SF and Fantasy's 26 Greatest Tearjerkers

Kleenex at the ready folks as SFX guides you through some of SF’s most emotionally gruelling moments. Yeah, sure, SF and fantasy’s a genre usually more associated with abstract ideas, hardware and eye-candy, but that doesn’t mean it can’t grab a hold of your heart as well as your mind occasionally.

So we asked SF readers to vote for their favourite SF tearjerker moments and over the next few pages are the results. Even a Cyberman would shed a tear at some of this lot.

SPOILER WARNING: But be warned - by its very nature, a poll like this will contain some spoilery material. However, most of the films, shows and books here are old enough that we'd be shocked if the entries reveal anything new to you: the exceptions are the new Trek movie and The Time Travelers Wife (okay the book‘s old, but a lot of people who haven’t read it will probably be going to see the new film). These are both on the page containing entries 15 to 11 – so either click past that page using the option given or scan down the page very carefully (we've avoided bolding up anything spoilery).

(Also – Torchwood: Children Of Earth broadcast while this poll was live. Judging by the response, if the timing had been slightly different, it would very probably have nabbed a Top 10 place.)

Anyway, let the countdown commence, folks!

Theoden mourns his son

Peter Jackson’s Rings trilogy feels a little under-represented in this list, but that’s because it suffered from split-vote syndrome. There are so many tearjerking moments, fans had too many from which to choose (including all five endings to The Return Of The King, and the bit where Pippins sings for an unconcerned Denethor as his men ride out on a suicidal attack). Perhaps this moment won through, though, because unlike the grand melodrama on display elsewhere, the despair of losing a child is something we can all more easily identify with – if it hasn’t happened to us, then we probably know someone to whom it has. That, and the fact that Bernard Hill gives a simply magnificent performance.

Blublines: “Simbelmynë. Ever has it grown on the tombs of my forebears. Now it shall cover the grave of my son… no parent should have to bury their child.”

25 DOCTOR WHO "Earthshock"
Adric’s Death

It’s amazing this had the emotional impact that it did, considering most fans would have cheerfully throttled the irritating Adric given half a chance. But his death was wonderfully judged, so that even his most vehement detractors had a lump in their throats. Part of the tragedy comes from the fact that he doesn’t need to sacrifice himself – the space ship he is trying to save was always destined to crash (it was what killed off the dinosaurs), making his death particularly pointless. The coup de grace is having the graphics roll by in absolute silence. But you can’t help thinking it's a far more noble epitaph than the annoying scrote deserved.

Blublines: “Now I'll never know if I was right.”

24 ANGEL "Not Fade Away"
Ilyria lies to Wesley

In a poignant reversal of the events in “A Hole In The World” this time it’s Illyria who has to comfort a dying Wesley (he’s just been skewered). Being an emotionless demon creature, you wouldn’t think it was a job she'd be best suited to, but in a heartrending display of sensitivity she offers to pretend to be Fred – Wesley’s tragic old flame – so that he can say goodbye. Sobbing is not just acceptable; it’s the only decent course of action.

Blublines: "You’ll be dead within moments.”
“I know.”
“Would you like me to lie to you now?”
“Yes, thank you… yes.”

Harry Stamper breaks his promise

Roughneck astronaut Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis) sacrifices himself to save the Earth from an oncoming meteor, saving the life of his daughter’s boyfriend in the process. From his little spacecraft, he speaks to her back at base in Huston, telling her he ain’t coming home. She reaches to the monitor screen to touch his tear stained face. He mumbles something about children being roses in winter. A bunch of grizzled astronauts and ground control staff go bleary eyed. The string section of the orchestra is in danger of meltdown. Michael Bay has created Onion-O-Vision.

Blublines: "Grace, I know I promised you I was coming home.”
"I… I… don’t understand.”
“Looks like I’m gonna have to break that promise.”

The entire last quarter of the movie

You can imagine the pain parents had to go through: they take the little’uns to see this light and frothy fantasy movie, then have to comfort them through the trauma of watching one of the main characters – kooky Leslie – cop it. Some felt that the movie was hideously manipulative and schmaltzy; others just went with the flow and bawled like babies at the raw emotion of it all. The entire last quarter of the film is an emotional rollercoaster, with as many highs as lows, as Jess comes to terms with his best friend’s death and recreates the fantasy land of Terebithia in her memory.

Blublines: "Next time we should invite Lesley to go. She would like that."

George’s Redemption

A rare uplifting moment in this list, as George Bailey discovers that his life has not all been in vain and he runs through a snowy Bedford Falls in a state of infectious euphoria. You’re in floods of tears, but they’re tears of unadulterated joy. Have something/someone ready to hug if you’re watching it.

Blublines: “Hello Bedford Falls! Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas movie house! Merry Christmas Emporium! Merry Christmas you wonderful old Building and Loan! Hey!”

Go to 20-16

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