- There are many iconic Disney and Pixar movie moments, but certain scenes have the power to bring grown adults to tears.
- The opening montage in “Up” has become famous for being a guaranteed tearjerker.
- Some movies, like “Inside Out” and “Big Hero 6,” have several poignant scenes that can cause viewers to well up.
- Other early Pixar films, including “Toy Story 2,” “Monsters, Inc.,” and “Finding Nemo,” have some of the most iconic emotional moments.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Although Disney is best known for bringing joy and happy endings to the screen, its films have also been known to bring audiences of all ages to tears.
It’s these powerfully emotional moments that make Disney films so memorable. The ability to bring grown adults to full-blown sob-fests is something to marvel at.
Here are some of the most emotional Disney and Pixar movie moments that will make you cry as an adult.
Warning: This slideshow contains spoilers for the movies included on the list.
The most heart-wrenching moment in “Dumbo” occurs when the titular character visits his mother.
“Dumbo” tells the story of a circus elephant whose unusually large ears make him the subject of harsh ridicule from both the fellow animals and the human ringmasters.
Although the entire film is filled with uncomfortably sad moments – including when they dress Dumbo up in clown makeup and forced him to humiliate himself in front of the crowds – the most heart-wrenching scene occurs when the titular character visits his mother, Jumbo, after she’s been locked in a carriage that’s being transported to another facility.
Because Jumbo is bound by shackles, it’s impossible for her to move close enough to the window for a face-to-face moment with her baby. Instead, she reaches her trunk through the bars and cradles Dumbo for a few sweet minutes, knowing that it may be the last time she ever gets to rock him to sleep.
And if that’s not sad enough, the scene continues to show cutaways to other animal mothers embracing their young under the moonlight while a haunting rendition of the song “Baby Mine” by Bette Midler plays in the background.
“Onward” is filled with emotional moments, but none are quite as tragic as the final battle scene.
Pixar’s latest film, “Onward” follows Ian Lightfoot and his older brother, Barley, as they complete an epic quest to bring their late father back to life for just one day.
The two manage to bring back just the bottom half of their dad, but time is ticking and obstacles keep getting in their way. As the journey continues unsuccessfully, Ian panics and says some hurtful things to his brother.
He immediately regrets what he’s done, but by the time he finds Barley to make amends, his brother has located the Phoenix Gem that will bring back the rest of their father. He also accidentally activates a curse that awakens a massive stone dragon.
Time is quickly running out – and Ian realises that even though he misses his dad and never got to meet him, he always had Barley as a father figure to look up to. Barley, on the other hand, never got to say goodbye and it’s weighed on his heart for years.
In a moment of true love for his brother, Ian stays behind to fight off the dragon so Barley can finish bringing back their dad and finally say goodbye to him, thus giving up his own chance.
This powerful moment between brothers is enough to bring anyone to tears, but the battle isn’t over yet.
With the help of his mum, Ian defeats the stone dragon and is left injured at the bottom of a pile of rubble as his dad’s resurrection is completed. He can only see his dad and Barley through small cracks in the rocks, and watching him struggle to accept that he will never meet his father after the great sacrifice he made is utterly devastating.
The memorable goodbye scene in “The Fox and the Hound” still hurts to watch.
“The Fox and the Hound” follows Tod and Copper, a fox and a hound dog who become friends when they’re young, but drift apart as adults when they realise their species are supposed to be enemies.
Tod struggles to understand this, and his relentless determination to remain close friends with Copper gets him into a lot of trouble. At one point, Copper’s owner, Amos, becomes angry at the fox for trespassing and chases after him with a gun.
This leads Widow Tweed, the fox’s owner, to release Tod into the wild to fend for himself.
The heartbreaking scene that follows shows the poor fox sitting alone in the woods while he watches his owner drive away, oblivious to the fact that he’s been abandoned.
An unexpected tragedy occurs in “The Princess and the Frog” right before the main characters get their happy ending.
“The Princess and the Frog” follows Tiana, a hardworking waitress, and the conceited Prince Naveen as they journey across the bayous of Louisiana in order to break an evil curse that turned them into frogs.
Along the way, the pair receives help from Louis, a musically talented alligator, and Ray, a kind-hearted, eccentric firefly who claims to be in love with a star named Evangeline.
When the group finally arrives in New Orleans, they’re at the mercy of the evil Shadow Man. Although Tiana and the prince successfully escape, Ray’s life is cut short when the villain’s sidekick steps on him.
Rather than resist death, Ray heartbreakingly uses his last words to express his relief at finally joining his love in the sky. This moment becomes even more touching when, during the firefly’s funeral, his family and friends look up to see that there’s a new star next to Evangeline.
“Coco” has a heartbreaking twist in the middle of the story that leads to a sob-inducing ending.
In Pixar’s “Coco,” a boy named Miguel longs to become a famous musician like his late idol Ernesto de la Cruz, but his family banned all music after an ancestor picked fame over family.
Just before he’s given the chance to make a name for himself at a Día de Los Muertos talent competition, Miguel is transported to the Land of the Dead, where he befriends an ex-musician named Hector and uncovers the truth about his family’s history.
Miguel soon learns that his idol isn’t what he expected – in fact, he’s a fraud who took credit for Hector’s work after he died. This new information crushes Miguel, but the real tearjerker happens when Hector reveals that his untimely death robbed him of the chance to see his daughter, Coco, grow up.
Suddenly, Miguel realises that Coco is his great-grandmother, making Hector the mysterious ancestor his family refuses to talk about.
Determined to save Hector’s legacy and repair his family’s relationship with music, Miguel returns to the Land of the Living and plays the song Hector used to sing to Coco when she was a little girl. Suddenly, the elderly woman cracks a smile for what seems like the first time in years and sings along – bringing the whole family (and every viewer) to tears of joy.
The most touching scene in “Big Hero 6” deals with grief.
“Big Hero 6” follows Hiro, a 14-year-old genius who gets involved in a dangerous fight against a supervillain while grappling with the tragic death of his older brother, Tadashi.
Along the way, he teams up with a group of university students and Baymax, a healthcare robot designed by his late brother.
During his pursuit of the villain, Hiro discovers awful news: His brother’s death was a set-up that could have been prevented.
Motivated by revenge, he attempts to remove Baymax’s healthcare chip and reprogram him to hurt the man who caused his brother’s death. But when the gentle robot shows him videos of Tadashi in the workroom, it causes the brainy teen to shed a few tears and change his mind.
After Tadashi’s death, Hiro struggled to harness his talents because his brother was the one person who helped him to feel confident when he was stuck. Baymax helped Hiro to see that the best way to honour his brother was through helping others, not harming them.
And the film’s ending is incredibly moving, too.
Throughout the movie, Baymax grows into one of Hiro’s most trusted companions, as well as being one of the only links he has left to his deceased brother.
Sadly, while rescuing a pilot from a rapidly collapsing teleportation vortex, Baymax sacrifices himself to give Hiro’s ship enough power to escape. Even though Hiro pleads that he cannot handle losing him after already losing his brother, the robot reminds him that he was programmed by Tadashi to help people, no matter the cost.
The moment mirrors Tadashi’s selflessness from earlier in the film, when he ran into a burning building to save his professor, resulting in his own death.
If you haven’t run out of tears at this point, it turns out that Baymax sent Hiro with his microchip, so the teen was able to bring the robot back to life at the end of the film.
“A Goofy Movie” has a scene between Goofy and Max that will leave you misty-eyed.
In “A Goofy Movie,” Goofy and his teenage son Max embark on a cross-country road trip that pushes the two to better understand and accept each other.
Throughout their journey, the father-son duo bicker about everything, ranging from music choices to the locations they visit. But after several days of tension, a tender moment occurs when they find themselves forced to shelter in their car after an unexpected encounter with Bigfoot.
As they pass a can of alphabet soup back and forth, Goofy reminisces about the days when Max was younger and unembarrassed to show love for his dad.
Just as Goofy is about to fall asleep, Max passes him the nearly-empty cup of soup, in which he used the noodle letters to spell out “Hi Dad,” just like he did when he was younger.
The simple gesture instantly brings tears to Goofy’s eyes because it showed him that despite his son’s tendency to push him away, he still appreciated his dad.
“Up” begins with one of the most tragic love stories ever created.
At first, the opening montage for the movie “Up” seems like the picture-perfect love story: Carl meets his wife, Ellie, when they’re children and they become instant sweethearts who eventually get married, buy a home, and begin their incredible life together.
But all of their marital bliss rapidly shifts when the couple learns that Ellie is infertile, seemingly crushing their dreams of building a family. Worst of all, this news comes after the two have already prepared a nursery in their home.
When Ellie dies from an undisclosed terminal illness at the end of the montage, it feels like a punch in the gut to watch Carl live out his golden years without his love.
“Inside Out” is filled with several poignant moments, but one of the saddest is when Riley runs away.
“Inside Out” follows the emotions of an 11-year-old girl named Riley, whose life is turned upside down when her family moves from Minnesota to California.
As Riley tries to find her way in the new city, Joy and Sadness remain at odds over how to handle the change. Eventually, Joy’s relentless commitment to keeping Riley happy is thwarted when Sadness begins colouring Riley’s core memories with gloom.
When the two emotions get sucked out of headquarters during a quarrel, Disgust, Anger, and Fear are left in control of Riley’s every move, which wreaks havoc on her life.
As Riley’s mental health deteriorates, Anger seizes control and causes her to act out, lie, and even steal money from her mother’s purse. Each of these actions builds up to Riley leaving her house to try and run away back to Minnesota.
Viewers see the tween go through so much unexplained pain, but it’s even more heart-wrenching to remember her parents are completely unaware of what’s going on inside her head.
It’s also extremely hard to watch the scene when Bing Bong says goodbye.
When Joy falls into the memory dump with Bing Bong, Riley’s childhood imaginary friend, the pair desperately tries using a magical wagon to catapult themselves back to the long-term-memory bank.
After several failed attempts, they give it one last shot. But Bing Bong jumps out from the wagon at the last second, allowing Joy to escape, and fades into a forgotten memory.
His sacrifice ultimately helps Joy save Riley, but it was a devastating loss after the wacky character grew on viewers throughout the film.
The scene is even more heartbreaking because it symbolically represents how Riley needs to let go of certain parts of her childhood to make room for new joy.
The heartwarming ending of “Inside Out” will also probably make you cry your eyes out.
After spending the entire movie blocking Sadness from tampering with Riley’s core memories, Joy finally lets her take control of the teen’s mood. This causes Riley to regret her decision to run away and beg the bus driver to stop so that she can go back home.
It turns out Riley needed to experience sadness in order to process the changes in her life and connect with her family. The moment she walks through the door, she immediately falls into her parent’s arms and bursts into tears.
The scene is massively cathartic and relatable for many children and adults.
“Finding Nemo” has an emotionally devastating opening scene.
In this Pixar classic, a clown fish named Marlin teams up with a blue-reef fish named Dory to travel across the ocean and find his missing son, Nemo.
As if the premise of a child disappearing isn’t already harrowing enough for any parent watching, “Finding Nemo” wastes no time yanking at viewers’ heartstrings.
During the opening scene of the film, Marlin and Coral are shown settling into their new home with their soon-to-hatch eggs when a vicious barracuda suddenly attacks.
During the incident, Marlin is knocked unconscious, and he later wakes up to find that Coral and nearly all of their future children have been killed.
Although the brutal massacre leaves Marlin powerless, he does manage to find a single surviving egg, Nemo, who he immediately cares for with his entire being.
Jessie’s backstory in “Toy Story 2” is one of the saddest Pixar scenes to date.
In “Toy Story 2,” Woody is accidentally sold at a yard sale to a toy collector named Al, who plans to resell him and several other collectibles to an international museum.
As Woody plots his escape, another toy named Jessie grows annoyed with him. When Woody tries to explain his loyalty to his owner, Andy, Jessie reveals that she once had an owner named Emily who abandoned her.
What follows is a tearful flashback sequence that’s heightened by Sarah McLachlan’s heart-wrenching song “When She Loved Me.”
The moment deeply affects Woody because he had no idea that Jessie had an owner, and he can’t imagine Andy ever wanting to give up on him. But her tale also serves as a sobering reminder that all children grow up, and sometimes that means leaving once-important things behind.
“Toy Story 3” takes a dark turn that could make anyone sob.
“Toy Story 3” follows Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the gang as they grapple with Andy moving away for college.
They decide to give life at a daycare a try, but later learn that the place is run by a corrupt teddy bear named Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear, and they make a run for it. But their escape plan lands them at the garbage dump, where they get trapped inside the incinerator.
As the toys get pulled closer to the flames, they join hands with one another and accept that their fate is inevitable. For viewers who grew up with these iconic characters, the scene is unbelievably emotional.
Thankfully, the group is rescued in the nick of time. But the fact that they were prepared to die together showed the strength of their loyalty for each other.
The ending of “Toy Story 3” will be forever scarred in viewers’ hearts.
After the toys safely make it back to Andy’s room, Woody crawls from Andy’s college box into the storage box with the others. Just before his owner walks into the room, Woody writes the word “donate” on the side of the box.
When the college-bound teen notices the label, he decides to take his treasured toys to a young girl named Bonnie, the daughter of a family friend, instead of bringing them up to his attic.
Even though he promised to remain devoted to Andy, Woody’s sudden change of heart turns out to be the best decision for everyone involved. It pushes Andy to accept that it’s time to let go of his childhood, while also giving the toys the opportunity to make another child happy.
Nevertheless, watching the grown-up Andy play with Woody and Buzz one last time before driving away to college calls for a box of tissues. In the final scene, Bonnie takes Woody’s arm and waves at Andy as he’s getting in his car, and the look on Andy’s face as he waves back is utterly heart-shattering.
The scene where Anna saves her sister in “Frozen” may break you.
“Frozen” follows Princess Anna of Arendelle on a journey to save her sister, Queen Elsa, who runs away after she accidentally freezes their kingdom with her magic powers.
Despite Anna’s persistent attempts to connect with her sister and bring her home, Elsa continues to push her away out of fear. Unfortunately, this fear manifests when Anna finds Elsa in her ice fortress, causing the powerful queen to panic and accidentally freeze Anna’s heart.
Anna learns that the only way to fix her heart is through an act of true love, so she races home to get a kiss from her fiancé, Prince Hans. But in a devastating turn of events, the prince locks Anna away and reveals that he never loved her.
Luckily, Olaf saves Anna from the freezing-cold room, and she races out of the palace to save Elsa from Hans – who’s trying to kill her to take over the throne. After stumbling across the frozen fjord, Anna jumps in front of Hans’s sword to save Elsa right as she freezes solid from her frozen heart.
Realising that her sister has just made the ultimate sacrifice for her, Elsa weeps over her icy corpse. When Anna’s frozen heart starts to thaw, it becomes clear that the act of true love she needed to save her wasn’t romantic love at all, but rather love from her own sister.
The scene in “Frozen 2” where Elsa discovers the harsh truth about her past is devastating.
“Frozen 2” focuses on Elsa’s quest to discover her family’s history and the source of her own magic powers.
After a distant voice beckons her, the elemental spirits awaken and threaten her kingdom. With the help of Anna, Olaf, and Kristoff, Elsa journeys through the Enchanted Forest looking for a way to restore balance to the world and save her people.
During the journey, Elsa and Anna make the shocking discovery that their parents died while looking for answers about Elsa’s powers. Overcome with guilt, Elsa sends her sister away and embarks alone on a dangerous journey to the river Ahtohallan.
When she finally arrives at the mystical river, she finds that it contains memories that have been frozen in time – one of which reveals the truth about her own grandfather’s shameful acts against the indigenous tribes in the Enchanted Forest.
But as Elsa journeys farther into Ahtohallan, she freezes over, creating a domino effect that melts Olaf, who was trapped in a cave with Anna. This signals to Anna that her sister has not survived the trip, leaving her utterly hopeless.
Unsure of what to do, Anna hugs her snowy friend until he disappears and she is left alone in the darkness.
It’s nearly impossible not to cry while watching the end of “Tarzan.”
In “Tarzan,” a man is raised by gorillas after his parents are murdered by a vicious leopard. When he finally meets other humans for the first time as an adult, he tries his best to connect with the strangers – much to the chagrin of the gorilla chief Kerchak – while remaining true to the family that raised him.
Despite Tarzan’s effort to maintain peace between the two species, Kerchak views his choice to assimilate with humans as the ultimate betrayal. This culminates in a violent battle between gorillas and men.
Although Tarzan does his best to protect his family, Kerchak is fatally shot during the fight.
To everyone’s surprise, Kerchak uses his last breath to name Tarzan the new leader of the gorillas, and finally calls him his son. After years of rejecting Tarzan and refusing to accept him as one of his own, Kerchak finally understood that it didn’t matter that they were different species, they were always a family.
The Festival of Fools scene in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” is still emotionally traumatising.
Set in 15th century France, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” tells the story of Quasimodo, a man who lives in isolation inside the bell tower of Notre Dame cathedral. Although he longs to socialise with everyday people, his guardian, Frollo, strictly forbids it.
When Quasimodo sneaks out of the tower and wanders among the townspeople during the Festival of Fools, he unintentionally becomes part of an “Ugliest Mask” contest and wins. But when the crowd learns that Quasimodo’s physical deformities are real, they react cruelly by tying him up and throwing tomatoes at him.
And that’s not even the worst part: The entire time this mortifying charade is happening, Frollo watches without stepping in to protect him.
It’s almost unbearable to watch Quasimodo beg and plead for help to no avail, but thankfully Esméralda steps in to show him some mercy.
The death of Bambi’s mother remains one of the most tragic movie scenes ever.
This Disney classic follows the life of a young deer named Bambi as he learns about the beauty and danger of the world around him.
Although the majority of the film consists of Bambi’s peaceful exploration of the forest, things take a dark turn when his mother urges him to run away and never look back as a hunter approaches.
After running for some time, an off-screen gunshot is heard, but Bambi continues to run as his mother ordered. When he finally makes it to safety and turns around to look for his mother, the poor fawn has no idea that she’s been killed.
Bambi walks around in the snow alone, calling out for his mum to no avail. It isn’t until the Great Prince arrives and coldly tells him that he will never be with his mother again that he fully grasps what happened.
The hammock scene in “Lilo and Stitch” is heartbreaking.
In “Lilo and Stitch,” Nani takes care of her younger sister, Lilo, after their parents are killed in a tragic accident. But when Lilo decides to adopt a mischievous alien named Stitch as a pet, it becomes challenging for the sisters to keep up appearances for their social worker.
When a near-drowning incident causes Stitch to panic and behave aggressively toward Lilo, Nani realises that she may have to give up custody of her sister. That same evening, the two sisters sit in a hammock while Nani struggles to explain why it may be their last night together as a family.
Unsure of what to say to Lilo, who is too young to understand the reality of what is going on, Nani embraces her sister and sings a solemn rendition of the Hawaiian song “Aloha Oe” before releasing two flowers into the wind, symbolizing their sad goodbye.
“Moana” contains several moments that will make you weep.
Headstrong teen Moana of Motunui is prepared to take over her role as chief when darkness strikes, killing the island’s food supply. Determined to help her people, she sets out across the long-untraversed sea for answers.
Just before Moana embarks on her journey, her Gramma Tala falls ill and uses her final moments to hand her granddaughter a necklace that contains the heart of the island goddess Te Fiti. She tells her that it’s her destiny to restore the heart and bring harmony to the islands.
Emotional over losing the one person who believed in her, Moana is determined not to let her grandmother down.
Later in the film, when Moana is on the verge of giving up, her grandmother’s spirit reappears before the crestfallen teen giving her the strength to go on. The chilling moment is underscored by the ghosts of her ancestors sailing past her ship, reminding her of all the courageous people who came before her.
“Meet the Robinsons” contains a poignant scene that touches on the importance of moving forward.
In “Meet The Robinsons,” an orphaned boy-genius named Lewis desperately struggles with self-confidence after being rejected by a string of potential adoptive parents.
Determined to meet his biological mother, he invents a memory-scanning machine for the science fair, but it gets stolen by a villain who travelled from the future.
When a mysterious boy named Wilbur appears and takes Lewis on a time-travelling adventure, the boy-genius works to get his invention back in order to stop the villain from changing his fate.
After saving his future family, young Lewis travels to the past and witnesses his own mother dropping him off at the orphanage. Even though his goal for the entire movie was to travel through time and stop this moment from happening, he decides to back away at the last second.
Lewis finally learned to accept his fate and the life he was given because he knows that his future has so much in store for him. The emotional scene is followed by a heart-melting happy-ending montage set to the song “Little Wonders” by Rob Thomas.
One of the most memorable, heartbreaking deaths in all of Disney canon happened in “The Lion King.”
This beloved Disney film tells the story of a lion named Simba who is next in line for his father Mufasa’s throne. As the cub prepares for his role as the next king, his jealous Uncle Scar plans to get rid of both lions and seize the kingdom for himself.
After luring Simba into a dangerous wildebeest stampede, Scar alerts Mufasa, fully aware that he’s leading him into a trap. Although Mufasa successfully gets Simba to safety, he struggles to climb out of the gorge and begs his brother to help him.
Instead, the jealous and sinister Scar callously throws the King into the stampede.
When the dust clears and Simba rushes to his father’s lifeless body, he cries out for help, but it’s already too late – the King is dead.
And that’s not even the worst part. In addition to betraying Mufasa, Scar gaslights Simba into believing that he was responsible for Mufasa’s death.
While Simba cries and curls up under his father’s paw, Scar reappears and tells the cub if it weren’t for Simba’s actions, he’d still be around. The level of evil it takes to manipulate a young character like that is almost too much to process.
It’s hard to keep it together when Sully has to say goodbye to Boo at the end of “Monsters, Inc.”
In Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.,” Mike and Sully accidentally bring a human child, who they call Boo, into the monster world.
They form an unlikely bond with the little girl despite the fact that they’d been trained to scare children to harness energy for Monstropolis.
After several huge twists – including the fact that Waternoose, the owner of Monsters Incorporated, is a villain who values his own success over the lives of his employees – Sully returns Boo safely to her room.
Their goodbye is utterly heartbreaking, especially because Boo is far too young to understand what’s happening. After they share a tearful hug, Sully returns to the monster world and watches Boo’s door get shredded so that he can never visit her again.
The scene cuts back to Boo’s room as she gets up, runs to her closet, and pretends to scare Sully. But Sully’s not there – all that’s inside is a bunch of her clothes.
However, at the very end of the film, Mike rebuilds Boo’s door for Sully and viewers see him open it and smile before the credits appear – replacing tears of sadness with tears of joy.