10 Saddest Moments In Movie History

By Rick Gonzales | Published

Saddest Moments in Movie History

Movies, in general, are created to elicit emotion, whether that be through laughter, fear, or even sadness. The movies that fall into this heartbreaking category have a way of building to this emotional crescendo, just to see it burst with sorrow and tears. There are many reasons that films reach us with such raw emotions – perhaps it is something we can relate to personally – but these saddest moments can cut deep.

We have found the 10 saddest moments in movie history. They come from romantic dramas, animated films, and even one set in a prison. Make no mistake about it, have your box of tissue at the ready because these films will hit you where it counts.

10. The ending to Life is Beautiful (1997)

The horrors of World War II are put on display with a bittersweet smile in Roberto Benigni’s Academy Award-winning comedy-drama, Life is Beautiful. After being taken to a concentration camp, Guido (Benigni) devises a game for his young son, Giosuè, as a way to hide the horrors surrounding them.

Through comedy, Guido is able to get his son through, but it is the ending of the film that is so heart-wrenching. Sacrificing himself for his son’s safety is such a powerful and emotionally charged moment, one of the saddest in movie history.

9. The ending of Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Brokeback Mountain tells the story of Ennis (Heath Ledger) and Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal) as two cowboys who, in 1963 Wyoming, fall in love. But the social barriers they face make it impossible for the two to be able to express their feelings for each other. Ennis’s final visit to Jack’s parents after Jack has died in a freak accident and his realization of the love he would never be able to claim is heartbreaking.

8. The "Hachiko" scene in Hachi: A Dog's Tale (2009)

There is something about animals in films that elicit strong emotions, especially loyal ones such as dogs. Hachi: A Dog’s Tale tells the story of Parker Wilson, a college professor, who one day finds a stray puppy at the train station. Naming him Hachi, Parker brings him home but is unable to train Hachi to fetch the ball.

Parker is told that Akita (Hachi’s breed) can’t be taught and if they do fetch, there is a special reason for it. The heartbreaking moment comes after Hachi finally does fetch the ball. He sits in vain, waiting for Parker to return to the train station, but Parker never does. A stroke has taken his life.

7. The "Mr. Stark, I don't feel so good" scene in Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

We all knew some of the Avengers were not going to survive in 2019’s Avengers: Infinity War, but none hit harder than Spider-Man fading off into the breeze. Thanos had just collected all six Infinity Stones and performed the snap that would take half the lives across the universe.

The shock came as Spider-Man, without his mask and talking as Peter Parker, realized he was going to be part of the snap. It was his emotional plea to Tony Stark that had audiences reaching for the Kleenex in one of the saddest moments in Marvel history.

6. The "Don't go" scene in Titanic (1997)

You have to give James Cameron credit for his epic and ground-breaking 1997 film Titanic. Not only did it tell a wonderful romantic story between Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet) but it also opened the floodgates when audiences realized only one of them was going to survive.

The saddest moment in the film comes after the Titanic has already sunk and Jack is holding on for dear life while Rose lies perched on top of a floating piece of wood. With the freezing water taking its toll, Rose bids a final farewell to Jack, her savior, who slowly sinks into the ocean.

5. The death of Mufasa in The Lion King (1994)

It’s not like we haven’t been here with Disney. Ever since their first animated cartoon (Snow White), Disney animators have been pulling at the heartstrings. You may recall Bambi or even Dumbo. Audiences got another sad moment in The Lion King when Simba’s father, Mustafa, saves his young cub from a stampede. Although Simba made it to safety, Mustafa did not, and it was an emotionally charged scene that was truly heartbreaking. Thanks, Disney.

4. The final scene in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

We spend the first 110 minutes of the total run time of 114 minutes watching Steven Spielberg’s E.T. make friends with Elliott, Gertie, Michael, and their mom Mary, only to have it come crashing down in a flood of tears as E.T. says his final goodbye. We have invested a lot in this relationship between an alien and a family, so forgive us if we are reaching for the tissues as the credits begin to roll.

3. The execution scene in The Green Mile (1999)

When John Coffey (the late Michael Clarke Duncan) says, “Please, don’t put that thing on my head. I’m afraid of the dark,” one can’t help but feel the emotional weight and crushing sadness of the moment. Jailed for murders he did not commit, John Coffey becomes more to the prison guards at Cold Mountain Penitentiary, making his wrongful execution a much more powerful scene.

2. The ending of Schindler's List (1993)

You can pick a number of scenes in this excellent Steven Spielberg film that can be called the saddest moment, but truly it is the end of the film that hits home. The true story follows Oskar Schindler as he attempts to save as many Jewish lives as possible from the concentration camps during World War II. Although he becomes a hero, it is when he breaks down after realizing he could have saved even more lives that is so raw, emotional, and tragic.

1. The ending of The Champ (1979)

If you ask scientists, especially those at the University of California, Berkeley, they will say without a doubt, the ending of The Champ is the saddest moment in film history. They even tested it out for an audience to state their claim. The scene in question sees Jon Voight as a washed-up boxer, get back into the ring one last time in an attempt to make a better life for him and his 9-year-old son, played by Ricky Schroeder.

Everything seems to go well as the Champ wins the big fight. But once back in the dressing room, the Champ took a huge beating in his victory and dies. It was Schroeder’s performance in this scene that was so heartbreaking that it is often considered the saddest moment in movie history.