he has made on his students will be remembered throughout their lifetimes. In this deeply affecting scene, he enters the classroom to pick up a few of his belongings. There are actually a handful of scenes where I can’t help but start crying, but this one has become a classic scene (hey – it beats the hell out of hearing “I’ll have what she’s having” for the umpteenth time). The tension in the room is palpable as they leaf through the poetry book. The desk of Neil Perry’s, noticeably vacant; the exchange between Keating and Todd made just with their eyes….very moving. The core of this film is the relationship between these two characters and here, it reaches its climax. Ethan Hawke says so much here without saying anything at all…we see him struggling with himself, wanting to speak out. He knows this will be his last opportunity to do something, anything…and he takes his first step, literally and figuratively. Robin Williams doesn’t overdo it at all, but merely reacts to what is happening before him – and his subtlety is very touching. The students who stand…This is their “Thank You” to their wonderful teacher — and by the look on Keating’s face, it is perhaps the greatest goodbye gift he could have asked for as he says, “Thank you, boys. Thank you.” I have seen this film many times and it never ceases to move me. I can watch this film twenty more times and I know for certain that I will surely cry another twenty times.

9. Reading Shakespeare in ‘The Elephant Man’

John Merrick (John Hurt) is first abused and used for profit being showcased as a freak. He is then taken into the safe confines of a hospital by Dr. Treves (Anthony Hopkins) only to be showcased as a freak of nature once more — and again, for the personal gain of the man he is entrusted to. No one bothers to try and make a human connection with him, even though in many ways, Merrick possesses more humane qualities than those around him. Here, the famous stage actress Mrs. Kendal (Anne Bancroft) makes that connection by presenting her new friend with a gift. Merrick begins reading the lines from Shakespeare’s classic love story, Romeo and Juliet and soon, the two are reading the lines of the star-crossed lovers to each other. It is a hypnotic exchange. Watch the way Bancroft looks at him throughout – not like every other person does, but with gentle eyes. She sees not a deformed elephant man, but a real-life Romeo. This entire film makes me teary-eyed, but the human connection made right here is the highpoint for me. Mel Brooks was right in hiring the masterful David Lynch to direct this film. Released now 30 years ago, it never ceases to have a profound emotional impact on me.

To watch this great scene, just click here.

10. Making Breakfast in ‘Big Night’

One long shot, one short word…sheer brilliance. Watching this final scene on its own of course does no justice to the emotional weight it surely carries. However, when you watch the entire film that leads up to this, the love between the two immigrant brothers hits you hard, and needs no words. We know that everything that has happened before is water under the bridge…nothing at all compared with the great bond that exists between Primo and Secondo (Tony Shalhoub and Stanley Tucci). One of my all-time favorite last scenes of any film I have ever seen. The relationship between the brothers throughout the movie is complex and extraordinary, as it builds to what we see here. Directors Campbell Scott and Tucci have a delicate touch throughout and make the perfect choice here by having everything done in silence. I always need a moment when the credits start to roll. A moving film, a stirring scene.

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49 Responses to 10 Movie Scenes That ALWAYS Bring on the Waterworks

  1. Pingback: G-S-T Top 10 – Best Kevin Costner Films | GO, SEE, TALK!

  2. Marc says:

    Having just rewatched The Wrestler (thanks for your comment btw) I have to say pretty much right before the fight in the ring is what kicks off my waterworks. It doesn’t stop until the credits roll…yup not afraid to say it:P

  3. Aiden R says:

    Holy hell, what a great feature. Gotta whip up my own, but Searching for Bobby Fischer and Diving Bell & The Butterfly immediately come to mind as instances where I bawled my eyes out for two hours.

    • Thanks, Aiden, Yeah Diving Bell is a terrific choice. A couple have brought that up. I only saw it the one time and loved it. And Bobby Fischer is sensational — I get teary eyed in that one too.

  4. CMrok93 says:

    Totally agree with you on number 1, it never made me cry but I was feeling a lot of emotions going at the time of the movie, so i came close to losing it. Nice list brah!

    • Thanks. There was no order to this list at all, so #1 isn’t really #1, but yeah…I do get pretty emotional watching it. Can’t just watch on it’s own like I have heer from YouTube…doesn’t carry the weight at all. But yeah, hard not to get choked up.

  5. Nicole says:

    The only film I have ever sobbed so entirely through is The Sea Inside. The ‘Neverland’ scene in Finding Neverland also gets me pretty bad.

  6. Marc says:

    Nice list Peter, I do heartily agree with you on Rain Man. Also, I love Field of Dreams and man did you pick the perfect scene!

    To me though, as Elephant Man is a FANTASTIC movie…30 years ago it looks ans sounded as if it was released 30 years earlier (perfect 50’s doppleganger) though I believe the ending is much more of a tear jerker. Especially playing Clair de Lune as the camera floats out the window.

    “No John, don’t lie down on the bed!!”, I cried. But it did no good:(

    • Yeah, there are a few moments in Elephant man that do it for me. The end, as you say. I also love when he finally starts to speak the passage from the Bible when first admitted to the hospital, much to the surprise of Gielguld and Hopkins. The cinematography is gorgeous. Thanks for the comments!!!

  7. Red says:

    “My Girl” always gets to me. ‘He can’t see without his glasses!’…tearing up just thinking about it.

    “Good Will Hunting”…When Matt Damon cries, you cry.

    “Dear Zachary”…the shock of it all got to me a bit the first time…probably the most i’ve ever been attatched to a movie..gonna be doing a writeup on this for Kai here soon.

    I’m sure there’s a few more, but that’s it off the top of my head.

    • I have to see “Dear Zachary” – have yet to do so. But I certainly will. It’s been a while seince I’ve seen “My Girl,” but a lot of people are mentioning it so perhaps I will give another viewing.

    • Amy Wood says:

      I agree. Dear Zachary was so heart wrenching that I couldnt act like it was something in my eye for very long. From a few minutes in until the credits rolling I was an emotional rollercoaster. Anyone who hasn’t seen it should take the time to watch-prepare with a box of tissue and something to soothe the ache that will form everytime your throat does that weird tightening thing.

  8. nothatwasacompliment says:

    here’s a few moments that get me every time:

    The Patriot – when the little girl finally talks…”papa!”

    The Sixth Sense – when Cole finally tells his mom his secret…”grandma says hi.”

    In America – the scene at the end on the balcony…”say goodbye to frankie, dad.”

  9. Pingback: Movie News Weekly Round-Up 06/09/2010 • ANOMALOUS MATERIAL

  10. Brooke says:

    The first 15 minutes of “Up” will make anyone cry. I dare you to stay dry while watching their lives unfold together.

    • Heather says:

      You are SO right Brooke! I had forgotten about it. It is so utterly genuine. God I love Pixar.

    • Aaron Weiss says:

      Gotta give a plus one on Up’s first 15 minutes. That sequence should dehydrate anyone with a soul.

    • Excellent call, Brooke! I thought the film was overrated, but that montage was the very best part of the movie, and yes, made me misty-eyed. Nicely done!

    • Darren says:

      Actually, for me, the real tearjerker is when he finally turns the page on “Things I am going to do”. Coupled with the last handscrawled note… oh, I’m getting bleary-eyed even thinking about it!

  11. Heather says:

    Good call on Field of Dreams, Dead Poets Society, and RainMan.

    Ones that get me are Steel Magnolias (the end every damn time), the end of Gladiator, Romeo and Juliet (1968), Brians Song, Meet Joe Black, and Untamed Heart makes me BAWL HYSTERICALLY.

  12. Raul Duke says:

    OK Peter. I’ll play along.

    1) Jaws. When the shark blew up.
    2) Tin Cup. On 18
    3) Frost/nixon. I felt bad for tricky Dick.
    4) Forest Gump. When Bubba gets it.
    5) Brians Song.

  13. Dan says:

    Great list Peter – it takes a brave man to post such a Top 10! 😉

    It’s the sports movies that always get me – usually that final touchdown or slam dunk. I have to say not that light smashing home run in “The Natural” though – not the biggest fan of Redford.

    However, one of the best scenes I can remember that had me gushing was the moment – in a sports movie but not related to the sport – when in “Remember The Titans” Gerard Bertier and Julius Campbell embrace to solidify a new found friendship after Bertier is crippled by a road accident.

    • Thanks. Yes, sports movies have that same affect on me. It’s the whole underdog, competition thing, I suppose. I was thinking “Titans” too. Great scene, great movie.

  14. Castor says:

    Great list Peter! I’m not going to come up with ten (maybe a post another day 😉
    – Grave of the Fireflies, the ending is heart-wrenching and you have no heart if you don’t feel at least a big knot in your stomach.
    – Rudy: I’m not gonna lie, watching Rudy suit up and run on the field at the end of the movie was very emotional
    – The Notebook: My man card is probably going to be revoked after this but I was sobbing like a pussy at the end

    Ok enough ripping on my manhood…

  15. Nora says:

    Agree with you on “Dead Poets” and “Field of Dreams”…
    I can’t name just ten movies. I cry at everything… but definitely would include:

    – “Life is Beautiful” – The scenes with Guido and his son Joshua, every time he makes a game out of their horrific situation. Especially the end, when he tells his son to hide in the box, and Guido is still smiling and playing soldier as he’s marched past the box at gunpoint. then the gunshots… and- I’m weeping.
    – “A Very Long Engagement” – the entire freakin’ film…
    – “It’s a Wonderful Life” – when the town chips in to pay his bank debt… and his brother says, ‘To my big brother George, the richest man in town.’ Cue the waterworks.
    – “Fifel: An American Tale” (yup) – “Somewhere Out There” scene. Gets me every time.
    – “Titanic” (yup) – I can’t help it. Jack’s drowning… Kate Winslet has the amazing ability to make me cry every time she cries, in anything.
    – “Philadelphia” – The opera scene.
    – “Terms of Endearment”
    – “Before Sunset” – yeah…
    – “The Sound of Music” – “Something Good” scene. *sigh* Captain Von Trapp gets soft…
    – “The Red Shoes” – ending
    – “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” – entire movie. Esp. scene on phone w/ his father.

    and the list goes on and on and on……..

    • I was so close to putting Life is Beautiful. I have only seen it 2 or 3 times though. but it deserves mention. Also, awesome calls on Terms of Endearment (saying good bye to her kids), Diving Bell (which I only saw once), It’s a Wonderful Life is a great one for this too. Philadephia made me cry only because I paid to see the movie and I couldn’t wipe the feeling of manipulation off of me…. 🙂

  16. Amy Wood says:

    This is definitely a man’s list. No girly movies at all!

    Mine would include:
    1.Fried Green Tomatoes when Ruth dies. Even though it is simple and not drawn out it is the thought of losing my best friend that leaves that crushing feeling in my chest and starts the tears.

    2.Whats eating Gilbert Grape? had me in tears when their mom died and they didn’t want her to be a freak show for the townspeople so they took their stuff out of the house and torched it.

    3.My Girl never fails to have me bawling like a baby when I hear how Thomas J cant see without his glasses as he lays in the coffin.

    4.Grave of the Fireflies makes me cry in multiple areas knowing that it was based on a true story and knowing how the brother tried his hardest to keep his sister safe but instead had to watch her starve.

    5.Old Yeller-need I say more?

    6.Schindlers List-multiple areas of this movie make me cry.

    7.The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas- the last 5 minutes had me crying like a baby. Cant really say why without spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it. If you haven’t seen it I suggest watching it.

    8. I am Sam-so many heart wrenching moments where you see the system tearing apart a man who so obviously loves his daughter.

    9. Beaches-another death of best friend thing but add in the kid and Bette Midler singing and almost anyone is doomed to cry.

    10. Simon Birch-Based on one of my favorite novels puts me in tears every time. Tears of laughter and sadness fill this wonderful movie.

    Honorable mention goes to Pay it Forward, The Champ, The Little Princess, Steel Magnolias, and Kite Runner.

    • Excellent Call with Boy in the Striped Pajamas….Love that film and yes, it made me cry the one time I saw it. never saw Simon Birch because it’s based on one of my Top 5 books of all-time and heard nothing good about it. I am Sam is great too. Nice list, Amy. Let’s see if Phil names a movie or two here….

      • Amy Wood says:

        I forgot to add An Officer and a Gentleman. between the hanging and the sweeping a working woman off her feet a lady has to cry at that movie.

    • Some excellent choices there, especially Gilbert Grape. By the way Peter I am so hijacking this theme for a post of my own. Excellent idea.

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