Amy Poehler—star of Parks and Recreation, which begins its third season Thursday on NBC—curates her 11 favorite sad movie scenes, from You Can Count on Me to Pretty in Pink to (huh?) Dumb and Dumber.
A lot of people ask me what I think is funny, but no one ever asks me what I think is sad. Here is a list of my Top 11 Favorite Sad Scenes in Film. Please notice that I used the word “film” instead of “movies.” That alone should make you confident that I know what I am talking about. This list does not include any foreign titles (let’s be honest, often hard to get through); animated pictures (everything that is drawn is inherently sad); or any Holocaust joints (don’t make me go there). I should also point out that this list is mostly made up of scenes from films I haven’t viewed in a long time. I was planning on re-watching them, but then I remembered how lazy I was. I should also warn you this list is filled with spoilers, so SPOILER ALERT is in full effect. Please don’t read about these films if you don’t want to hear about the super sad scene that inevitably spoils the story. And SPOILER to the SPOILER ALERT…I am going off memory when I write about these FILMS, so my SPOILS may be totally wrong all together. My memory is almost as weak as my resolve to do the necessary research for such a list. Quiet!! Let us begin.
10. You Can Count on Me (2000)
I am a sucker for films about brother/sister relationships. This is because I don’t see this theme explored often, and I have a brother I don’t get to see enough. I love the scene at the end of the movie when Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo sit at the bus stop and say goodbye to each other. The pain they are in feels very real. The writing and the acting are simple and unforced. When Ruffalo says “Remember when we were kids? Remember what we used to say to each other?” Gulp. That is a sad ass scene y’all. No doubt.
9. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
The final scene is this great film is incredibly sad. To watch McMurphy stumble to his bed after getting zapped is really hard to watch. Then we have to suffer through the Chief smothering him with a pillow. Which is followed by an amazing moment when the Chief pulls the zapping machine out of the ground, throws it through the window and escapes. I must admit, I sometimes stop crying to wonder how the Chief pulls that heavy piece of machinery out by itself and why there is not a lock to keep people out of the electro-shock room, but then I am returned to the land of crying by the crazy celebration of the amazing Christopher Lloyd.
8. Pretty in Pink (1986)
Blaine (Andrew McCarthy) has been blowing Andie (Molly Ringwald) off. She calls him and he won’t pick up. This was before texting so you could still pretend you weren’t home when people were trying to reach you. Andie confronts him at the lockers. “What about Prom, Blaine?” Blaine tries to pull some bullshit and pretends he asked somebody else. “Say it, just say it, Blaine. You’re ashamed to be seen with me. You’re ashamed to go out with me.” I loved this scene, because I secretly believed I was like Andie. Born on the wrong side of the tracks. Creative, honest and completely misunderstood. Andrew McCarthy does a good job crying in this scene, and that helps with the overall sadness quotient. I love John Hughes. I miss John Hughes.
7. In America (2002)/The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
Both of these movies have sad scenes with kids in them. You will soon notice this is a running theme in my list. A scene can be sad, but put a cute kid crying in it and suddenly you’re in Top 10 territory. Both of these films are about poor parents trying to make a better life for their children. In America has cute girls with Irish accents who are sisters in real life. The Pursuit of Happyness has cute Jaden Smith and Will Smith who are father and son in real life. The scene where Will Smith sleeps in the bathroom is so sad. The scene where Paddy Considine and Samantha Morton comfort their two daughters is so sad. It’s not a contest, but I feel like Will Smith wins. You should watch both of these movies because..SPOILER ALERT…everything turns out great in the end!
6. Dumb and Dumber (1994)
OK, this movie is not sad. It’s funny. It’s so stupid. I love this movie, even though it really doesn’t hold up and the actual plot is awful and doesn’t make any sense. But there is one scene in this movie that gets me every time. When Jim Carrey looks out the window and tells Jeff Daniels he’s “sick of being a nobody. Of having nobody.” Jim Carrey is a good actor if he can have that ridiculous haircut and those crazy teeth and still make me sad. A teeny real moment in a giant physical comedy. High potential to get misty.
5. Hoosiers (1986)
Gene Hackman’s face is enough to make me melancholy. Throw in an underdog sports story and some beautiful cinematography and I am a goner. This film has so many lump-in-the-throat moments. Measuring the basketball court, Hackman’s locker room speeches, drunk Dennis Hopper in a hospital bed. The moment that stands out for me is when they are getting ready to take the last shot and Hackman tells them to not give it to the star player Jimmy because that would be too obvious. The team gets very nervous and quiet. Hackman asks everyone what is wrong? Jimmy says, “I’ll make it.” Holy shit, that’s such a good scene. The coach believes in the team. The team believes in itself. Jimmy takes the last shot. They win. Waterworks.
4. Places in the Heart (1984)
Sally Field and I have a long history of crying together. I cried with her in Sybil, Norma Rae, and Steel Magnolias. I cried with her when she won her Oscar and was psyched everybody liked her. This movie is a weeper from top to bottom. Picture Danny Glover, Sally Field, and John Malkovich doing back-breaking work to save their farm. Now picture Malkovich as a blind guy. Now throw in a tornado. There is an amazing scene at the end where they are all in church together and Sally Field passes the communion to her dead husband and Danny Glover’s dead son. I think it was his son. I forget. But I remembered how sad the end was. Well, I didn’t remember, but then I saw it on YouTube and I cried again. I knew this movie was a humdinger.
3. The Final Scene of the British Office Christmas Special (2003)
This was a television show and not a movie. But let’s be honest, most TV shows are better than movies. So this counts. Dawn dumps her fiancé and comes back to the office and kisses Tim. Gets me every time. And it will get you too. Unless you are made of wood and hate love.
2. Terms of Endearment (1983)
Obvious, I know. Everything about this movie is so good and so sad. Debra Winger is an acting angel in this. Her performance is one of the most real performances I have ever seen in my entire life. But the moment when she calls her sons in to say goodbye to them? Hell no. Or as Whitney Houston would say: Hell to the no. I can’t even type about it right now because it is so goddamn sad. I was not an adult or a mother when I first watched that scene and I turned into a puddle. I think if I watched that scene today I would die from a crying overdose.
1. The Champ (1979 remake)
The saddest scene in this film is the ultimate sad scene of any film ever. It’s so sad that I remember hearing my parents watching this movie, and I listened from my bedroom and I cried really hard. I cried from just listening to the scene! It’s that good. And that sad. When Ricky Schroeder leans over the dead Champ and tells him to “Get up. Get up Champ. Let’s go home. Get up Champ.” NOOOOOO. NOOOOO. Good night. That’s a wrap on Poehler. I heard a rumor once that Jon Voight was mean to little Ricky Schroeder when they shot this movie. I have no idea if this is true. If I find out it is, I will punch Jon Voight in the face and knock The Champ out for real because little Ricky Schroeder is the cutest kid that has ever been in a movie. Do yourself a favor, don’t watch this movie because if you do you will never be happy again.
Amy Poehler currently stars in the NBC comedy series Parks and Recreation which earned Poehler her third Emmy nomination in 2010. She co-starred on eight seasons on Saturday Night Live, and has appeared in numerous films. Poehler currently splits her time between New York and Los Angeles with husband, actor Will Arnett, and their two sons.