10 Emotional Film Scenes

Posted: February 13, 2015 in Thoughts and Reflections


Sully and Boo_Monster's Inc.

Who saw this film and wasn’t completely charmed by the warm affections between Boo and Sully? Despite being about as opposite as two can be, their fondness and eventual love for each other slowly grows over the course of the film until it culminates in their final moment together, the moment in which they must say goodbye. Here is where you see just how extensive their relationship has become. Boo runs around showing Sully all her toys, and Sully—–realizing how difficult their goodbye is going to be—–tries to turn her attention to what neither of them want to face.

Sully’s explanation is so simple, yet so gripping and emotional. The music works with precision and establishes the tone perfectly as Sully simply explains, “Kitty has to go now.” As he leaves the room, he turns around to get one last look at the little girl that made such an impact on him, and you can see the tears being held back as he closes the door. The scene is so unexpected and so perfect, and leaves you with tears in your eyes.



Liam Neeson_Schindler's List

There are so many scenes to choose from in this film, including the scene in which Oskar Schindler sees a pink coat in the midst of all the bodies being burned: the same coat he saw on a little girl during the liquidation of the Jewish Ghetto. But perhaps the scene that best summarizes the film’s emotion in terms of its grave subject and the strength of its main character is the scene close to the end of the film in which Schindler realizes how many lives he could have saved.

After spending every last penny of his own savings (though, granted, attained through unethical methods) rescuing Jewish prisoners from the concentration camps by recruiting them into his factory, Oskar Schindler stands around a crowd of overwhelmingly-grateful people. As he surveys the hundreds of lives saved from the gas chambers and ovens, he suddenly realizes that he could have saved more; that the pin on his jacket represents two potential lives saved, and another ten for his car. Despite all he’s done and the life-time of gratitude he’s earned, he’s still despondent that dozens more could have been standing around him as well. Liam Neeson delivers a hard-hitting performance in a compelling scene in an even more heart-wrenching film.


THE GREY HAVENS——The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Elijah Wood_The Return of the King

The Lord of the Rings films are peppered with scenes of evocative emotion. But for sure the scene that evokes the most emotion is the very last scene of the trilogy where five friends, their bond strengthened by battle-hardened loyalty, must say goodbye. For those of us who didn’t have the pleasure of reading the books before viewing the films, the Grey Havens scene was a tough pill to swallow. It comes with mixed emotions, with both confusion and sorrow, but also an element of satisfying happiness.

After everything the Fellowship has endured together on their incredible journey, it seems almost unfathomable that their fellowship would ever come to an end. First, a very old and weary Bilbo boards the ship, and then Gandalf bids the hobbits farewell. As loveable of a character as Gandalf was, however, nothing could prepare us for the moment when he turns around and says, “It is time, Frodo.” The look of utter shock on the hobbits’ faces reflects our own, and the tears begin to well-up as Frodo gives each of his friends a personal goodbye. Then he comes to Sam—–his faithful companion who stayed with him to the bitter end—–and the tears begin to flow. The entire scene is so difficult to digest.



Simba_The Lion King

As if this film doesn’t revolve enough around emotion, primarily in the spiritual, Mufasa’s death has always been among the most sorrowful scenes in film history. Even as a young child, I always sympathized with Simba on a deeply emotional level. The young lion cub who “just can’t wait to be king” is tricked by his malicious uncle into a gorge, where he suddenly finds himself in the midst of a herd of stampeding wildebeest.

With absolutely no hesitation, Mufasa plunges into harm’s way to rescue his son. Even in adulthood, the scene loses none of its traumatic drama. When Scar betrays Mufasa, exclaiming those haunting words, “Long live the king!”, Simba watches helplessly as his father plummets to his death. He eventually finds his father and, the moment when even the most stoic of viewers breaks down, begs him to get up and come home.



Omaha_Saving Private Ryan

I’m sure the vast majority of us are conscious of the fact that World War II, like all wars, was atrocious. We consciously acknowledge the bravery of our veterans who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. But do we really, I mean truly, realize exactly what these guys endured during this gruesome period of history? Steven Spielberg’s amazing and awe-inspiring film puts us directly into the action and depicts with amazing accuracy just how appalling warfare is, without resorting to conventional “sugar coating.”

Without going into much gory detail, the entire 30-mintue opening scene couldn’t be more compelling. Unlike most war films that merely show men being shot down with some blood, the Omaha Beach scene shows soldiers not only being cut down, but cut apart. Shell-shocked men clamor for shelter as they suddenly realize that their lower body is missing. Not only is the film—–but this scene especially—–one of the most rude-awakenings you’ll ever experience, but it’ll make you weep with sorrow to so dramatically see what our troops went through. Re-watch Saving Private Ryan, and next time you see a veteran thank him and shake his hand.



Andy and Bonnie_Toy Story 3

We all had toys in our childhood. That’s why we as adults—–not kids, but adults—–have always connected so emotionally with the ending of Toy Story 3. For my generation, we grew up with the Toy Story films. Now we’re all in college or working, some of us married and with kids of our own. So it’s little wonder that this film has such a nostalgic impact.

Andy is going away to college; the good old days of the Adventures of Woody and Buzz Lightyear are but a distant memory. The toys that he once revered and loved are just meaningless pieces of junk to him, until he takes them out of the box and actually looks at them. That’s when the memories of good times come flooding back, and Andy suddenly finds himself reluctant to part with them. After playing with his toys one last time, he passes them on to the next generation so that they can have even more adventures and be loved and adored once again. It’s a curious thing when the adults are crying and the kids are looking at them in bewilderment.



James Stewart_It's a Wonderful Life

So we all grew up with this film, watching it every Christmas and pretty much knowing most of the words. It’s a great story, even if some of us never quite sat back to mull it over in our minds. George Bailey: the man who wants to shake the dust of “this crummy little town” off his boots and see the world. But of course there’s his late father’s business, the only thing standing between the good townsfolk and a grumbling, money-hungry Mr. Potter. While his little brother Harry goes off and becomes a decorated war hero, poor George is stuck fighting the battle of Bedford Falls.

On the verge of bankruptcy and suicide, George Bailey is shown the world without him. It’s only after this that he realizes what a wonderful life he truly has and his utter importance to the world, even if the world is just Bedford Falls. All of his friends gather in his living room and sing “Auld Lang Syne” as each one individually places money into the basket. Then he receives an advance of $25,000 from his old childhood friend. But the part that truly makes this one of the most emotionally moving scenes in film history is when Harry—–adorned in his Medal of Honor and stately uniform—–raises his glass and toasts, “To my big brother George, the richest man in town.”



Carl and Ellie_Up

Up is one of the most mature animated films there are. Whether you’ve been married for 1 year or 60, whether you’ve experienced loss of a close loved-one or not, Up manages to resonate within the heart of the viewer in a way that only a special few films have. The reason? It deals with perhaps the most powerful and tangible emotion in existence: human relationship.

Nobody else knows the influence of love through marriage more than the Greatest Generation. Back then, couples dealt with the rigmaroles of marriage rather than separate, thus enforcing and enriching the relationship over time. This ideal love is brilliantly displayed in Up within a few-minute montage, without the use of any dialogue. When Ellie presents Carl with the scrapbook of memories from a lifetime of devoted love, the two part forever; and through the brilliant piece of storytelling and Michael Giacchino’s passionate music you deeply feel the love that was shared.



Daniel Day-Lewis_Lincoln

Spielberg’s masterpiece Lincoln is one of the most in-depth biopics there are. Through the use of stimulating dialogue spoken in an intricate manner as well as a sophisticated telling of the real-life events, you can’t help but feel as if you truly know this great man. So it only seems logical that you would feel such tremendous emotion at the end of the film when President Lincoln is assassinated.

Even though you know it’s coming, even though Lincoln’s assassination is one of the most familiar events in American history, Spielberg’s brilliant knack for bringing the extraordinary man to life overwhelms the viewer (or at least this viewer) with this dawning realization of how sad and tragic indeed the ordeal must have been to a grieving nation. John William’s tranquil score blends perfectly with the surreal setting of the scene to make a truly humbling experience, one that is followed by Lincoln’s gratifying speech following his election to a 2nd term.


“BROOKS WAS HERE”——The Shawshank Redemption

James Whitmore_The Shawshank Redemption

The Shawshank Redemption in and of itself is a hard-hitting, compelling film. One that deals with a myriad of themes and connotations surrounding justice, indirect vengeance, hope, and the fragile state of life. Brooks is a character who has been properly “institutionalized”, a man who has spent more of his life incarcerated than free. His story is a heart-breaking reminder of how justice can eventually turn into injustice. His time in prison slowly turned a criminal into an honest man, and then an honest man into a despairing man.

His letter he writes to his prison mates solemnly narrates a life wasted by the corruption of the justice system. After so many years of routine and conformism, Brooks can’t handle the simplicity and freedom of life and eventually succumbs to the wretched thing that haunts many men: despair. While perhaps not a tear-inducing scene—-at least not for some—-the scene enhances the depressing nature of the film. . . and makes the ending all the more gratifying.


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