Movies & TV / Columns

Ten Movie Scenes That Make You Cry

August 8, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Shawshank Redemption

If you’re like me you’ve found plenty of time to stumble down YouTube rabbit holes. You know, you start off with a video on how to replace a valve and four hours later you end up watching movie clips of sad scenes.

That’s what happened to me the other day and here we are. We can all agree that some scenes speak to all of us on some levels. Take Up. That opening montage is made to draw out the tears. Or in Bambi, when Bambi’s mom dies. You got to have a pretty cold heart for that not to touch you in some way. 

I could drop scenes from Million Dollar Baby, Monsters Inc., Marley & Me, The Fault in Our Stars, My Girl, Gladiator, and numerous others but want to focus on a few that really got to me. 

Don’t use this list to attack me in the comments with: “YOu DIdn’T iNCluDE BEAcHeS!!! YoU SUCk!!!!” 

Take a deep breath and let’s go. 

John Q
Say what you want about how heavy handed the movie was, it had Denzel Washington, who is always good for some classic scenes. I was bawling at this when it first came out but this one especially gets me now that I have kids. Here you have a son who will die unless he gets a new heart and his dad, who is about to take his own life so his heart can be used to save him. Before he does it, he takes a few moments to pass along all the advice and direction that he thought he’d have the time to share over the years but has to boil it down to a few minutes. 

Sixth Sense
You definitely had a couple tear inducing scenes in this movie but I really loved the scene at the end where little Cole, who has tried so hard to keep his mom from worrying about him and thinking he’s weird, finally lets her in on his secret. The way he does it is so simple but so heartfelt. I wish this clip had the whole scene with the bicyclist staring in the window because it shows you the heavy world he has to live in. Toni Collette does a lot of little things in this scene that give it just the right amount of emotion that a mother would have listening to her child, who’s always been a bit different. 

It’s DENZEL again! This movie seems to get lost in the shuffle for some reason. Denzel brings the heat playing an alcoholic pilot who crashes a plane (while high on coke and drunk) in one of the wildest air scenes I can remember. During the investigation he gets some breaks and all he has to do is follow the script and he’ll get off without consequence. Denzel’s portrayal feels real. You feel his guilt. His shame. Everything he does has gravitas and when he finally breaks, so do I.  

Road to Perdition
A deeply personal one for me. I love Paul Newman. He’s my favorite actor and seemed to be a great guy outside the industry. The movie set up such a strong bond between Newman and Tom Hanks that even though you knew it was going to end this way, it still catches your breath. The scene is shot beautifully, keeping the jarring sound of gunfire till the end. I saw this in the theater with friends and I was surprised by how much it gutted me. 

The Pursuit of Happyness
How about some happy tears? Yes, the movie took some liberties with Christopher Gardner’s life story but how can you not feel his elation from the payoff to all his hard work, determination, and sacrifice? Will Smith’s subtle expressions as he realizes that he’s getting the job make it and, most of us, can relate to that situation. The recognition of accomplishment. The scene is understated but carries plenty of weight. 

Man on Fire
Am I on Denzel’s payroll? I’ll never tell but as badass as this movie is, it has incredible heart and that’s thanks to the relationship and bond between Washington’s Creasy and Dakota Fanning’s Pita. Once she’s kidnapped you know how it’s going to go down and once it does, you know it won’t end well for pretty much everyone. What’s great is even though I have this listed here, if I was doing a list of badass scenes in a movie, this one would have a few (“I wish…you had…more time.”) of them! Still, when it comes down to it, when Creasy finally secures Pita back, his mission is fulfilled and her safety is all that matters. 

Pita : “I love you, Creasy. And you love me too, don’t you?”
Creasy : “Yes, I do. With all my heart, Pita. Go.”

Shawshank Redemption
A true and lasting friendship is one to be celebrated. A story of redemption is one to be examined. Put them together and you have Shawshank Redemption. Andy and Red’s story is long and winding but you’ve never wished for two friends to be reunited more. When Red decides to go all in and find out what Andy had laid out for him, you’re filled with hope. And that’s what gets you. That hope builds up to the moment when the two are reunited and it’s left to us to fill in the blanks. 

OK, it’s my list and I’m throwing in Brooks’ death because the contrast from prison to the world outside is so stark, you can feel Brooks’ pain and confusion. When someone feels safer within the prison walls, that’s tough to understand for most but Brooks puts it in terms we all can feel. 


The Green Mile
Michael Clarke Duncan and Tom Hanks pull you in and by the time you get to this next scene you’re too invested to look away. The anguish at watching someone so innocent and naive taking their final steps builds until the last moments. It’s a work of fiction but while watching you know this has happened all too often. Duncan’s work on this film blows me away and I can’t believe it has been almost 8 years since he has passed. 

Good Will Hunting
Another payoff scene in another great movie. Matt Damon’s Will Hunting needed this scene to bring some closure to his violent past. Robin Williams guides this scene masterfully, balancing it just right. When I first saw it, it caught me off guard with how fast the mood changed and what the character was trying to accomplish. We don’t know if Will will find lasting peace but at least he’s taken that first step down another path. 

Look at this! I’m putting two videos in. While this scene doesn’t get the tears flowing like the one above, Robin Williams puts on an emotional tour de force that has me holding my breath while watching it. These words ring true yesterday, today, and tomorrow. 

The Iron Giant
Do I really need to tell you about this one?

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