The ending of Sansho The Bailiff is one of the most powerful endings in film history—which inspires this question:
Have you seen any other emotionally moving scenes which compare with its depth?
I have not seen Sansho
come to mind, usually the most moving scene is not the ending
I always go with “…the trailer…”. Wim Wenders’ fans will know it.
Speaking of Wim Wenders, I would also rate Harry Dean Stanton’s monologue behind the mirror in Paris, Texas as one of the most emotionally moving scenes in the history of cinema.
The final scene of The World of Apu.
With you there, Graveyard. My quote is Kinski’s two-word reaction to it.
It will always be this from Erice’s Spirit of the Beehive 1973:
Any number of moments from Barry Lyndon, though two in particular. First (SPOILERS), Barry telling the war story to his dying son, which is prematurely cutoff by Barry’s uncontrollable weeping and a smash cut to the funeral as the music rises in volume. Second, the wife signing the paper at the end of the film, which is so suffocatingly and indescribably devastating I can’t explain it.
Sansho is full of them. When the sister drowns herself. Wow. that scene is devastating… The love scenes in The New World bring me to tears.
The ending of Europa ’51.
and life of oharu pick any scene
Braveheart has always brought on a huge emotional response for me. Also Schindler’s List, Good Will Hunting and The English Patient are right up there. Sansho has never done it to me even after watching it the second time recently.
The first one you mentioned was a very devastating moment. Good pick.
For me, these are the ones that most often come to mind:
A Streetcar Named Desire
A caveman looking Brando stands soaking wet outside crying “STELLA” over and over again. I find it so heartbreaking because this is a person incapable of functioning without her, and their trance like embrace when she staggers down the stairs is a moment of such beauty I had trouble keeping emotional composure. Such an incredible moment.
That ending is beautiful stuff. The look of understanding on both Chaplin and the once Blind Girl’s faces are very moving and speak volumes of truth.
Sansho the Bailiff
The moment where the sister commits suicide by slowly walking into the lake is the most memorable image from that film for me. Watching the ripples of water disappear made time stop all around me. The ending that Graveyard Poet mentioned is equally beautiful, but being me I always find death more moving.
I would have put part II here, but I can’t pick one particular moment from that film I find the most moving. The part from the first one when Vito dies sticks with me as the most beautiful. Roger Ebert said it well when he said that the scene feels like a giant has fallen. We haven’t even seen Vito’s past (yet), and I was so affected by this.
Once all the emotionally and mentally scarring shit has passed, we see Vincent Cassel and Monica Bellucci in bed before the tragedies. They are in love, embracing, laughing, and dancing. When it is revealed that she is pregnant, my mind went blank, then we get a gorgeous finale. I walked away from the film dizzy with anger and sadness…
There is footage in this documentary showing Timothy Tredwell, not speaking like he has throughout all the other footage, sitting down quietly as his soon to be killer sits not too far from him. There is no beauty of the bear Tredwell has been trying to show us. As Herzog points out in his chilling narration, the bear is only half-interested in food, nothing else. Can Tredwell see this? Could he figure this out as that same bear devoured him?
In last year’s best film (imo) there is a scene in an elevator that is, well, beautiful. Driver (Gosling) realizes that he must reveal his true self to Mulligan’s character to protect her. He sacrifices all chances of love and future at that moment to keep this woman and her son, the only two people who have ever really mattered to him, safe. There are no words, just a long kiss, then a badass face-smashing.
Alone, and driven mad by despair, James Stewart obsessively tries to recreate the perfect image of the fraud that seduced him. In a scene of anger and dream-like beauty, he takes this woman into his arms and, as my classic cinema teacher said, have the best sex ever. Sure, we don’t see them have sex, but we get the idea that he rocked her friggin’ world.
The scene where Bill tells his son he is a pedophile is quite beautiful if you ask me. It is also really disturbing, because the child is offended that HE was never molested by the man who made sure he would never resort to destroying his own kin. But what Bill doesn’t see is that he has made everything MUUUUUCH worse by sodomizing all of his son’s friends instead of resorting to incest.
I pick two scenes from this movie. The first is when everyone sings along to Aimee Man’s “It’s Not Going to Stop”, and the second is when Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s character (who has only tried to do good throughout the entire film), drugs Tom Cruise’s father. So when Cruise is screaming in anger at him, he cannot hear his pain. The old man’s last request before he dies has failed…
La Dolce Vita
It’s the only scene in the movie when Marcello raises his voice. It is to verbally attack his girlfriend, and attack himself. This film is filled with so many painful moments of disappointment and despair (none of the “episodes” have a happy ending), and this is the only one that ceases to stop dancing around the sadness and fall into it…
SOOO MANY OTHERS. I just don’t want to take up room here.
The 400 Blows ending
Carrie in those aching moments before the blood spills
The Bride of Frankenstein- The Monster and the blind man
Blade Runner- “Tears in rain”
Close Encounters of the Third Kind- The physical encounter with the mothership
It’s a Wonderful Life- George and Mary share the phone, George finally comes to grips with his love for her
Citizen Kane- The butler’s recollection of Kane uttering Rosebud after destroying Susan’s room.
Fargo- “It’s a beautiful day”
Babe: Pig in the City- Pig saves dog. Not kidding.
The Tree of Life- Cannot pinpoint but the scene where the young boy befriends the burned boy stuck out in my mind.
The Iron Giants- Superman
The Battle of Algiers- The return of the protests in 1960
The Bicycle Thieves- THE scene
As of movies lately, the final coda of The Assassination of Jesse James really does it for me.
I’ll also mention the final scene of Ivan’s Childhood. I don’t want to spoil it but some of the filmmaking choices Tarkovsky made are brilliant.
Pretty much all of Lilja 4-Ever left me an emotional wreck for several days as well.
I’ll second The New World too, but the final montage set to Wagner. My favorite Malick scene of all time.
All you had to say for The Iron Giant was Superman and I get all teary eyed. (sniffs)
- The first 10 minutes of The Thin Red Line
- The ending of Make Way for Tomorrow
Good, I am not alone because it happened to me as I typed it out. :)
I’m sure many have the same feeling (tries to regain composure). I will always respect the film for doing that…
- The last shot in Au Revoir, Les Enfants – so spare, so unheralded, and done in a realistic tempo – cuts a hole in your soul that, once experienced, will never mend. Devastating.
- The scene when Gena Rowlands gets to see her kids for the first time after her return home in A Woman Under the Influence.
- Waiting with Susan Hayward in I Want To Live!.
- James Stewart pleading with God, filmed in XCU, in It’s A Wonderful Life. That moment exceeds cinema and enters the ether. And, then, of course, the ending of that same fine film.
- Auntie Indra’s banishment in Pather Panchali.
- Debra Winger’s glance to Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment.
- “That’s just it. I only seem …” from Le Feu Follet
… many more. And, as happiness is also an emotion and can be just as moving…
- The Party from Blake Edwards
- the end of 8 1/2
- Playtime from Tati
Pather Panchali- Harihar has returned after a prolonged absence, unaware that his daughter, Durga, has caught a chill and died.The mother, Sarbojaya, has not spoken a word so far. But when she sees the sari Harihar has bought for Durga, she finally breaks down into uncontrollable weeping. The music emanating from the shehnai substitutes Sarbojaya’s wail, adds to the intensity of the scene.
The World of Apu- The moment when Apu realises that his wife has died in childbirth. It is beyond what words can describe, and credit has to go to Soumitra Chatterjee’s performance.
Bicycle Thieves- Bruno witnesses his father trying to steal a bike and getting caught. His desperate plea to the mob beating up his father and the scene where he picks up his father’s hat from the ground and returns it.
Grand Illusion- The scene when de Boeldieu is at his deathbed after a gunshot from von Rauffenstein, his friend. Rauffenstein offers a heartfelt apology to Boeldieu, who dies a few moments later.
City Lights- The tramp and the blind flower girl, who has her sight restored, now meet for the first time after she has regained sight. The girl’s realisation that her benefactor is this tramp and the final close-up on the tramp’s face.
The end of Tarkovsky’s The Mirror destroys me. It’s not one scene but really the last 20 minutes or so, where I’m unraveled at considering my own life and all of humanity through experiencing the director’s own exploration of his life, set to that exquisite music—it just overwhelms me.
Sansho is also a heavy, heavy choice. Ripples in the water were never before or since so profound.
Chaplin’s Limelight has an ending to match City Lights for emotional power. His last American film, his cinematic death…