22 Movie Reunion Scenes That Hit Like An Emotional Gut Punch

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Vote up the movie reunions that really stick the landing.

The power of the movies often lies in their ability to move viewers to tears, and there is often nothing quite as moving as the reunion of two characters who have been separated. There is an emotional charge in such scenes, in part because they indulge the fantasy so many have of it not being too late to reconnect with someone they've lost.

These scenes, often accompanied by swelling music – which mirrors the upwelling of feeling the audience is expected to feel – often hit with particular force. They are, then, a reminder of just how magical the movies have always been, and how skilled they often are at expressing, and fulfilling, society’s deepest collective desires.

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  • Field of Dreams is the type of movie that could only have been made in the late 1980s and early 1990s, before popular culture became cynical. In the film, Kevin Costner plays Ray Kinsella, a man haunted by both his own failures in life and by his relationship with his father, which remained broken at the time of his death. Once his cornfield becomes inhabited by the ghosts of former baseball players, it finally gives him the chance to connect with his past, including his own father, who returns as a younger version of himself. It’s the type of emotional moment that often marked the climax of films of this period.  

    This moment strikes a chord for many reasons. Most notably, it indulges the fantasy so many people have of being able to finally reconcile with a loved one who has died before fences could be mended. Just as importantly, it also resonates because it allows Ray to connect with his father when he was still young, before life had worn him away. Unlike life, which so infrequently offers these opportunities, Field of Dreams gives viewers the fantasy of it just being possible.

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  • Though cinematic adaptations of Stephen King’s work can vary widely in terms of quality, few would deny the beauty and artistry of The Shawshank Redemption. In large part, this is because the film features a number of powerful performances from actors of extraordinary ability, including both Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne and Morgan Freeman as Red. Theirs is a profound and moving bond, but they are ultimately separated when Andy manages to escape from prison, while Red stays behind.

    Fortunately, Red does manage to secure parole, but he begins to wonder whether he will ever be able to adapt to life outside of the prison. After discovering a cache of money left for him, however, he ultimately reunites with his old friend on a Mexican beach. The smiles on both of their faces are truly a sight to behold, and their joy is infectious. It’s impossible not to celebrate with these two men who, having endured the dehumanizing impact of life in prison, have finally emerged into a bright and beautiful future.

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  • Throughout his career, Tom Hanks has excelled at creating everyman characters, men in whom the audience is expected to see something of themselves. In the film Cast Away, he plays a man named Chuck Noland, who is wrecked on an island for several years and, upon returning to civilization, finds his would-be fiancee has, understandably, moved on and married someone else. 

    Their reunion scene is a particularly wrenching one. Both Hanks and co-star Helen Hunt, who plays Kelly, deliver dynamite performances, and it’s clear from everything about them, from their body language to the way their eyes meet, the extent to which these two people still love one another. Kelly even goes so far as to say he is the love of her life. However, they both realize she can’t destroy the family she’s built, and it is this admission, the recognition of the inevitability of time moving on, that makes this such a devastating moment, for both the characters and the audience.

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  • Throughout the 1990s, Disney had a particular knack for creating emotionally evocative films. One of the most notable of these was Homeward Bound, with its focus on a group of pets – Shadow, Chance, and Sassy – who set out on an incredible journey to reunite with their human owners.

    Of course, they endure a great deal along the way, and at one point it seems Shadow may not make it. In fact, his owner, Peter, believes he hasn’t survived; so, when Shadow at last comes limping over the hill, it hits both him and the viewer with particular poignance. The obvious joy on Peter’s face, to say nothing of Shadow’s exuberance, is a fitting celebration of the extraordinary bond which exists between a boy and his dog.

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