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Tearjerker Poll: What are the Saddest Movie Openings From the Last 20 Years?

Harder to pull off, what film had you wiping your face in the movie’s opening?

Saddest Movie Openings
Teajerker Movie Openings: Image from Up (2009) and If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

Crying at the end of a movie can be easy, but what about the saddest movie openings, which are rare, and can bring the waterworks without warning?

Image from the movie "John Lewis: Good Trouble"
© “John Lewis: Good Trouble” − All right reserved.

The tear ducts can be doing overtime nowadays with the tragedy of COVID-19 ravaging our world. Some of the world’s icons leaving us moment-to-moment (i.e., the late John Lewis, which you can learn more about in the documentary “John Lewis: Good Trouble” available now), but the cinema can offer an outlet to get some of those feelings appropriately. Crying in movies can be difficult for some but even easier for others.

On Twitter, we extended a question for discussion to the #FilmTwitter community asking, “what final moments of a movie in the past 20 years make you ugly cry?”

After sharing a clip from the final scene of Denis Villeneuve’s masterpiece “Arrival with Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, dozens of answers came pouring in ranging from “A Star is Born from Bradley Cooper to “Portrait of a Lady on Fire from Céline Sciamma. Lots of mentions from anything Pixar, including “Coco,” “Monster’s Inc.,” and “Toy Story 3.” We even received some unconventional and not mentioned enough selections like “Pride and “Sing Street.”

Opening up the other side of this to our readership, we are posing this next question to you all:

What are the SADDEST MOVIE OPENINGS from the last 20 years?”

We imagine we’re about to hear a lot of mentions for Pixar’s “Up and/or “Finding Nemo,” with perhaps even “WALL·E,” but we know there are many that don’t get enough mentions or get thought about too often. Enter: our readers.

I can recall weeping at the New York Film Festival screening of Barry Jenkins’If Beale Street Could Talk with the realization that Black love was on full display for the world to see as Fonny (Stephan James) and Tish (Kiki Layne) walk through the park holding hands against the backdrop of composer Nicholas Britell’s brilliant “Agape.”

bealestreet couple
Stephan James and Kiki Layne in “If Beale Street Could Talk” (2018) from writer/director Barry Jenkins

I got choked up during the crash sequence of Robert Zemeckis’ criminally underrated “Flight with Denzel Washington. Maybe it’s living through “9-11”. Still, anything dealing with plane crashes, and the fear that ensues upon them always puts me in an emotional state, and that happened when watching Nadine Velázquez’s “Katerina” – the co-alcoholic flight attendant to Washington’s “Whip” – get up out of her safety seat to help the young boy back into his chair as the plane is flying upside down.

We even sprinkled in some “About Time from Richard Curtis, and starring Rachel McAdams, for people to debate.

Share your list of tearjerker movie openings in the comment section below and check out video clips from some of the movies mentioned.

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
dir. Barry Jenkins

Flight (2012) –
dir. Robert Zemeckis

About Time (2013)
dir. Richard Curtis

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Written by Clayton Davis

Clayton Davis is the esteemed Editor and Owner of Born in Bronx, NY to a Puerto Rican mother and Black father, he’s been criticizing film and television for over a decade. Clayton is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association where he votes and attends the kick off to the awards season, the Critics Choice Awards. He also founded the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association, the first Latino-based critics’ organization in the United States. He’s also an active member of the African-American Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Online, International Press Academy, Black Reel Awards, and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. Clayton has been quoted and appeared in various outlets that include The New York Times,, Variety, Deadline, Los Angeles Times, FOX 5, Bloomberg Television, AOL, Huffington Post, Bloomberg Radio, The Wrap, Slash Film, and the Hollywood Reporter.


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  1. I think Arrival blows just about everything else out of the water in this regard. I can’t imagine anything more traumatizing to have happen in the first 5 minutes of your movie, which is also why the strongest runner-up for me would be Finding Nemo.

    (Story time: When I first saw Arrival in theaters, there was a mix-up, and my audience had to watch the first 10 minutes of Moana before someone came in and fixed it. I always liked to imagine that this meant that a room full of small children somewhere in the building had to watch the first 10 minutes of Arrival and thusly end up in therapy for the rest of their lives.)

    The Last Jedi, actually, also qualifies for me. The opening ten minutes culminating in the death of Rose’s sister is possibly my favorite sequence in ALL of Star Wars just for how personal it gets while also getting to be wickedly suspenseful.

  2. i don’t remember the last time i cried watching a movie, maybe Interstellar but that moment wasn’t at the beginning or at the ending.

  3. Not the biggest tearjerker of the last 20 years, but I was surprised by the opening of End Game with Hawkeye’s family. As a father and husband it completely hit me. I saw the film with my brother-in-law so I tried to hold back the emotion because he would not let me hear the end of it (crying at a Marvel film, Ha!). I may have succeeded.

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