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The most tearjerking scenes in Pixar history, ranked by how much they make us cry

Contributed by
Jul 10, 2018

We’re just a couple weeks removed from the latest film from Pixar Animation Studios, Incredibles 2. That film, much like its 2004 predecessor, bucked the Pixar trend in at least one notable way: there's no serious attempt from writer-director Brad Bird to make his audience cry. Oh, there are feelings, just no true tear-jerkers.

That makes it very rare in the Pixar canon. Some of the very best Pixar films drive adults to grab a few tissues (or perhaps more than a few), so we thought we'd rank the best tearjerking scenes from the studio's filmography.

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Buzz Lightyear realizing he’s a toy (Toy Story, 1995)

Pixar's first heartbreaking scene isn't their best or saddest. When Buzz sees a commercial for himself and tries to fly off a banister, he lands with a thud and learns his true nature. The dialogue-free realization is a fine start to one of the studio's favorite tropes.

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Jessie's backstory (Toy Story 2, 1999)

The sequel aimed big when they got audiences to cry about how Jessie the Cowgirl was abandoned by her old owner. If that wasn't enough, they got the quavery-voiced Sarah MacLachlan to sing "When She Loved Me," which remains Pixar's saddest song.

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Andy handing off his toys to Bonnie (Toy Story 3, 2010)

In Toy Story 3's last scene, a college-bound Andy passes off his toys to a little girl. As he describes each toy to little Bonnie, Andy grows more emotional; it's hard not to feel his sadness as he says goodbye to his youth.

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Eve trying to revive WALL-E's personality (WALL-E, 2008)

This sci-fi romance is Pixar's boldest film to date, ending with a sweet, desperate attempt from the sleek robot Eve to revive her goofy paramour, the boxy WALL-E. Her last-ditch effort to turn his humane personality back on is a Chaplinesque capper.

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​​​​​​​​​​​​​Joy stuck in the Memory Dump (Inside Out, 2015)

Before Bing Bong sacrifices himself, both he and Joy are stuck in the Memory Dump. Joy then has an emotional breakdown in which she bemoans the loss of Riley's past. In part because Amy Poehler's performance is so great, this scene shouldn't be forgotten.

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Sulley says goodbye to Boo (Monsters, Inc., 2001)

James P. Sullivan starts as the toughest Scarer in Monstropolis and ends giving a heartfelt goodbye to a human child he's lovingly called Boo after becoming paternal throughout an eventful couple days. John Goodman's rich and emotional performance make this goodbye that much sweeter.

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Bing Bong says goodbye (Inside Out, 2015)

Here, we see the death of childhood as Riley's imaginary friend Bing Bong sacrifices himself to make sure that Joy can return to bring some pep to Riley's personality. "Take her to the moon for me" is a hell of a final line.

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Dory begging Marlin to stay (Finding Nemo, 2003)

Finding Nemo has a big heartbreaking moment, largely devoted to the forgetful Dory trying to remember. Her bond with the neurotic Marlin has made her memory better, so when he despondently decides to leave, she begs him to stay. It's a surprising, gut-wrenching moment from Ellen DeGeneres.

Mama Coco remembers her father's song (Coco, 2017)

The power of music in Coco is unparalleled. It's through an emotional version of "Remember Me" that Miguel gets his great-grandmother Mama Coco to remember her dead father and save him from vanishing. This scene is a bit predictable but no less effective.

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Woody and the other toys facing death (Toy Story 3, 2010)

When Andy's toys find themselves literally facing down a garbage incinerator, it sure seems like someone's about to bite the big one. The way the toys face their fate only makes the scene more emotional and devastating, even before they're rescued.

The 'married life' montage (Up, 2009)

Up doesn't stumble after this early sequence, but the montage in which we see Carl and Ellie Fredricksen's relationship, from courtship to marriage to old age to her death, is its best scene. And that Michael Giacchino score can't be beat.