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Most Cry-Worthy Scenes

17 years ago

Katherine Mansfield's "Miss Brill" came up in another thread, and I think it's one of those stories that packs a wallop because you want -- you have -- to cry over the sadness of it.

What other scenes not about physical deaths of characters or pets and other animals have made you dissolve? Things that might be subtle or even funny if they weren't so heartrending. These can be from books, stories, films, plays, poems...

There's a scene in "The Music Man" that I can't watch without bawling: it's when the young boy (played by a very young Kurt Russell in the film) is humiliated by his alcoholic father showing up at the party with ice cream but the ice cream...well, gulp! I shouldn't say more. I feel so sorry for both the boy and the poor, well-meaning but embarrassing father.

In The King's General: The Christmas scene before the fire with Alice playing her lute. Sir Richard takes up the lute from her:
"We are all lovers here, are we not?" he said. "Each in his own fashion, except for these sprigs of boys."

He smiled maliciously and began to drum the strings of the lute.

"Your most beautiful bride who with garlands is crowned,

And kills with each glance as she treads on the ground,

Whose lightness and brightness doth shine in such splendour

That none but the stars

Are thought fit to attend her.

Though now she be pleasant and sweet to the sense

Will be damnably mouldy a hundred years hence."

He paused, cocking an eye at them, and I saw Alice shrink back in her chair, glancing uncertainly at Peter. Joan was picking at her gown, biting her lips. Oh God, I thought, why did you break the spell? Why did you hurt them? They are none of them much more than children.

"Then why should we turmoil in cares and in fears,

Turn all our tranquility to sighs and to tears?

Let's eat, drink and play until the worms do corrupt us,

'Tis certain, Post Mortem Nulla voluptas

For health, wealth, and beauty, wit, learning and sense

Must all come to nothing a hundred years hence."

He rippled a final chord upon the strings and, rising to his feet, handed the lute to Alice with a bow.

"Your turn again, Lady Courtney," he said, "or would you prefer to play at spillikins?"

Sadness, like humor, is subjective, I suppose. Sometimes I don't mind being manipulated; other times I can sit dry-eyed through the most sentimental of scenes. What about you?

Comments (58)

  • 17 years ago

    Books/stories that have at least left me feeling choked up and misty-eyed:

    Orwell's Animal Farm
    Keyes' Flowers for Algernon
    Oscar Wilde's The Happy Prince

    Human tragedy doesn't affect me as much as animals that get hurt and/or die. I always cry over the animals.

    Songs will sometimes make me cry. Some examples:
    Kate Bush's This Woman's Work
    Sara McLachlan's When She Loved Me from Toy Story 2 (who would have thought a song about a rejected doll could reduce people to sobs -- I sometimes have to leave the room when I watch this movie with my kids)

  • 17 years ago

    The Time Traveler's Wife--the last 1/3 of the book.
    Lonesome Dove--Gus dies. I really wanted him to marry Lorie(?) and take care of her forever and ever...

    These weren't just crying scenes, but sobbing hysterically scenes. I cry easily, too, so I couldn't begin to recount all the scenes which caused me to choke up.

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  • 17 years ago

    Frieda, there was a Disney film back in the 60's called Follow Me, Boys, where Kurt Russell played a teen with a ne'er-do-well, drunken father. Are you thinking of that film?

    I second Flowers for Algernon and the four trunks scene in Little Women. Zenna Henderson has some poignant stories in the collection The Anything Box, about people who have made the wrong choices and now must live with the consequences. And I always get the proverbial lump in my throat when Sam realizes that Frodo is leaving Middle-Earth, in the scene where they meet Elrond and Galadriel in the woods with Bilbo on the way to the Grey Havens.

    And oddly enough, I often cry at the end of These Happy Golden Years, when Laura leaves home to go with Almanzo.

    The only others I can think of at the moment are all death scenes, such as the death of the Prince of Mona and later of Coll in Lloyd Alexander's The High King.

  • 17 years ago

    Oh, if we are going to talk Disney movies, Child of Mine in Dumbo. I cried when I first saw that scene as a kid, and have at least got teary at each viewing.

    I tend to have trouble with Disney music, its usually too saccarine for my taste. But not that one (btw, the best music every made for a Disney movie was Lion King in my very humble opinion. And yes I did cry when the king died)

  • 17 years ago

    I still get teary thinking of Gus dying in Lonesome Dove.

    Also the scene in the Jan Karon book where the much loved elderly woman dies, and the priest goes in the middle of the night to toll the church bells.

  • 17 years ago

    "The Reader" by Bernard Schlink is a rather strange book. I think it was written in German and translated to English. Not wanting to give anything away I'll just say that there's a passage that was so unexpected (as a reader I never, ever guessed this outcome), it took my breath away and I was honestly shook up. I still ponder the message of that book because it deals with some issues you'd think were black and white.

  • 17 years ago

    I think the end of the book 'Where the Red Fern Grows' is definitely cry worthy. Also the end of the movie 'The King and I'. The movie is based on a book ('Anna and the King of Siam' I think) but I have not read it, so don't know if there were significant differences between the movie and the book. Has anyone read the book and can tell us whether the end of the book is just as sad?
    suzanne il - I certainly remember being disturbed by 'The Reader' also, for a number of reasons. The question I had after finishing it was "Who was the true prisoner in this situation?"

  • 17 years ago

    What a great thread, Frieda. I'll have to think about this a bit before responding.

  • 17 years ago

    I don't remember crying but the book that depressed me terribly was titled A Map of the World. Stayed with me for days after finishing it and I warned others away from reading it.

  • 17 years ago

    I realized after posting yesterday that you were looking for more sentimental examples. I find more of these cases in news stories -- those stories of random acts of kindness or animals that find their way back home after being separated from their owners, etc. Those type of stories can leave me with a lump in my throat. I know there have been books I've read along these lines, too, but I'm having trouble thinking of them. All I can think of right now are Born Free and The Color Purple. My nomination for one of the best, most emotional/breathtaking reunion scenes in a film is from the Claude Lelouch version of Les Miserables. If you've seen that film, you'll know the scene I mean.

  • 17 years ago

    (don't want to put spoilers in'll just have to read them if you don't know to what I refer!)

    In one of Sharon Kay Penman's Wales series, when Llewellyn "puts his wife from him" because of her misguided choice

    Abdullah's self-sacrificing gesture in one of the Elizabeth Peters Amelia books

    The last Poirot book

    The railroad station scene at the end of the last P.D. James Adam Dalgleish book-

  • 17 years ago

    Wow, I recognize so many of the cry-worthy things you all have mentioned -- the four little trunks of Little Women, Bambi's mother, Jennifer's father comforting her husband, Flowers for Algernon...

    donnamira, thank you for mentioning "Follow Me, Boys." I think that must be the film, everything sounds right; but I have absolutely no memory of anything else about it, though I must have seen it several times. For at least thirty years I've been mixed up, thinking that scene was in "The Music Man."

    I expect deaths of characters and animals and abuse of helpless people and animals to be normal tear inducers. So, yes, Georgia, I was thinking more along the lines of the little, poignant things that catch you unaware or the things that even when you expect them still manage to zing your heart. Ironies, too, often affect me that way -- Chris mentioned a classic example of that: O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi."

    Here's another that always gets to me, Elizabeth George Speare's The Witch of Blackbird Pond; I still weep every time I reread it. Here's one scene early in the story, but there are at least half a dozen others that get me all choked up: In 1687 sixteen\-year\-old Kit Tyler arrives in Connecticut from her birthplace and home in Barbados. She meets her forbidding, Puritan uncle, Matthew; careworn though once lovely aunt, Rachel; vivacious, beautiful, and more\-than\-a\-little\-vain cousin, Judith; and her gentle, soulful\-eyed other cousin, Mercy, who has been severely lame since having a fever when she was a child. Matthew leaves the house to his womenfolk. Judith wants to know what is in the seven trunks Kit brought with her. Kit obligingly opens each for her cousin to inspect while Mercy watches quietly but with great interest from her chair. Judith is ecstatic when she sees the profusion of Kit's garments. She tries on Kit's gloves; then she reaches impulsively for a gorgeous peacock blue silk dress. Kit urges Judith to try on the dress and Judith hastens to do so. It looks so lovely on her that Kit instantly says Judith must have it for herself. Then she wants to give something to Mercy, too, and decides on a delicate English shawl. Mercy protests but is obviously delighted. Suddenly, Aunt Rachel walks in to find her daughters and niece not doing their chores. She starts to scold but catches sight of Judith, so radiant in the beautiful dress. She has a look of "half fear and half hunger in her eyes." Kit enthusiastically insists that Rachel try on a bonnet, and Rachel complies. The girls are twittering until a chill swept across the room from the abruptly opened door. On the threshold stood Matthew Wood, staring from his awful height at the littered room, the gowns tumbled over chairs and benches, and the guilty faces of his womenfolk. "What is the meaning of this?" he demanded. "The girls were watching Katherine unpack," Rachel explained...
  • 17 years ago

    Frieda, the title of the movie is "Follow Me, Boys". It starred Fred McMurray as a scout leader. I think Kurt Russell's name in the movie was Whitey. Fred and his "wife" had no children and they took Whitey in, who became a doctor as an adult. There's a big celebration at the end of the movie for the scout leader's years of service.


  • 17 years ago


    I cry my way through the final scene of Cyrano de Bergerac every time I read it. And I'm crying not because he is dying, I'm crying over the lost opportunity.

    Abdullah brings a tear to my eye, too, CeCe.


  • 17 years ago

    The endings of:
    The Golden Compass Phillip Pullman
    Dr. Zhivago Boris Pasternak
    Possession A.S. Byatt
    The Blind Assassin Margaret Atwood

    The First Four Years L.I. Wilder -- the house burning scene and
    On the Shores of Silver Lake regarding Jack, the most understated and poignant description of a dog that I've ever read.

  • 17 years ago

    32 people were killed today by some lunatic in Virginia. My kids are both attending university. When I think of what those families are going through, I cry. Senseless, and unfathomable loss.

    Put me in the Bambi howling camp. I lost a good deal of childhood innocence after watching that movie. I didn't believe that mommies could die until then. It was traumatic.

    Another one for the list: Sophies Choice. You all know the scene I am talking about.

  • 17 years ago

    How about Melanie's death in Gone With the Wind, and Bonnie Butler's death?

  • 17 years ago

    While I enjoyed reading GWTW, nothing about it made me cry. The movie now, thats a dif story (Scarlett finding out that her mother died is one)

    jan, when I first read the title to this thread, I immediately hit on the ones that make me cry the most: headlines, the news. I heard about that massacre while out on the playground with my students and I got a shiver, how easy it would be for someone...oh, I started tearing. I can't even begin to imagine what those families are going through right now. And while I don't have kids, can well imagine your fear for them.

  • 17 years ago

    ARGH! After the news of the massacre today, any pondering about SUBTLE sadness probably seems frivolous. Slap-you-up-the-side-of-the-head shock of senseless death is completely different from what I was after, but I didn't state that explicitly enough. Actually, I didn't want to get into death scenes at all, but those are what many readers remember crying over and I understand why. So be it, we can talk about those too.

    No, what I was actually interested in at the instigation of this thread was the kind of sadness in stories, etc., that make you cry because of their poignancy -- the ordinary sad, little things such as the old lady having her beloved fur being made fun of or the young husband and wife selling their most prized possessions to buy something for the other -- things that might not be considered cry-worthy except...except they are so necessary in the development of sympathy and empathy in readers, listeners, viewers. Cry-worthiness is in the heart of the beholder, no doubt, and that's what I was intrigued with. For instance, when I read that some of you cried over such-and-such scene, I think: did I cry over that same scene? Oh, yes, I did. Or, hmm, I can't remember; maybe I should go back and read it again with a different perspective. Or, I've never read that one but maybe I should.

    Does that explain a little better why I mentioned and quoted the scenes I did?

    Of course, now that death has been firmly reiterated, I'm finding your examples equally fascinating. So, please, carry on!

  • 17 years ago

    >No, what I was actually interested in at the instigation of this thread was the kind of sadness in stories, etc., that make you cry because of their poignancy

    I kind of figured that was what you are after. Thing is, as many of those moments that I have read, I can't think of one that made me cry. They've made me very sad, but not teary. Usually what makes me sad are missed moments - where someone had the chance to do something, say something, and the inaction caused so much pain (there is a wonderful Rod Stewart song called If Only that I get teary at). I also think many of the short stories I enjoy (Vonnegut, Bradbury and Saki among my favorites) have the type of irony which address the human character, and such make me sad. But these rarely bring me to tears.

  • 17 years ago

    >the ordinary sad, little things such as the old lady having her beloved fur being made fun of or the young husband and wife selling their most prized possessions to buy something for the other Aren't they all about some degree of loss, though? Loss of the pride in her fur, loss of the pleasure each took in the other's prize (her hair meant so much to HIM) and of course, loss of a loved one.

  • 17 years ago

    I'm the kind of teary goose that finds Charlie Brown's The Great Pumpkin unbearably sad. Loss of faith is tragic to my way of thinking and I've always thought that cartoon was devastating. It tore me up through the entire series that he kept believing that this time Lucy wouldn't pull the ball away. Perhaps it isn't loss of faith that bothers me, it is faith in the face of all evidence to the contrary.

  • 17 years ago

    Chris _ I mention this one because I know that you have read his work - Guy Gavriel Kay can get me blinking rapidly. There were a few scenes from The Lions of Al-Rassan that had me repeating, "This is just a book...this is just a book...and it's fantasy , to boot. Get a grip on yourself." As you know, the story parallels the history of medieval Spain and the conflicts among Jews, Muslims and Christians (although they are given different names). No magic, btw. The strength is in the characters who are representatives of each of these religious groups. As outcasts, they become good friends who can see beyond their religious differences. Yet at the end they find themselves at odds due to inevitable political differences, honour and love of country. It is very poignant and throughout it all, the sadness at the loss of a very beautiful culture.

  • 17 years ago

    I know that I have read many poignant passages that have made me cry, but because I rarely re-read books, I can't really think of any at the moment. Although I do remember choking up while reading my kids The Hobbit or The Fellowship of the Rings when one of my favorite characters dies. But I couldn't tell you his name at the moment.

    I do remember some movies scenes that always choke me up, however. One is from "Notting Hill" with Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. Grant's character's friend is in a wheelchair. She and her husband along with Grant and his other friends are hurrying to catch up with Roberts so he can tell her he loves her. The woman in the wheelchair tells them to not worry about her, but to go on ahead she'll be fine. Her husband stops and basically says "The he** we will." And he picks her up and puts her in the car, throws the wheelchair in the back and away they go. That scene really touches me.

    As a lover of old-fashioned musicals, I'm a sap for people announcing their reappearance with song. For example, in "The Sound of Music," when the Von Trapp kids are trying to cheer themselves up by singing "My Favorite Things." It's not working until they hear Maria's voice joining in as she returns to them from the abbey.

    Then, in "South Pacific" when Nellie Forbush thinks that Emile has been killed, and she's trying to get his kids to sing the French song. I always choke up when they hear his big strong voice join in as he comes walking up the hill.

  • 17 years ago

    There are several scenes in I Know This Much is True that I had to just set the book down and bawl. But I have a schizophrenic brother and another brother that takes care of him, so it came close to home. I also cried at the end of A Prayer for Owen Meany, not for the obvious thing, but because their whole lives led up to that devestating moment.

    I can cry though all the movie scenes metioned and more, and Hallmark commercials as well. But it's harder for me to cry while reading a book; maybe fewer senses are engaged. And I've never cried while listening to a book! But that may have to do with what books are available. That said Obasan was heart rending, but I didn't cry.

  • 17 years ago

    Janalyn, I absolutely agree about Kay. I always thought the only fantasy part of Lions... was the two moons in the sky. His latest, Ysabel is about two men who battle across two millenia for the woman they both love. That is sad enough, but what got me was the tragedy of the land itself, Provence, the scene of repeated invasions and massacres.

    Which brings to mind Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon. It is a lovely story, but my heart breaks with the passing of the old ways.

    I, for one, take some comfort in talking about lesser sadness in the face of greater tragedy. Psychologists probably have a name for such avoidance coping mechanisms.

  • 17 years ago

    Chris-I'm sure many of us carefully chose a book last night-one for comfort or "escape" from a situation too sad to contemplate.

    I tear up at sacrifice, as well-Aslan, Humphrey Bogart giving up Elsa, Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend, for heaven's sake.

  • 17 years ago

    as usual IÂm off topic but once I watched the film "A Beautiful Mind" with the screenplayer
    comment on. A very likeable lad, but very ugly, he looks like a bit, as SnoopyÂs bird friend; heÂs
    small with his face dotted with strange...I donÂt know, and has sort of scattered turfs of hair.
    Eventually he says that he has dedicated the movie to his mother, who taught him how it is not so
    important your exterior if you have a beautiful interior.
    So he badly wanted that his mother did, in the movie, a little cameo
    When Nash receveis the Nobel and keeps his speech, he thanks his wife and says...blah blah, ...
    IÂm here because of you...blah blah. But when Russel Crowe utters these worlds, Jenniffer
    Connely is in the frame, but just behind her, thereÂs the screenplayerÂs mother as well, so you hear
    Russel CrowÂs voice reciting the screenplayer line and his mother is in the frame....IÂm here
    because of you...
    Since then every time I think about this, I am moved.
    But I donÂt cry of course, I am a man


  • 17 years ago

    How could I have forgotten two very OLD favorites from childhood: "A Bird's Christmas Carol" and "Dog of Flanders". Even having re-read them as an adult, I wept.

    As for scenes from films: the reading of the poem: "Stop All the Clocks", towards the end of "Four Weddings and a Funeral."

  • 17 years ago

    I tear up when, in Paul Gallico's Mrs 'Arris Goes to Paris she sees her couture gown for the first time.

  • 17 years ago

    In Across Five Aprils, when the brothers (one who fought for the rebs and one who fought for the yanks) met up in a prison hospital. What a cry I had!

    Then just a couple of years ago, right before Christmas break, I was reading aloud to my 11th graders the short story by Truman Capote, "A Christmas Memory." I'd read this story dozens of times before, but for some reason, I got really choked up and bawled my head off right in front of my (somewhat stunned) students!

  • 17 years ago

    Don't get me started on movies, I cry at the drop of a hat. Woodnymph, I've also had a good cry over "Stop All the Clocks" at the end of FWaaF. Heck, I even cried through the entire end of "Nanny McFee" (which my kids found mortifying). I cried through parts of The Enormous Egg while reading aloud to my DD. Juliana, I also cried over the end of Byatt's Possession. The list goes on and on.

    What I usually find weep-inducing is when people, or characters, do the right thing, have faith, stand up for each other in the face of danger or are unexpectedly kind when they don't have to be. Evil, human weakness, and brutality just get me angry. It's the kindness of strangers or the gentle tug of karma actually balancing in favor of the good that leaves me weepy.

  • 17 years ago

    Let's see:

    These movies have scenes where my DH just keeps handing over the tissues .....

    The Ghost & Mrs. Muir (1947) -- the original -- the ending !!

    Mrs. Miniver (1942) -- the church sermon in the bombed-out church and so many have died ....

    Scrooge (A Christmas Carol) (1951) -- Alistair Sims -- where the old Scrooge watches his younger self walk out on his dying sister -- and misses her plea for him to look after the newborn nephew. He blames the child for his sister's death -- repeating the same sad blame that his father placed on him. A crucial scene for the whole storyline -- and one that is always missed in the later versions.

    A Guy Named Joe (1943) -- the original story was re-done as the film "Always" -- but in the original there is a wonderful scene where a wealthier flier surprises a very homesick younger one with an overseas telephone call from his family back in the States.

    A Matter of Life and Death (also known as Stairway to Heaven) (1947) -- with David Niven.

    The Bishop's Wife (1947) also with David Niven and Cary Grant

    The Enchanted Cottage (1945) -- This is considered a "Three-Boxes of Tissues" movie. And chocolate will have to be involved.

  • 17 years ago

    teacats Mrs Miniver was considered by Churchill to be the film that brought the US into WWII . . . and apparently the Great Man was known to get through several hankies during sad films.

  • 17 years ago

    Truly Madly Deeply. Poor David, he had me on one side and our good friend Mary on the other, and we were both in tears. Heard him sniff once or twice as well

    Titanic. Very poorly scripted and acted - but, the story it self, with the incredible special effects, just broke my heart. The tears started when they superimposed original photos of the people on the craft with the actors playing them.

  • 17 years ago

    For me, the first time I read "Cold Sassy Tree" I cried my eyes out when both the grandma and the grandpa died. I don't know why though, because the second time I read the book I didn't cry.

    I definitely agree about "Where the Red Fern Grows." I haven't read it since I was a kid just because it's so sad.

    Also, Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye" really makes me feel pretty sorrowful.

  • 17 years ago

    Some children's books really make me tear up, too. My children would pay more attention to me choking up at the end of The Polar Express than to the story which, in accordance with this thread, is poignant rather than heartbreaking. Same with Patricia Polacco's Chicken Sunday.

    As far as movies, Hotel Rwanda and A Beautiful Life really did me in, as I suspect they did for many. Sheri, I am good at mortifying my children in the theater--tears flowed (not theirs) for Because of Winn Dixie, Are We Done Yet and that movie about the sled dogs which died in Alaska--first two for poignancy, last for just plain sad.

  • 17 years ago

    Bookmom, I cried through the end of Winn Dixie too. I hadn't read the book before we saw the movie (because it's been my experience dog stories always end badly) and I was SURE that dog was dead, so I tried to weep inconspicuously. However, when the dog came back I completely lost it and needed vast quantities of kleenex to compose myself. Kids mortified? Check! For their part, not a tear was shed. They're made of sterner stuff than I am.

  • 17 years ago

    Well, movies! I cried at the end of ET.

  • 17 years ago

    ET left me dry-eyed when I saw it with a "date" in college. On the other hand, my date cried, which I thought a bit too sensitive. Reminds me of the comic Dennis Miller who says his wife is hypocritical, always telling him to be more sensitive and in touch with his feelings. When he did cry (over a movie or something) she looked at him like "why did I marry this hamster?" Oh that double standard.

  • 17 years ago

    I almost never cry when reading books, and rarely when watching movies. I do however choke up with a hard lump in my throat, and that is a sign that I love the book (or movie).

    In the midst of all this sadness, I have to tell you I had a laugh-out-loud moment from Teacats's sly comment about a favorite movie, "This is considered a "Three-Boxes of Tissues" movie. And chocolate will have to be involved."


  • 17 years ago

    Beth's death in Little Women.

    The ending of Confessions of a Pagan Nun - cried like a child!

  • 17 years ago

    I nearly cried during class in eighth grade when we read flowers for algernon.
    Les Miserables made me cry so much that I had a wet pillow for 3 nights in a row while I was reading it. I went to see the musical and cried the entire time. I still love it, though.

  • 17 years ago

    Totally agree about Truly Madly Deeply
    And, of course, there's Terms of Endearment and Love Story, but does it hold up?

  • 17 years ago

    norcal, I also cried at the play, "Les Mis", as well as during "Phantom of the Opera."

  • 17 years ago

    For three days, I cried over Bridges of Madison County, a book I had picked up for a friend's B'day present. Scanned it in Costco and cried - brought it home, read it in an hour and sobbed for the three days.

  • 17 years ago

    The first time I cried over a story was when I was about 7. It was a short story in a children's journal and it was about a little boy caught in the last days of Pompei. Nothing really gory but terribly sad. Naturally my parents came running to console me. The next time I looked for the tale (apparently up for another jag) it had been neatly severed from the magazine. I was devastated and still never let anyone catch me weeping.

    Great thread.

  • 17 years ago

    Aw - too bad your folks did that. I remember coming to the dinner table in tears; I'd been reading Grapes of Wrath, I was 11, and it was just way too much for me. My dad took it from me and asked me to wait a bit before I went back for it. It helped calm me a bit and gave us a chance to talk. Then he let me finish it. I don't think they ever censored anything I read.

    I remember reading a book about Pompei, but I was older. Very unsettling, but even more so as an adult when I got to see the remains at the Naples Archaeology Museum, and of course seeing Pompei itself. Wow.

  • 17 years ago

    Cindy, Grapes of Wrath is difficult for an adult to handle; I'm impressed that, at 11, you found it interesting enough to persevere.

  • 17 years ago

    Cindy--I am impressed also but great readers often do start very young.