Top 10 saddest on-screen moments revealed

From The Lion King to Marley and Me, we’ve had some real tearjerkers released over the years.

According to research by Replay Poker, the top 10 saddest on-screen moments of all time are as follows:

  • Mufasa’s death in Lion King (25 per cent)
  • Marley’s death in Marley and Me (21 per cent)
  • Bambi’s mom in Bambi (20 per cent)
  • Tony Stark in Avengers: Endgame (19 per cent).
  • Old couple cuddling in bed before the ship sinks in Titanic (19 per cent)
  • Will being stood up by his biological father in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (16 per cent).
  • Dobby’s death in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (13 per cent)
  • When the toys are in the incarcerator in Toy Story 3 (13 per cent)
  • The final scene, leaving the keys on the table in Friends (12 per cent)
  • Ellie’s death in UP (11 per cent).

Read more: Ten end of the world movies to enjoy

It shows that the majority of saddest on-screen moments involved animals, so we took to Facebook to see if YourLifeChoices members felt the same.

Sandy agreed and said, ‘Give me a film with animals and I cry every time.’

According to the poll, Mufasa’s death in The Lion King was ranked the biggest tearjerker with 25 per cent of the votes. After the movie’s remake in July 2019, Google searches for ‘Mufasa’ skyrocketed by 204 per cent!

However, you didn’t agree as, out of more than 400 comments, none mentioned The Lion King. 

Which scenes dominate by generation?
Of course, certain shows and film moments will have a huge impact on some and be forgotten in a moment by others. If we break down the data into age brackets, we can see which on-screen moments are tearjerkers for which generation.

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. The respondents in each bracket would have been quite young during the film’s release in 1994.

However, those in the age brackets 45-55 and 55+ still consider the devastating ending to the 1942 classic Bambi to be the most sob-worthy piece of cinema.

The comments backed this up.

Bambi, would never watch it again,’ says Sandra.

Bambi . . . when I was 9,’ agrees Bev.

‘When you’re 7 and Bambi’s mother is killed, earth-shattering,’ says Carmel.

‘My first cry was Bambi all those years ago and I’m still a crier; love a good cry and laugh you know you are alive,’ says Wendy.

Whether you deliberately seek out sad films or not, there’s no denying having a good cry can often make us feel better when things get too much.

Thibault Richard-Folian, general manager at Replay Poker says:

“With the current global situation, we know that people are spending more time at home and watching more TV and film than ever before. We conducted this survey as a fun and interesting way of understanding the psychological link between entertainment and emotions, and how the emotional elements of film and TV can really affect viewers.”

But why does watching a tearjerker feel so cathartic?

It can help validate our feelings
It’s not uncommon for people to settle in front of a sad film when they are already upset, gloomy or experiencing hard times. We are often drawn to this type of media when we feel these emotions because it is in line with our internal state.

It can serve an evolutionary purpose
Crying activates our parasympathetic nervous system and, as a result, the release of oxytocin and endorphins soothes us and gives us a sense of relief.

It helps us process emotions
There is evidence that watching sad shows and films allows us to process our own feelings and problems. The more realistic and involved we feel in the film, the more we’re able to enjoy it, process what we need to, and feel better afterwards.

Read more: Why crying over sad films can make us feel better

The saddest on-screen moment not centred around animals included Facebook votes for The Green Mile, A Country Practice, A Star is Born and Beaches.

‘Saddest TV Show moment would have to be A Country Practice, when Molly died.

‘Movie, A Star Is Born, the final scene where Barbra is singing Are You Watching Me Now – I sobbed so hard the young fella in front of me turned around, so concerned,’ admits Denise.

Read more: Eight movie locations you can actually visit

Looking at the women vs men divide, it seems women and men don’t get emotional over the same on-screen moments. Based on the results of the poll, the tragic death of Mufasa was the first choice for women (27 per cent), whereas Tony Stark’s death made 23 per cent of the male respondents tear up the most!

Only 7 per cent of respondents said they hadn’t been reduced to tears during a sad moment.

It was all too much for Jon and he tried to lighten the mood:

The Onion Movie – raw and uncut.’

What’s the last piece of media that made you cry? What’s the saddest on-screen moment for you overall?

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Written by Ellie Baxter

Writer and editor with interests in travel, health, wellbeing and food. Has knowledge of marketing psychology, social media management and is a keen observer and commentator on issues facing older Australians.

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