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The Most Heartbreaking Death Scenes, Ranked

Updated October 2, 2019 1.1k votes 287 voters 1.1k views27 items

Legendary film critic Roger Ebert often said that movies are a machine that generates empathy. The best sad death scenes in movies prove him correct. When a film is really working and the audience is engaged with the characters, tragic movie deaths can pack a real wallop. Anyone who claims they haven't cried at the passing of someone onscreen is either lying or has no emotions. 

When you look closely at some of the great sad movie death scenes, you notice that they aren't all the same. While the vast majority of famous death scenes involve human beings -- like Leonardo DiCaprio's Jack in Titanic -- there are plenty of cases where an animal's demise has left audiences in tears. In fact, some viewers are more sensitive to those deaths than anything. If you've ever seen the elderly pooch expiring at the end of My Dog Skip, you know exactly what we mean. Even when the characters are animated, a passing can yank the tears from your eyes. Look no further than Ellie's death in Pixar's Up if you doubt that claim.

Grab your tissues, watch the videos below, and vote up the sad death scenes that most leave you an emotional wreck. And if you're in the mood to weep, check out these other emotional movies that'll make you cry.

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  • 'Forrest Gump' - Jenny's Death is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Heartbreaking Death Scenes, Ranked
    Video: YouTube
    Forrest Gump is a 1994 American epic romantic-comedy-drama film based on the 1986 novel of the same name by Winston Groom. The film was directed by Robert Zemeckis and stars Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, Mykelti Williamson, and Sally Field. The story depicts several decades in the life of Forrest Gump, a slow-witted and naïve, but good-hearted and athletically prodigious, man from Alabama who witnesses, and in some cases influences, some of the defining events of the latter half of the 20th century in the United States; more specifically, the period between Forrest's birth in 1944 and 1982. The film differs substantially from Winston Groom's novel on which it was based, including... more on Wikipedia
    • Actors: Tom Hanks, Sally Field, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, Brendan Shanahan
    • Released: 1994
    • Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
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  • 'Saving Private Ryan' - Captai is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Heartbreaking Death Scenes, Ranked
    Video: YouTube
    Saving Private Ryan is a 1998 American epic drama war film set during the Invasion of Normandy in World War II. Directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Robert Rodat, the film is notable for its graphic and realistic portrayal of war, and for the intensity of its opening 27 minutes, which depict the Omaha Beach assault of June 6, 1944. It follows United States Army Rangers Captain John H. Miller and a squad as they search for a paratrooper, Private First Class James Francis Ryan, who is the last-surviving brother of four servicemen. Saving Private Ryan received universal critical acclaim, winning several awards for film, cast, and crew as well as earning significant returns at the box... more on Wikipedia
    • Actors: Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Vin Diesel, Paul Giamatti, Bryan Cranston
    • Released: 1998
    • Directed by: Steven Spielberg
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  • 'The Green Mile' - John Coffey is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Heartbreaking Death Scenes, Ranked
    Video: YouTube
    The Green Mile is a 1999 American fantasy drama film directed by Frank Darabont and adapted from the 1996 Stephen King novel of the same name. The film is told in a flashback format and stars Tom Hanks as Paul Edgecomb and Michael Clarke Duncan as John Coffey with supporting roles by David Morse, Bonnie Hunt, and James Cromwell. The film also features Dabbs Greer, in his final film, as the old Paul Edgecomb. The film tells the story of Paul's life as a death row corrections officer during the Great Depression in the United States, and the supernatural events he witnessed. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor for Michael Clarke Duncan, Best Picture, Best... more on Wikipedia
    • Actors: Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise, Sam Rockwell, James Cromwell, Michael Clarke Duncan
    • Released: 1999
    • Directed by: Frank Darabont
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  • 'Bambi' - Bambi's Mom Is Shot  is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Heartbreaking Death Scenes, Ranked
    Video: YouTube
    Bambi is a 1942 American animated drama film directed by David Hand, produced by Walt Disney and based on the book Bambi, A Life in the Woods by Austrian author Felix Salten. The film was released by RKO Radio Pictures on August 13, 1942, and is the fifth film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series. The main characters are Bambi, a white-tailed deer, his parents, his friends Thumper, and Flower, and his childhood friend and future mate, Faline. For the movie, Disney took the liberty of changing Bambi's species into a white-tailed deer from his original species of roe deer, since roe deer do not inhabit the United States, and the white-tailed deer is more familiar to Americans. The film... more on Wikipedia
    • Actors: Sterling Holloway, Sam Edwards, Cammie King, Ann Gillis, Will Wright
    • Released: 1942
    • Directed by: James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, Paul Satterfield, Bill Roberts, Norman Wright
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