16 movie and TV moments to make a grown geek blub

Most of us have a TV or movie moment that brings tears (of emotion, not laughter) to the eyes. A selection of Den Of Geek writers confess to theirs right here...

Before we get going, we need to bring your attention to the following…

A note about spoilers: inevitably, each of the entries here reveals a plot point about the show or film concerned that you may not want to know. That’s why, for this list, those headers are bright red. That way, it should make it a bit easier to know where to skip to if there’s a particular entry you want to avoid

That sorted, here are the moments that have been moving the writers of Den Of Geek to tears over the years – and please add your own in the comments at the bottom!

SERENITY

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 “I am a leaf on the wind. Watch how I-“

Firefly, as any card-carrying geek knows, was tragically cut down before its time. And in his Big Damn Movie spinoff, Joss Whedon decided to assign Alan Tudyk’s lovable pilot the same fate.

We loved Wash. We loved him from the first time we saw him, playing with toy dinosaurs at his console in Firefly‘s debut episode. He was kind-hearted, funny, and so in love with his Mrs he even managed to resist the charms of Christina Hendricks.

But since Whedon has a habit of killing off his best-loved creations and breaking our geeky little hearts (cf. Anya) we should have known poor Wash’s days were numbered.

When his death comes towards the end of Serenity – just as we’ve all breathed a sigh of relief that the crew has survived an almighty ding-dong between the Reavers and the Alliance – it’s fast, brutal and totally unexpected. Neither wife Zoe or the audience even has time to cry until several scenes later, when Wash’s crewmates finally pay their respects to their fallen friend. The music soars, Zoe looks magnificent in her grief… then the repair of Serenity begins. A new day dawns. Life goes on. But it’s going to be a lot more dull without Hoban Washburne and his dinosaurs around… – Gemma Reilly

LUCAS

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If there is ever a film that is able to bring a lump to my throat and have me reaching for the nearest box of Kleenex it has to be 1986’s Lucas, which stars the late Corey Haim. The reason why it resonates so much is the fact it’s a very simple story of a young boy who isn’t the most popular or elegant in his school but is the most honest and the most caring. The audience follow his ever-growing crush on new girl Maggie, and her ultimate dismissal of him of never more than a friend makes you want to pick him up and give you a big hug. Wanting to make himself seem more of an attractive option the weedy Lucas joins the football team and, although scorned by the rest of the jocks, he plays his heart out – until he is badly injured. It is around this point the tears start until you reach the end of the movie when his classmates finally realise how great he really is and bestow him with his very own letterman jacket.

This is the bit that actually gets me every time because at last the little guy wins and not for any other reason than being himself. Haim was amazing in this role and it really makes you wonder what might have been had his career not hit the skids, as he was truly a talent. – Carley Tauchert

UP

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Two moments here had me welling up. The first is perhaps the most obvious: that stunning sequence that charts the life story of Ellie and Carl. It’s not even the eventual death of Ellie that gets me, it’s the moment when they realise they can’t have children. I really had trouble with it. I appreciate that one or two have suggested that Pixar overegged the sequence a little by including that bit, but I thought it was wonderfully done, without going over the top.

What bookends Up, though, and had me reaching for my hankie again, is when Carl – near the end of the film – starts flicking back through his scrapbook and discovers just a few more pages. Again, brilliantly done, and a moment that in the hands of most others would be coated with copious amounts of sugar. Pixar, though, got it absolutely bang on. – Simon Brew

BLACKADDER GOES FORTH

You shouldn’t cry at a sitcom. Even the softest, sappiest, heart-on-sleeve-wearingest geek has to draw the line somewhere. And yet you’d be hard-pushed to find anyone who didn’t get just the tiniest bit choked up in the final moments of Blackadder Goes Forth.

Of course they all died at the end of the second series too, but this time it’s entirely different. Blackadder was always heavy on the satire and social commentary, but there’s a sense of realism in the WW1-era episodes which lends every one of Captain B’s thwarted schemes to escape the German artillery a layer of dreadful, doom-laden poignancy.

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For a show known and loved for its irreverence, Blackadder Goes Forth never fails to respect the thousands who served and died in the trenches. Every witty one-liner in ‘Goodbyeee’ bears the terrible weight of anger, hopelessness and grief for a lost generation. Think of Baldrick, innocently asking, “Why can’t we stop, sir? Why can’t we just say ‘no more killing, let’s all go home’?”, or of relentlessly-optimistic George almost forgetting his stick as he heads into battle: “Wouldn’t want to face a machine-gun without this!”

As our heroes line up to await the signal to advance, you still – even on your ninth UK Gold rewatch – expect a last-minute reprieve, one final Cunning Plan to save them all. It doesn’t come. It can’t. But when Blackadder, Baldrick, George and Darling go to face the enemy, they go with dignity and grace; this is war, this is real, and they’re no longer playing for laughs.

If you don’t start blubbing when the final scene dissolves into a peaceful field of poppies, then you’re probably more heartless than No-Heart ‘Heart-Be-Gone’ McHeartless, winner of this year’s Mr Heartless competition. – Gemma Reilly

SIX FEET UNDER

Created by American Beauty writer and True Blood show runner Alan Ball, Six Feet Under ran for five seasons from 2001 to 2005.  And I loved it.

Well, to be more exact, I loved seasons 1 and 2. As the HBO show progressed its trademark mix of black humour and surreal daydream sequences gave way to a more conventional structure of soap-style storylines. But when it was at its best, Six Feet Under was some of the finest television ever made.

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The final episode contains a scene so simply conceived, yet so brilliantly executed, that no follower of the show could fail to weep. Claire Fisher, the youngest of the family whose story Six Feet Under tells, leaves home for her first job in New York. As she drives across the vast expanse of America, we’re treated to a montage that shows us the future lives and deaths of each of the show’s main characters.

It ends with Claire’s own passing, surrounded by photographs of everyone she has loved and who has loved her. Soundtracked by the haunting song Breathe Me by Sia, it’s a truly breathtaking, beautiful and fitting end to a series that had death at its core and life in every frame.

Each time I see it, I blub like a newborn. – Karl Hodge

LOST

I’ve lost count of the times this show has caused me to pretend that no, really, I’m fine, it’s just been raining on my face. What with Charlie’s drowning, Libby’s drawn-out demise and Ilana telling Ben she’ll have him (back of the damn queue, Ilana) I’ve cried almost as much as Jack Shepherd over the events on that island.

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‘The Constant’ is one of the best episodes the Lost team ever made. It has everything; time travel, mystery, tension, and a gorgeous Scotsman in uniform. But the point of it all is Desmond’s enduring love for Penny Widmore. Even after spending three years in the hatch, watching an ex-hobbit die and facing off against a disapproving Alan Dale in his quest to win her back, he has never given up hope. When the two finally make contact after years apart, with a phone call that saves Desmond’s life, it never fails to bring on the great big embarrassing sob-noises from my side of the room. But really, you can’t beat a bit of happy crying, can you?

As Michael Giacchino’s perfect score reaches a crescendo, we cut between Desmond on the freighter and Penny in London; their voices overlap, bursting with joy and renewed hope: “I’ll find you, Des-” “I promise-” “-no matter what-” “-I’ll come back to you-” “-I won’t give up-” “-I promise – I love you.”

Jack and Kate, watch and learn. This is how you do a love story. – Gemma Reilly

DAWSON’S CREEK

Welcome to the least cool entry on the list. Sit down. Make yourself comfortable.

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When I was a teenager, Dawson’s Creek was essential Sunday morning television, even though it wasn’t very good. As I outgrew the show I stopped watching every week, but still kept up with what was happening in Capeside. I got back into it properly for the last season (it suddenly seemed very important when I realised that it was being taken away), and watched the two part finale when it was originally broadcast. My girlfriend came home from work when it was half way through to find me severely distressed.

“What’s the matter?”

“Jen’s really sick,” I spluttered.

It was me at my most pathetic. But it’s tricky not to get even a little bit upset (and by ‘a little bit upset’, I mean I became a wretched sobbing pity-hole) when you’ve been following a character for six years. 

Poor old Jen, eh? She had a rough ride over the course of the Creek. She was the unwitting villain in the first series and an out-of-control cliché in the second. In the third she was given an ideal partner in the character Jack, but unfortunately for Jen, he turned out to be gayer than time spent with the Flintstones. Then she spent the final three seasons being dicked about, humiliated and watching her beloved grandmother become riddled with cancer.

In the final two-part episode, Jen wanders onto screen a single mother before succumbing to a fatal heart condition, leaving her poor bastard offspring orphaned and insignificant to the remaining plot.

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Quite frankly, if you don’t consider that tragic life story worthy of your tears then I don’t want you near my words. Go on, go away. – Matt Edwards

TRANSFORMERS THE MOVIE

As a small boy, I remember numerous visits to the local video store to get the same Transformers videos out (always hoping for Dinobot Island.) And then one glorious day, I was shown Transformers: The Movie.

My little heart was pounding throughout the opening scenes, I gasped as Autobots I regarded as my friends were cruelly killed by Megatron (I didn’t even know they could die!), and I became afraid as the Decepticon’s relentless attack appeared unstoppable. And then from the sky appeared a robotic guardian angel – Optimus Prime! He was essentially a second father figure to me, a paragon of nobility and heroism.

Single-handedly turning the tide of battle to the sounds of Stan Bush, he then faced up to Megatron in the ultimate confrontation and uttered the immortal words, “One shall stand, one shall fall.”

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In probably the best fight scene ever, Prime proved to be the ultimate warrior, before his merciful nature led to his own sacrifice to save the foolish Hot Rod, but not before smashing Megatron over a precipice with one mighty final blow. Prime died of his wounds in a moving hospital scene and I cried for days. –  N P Horton

BIG FISH

Notable for being one of only two Tim Burton films in the last decade that didn’t have Johnny Depp in it, I’ve always found it very easy to be charmed by Big Fish. Albert Finney and Ewan McGregor are both marvellous as the wily Edward Bloom through different eras, with Finney framing the incredible and somewhat dubious stories of his experiences from his sickbed. His son Will, played by Billy Crudup, has been convinced that his dad’s adventures were just a cover for his adultery. After going on the road and trying to discover the truth, Will gets a phone call. Edward has had a stroke.

Will stays in the hospital with his father overnight, and Edward regains consciousness to ask him about the one story he never told anyone- the story of how he dies. Will obliges, and a successful escape from the hospital ensues. A mad dash to the river sees all of the weird and wonderful people Edward has known gathered on the bank, ready to send him off. Will carries his father into the water, where he becomes the big fish of the title and swims away. Will has finally inherited his father’s gift for storytelling as he loses consciousness on the hospital bed and passes away. You are a robot if you’re not in floods by that point, ‘cos I bloody know I am. Brilliant performances, brilliant film. – Mark Harrison

FIELD OF DREAMS

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As two people in the last month have observed to me, Field Of Dreams is like Beaches, just for blokes.

It’s more of a divisive film that I’d appreciated too, with some not buying the fairy tale-esque feel to it at all. But I was a mere 15 years old when I watched it the first time, and that ending hit me like a train. Figuratively speaking. I wonder if it’s an ending for those who have had more than their fair share of raging arguments with their dad over the years, and I certainly crossed words with mine a few times. But in my case, and this may be naivety on my part, I genuinely never saw the ending coming. When Ray Kinsella walks up to his father and simply asks him if he wants to play ball, and James Horner’s outstanding score kicks in, there’s never been a time when it’s not got me. – Simon Brew

DOCTOR WHO

Hm? Specifically? Well just at least once a series in my case, really. If there’s one thing the series has become adept at since 2005, it’s tugging at the audience’s heartstrings. Russell T Davies generally got his onion-slicing pen out especially while writing the series finales, and there are many moments of considerable emotional weight in all of the finales thus far. Okay, so the Ninth Doctor sacrificing his life for the woman who showed him how to live again was triumphant and almost joyous, but what about one series later, when Rose Tyler arrives on Bad Wolf Beach? What about the death of the Doctor-Donna? What about Wilfred Mott’s utter heartbreak at having inadvertently caused the Tenth Doctor’s death, when all he’s tried to do for the last two episodes is save him?

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If there’s a prime example of the show’s newfound capacity to make grown geeks tear up, it’s in John Simm’s Master choosing death just to get one over on the Doctor. Dying in his arms, the Master spitefully tells him that he’s won because the Doctor is now totally alone and miserable. Think back to the 1980s. Would you be tearing up every single time Anthony Ainley discarded a silly disguise and ended up setting himself alight or turning into a walking cheetah? No, because he’ll be back in a few episodes’ time without it ever being mentioned again! The Master’s death has weight here, and Davies is a genius at this.

If you think there’ll be some respite in the new series under the control of the mighty Moff, think back to series four’s Forest Of The Dead, in which Donna’s imaginary children tell her they don’t think they exist when she’s not around. You know, for kids! – Mark Harrison

Two words for me on Doctor Who: Bernard Cribbins. I’m sure I’m not alone on this. – Simon Brew

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

So, you’re the rising star of the Rebel Alliance and you’ve been told that your dad was murdered by the evil Empire’s big bad boss. Having killed said wise mentor, the dark villain is now threatening your friends and so – ignoring the advice of the wrinkly swamp planet sage – you head to Cloud City all psyched up to fight him. Unfortunately, the evil one chops off your hand and leaves you hanging over a windswept void. Nevertheless, you defiantly proclaim that you’ll never give in and join your daddy’s executioner on his galactic powertip. At that point the nemesis drops a shattering bombshell from which pop-culture will never recover. Put yourself in Luke Skywalker’s position and feel the sharp shiver of shame, confusion and abject horror at Darth Vader’s exclamation “No! I am your father.”

The delivery of the dread of line, the bleak garbage chute backdrop and the low roll of drums make for an effective jolting moment, but Mark Hamill’s reaction is the knockout blow. As he screws his face in disbelief and objects “it’s not true. That’s impossible” we feel the young Jedi’s entire world begin to implode around him. As Vader calls “Search your feelings, you know it to be true!” we’re getting to the point of waterworks. Skywalker lets out a howl and the upsetting realisation that his father forsook the path of good to be the icon of absolute evil really hits home. It’s a shock twist that retains its power no matter how many times it’s parodied or viewed again. In that moment, looking into Luke’s mortified eyes hearing the terrible truth from Vader’s voicebox I’m moved to shed tears of pain and sympathy.

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Maybe I’m emotionally shallow, über-geeky or just plain odd for still getting upset at the “No! I am your father!” revelation. The fact that it comes right after Leia has admitted that she loves Han Solo before he gets frozen in carbonite perhaps makes it slightly more justifiable; it hits you when you’re already vulnerable. Uncomfortable truths, Mark Hamill’s scrunched face and childhood nostalgia have me choking back the tears. I pick The Empire Strikes Back as the flick that turns me into an emotional wreck. – James Clayton

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA

Love it or loathe it, the Battlestar Galactica finale certainly packed an emotional punch or three. And as Adama said a final lonely farewell to Laura Roslin, a lump in my throat formed, and my eyes dampened – probably in time to Bear McCreary’s emotional and swelling score.

I remained stoic as Galactica flew into the sun, but now I was a broken man. It wasn’t just what was happening onscreen that broke my heart, or what had come before in the episode, it was a culmination of being emotionally invested in a show for six years. I had started university, graduated, travelled the world, started a professional career and moved in with my girlfriend in that time, and BSG had been with me every step of the way.

I hadn’t always liked what was onscreen, but only because I genuinely cared about it. I was saying goodbye to something I loved, and honestly, I felt drained afterwards. I’m a fan of many genre shows, but I’m very careful of getting that close again. – N P Horton

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THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING

As a fan of the books, I awaited Fellowship Of The Ring with a level of excitement that I hadn’t experienced since Star Wars, but more than that, I was curious to see how the films would divide the books. The Two Towers was the best of the books for me, as it had such a dramatic end (Frodo vs. Shelob), after the excitement of the battle of Helm’s Deep and started with the death of a main character.

The moment I realised that the film of Fellowship was going to end with Boromir’s fate, every part of my body seized, as I hadn’t mentally prepared for the inevitable. I should also mention that in containing the hysterics in the cinema proved so painful, that I almost broke my (then) girlfriend’s hand with the repressed emotions. As each arrow flew into his body, the lump in my throat swelled in size, but as with so many of the films that make me cry, it’s certain words that trigger the waterworks.

My love of Boromir is only bettered by that of Aragorn, yet Boromir affects me due to his human failings, making him so much more of a rounded character, more than just a bad guy. His end is heroic, but it’s in his exchange and final bond with Aragorn that upsets me most, having realised his weak mistake all too late. A while later, I was fortunate enough to see a Lord of the Rings exhibition in London, which contained a boat and a full sized replica of Boromir, laid out with his cloven horn and even that nearly set me off! – Duncan Bowles

DANCER IN THE DARK

  In my teens I found the concept of crying at movies, or crying in general, a little strange. Even in moments of my life that you’d expect someone to cry, or at classic tear jerker moments in TV shows and movies, I showed very little emotion. I guess it’s fair to say that I was a little emotionally repressed as a teen.

Now though, it’s completely different. I tend to shed a tear at all the right times. Last year the beginning of Up proved to be too much for me to take (thank goodness for the 3-D glasses). Thinking back, I considered a number of movies that made be shed a tear: Life Is Beautiful, Requiem For A Dream and Irreversible for instance.

But after giving the subject some serious thought my choice is the finale of Lars Von Trier’s Dancer In The Dark. I won’t describe the scene as I don’t want to get in to spoiler territory as it would ruin the impact of the scene for those who haven’t seen it yet.

The way Björk plays the character of Selma is so convincing, it’s impossible not be sympathetic towards her even if her actions are at times irresponsible. The way the final third of the film plays out is bleak but absolutely brilliant.

Needless to say, I found the scene to be emotionally devastating. The first time I saw the film I was watching it with friends, and usually in that kind of scenario I would try not to show any signs of what I was feeling, but I was unable to do that at the end of this scene.

It’s a brilliant film that I’d highly recommend. Just make sure that there’s some tissues close by. – Glen Chapman

BACKDRAFT

No one should have to watch their hero die. Not when William Baldwin makes it out without a scratch. But sometimes, things don’t work out the way we want them to. Bad things happen to good people. There are monsters in this world. And every so often, Kurt Russell dies on screen. And no, I’m not talking about Captain Ron. Or Soldier. Or 3000 Miles To Graceland.

Backdraft was marketed as a big, explosive action extravaganza. And it is. Kurt Russell, like, totally kicks fire’s arse. But it’s also Beaches for anyone who grew up wanting to be Snake Plissken. It’s got the lot: sibling love and hate, father-son moments (Russell making breakfast with his little boy, only to get thrown out by Rebecca De Mornay, is a killer), a love that can’t be (although he can do better than De Mornay. She was rubbish in Feds) and, of course, the passing of a legend.

Russell’s death scene is suitably epic. Hanging on to the treacherous Scott Glenn, he makes the film’s slim catchphrase (“You go, we go”) sound like a mantra that should be passed down unto every generation. And then he falls. William tries to save him, valiantly taming the fiery hell that is taking Russell from us. I’ve never wished for a Baldwin to succeed at anything so much in all my life. Please, William Baldwin, I shout, I believe in you. You’re not as good as Ale,c but you’re way better than Daniel and Stephen. 

But it’s no use. Russell has gone, no longer of this place brought to us by the director of Willow. An ambulance siren wails. The music soars. Somewhere, a bell rings. And I wipe a tear from my cheek.  R.I.P Kurt Russell. You were better than all of us. Especially in Used Cars. – Luke Savage

Add your own weepie moments in the comments below!

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