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The Most Heartbreaking Death Scenes, Ranked

Updated October 2, 2019 13.2k votes 2.0k voters 56.3k 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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  • 'The Green Mile' - John Coffey's Execution
    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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  • 'Saving Private Ryan' - Captain Miller's Final Words
    Video: YouTube
    Saving Private Ryan is a 1998 American epic drama war film directed by Steven Spielberg. Set during the Invasion of Normandy in World War II, 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.... more on Wikipedia
    • Actors: Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Vin Diesel, Paul Giamatti, Bryan Cranston
    • Released: 1998
    • Directed by: Steven Spielberg
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  • 'Up' - Ellie's Life And Death
    Video: YouTube
    Up is a 2009 American 3D computer-animated adventure comedy-drama film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. Directed by Pete Docter, the film centers on an elderly widower named Carl Fredricksen and an earnest young Wilderness Explorer named Russell. By tying thousands of balloons to his home, 78-year-old Carl sets out to fulfill his dream to see the wilds of South America and to complete a promise made to his late wife. The film was co-directed by Bob Peterson, with music composed by Michael Giacchino. Docter began working on the story in 2004, which was based on fantasies of escaping from life when it becomes too irritating. He and eleven other Pixar... more on Wikipedia
    • Actors: Christopher Plummer, Ed Asner, Laraine Newman, John Ratzenberger, Delroy Lindo
    • Released: 2009
    • Directed by: Pete Docter
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  • 'My Girl' - Thomas Is Stung By Bees
    Video: YouTube
    My Girl is a 1991 American comedy-drama film directed by Howard Zieff and written by Laurice Elehwany. The film, starring Macaulay Culkin and Anna Chlumsky in her feature film debut, depicts the coming-of-age of a young girl who faces many different emotional highs and lows. Also starring Dan Aykroyd and Jamie Lee Curtis. A sequel, My Girl 2, was released in 1994.... more on Wikipedia
    • Actors: Jamie Lee Curtis, Macaulay Culkin, Dan Aykroyd, Anna Chlumsky, Richard Masur
    • Released: 1991
    • Directed by: Howard Zieff
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