'Absolutely kills me': you pick your saddest movie scenes

Our writers picked their peaks of cinematic sadness and you responded with animated elephants, Christmas melancholy and emotional reunions. Spoilers ahead


When Dumbo is taken to see his caged mother. Song plays Baby Mine. Dumbo swings in mother’s trunk. Then they part. Just writing this is killing me. I watched this tens of times as my kids loved this film. I cracked every single time I saw this. In the end used to leave room when it came on. ArchieStaircrow

My bawling forced my grandmother to whisk me out of the cinema and I refused to go back and watch the rest. I tried watching it again at 24 years old. Still couldn’t watch it. Tried again at 50-bloody-5, and I still couldn’t do it. I hope Walt Disney is burning in hell for making a movie guaranteed to traumatise children. MorvaHindrance

The Truman Show

When Truman finally hits the wall at the end of the sea in his boat. Walks up the steps, says: “If I don’t see ya. Good afternoon, good evening and good night” to the director, and heads through the door.

The people in the real world going bananas, the people in the bar, the two old ladies on their sofa, the balding man his his bath, punching the water with tears of joy.

Absolutely kills me! Drahcirsreyas

Running on Empty

The end of Running on Empty when Judd Hirsch realises he needs to let River Phoenix have a better life than being constantly on the run and tells him to cycle off to his grandparents. It’s about that point where you have to leave an old life behind. The tragically early death of River Phoenix makes it even more poignant. Saty

Whale Rider

For me it’s the scene in Whale Rider where the girl (played by Keisha Castle-Hughes) is delivering a speech that she hopes will win her the approval and respect of her tough Maori grandfather – and he walks out, evidently unimpressed. Devastating. EssexTone

Man on Fire

The scene that always makes me cry is in Man on Fire on the bridge at the end. The moment Denzel sees Pita, the look on his face is amazing. The whole scene as she runs to him up the bridge, with the powerful music is just incredible.

Man, I need to watch that film again. HunkyPants

Mighty Joe Young

In the closing scene of Mighty Joe Young the island explodes and Joe goes under the sea holding and saving the people who befriended him – me and my two brothers, now in our 50s, then in early teens late childhood, all sat on the sofa and bawled our eyes out – filling up now just thinking about it. MikeinLeeds

Billy Elliot

When he says goodbye to his nanna before leaving for ballet school London. No words but a very powerful scene … welling up now thinking about it.

Reminds me of my own nanna. CantEatCheese

Empire of the Sun

The ending of Empire of the Sun. Jamie starts out of the film as such a spoiled brat, but is so traumatised along the way that even though he sees his mum among the adults, he can’t seem to attract her attention. The moment when his parents come over to him and he closes his eyes when his mother embraces him … now I’m wishing I hadn’t started thinking about this at work. Judy Pan

Local Hero

There’s a little bit in Local Hero where a drunken Russian sailor sings a song at the ceilidh. I’ve tried to analyse many times why it always makes me weepy, but with no success. Isolde2

Love Actually

How about Emma Thompson in Love Actually when she realises her gift from her husband is a Joni Mitchell CD and not the necklace. All to Both Sides, Now. The held back tears even when she’s on her own. I can feel the tightness in her chest every time. susan adams

Every Christmas, THAT Emma Thompson scene in Love Actually gets me. Every single year. jamesdrodger

The 400 Blows

The end of The 400 Blows.

A young boy running away from all the shit behind him, the sound of his footsteps, his breath, birdsong, him tucking his head down to run harder, finding his rhythm, just running. I was crying well before Jean Constantin’s gorgeous theme kicks in and you find out what he’s running to. alexito

A Matter of Life or Death

I always choke up, though I’ve watched it over and over, during the opening scene of A Matter of Life and Death – David Niven bantering with Kim Hunter on the meaning of life before throwing himself out of the burning plane with no parachute as she tries to think of some way to save him. tyroneshoelaces

Call Me by Your Name

Cannot, cannot get the scene in Call Me by Your Name out of my head of Elio’s longing for Oliver over one day after they have kissed. His plaintive refrain “Have you seen Oliver?” to various people, as the day dies and he’s left crouching in the shadows, and all to the sublime music.

“It’s been a long, long time since I memorised your face.”

Absolutely accurate depiction of anyone who’s ever been in love for the first time, it gets me right there every time! Smallb


The end of Interstellar where he is reunited with his daughter. When she said: “No parent should see their child die” just destroyed me. It was a couple of years after we lost our daughter and the whole film was like a resounding touchstone for me. I wept all through the credits and I’m so grateful to that movie for giving me some release from my grief. underwatermusic


Rosetta by the Dardenne brothers. The bit where the wretched Rosetta tries to gas herself and her mother and the gas runs out and at the end where she grasses up a workmate. I’ve known people in hopeless situations and this just had me bubbling with rage and emotion. jimbartlett


The end of Big gets me every single time. Something about how in the real world we can never get a second chance in life, we just tumble forward. And the kids playing in the street not really knowing that childhood will end. I once happened to switch the film on just at the moment when Josh gets out of the car to return to his family and I immediately teared up. RuthlessCosmopolitan

Terms of Endearment

Although melodramatic by many standards, the death scene in Terms of Endearment always stands out. Due in large part to what has gone before, but the acting chops of Debra Winger and Shirley MacLaine cannot be overstated. A mother watching her only child die before her eyes, and the love that wordlessly transpires between them before the end, and MacLaine’s final scenes are heartrending. CaroleJoni

Brokeback Mountain

The shirt moment in Brokeback Mountain. I thought my tears would choke me. I walked out of the cinema in a daze, sat down in a nearby cafe to calm myself down, and proceeded to bawl uncontrollably for almost an hour while my boyfriend tried to distract me without much success. zurnalista

It was everything … the music, the shirt on the hanger, a love so intense it cannot be assuaged … the whole movie is a masterpiece. I still think its deepest depth-charge is that a movie that got pegged as being about gay love ended up being about all and any love. AhBrightWings


Guardian readers

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