« The Planet | Filmstalker | What's that song in that film? »


The most emotional film scenes

Always.jpgFollowing on from the most haunting scenes in films that we talked about last week I had a few ideas already sketched out, and then I caught a few moments of Four Weddings and a Funeral on TV last night while I was waiting for another film to come on. I managed to change channels to the quiet collapse during the wonderful Scottish wedding and then the following funeral.

That wedding scene starts to build the drama and sadness to the point of the hugely emotional speech and poem recital, perhaps one of the best selected readings I've ever heard in or out of the cinema. It's a beautiful and heart rendering moment and it touches anyone who has had someone close die, or even has someone they love so much they can't bear the thought of them dying. The moment where Matthew's (John Hannah's) voice warbles and almost breaks is the point where I feel the tug of emotion and I too struggle with my emotions.

Even now after so many viewings, that scene brought tears to my eyes. That made me think, what other scenes have I found incredibly emotional in film. What are the most emotional scenes in film that you can remember that have touched you deeply and moved you to tears?

I'm not too proud to admit I'm a softy, anything with animals getting hurt is banned viewing in the Brunton home for all family members, that even includes Orca: Killer Whale, but there are some film scenes which really do get to me time and time again.

Steven Spielberg directs Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter, John Goodman and Audrey Hepburn in a beautifully written, filmed and acted movie about life and loss. One of my most favourite films of all time. Dreyfuss and Goodman play pilots who put out forest fires, one day Pete (Dreyfuss) is killed during a particularly bad blaze, and God (played by Hepburn) returns his spirit to give inspiration to another pilot. Unfortunately this pilot falls for his love, Dorinda (Hunter), and he just can't let go.

It's a beautiful tale and there are a number of moments that are incredibly touching, the ending is particularly emotional, with Dorinda flying across the moonlit lake quickly running out of fuel and Pete sitting behind her spilling his heart. Yet for me there is one scene that hits me bang on, that's after Pete has been watching the new pilot having dinner with Dorinda with the two of them flirting and falling for each other, and he's powerless to do anything. Then they begin to dance and you can feel the pain and anguish in Pete's heart, Dreyfuss delivers a stunning moment of intense emotion. Unrequited love and the pain of the person you love being someone else's, that'll hit the mark every time.

Big Fish:
Tim Burton brings us this tale of a son played by Billy Crudup who returns home to be with his dying father played by Albert Finney. As he spends time with him he revisits the absurd and wild tales his father told him as a boy and tries to find out about the man himself, struggling to fight through his fantasies and to come to terms with his own anger and resentment.

This is a story about guys and their Dad's, it's as simple as that and it's a common theme that's always going to get guys emotional. This is one of the few Burton movies that I really love because all the weirdness has its place and builds on a very real tale. The film builds the characters and your emotional connection with them so well, it really is a wonderful tale.

It's the ending that really captures me, when finally the son understands his father and the resentment passes by and gives way to understanding, respect and love in such a beautifully told way. I have to admit that my fiancée was asleep at the end of the film and I was struggling to keep my emotions in check but to no avail, at this point I exploded and was sobbing so much that she woke up with a start.

Field of Dreams:
The story of a man who hears a voice in his cornfield one day, and it simply says "if you build it, he will come". From here the wonderful story is of belief, love, respect, second chances, and fathers and sons once again. This is perhaps one of Kevin Costner's finest moments as Ray Kinsella, the man who hears the voice, and there are two wonderful performances by Burt Lancaster and James Earl Jones.

It could have been the moment when Moonlight (Lancaster) explains why he's happy he's had his shot at life, because that is truly a beautiful moment. However it's not, again it's the final scenes of the film. This is where we understand just why Ray has been through everything he has done, and for the first viewing it's quite unsuspected. The moment when Ray asks that simple American question that any kid would ask is when the heartstrings begin to get tugged.

Il Postino:
This is a stunningly beautiful tale directed by Michael Radford which tells the story of the local postman (Massimo Troisi) who meets the dissident poet Pablo Neruda (Philippe Noiret) and receives advice on poetry and how to woo the local beauty whom he has admired from afar. This he does with some amusing and lovely moments, and the bonds grow between he and Neruda as the love grows between he and Beatrice. However poetry does more than just arouse his passion for her, it arouses his passion for life and freedom.

Knowing Pablo Neruda's poetry, I am familiar with how emotional it can be. If you want to be moved by words alone you should read "Tonight I can write the saddest lines…", or better still get the soundtrack to the film and hear Andy Garcia read the poem which could make you weep on it's own.

Yet the ending of this film is extremely emotional and very bittersweet. After so much joy and discovery the ending delivers a bitter taste and some harsh realities of life, and it's for these reasons that I find it so emotional. Another film that completely captures my heart. Watch it and then listen to the true story of the production, and you'll be touched even more.

Jon Turteltaub directs John Travolta and Kyra Sedgewick in a gorgeous story of a very average man who one night is struck by a bright light from the sky and begins to become more and more intelligent. He begins to woo the woman he has always admired from afar and she begins to turn to his charms. However intelligence soon turns to obsession and compulsion, and the light which came from the sky begins to turn from a blessing to a curse.

It's a lovely story that seems to touch on many aspects of life and love, not only of others but also of the world around us. It's a great film, and you find yourself connecting with the simple character of George (Travolta) and his friend Nate (Forest Whitaker).

There are some wonderful scenes, and as the happiness and joy builds through the first half, so the growing feeling of dread grows through the second, and ultimately builds to an incredibly sad few scenes with Lace (Sedgewick) and her kids, George, and even Nate.

What's different about the emotion's I felt here is that it's not all sadness and negative feelings, but there's so much that's positive about it, and even though you may be crying you'll find yourself smiling through them. This was also true of the way I felt about Always

Okay, now I've told you mine, can you think of some of yours?



My all time favorite "Sense and Sensibility" for me Richard. The most heart-wrenching scene is where Hugh Grant tells Emma Thompson (his love) and her family that it was his brother Robert that was married, and not him. Emma, shocked, slowly stands up and says "so, you're not married?" her voice shaking. Hugh Grant says, "no". Emma collapses in her chair and bawls.
I have seen this movie a dozen times and dozen times, I still cry my eyes out.
It was rather shocking that this movie didn't win the Oscar for the best picture and director.

Another personal thing. What is emotional to me can be utterly cold to others. A brief list of mines:

-A Straight Story: The meeting between the two brothers at the end.

-A.I.: The abandon of David in the forest by his mother.

-Night of the Hunter: The two children sailing through the river.

-Bambi: Yes... that one. Unmatched, arguably the most perfect enotional scene ever made.

-About Schmidt: The last letter to the African child.

-Titanic: Rose watching the Liberty Statue in NY.

-Seven Samurai: Kikujiro admitting he was a war orphan in the middle of the battle.

-Schindler´s List: When the ring falls from Oskar´s hands, out of nerves.

-Hamlet (Kenneth Branagh): The graveyard scene.

-Julius Cesar: Brutus suicide.

-City Lights: The ending. Another unparalleled, amazing long shot.

-Treasure Planet: Silver saying to Morpho "I am getting soft"

-Before Sunrise: All the movie, but the ending is just so moving.

And so on...

Oh, Peter, City Lights reminds me of Bright Lights, Big City and the scene where Fox is sitting by the bed of his Grandmother. Not as emotional to me as the scenes I listed, but definitely tough.

You're spot on, these are very personal, and all the better for being a feature because of!

The opening credits to Superman Returns brought back so many childhood memories for me. I had to fight off the tears each of the 3 times I saw it in the theatre.

1. Shoeless Joe Jackson: "No, Ray. It was YOU." from Field Of Dreams
2. The final scenes as David searches for his "mother" in A.I. Artificial Intelligence
3. The "goodbye" to Frankie at the end of In America
4. Conrad Jarret (Timothy Hutton) breaking down in the psychiatrist's office in Ordinary People
5. The children, particularly Gertie, upset when they fear ET may be dying in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

Mine is in The Empire of the Sun when Jamie is found at the orphange by his Mum. I'm not one for crying at films but that was an exception.

Oh yeah, Superman opening credits almost had me, that's a real kids cinematic moment - i.e. adults now who were kids when they first saw it.

Schindler's List, stacking the rocks on the grave at the end.

Spielberg is a master in bringing emotions to the screen, that´s clear.

Most of the scenes that come to mind for me deal with the death/separation of a parent/child. Two from Independence Day immediately come to mind. The first is the scene where the President's daughter comes into the hospital room to see her mother, and her mother asks her to be taken out. The second is shortly thereafter when the daughter comforts the President outside the hospital room.

Also, the scene from Crash where the little girl is bringing her father the bulletproof coat. While I should have known the ultimate outcome due to clues earlier in the film, they still sucked me in and had me yelling at the tv.

oh man, Richard. I was going to use the same scene from Big Fish as you, as I had a very very similar feeling when watching it. It can't be said that I don't cry easilly. I'm quite a baby with films. But that scene is easily one of my favorites of all time.

and, since I can't use yours, I'll go for another one, though It may make many scratch their heads.

for me, one of the most stirring scenes in cinema was the scene in Forest Gump when Jenny says that she wishes she could have been there with him through all his travels and he flashes back to all of them and reveals "but you were"...even now I'm welling up, feeling exactly what I felt the first time I saw that one.

It wasnt a well acted scene, perhapse, but the whole movie was pretty much summed up by that moment. And my heart will always race a bit when I remember it.

Oh I know the scene Mogulus...that hits me too. Gump always makes me cry. I think there's a lot to do with the way he's taken advantage of and he's just so innocent.

This is horrible, but these two get me every time:

Cool Runnings: The very end... Sanka Coffie (Doug E. Doug): "Hey Darice! Ya dead?"
Derice Bannock: "No, I'm not dead mon. But I have to finish the race." The Jamaican team then lifts the sled, as does a pallbearer, and carries it across the line.

The Iron Giant: Also near the end of the film, The Iron Giant blast of into the sky to head off the nuclear weapon. Clenches fist forward and utters to self..."Superman...". It will get you if you haven't seen it, even knowing that Vin Diesel is delivering the line (it's the line that launched his carrier). "The Iron Giant" is the most under rated Animated Film in American History!

Oh boy, this is so hard Richard, I had to come up with 2 drafts to begin with and I thought nah, and now I have narrowed it down to just 3 real good ones. I suppose as we go along there will be a few honorable mentions but my top 3 should be the following:

1. The Way We Were (1974) - After Kate (Streisand) gives birth to their child, and Hubbell (Redford) was in the hospital with her and you know that they are not getting back together again. And the theme song segues into the background, I can't help it, I bawled like a baby.

2. Shadowlands (1993) - The scene where the character of C. S. Lewis (brilliantly played by Anthony Hopkins) was breaking down after the death of Joy (Winger). I was totally blown away by that scene.

3. Saving Private Ryan (1998) - The scene where Capt. Miller (Hanks) was trying to calm down what turns out to be his mutinous little army after their medic (Ribisi) was killed and their mission being questioned, when he went on to explain what he did before the war, that he was teacher, and how all these things have changed him was I thought not only emotional but was also one of the most subtle and truly powerful scenes ever.

Simone: Saving Private Ryan was actually the first movie that came to mind for me when I read this, but the most emotional moment for me was the ending at the cemetary. It's hard to imagine how difficult it would be to live up to Captain Miller's "earn this".

There are two emotional scenes in Private Ryan. There's the scenes at the graveside at the start and end of the film - you need both for the latter to have the impact.

If we use emotional in it's broadest sense or alter emotional to emotive, then there's also the scene with the knife. That conjured up tons of emotion in me.

Hi there hap! :D

I actually have that on my list too, plus what Richard has said. The "earn this" line always gets to me everytime I see Ryan on DVD. Saying that, I have actually seen Saving Private Ryan 11 times in the cinema! So yeah my eyes are puffed up all the time.

As a matter of fact, I should have done as Simone, and reduced the list to a few ones.

One that really, really stroke me is Kikujiro´s Summer. When both the boy and Kitano know what happened with the kid´s mother... the face of Kitano. My tears were flowing.

And Chaplin. What a great one he was. He always shoots at heart, and he nails it. The Kid, A dog´s life, The Gold Rush... you laugh and cry in a twist. A master like no other, at least to me.

And I agree with Bob: The Iron Giant. It´s so good and moving, so wisely done. The same scene had my heart in a fist. Brad Bird knows how to do it.

Peter says, "As a matter of fact, I should have done as Simone, and reduced the list to a few ones".

But your list keeps growing and growing, you softie! ;D

How about some 'classic' emotional scenes:
Top Gun - when Goose hits the canopy and he and Cruise bob about in the sea awaiting rescue

City of Angels with Nicholas Cage and Meg Ryan...the final scene when Cage is at the beach swimming.

Pretty woman...when Gere climbs the balcony at the end and wins back his Pretty Woman...see a happy emotional moment that still makes you cry!!!!!

Peter already noticed it earlier but isnt there just a lot of Spielberg films here, including Richard's choice, 'Always'?

Yeah, he is a master of tugging the heart strings. He says himself that it's because he came from a broken home - that's particularly attributed to E.T.

Wouldnt the score or music chosen for films (or even certain scenes) play a role in the emotional pull of it? I mean John Williams is great in composing really emotional scores.

Having also seen 'Always', I felt that the song, 'Smoke Gets In Your Eyes' can really get you going and all choked up. Maybe a future feature on films with great soundtracks or music score may grace the pages of Filmstalker soon Rich? ;D

I agree with that suggestion, Simone. I love film scores. I have my list ready.

Hey Thesnowleopard, I am scouring through all my film soundtrack collection since I came up with this idea! By the way, great list you had there too.

Sounds a great idea. If the Filmstalker community wasn't down just now for maintenance I'd add it to the list of features to do.

I cannot believe I forgot 'The Bridges of Madison County'!!!

That scene where it was raining, and Francesca (Streep) was with her husband, and we wait in suspense whether she will ran off with Kincaid (Eastwood) in his pick-up truck, and the way she had to hold it all in before she was able to cry was to me just so powerful. I so loved that movie and can only imagine how difficult it must be to let go of someone you truly loved.

Gee sorry for that last post, I didnt realise everything else got bold after. ;)

Bold or not, I second that choice, Simone. Great scene.

Thanks TheSnowLeopard - I have always been a sucker for romance. ;)

What about Cast Away, with Tom Hanks? When he loses Wilson in the sea. That was incredibly moving! That ball was as real to me as it was to him!

I couldn't agree more with you Peter. I love Wilson!!!

The ending to "Gattaca" always gets me all choked up.

When the doctor (Xander Berkeley) lets Ethan Hawke's character pass to enter the shuttle launch, it really gets to me.

I've just thought of another one, Angel-A (review).

During it there's a moment where the lead character looks into a mirror (the camera) and he's told to really look at himself and examine who he is. See who he is and love the things that make him who he is. It's an incredible moment because there's a feeling that he's looking at you and you turn these thoughts on yourself. When the tears start to form it's probably one of the most intense moments in cinema I've seen for a long time.

I'm quite amazed that I forgot all about this one.

Hey Richard, I got a tear-jerker for you. I can't believe I've forgotten all about this. How about the "Where the Red Fern Grows?" Darn, I'm a real sucker when it comes to animals.

I've heard about that film but never seen it. Possibly for the same reason that I can't watch animal films - I just start bubbling!

When Del Mar was huddling in the doorway crying while Twist was driving away in Ang Lee's good film,I was crying, too.

i find that the end scene in 'Gladiator' when the main character dies fighting the emporer but he sees his people are freed, he then gets to be with his deceased family again, which has been his goal throughout the film - the music is so moving and amazing, you feel happy and sad at the same time - this is truly one of the most emotional scenes i have ever seen

The music in that scene helps loads Connor. It's such a powerful score in that film.

The Royal Tenenbaums - Wes Anderson as ritchie, the scene when he is in the bathroom, flips out and starts shaving his beard and cuttting his hair, I find the most emotional part is when he looks in the mirror and says "im going to kill myself tomorrow".

I think that this scene with this song together make the most intense movie scene of all time. needle in the hay is the perfect song and really creates the feeling of the scene.

heres the url if you have not seen it.


Poodle might not get to see this post now but I agree about the same emotional scene you mentioned. I so love this movie but there wasnt any chance of it winning over Braveheart that year.

IF ONLY --- the only movie that got me crying profusely. Watch and you'll see.

The scene in 'Cinderella Man', where Jimmy Braddock (Russel Crowe) is in Madison Square Garden asking the promoters for money to pay the heating always gets me, it's fantastic.

Has anybody ever seen 'Dead Man's Shoes' directed by Shane Meadows.

[*** Major spoilers follow *** - Richard]

If so, the end sequence where Anthony's death is revealed and that Richard was just hallucinating his little brother all along and he says 'I just want to lie with my brother'.
It is so powerful, I've never seen anything like it in my life.
Anybody who hasn't heard of Meadows should check him out. His films are just so very good!


The final scene in Finding Neverland!!

Johnny Depp n Fredie Highmore kill it...right from when Kate Winslate walks into the Neverland set right upto the final scene in on the garden seat. Gets me n my mum crying like babies always!

above all...............
the letter in which Brook's Hatlen explain his uneasy life in the wide world outside the prison...completely weird and very natural. Its the most touching sequence of the Shawshank Redemption...and would make movie lovers to sympathize for poor Brooks for generations ahead!!

The scene from district 9 where vikus helps the alien escape knowing he'll transform into an alien.

These two come to mind:

Field of Dreams: After Doc saves Ray's daughter at the cost of giving up his dream of being young and playing ball for eternity with his heroes, he's the elderly version of himself as he approached the corn. As he leaves, Shoeless Joe yells, "Hey Rookie!" There's a beautifully timed closeup on Doc's face as he turns, and Joe says, "You were good." It's very, very moving, and says a lot about what is good and pure about sport.


Rudy: At Rudy's final high school football practice, his coach is giving a speech all coaches give at that point; saying farewell to those who have given their best, knowing that many will never wear a uniform again. Rudy is clearly in that category at this point in his life. The coach gives all seniors the chance to take a symbolic final hit as the coach holds the tackling bag (a type of football ritual good-bye). It's Rudy's turn and he hits the bag hard. As he walks off the field, the coach turns and says in a sincere and almost quiet way, "Rudy, we're gonna miss you." If you played ball, and had heart but little, if any talent, maybe you can relate to this. It surprised me how much that small scene moved me when I saw it.

Oh that's a cracker Noah. That scene in Field of Dreams gets me every time, not just for the character and the situation, but also because I feel it's Burt Lancaster's farewell too.

No list of emotional Movie Scenes is complete without 'It's a Wonderful Life'. And I don't mean the scene at the end.. although that is also emotional.
There is a scene where George Bailey is sitting at a bar and is at the end of his rope. Everything he has ever worked for is unraveling. He's not religious but he begins to pray out of sheer desperation. Just an amazing scene. I'm not a religious person either, but it gets dusty in my TV room everytime I watch this scene.
Also, a very underrated movie called Fearless about a guy who survives a plane crash and suffers PTSD. Rosie Perez is in it. She killed me in the scene where Jeff Bridges tries to convince her that she could not have saved her baby in the plane crash. Seriously.. Rosie Perez.. If you haven't seen it, then you should.

Oh Ryan, that is a corker. I really liked Fearless and I loved the performances there as well as the story. Now you've highlighted the scene I remember it and it highlights how good an actress Perez is. That was tough to watch.

So many to choose from but my Top 3 are probably:

1. Mr Holland's Opus - end of the film when his old Clarinet pupil, Gertrude Lang says,

"There is not a life in this room that you have not touched, and each of us is a better person because of you. We are your symphony Mr. Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus. We are the music of your life." gets me every time.

2. A little -known film called Joshua. Joshua places his hand on the hand of Father Tordone and he suddenly recognises him for who he really is.

3. Steel Magnolias - Sally Field's breakdown at the graveside. Enough said.



Site Navigation

Latest Stories


Watch Movies Online

Latest Reviews


Filmstalker Poll


Subscribe with...

Site Feeds

Subscribe to Filmstalker:

All articles

Reviews only

Audiocasts only

Subscribe to the Filmstalker Audiocast on iTunesAudiocasts on iTunes



Help Out

Site Information

Creative Commons License
© filmstalker.co.uk

Give credit to your sources. Quote and credit, don't steal

Movable Type 3.34