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Tear Jerkers: The Saddest Moments in Film and TV

March 24, 2021

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Some scenes make audiences laugh; some have fans on the edge of their seat. But which fictional film and TV moments are most likely to have watchers sobbing and breaking their ‘poker face’ after each viewing?

Our players are incredibly important to us, and we are always thinking of new ways of improving the user experience for them. That’s why we conducted this survey to reveal the saddest on-screen moments as voted for by the public. We wanted to understand the psychology of our players and their emotional intelligence when it comes to TV and film, to help better the user experience for them from an emotional standpoint.

So, let’s get started and see what you all thought!

Warning: Major spoilers for films and TV shows ahead!

Ten film and TV moments that brought genuine tears

So, what did the public vote as the ultimate saddest on-screen moment?

Perhaps not-too-shockingly, Mufasa’s emotional passing in The Lion King leaves fans struggling to stifle sobs more often than any other moment, with a quarter of respondents (25%) voting this as the scene that makes them most tearful. Animal deaths are clearly the hardest hitting for fans of film and TV, with Marley and Me’s ending, and the loveable golden retriever being put to sleep, voted the second saddest scene (21%) Bambi’s mother’s death the third (20%).

The saddest scene not centered around the death of an animal is Tony Stark’s selfless sacrifice in Avengers: Endgame, which provoked weeping in 19% of Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) fans. Significantly, this marks the third Disney sequence to feature in the top four; a tribute to the company’s captivating filmmaking. Meanwhile, again with 19% of the vote, the wholesome scene with the elderly couple cuddling towards the end of Titanic, amid the chaos of the sinking ship, is voted the fifth saddest moment in film and TV.

Narrowly missing out on a top-five spot, we have Will Smith’s heart-wrenching abandonment in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, in reference to the moment he distressingly realizes he’s being stood up by his biological father. This touching sequence triggered tears in 16% of fans.

Not too far behind, Dobby’s death in Harry Potter was especially difficult to process for 13% of respondents, while Toy Story 3’s incarcerator debacle and the infamous Friends’ closing scene after ten years on telly both saw sobbing in 12% of fans. Taking the final spot in our list of the top ten tear-jerkers, Carl’s grief after the sentimental death of his wife Ellie in Disney’s Up sees 11% of respondents wiping tears away after each viewing.

Which scenes dominate by generation?

Of course, certain films and TV episodes will have a greater impact on some than others, so we’ve broken down the data to discover the saddest moments by age. And when it comes to highlighting which cinematic moment makes each age category the weepiest, there’s a clear generational split.

For instance, Mufasa’s tragic death takes the lion’s share of the vote as the most harrowing media moment for audiences currently aged 25-34 and 35-44. Coincidentally, both brackets were celebrating youthfulness when The Lion King first featured in the mid-90s, with fans either born alongside its release, in their teenage years, or in their early 20s.

Interestingly, the modern generation of teens and 20-somethings also consider contemporary cinema to be the saddest, with those aged 16-24 ranking Tony Stark’s 2019 death as equally devastating as Mufasa’s.

For those aged 45-54 and 55+, however, there’s a clear shift in what is seen as most saddening. Instead of tearing up at one of Disney’s more modern movie masterpieces, the middle-aged and elderly of today consider the devastating ending to the 1942 classic Bambi to be the most sob-worthy piece of cinema.

Showing emotion

Of course, it’s good for us all to cry at times – especially when witnessing the death of our most beloved characters.

However, there are some certain instances when you should try to withhold any emotion if you can – and playing poker is at the top of that list!

Showing even the slightest bit of emotion can tell us a lot about a player in live poker. For example, if a player is showing visible excitement or eagerness, it could be the case that they have a stellar hand or are extremely happy about the card that was laid out in front of them and what this could mean for them on their next move.

In contrast, showing any signs of worry or concern, even if just for a minute, can predict that the game isn’t going their way and they could be folding soon.

Of course, they could also be bluffing – but still are good signs to look out for!

Some of the most memorable film and TV moments are those that make us ugly cry, but how many of the top ten tear-jerkers get you a little weepy?  Explore the latest on our blog for even more insight from us and the latest in our world.