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Saddest Movie Ever Pinpointed by Science

saddest movie ever

If you ask 100 people what the saddest movie ever would be, you’re likely to get 100 different answers… or so you’d think.

Perhaps Bambi among Disney fans, or The Crow among goths, or Big Momma’s House among people who actually appreciate humor. All would be wrong, however, according to science. A recent delving into sad movies has determined the saddest movie of all time, and none of the above were pinpointed as the most sad movie ever.

Smithsonian Magazine wrote about the sad movie study this month, citing data from 1995 wherein scientists made the determination. It turns out that it was necessary to use a movie clip to induce sadness- as telling people their puppy was run over or that their grandma had succumbed to a disease is considered unethical. And out of all the clips used, one from the film The Champ starring Jon Voight and Ricky Schroder was most likely to get the waterworks going:

According to, scientific study has determined that the most reliable tearjerker of all time is 1979’s ‘The Champ,’ in which washed-up boxer Jon Voight returns to the ring in order to earn enough to retain custody of his son, Ricky Schroder. Particularly, the climactic scene where — spoiler alert! — the little boy watches his battered dad die (end spoiler). It’s a moment that makes Schroder and the hardened old men in the scene all bawl their eyes out, and it’s all but guaranteed to do the same to you.

Do you agree? What do you think is the saddest movie of all time?

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339 Responses to “Saddest Movie Ever Pinpointed by Science”

  1. Kyle W. Mellenthine

    How about the road, Viggo better have gotten paid well for that one.

  2. Brady L Chies

    Big mommas house was funny? One of the worst movies of all time.

  3. Alison McMenamy

    oh yea man the champ gets me everytime! I don't think you can judge which one is the saddest really for everyone…'cause I would think it depends what your situation is like currently and when watching a movie, if it somewhat portrays you, then it would affect you more. just sayin

  4. Maleni Delgadillo Thibeault

    just reading about the champ brought tears to my eyes! talk about a tragedy! =*(

  5. Anonymous

    End of Harry Potter Saga ( final film)… Deathly Hollows part 2 ( especially a certain scene with Severus Snape)! I cried! :(

  6. David Fuji Arroyo

    A little known movie but very sad was Johnny Got His Gun. They used clips of the movie in Metallica's video One.

  7. Shahya Khodadadio

    yeah but at least the boy (you think) is guaranteed a better and safer life

  8. Kim LaCapria

    I may have also cried. The crying and hugging just got me, as well as him standing in Dumblydorr's office like, "you said you'd PROTECT her!"

  9. Shahya Khodadadio

    in "the road" that is. Very Similar Stories though, an everlasting bond between a father and his son

  10. Craig C Thomas

    No, it has to be "My Dog Skip" on the basis of 3 scenes and if you've seen the movie, you know which ones they are. Just rips your heart out. Damn that movie!

  11. Mack Hopkins

    Really? That's the saddest movie ever? The idea that this is the saddest movie ever is even sadder than the movie itself.

  12. Anonymous

    "Dancer in the Dark" by far. I have seen the other movies all sad but this movie is so so good but will make you sad for days.

  13. George Scott

    A.I. by Spielburg deserves a mention: it deals with "what is human" and "what really is the nature of love?"

  14. Kevin Webb

    Donnie Darko. It doesn't hurt that the end scene was paired with the most depressing song ever.

  15. Abinash Mishra

    what aboutthe following: Terms of Endearment, House of Sand and Fog, Philadelphia, Love Story, Silkwood, Mask (Eric Stolz, not Jim Carrey), Deer Hunter, Coming Home.

  16. Anonymous

    Sad and uplifting too "Visually and Respectfully Yours – The Story of The Tibetan Photo Project" and "Voices in Exile" and the Sequel to Visually, "Save Tibet…Why?" Look em up on DVD at Amazon.

  17. Anonymous

    The Champ brought out a tear or two if I remember correctly! Requiem for a dream was more depressing than sad!

  18. Stacy Brown

    For me it's a tie between The English Patient and The Stoning of Saraya M.

  19. Patrick Gaines

    The saddest movie I ever saw was "The Other Side Of The Mountain" (1975) with Mailyn Hassett, Beau Bridges. After the movie, grown men were leaving the theater wiping tears from their eyes.

  20. Anonymous

    El Orfanato. I know what's coming and still tear up every time I watch it.

  21. Robert Thompson

    where the red fern grows. cried like a baby when I read the book and even harder when I saw the movie.

  22. Will Huston

    'The Champ' is sad indeed, but no more than 'Penny Serenade' from 1941 or the 1996 French film 'Ponette'.

  23. Wanda Russell Fouse

    Definetely Imitation of Life- such a heartbreaking story- and the tale of how true a Mother's Love is- so sad- I have watched this movie since a little girl and cry everytime.

  24. Anonymous

    Definitely in the conversation. Bjork was awesome…

  25. Rob Grant

    Battlefield Earth, if I ever see John Travolta in person he owes me 8 bucks.

  26. Meg Okunowo

    I still couldn't take another peak of "The champ" No! Then came "Too young to die", very sad indeed and yea I cried!

  27. Christy Delaloye Schiller

    "Brian's Song" is probably the one that I've seen more men in my life cry at then any other. I remember seeing "Beaches" with my best friend when I was a teenager and finding it incredibly sad, but now it's sort of silly and schmaltzy :-)

  28. John Winston Powell

    Yea, Brian's Song is a big one I remember from the 70s!

  29. Mica Tan

    Hachiko- A Dog's Story.
    First time I ever cried in a sad movie…AND just knowing that it's a true story. :'(((

  30. Anonymous

    "The Road" is very sad. Come on, all the animals are dead, the world is getting colder and people are eating each other.

  31. Ricardo Cardoza

    I thought Dumbo was pretty sad. Especially that scene with his mother when she was in the cage.

  32. Anonymous

    yeah, first movie I thought of was The Road, more depressing than sad…

  33. Anonymous

    I believe that My Sisters Keeper was one of the most heart felt movies so far. The Champ is really a great movie as well and Ricky did a an outstanding role in that movie.

  34. Victoria Higginbottom

    Definitely Requiem for a Dream. The mother's speech makes me weep every time. "I'm old…I'm alone…"

  35. Sheryl Boone

    Is that the Wal-Mart movie? I hated that movie!! Not sad, just STUPID!

  36. Audwin Short

    I totally agree! My runner's up would be a tie between "The Champ" and "Imitation of Life" followed by "Brian's Song"…

  37. Anonymous

    The Sweet Hereafter. Ian Holm (Bilbo in LOTR) is investigating a terrible accident where a school bus slides off the road into a quarry and many of the small town's children drown. It's a sad movie with no real upside to the situation.

  38. Anonymous

    actually, the saddest non fiction movie that I ever witnessed was the barack hussein obama, presidential inauguration.

  39. Anonymous

    beaches/steal magnolias are my saddest movies. but then there are SO many.

  40. Deirdre Sexton

    Steel Magnolias at the burial of Julia's character.

  41. 'Kristy Lockenour Ramos

    all time favorite and saddest movie ever

  42. Rickey D Holley

    By far the saddest movie ever was "The Road'. The future was hopeless.

  43. B.n. Agiter

    No. For me it was The Notebook. After that one, I wanted to drink a bottle of rye. And it's a chick movie. The Road is pretty bad, too. But more depressing than sad.

  44. Emily Bryant

    Never even heard of the champ but yeah the road was sad and I only saw the last 20 minutes of it.

  45. Anonymous

    Saddest movie I ever saw was 1959 movie "imitation of life" with Lana Turner.

  46. Emily Bryant

    The curious case of Benjamin Button was pretty sad at the end. Never fails to make me cry.

  47. Anonymous

    Really, The Champ. really? How can Old Yeller lose to that, no way, I'm crying just thinking of Old Yeller. Ohhh, oh oh oh.

  48. Loren White

    The saddest movie ever made doesn't arive in theaters till november….Adam sandlers "Jack and jill!

  49. Linda DeRosa Cooper

    My mother always thought that this was a very sad movie.

  50. Mark Warner

    I like the fact that when you go to play the clip of the saddest movie ever, you go right to a commercial. That is funny.

  51. Irma Delgado

    I totally hated the ending to the English Patient.

  52. Rachel Williams-Cortez

    I agree about the champ but what about Pay it forward?

  53. Phil Manson

    "Biodome" The saddest part was it was made! But, really, what about "Dumbo" when they have his mother locked up…sob!

  54. Cheryl Moore

    The Immitation of Life with Juanita Moore, Lana Turner, Sandra Dee and… I can still hear Lana Turner scream "Annie".

  55. Agron Jonuzi

    Guys what about Roberto Benigni's, Life is Beautiful? I'm a grown ass man and I think I went through an entire box of tissues watching this movie…

  56. Trevecca Shaw

    Letting Ricky Schroder wrestle with a dead body for 5 minutes & then explaining death to him like he's some cowboy or cop, overdramatic… Dr. giving up without so much as grabbing Champ's junk and making him cough, mal-practice. Champ not being able to PERSONALLY collect on his bets, now that's sad.
    My vote: Immitations of Life, Million Dollar Baby, Bridges of Madison County.

  57. Jenny McEmery

    I think that the Pursuit of happiness is pretty sad, even though you know the whole time it ends good for them. Especially the part when the little boy loses his one and only toy.

  58. Linda DeRosa Cooper

    Many good replies here. Another one is "Sentimental Journey" with Maureen O'Hara, John Payne and Maureen O'Brian. It was released sometime in 1946. A real tear jerker, in my opinion – haven't seen it in years.

  59. Papool Chaudhari

    The saddest movie of all time is a Japanese movie called "Heavenly Forest" (translation into english). See it and you'll cry hard for three hours straight. It's that sad and hurts that much.

  60. Theresa Purdy Blanar

    Wow Never saw this movie, but just sat here and cried my eyes out. Great acting…Now I must rent Imitation of Life. You know it's a good thing to cry…good for the mindset, body & soul. But must also find a funny funny movie to make ya laugh!

  61. Charles Hassell

    Oh yeah. saw it as a kid. Still can't bring myself to watch it again, and I'm 57.

  62. Scott Gondek

    Justin Bieber's Never Say Never movie. It made me sad for the human race.

  63. Anonymous

    definitely a great film, vdchildren….and one that is clearly underrated….i feel more for Ian Holm and his situation with his daughter almost more than the accident itself…i know it may sound a little weird.

  64. Nicole Glaude'

    "Imitation of Life" is the saddest movie I have ever seen, imo.

  65. Anonymous

    whew its a tough one to see no doubt. god its a great movie though.

  66. Liz Mills

    P.S. I Love you was the saddest chick flick I've ever seen in my life. I bet I cried through 90% of it.

  67. Miriam Pineda

    Saddest movie for me by far has to be 'Grave of the Fireflies'… if it doesn't make u cry then your soulless! just kidding… maybe =/

  68. Tina Blades

    The 1959 version is the saddest movie ever…but only the last 30 minutes or so. Up until that point I giggle at the overacting by Lana Turner.

  69. Debra Hudson-LaFlore

    now we know where some of the gov. moneys going to. I could care less which is the saddest movie. there was a scientific study to see how many times a preson could sneeze in a lifetime total waste of money.

  70. Aja Richardson

    Pay it Forward is a pretty dang sad movie, too. Hachi is definitely up there!

  71. Darla Jean Long

    touched my heart like no other documentary..the friends, family especially the parents/grandparents..such strength..everyone should watch this film.

  72. Sandra Marie

    Dam you scientists! ha! It worked! Made me cry, because well, i have a soul and am able to FEEL.Crybaby classic(scenes) would be, Titantic, Ghost, The Professional, Dancer in the dark, The color purple, shindlers(sp?) list, pay it foward, annnd The Pianist. Well,"SAD" movies tend to depress me, than get me to cry, a sad scene has to stand alone in a film to make me emotionial to the point of tearing up(most of the time).

  73. Anonymous

    Probably the saddest movie for me would be my favorite movie and that is Glory.
    The story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry is one of great courage and sacrifice. It get me every time. Just well acted with the best soundtrack for a movie that I can recall.
    Brian's Song is right up there too.

  74. Michael Stanley

    the saddest movie I ever seen is..michael keatons.1993 my life.. about a man who videos himself for his unborn child he will never see…very good tear jerker..

  75. Dolly Valdez

    when I read the saddest movie question, the champ was the 1st one to come to mind. I am with another poster, I saw it when I was a kid and still can't watch it again. talk about ptsd.

  76. Jayde Baldwin

    I don't know about Bambi but The Lion King is pretty depressing, still makes me sad =[ Sure Bambi is sad but I don't know really lol A lot of Disney movies are sad, always have to have a violent death.

  77. Kim Froggett

    I couldn't agree more with the, scientific study. I saw The Champ with probably Pamela Anderson Courtright in Alpena. I know I was a blubbering idiot watching that little boy trying to get The Champ to wake up!

  78. Caty Parry

    I didn't cry over 'the champ'… Watching something like a man getting beat the tar out of isn't sad but a stupid choice. He died because he chose an idiotic profession. His kid saw the match and his father's death and cried. Watching the ending in 'Forest Gump' where Forest is crying at Jenny's grave was a lot sadder than that. Seeing Jack die at the end of 'Titanic' was a lot more tragic. Grave of the Fireflies is a must see if you like tear-jerkers. The bloody-gory scene where Officer Murphy is killed in 'Robocop' was sadder than The champ. Sadness isn't always about tears and losing a loved one, but can be about a heart-clenching moment caused by an instance of utter terror.
    I could name off many more movies with more moving scenes than The Champ.

  79. Valerie Starr

    oh gawd. old yeller for sure. not only is is sad, but i can't even bear to watch it; way too painful. brain's song i adore, and it's sad, but i can watch it.

  80. Valerie Starr

    ask most adults over say, 30 and i think MOST will say "old yeller". and will say they can't even as GROWNUPS watch it!!!

  81. Todd Folstad

    Sports movies with Jack Warden in them – The Champ and the original Brian's Song! That's a dead heat tie for me!

  82. Anonymous

    Pay It Forward, I nearly cried and never have over a movie.

  83. Marlon Parales

    Bridge to Terabithia. Only movie to ever make me look away to avoid…..well……you know.

  84. Heather Christa Justice

    Sophies Choice, etc., SHOULD top such movies as Old Yeller but that shows how our society is and thinks.

  85. Todd Folstad

    the theme by Michele Legrand was the first piano piece I ever learned and now that I'm an accomplished singer – I know the full tunes – Through the Eyes of Love.

  86. Valerie Starr

    old yeller. hands down. not only is it sad, but most adults will say they can't watch it again! I can watch bambi, I love brian's song ~ I can watch it over and over. I can watch zombies chomping brains, people being sawed, but that old yeller. no way ~ it's way way way too sad.

  87. Sarah Olsen

    I cried like crazy during Glitter. Oh. That's not true. I didn't watch Glitter.

  88. Diana Gonzalez

    Oh my Gosh i was waiting for someone to mention Dumbo!!! Ugh, right when Dumbo see's his mom caged up! Oh and this sounds silly, but at the end of Titanic when Leo was about to be seperated from Kate. Waahhh!!

  89. Charles Sumner

    The scene in Fiels of Dreams where he asks his dad to have a catch, and then they play catch brings me to tears everytime.

  90. Anonymous

    This may just be me but the saddest movie to me is Glory. I tear up every time the final battle scene plays. What makes it sadder to me is it's a true story. But I love war movies so many may not agree with me.

  91. Ash Bentley

    It's My Party with Eric Roberts. MY GOD it was sad.

  92. Jay N Vanessa

    "Red Dawn" (1984) Bada** & Sad at the same time!

  93. Dana Vann

    I definately agree with " Imatation of Life" being one of the top saddest movies. But as of today I say that the saddest movie of all time for me would be the movie "PRESCIOUS" It would take every tear that the human can consume in two hours.

  94. Joyce Morris

    last century…Old Yeller for sure….this century….Million Dollar Baby..waaaah!

  95. Troy D. Guthrie

    There was a movie with Alan Arkin & Sandra Locke called "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter". It's about a deaf mute & his mentally challenged friend who move into a small town so the deaf man can be close to the institution where his friend has been placed. It's a very underrated movie, and what happens in the last 30 min will make even the most hardened person get teary eyed…

  96. George Zumsteg

    So sorry guys, but "Old Yeller" has anything beat in the sad catagory. The movie starts out pretty good, but near the end, the boys dog takes on a rabid wolf trying to get to the mother and young boys while Dads out hunting with his guy friends. Of course "old Yeller" has been feeling the effects of tangling with the rabid wolf. Now you have to rent it find out what's happened. GZ@OVH

  97. Matt Eagle

    Old Yeller or Where the Red Fern grows, I'd rather watch my dad die than my coon hound any day of the week.

  98. Gary Picasso

    the-saddest-movie-ever is "Attack On Darfur" movie, the arabs slaughter the black muslims, there'll be a terrible price to pay come judgement day.

  99. Anonymous

    Yep, Gail. I saw "Old Yeller" when I was 8 years old. 45 years ago. It would probably still make me cry today.

  100. Anonymous

    Legends of the Fall is the saddest movie I have ever seen. So many very sad sad things happen in this movie it takes a whole box of tissues just to get through it once!

  101. Barbara Simes Sanders

    Slumdog Millionaire. I can't find strong enough words to describe the feelings that still trouble me over the blinding of that little boy.

  102. Michael Sheehan

    The opening scene of Disney's "Oliver & Company." Every time.

  103. Tea Ward

    I've always been a sucker for Imitation of Life, especially at the end when Sarah Jane runs into her mama's funeral, finally realizing how much she loved her mama and how much her mama loved her…but now its too late to make amends.

  104. Marco Sutedja

    Grave of the Fireflies (1988) and Come and See ( Idi I smotri) (1985) –> the saddest movies ever.

  105. Meagen Ensminger

    Wait, that isn't true… when I was rather young I remember watching charlottes web over like three times and crying every single freaking time Charlotte died. Who am I? I kill every spider that crosses my path these days! I am evil :.(

  106. Patrick Roeder

    Field of Dreams… while the "hey dad… want to play catch?" moment should not logically be as sad as scenes where someone dies… I think it is. Reminds us of family members we've lost and the stuff we wish we could say to them or take back.

  107. Patrick Roeder

    Also, the scene end of Toy Story 3 with Andy and his box of toys… however it does rely on our having formed emotional attachments to the characters from the first three quarters of the film as well as from the previous two films. If you've seen them all though, it packs one hell of a powerful punch. Even (maybe even especially) for adults. That is, if you were an imaginative kid. Wept like a stupid little baby.

  108. Lacy Windsor

    Hachi, the true story about the dog in Japan is the saddest movie ever made! Born Free runs a close second for me, being a major animal lover! Then there are all the old Lassie movies, Old Yeller, The Plague Dogs…But anyone who wants a really good cry, you need to watch Hachi(Hachiko)! MAJOR TEARJERKER!

  109. Joani Fischer

    I know there are many, but the ones that get me the most are: Imitation of Life, Back Street and Splendor in the Grass!

  110. Anonymous

    You want sad? See Carousel. It's the only movie/play that can reliably make even a monster cry……

  111. Bridget Sclama

    between imitation of life with lana turner, an affair to remember with deborah kerr, love story with ali mcgraw….i want to live with susan hayward….there are so many choices for great tear-jerkers!

  112. Shane Mattix

    "Click" with Adam Sandler was incredibly sad for me. It was billed as a comedy and then the whole thing was about a man who regretted wasting his life.

  113. Thomas Gibbons III

    Green Berets. At the end where Ham Chuck is running from chopper to chopper looking for Petersen. Saddest movie ever.

  114. Steven Tucker

    "Spiderman" was definitely the saddest movie ever

  115. Jeb Biggart

    snakes on a plane.
    that thing was the saddest movie ever.

  116. Deb E. Carlton

    Eight Below has to be one of the saddest dog movies..Sweet November and Love Story…Bambi, Old Yeller, Marley and Me. Imitation of Life, with Mahalia Jackson singing Trouble of The World to name a few tear jerkers…

  117. Anonymous

    Seven Pounds! I don't think any movie has ever made me bawl as much as that one did!

  118. Billy Kornacki

    I must be a heartless bitch. I've seen several movies that were significantly sadder than this. A Mighty Heart is one of them, Titanic another, Old Yeller, Pride of the Yankees, to name a few.

  119. Thalia Panacea

    The saddest film I ever saw was a Greek Indie-style flick from the 80 called "Eleni" with John Malkovich. It's about how Greek kids were torn from their families as young kids to serve in the military during the Greek civil war. Eleni was the mother who was killed for trying to protect her children. Of course, Malkovich et al were brilliant.

  120. Alec LaBadie

    saddest movie to me is Sanctum by James Cameron, made me cry when his own son had to drown his struggling dad to put him out of his misery even though he asked him to…

  121. Jeremy Lozano

    an american crime with ellen page is really sad… I could not stop crying… sort of similar to the lovely bones a little but based on a true story…and more tragic :-( this movie always gets me.

  122. Brian Bingham

    This is indeed a tearjerker. However, I have watched movies that brought tears to my eyes even better than this. If TV series count too, I would have to choose the TV series Rifleman as an effective tearjerker involving the reaction by actor Johnny Crawford when his TV show dad is badly injured and approaching death.

  123. Ben Schneider

    I found it sad cause of the realness of it. people are the only living things in this planet, you've got to save yourself from other humans and suicide, just total dispair, the saddest part, the part tha really got me is when he was teahing his son how to kill himself, it's the most realistic apcolyptic movie ever.

  124. Pamela Robinson

    The SADDEST movie I ever saw was called "The Way of All Flesh". It was one of the BEST old movies I've ever seen! I looked for it to buy for many, many years and finally found it. I cry every time I watch it.

  125. Carolyn Schroeder

    I remember watching this with my 3 oldest sons years ago and then again with the younger ones. Even their dad told them he cried when he watched as a boy! It is a story that reflects the compassionate heart!

  126. Anonymous

    This coming from a full grown man, the saddest movie that actually got me to start crying was "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" I first saw the entire movie in a literary analysis class during my senior year of high school. Needless to say, I had to bury my head in a book when (spoiler alert) the mother dies.

  127. Douglas Jones

    The 1979 CHAMP is a remake of the 1932 film which won Wallace Beery an Oscar (shared that year with Fredric March for DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE) and Jackie Cooper as the kid. WAY better, and way weepier.

  128. Juachelle Echols

    "Imitation of Life" (1959) When Mahalia Jackson is in the choir singing, "The Troubles of the World" at the mother's funeral and her daughter finally returns during the funeral bawling and apologizing…I DARE anyone to watch it without crying!

  129. Jason Carter

    The Green Mile wit Micheal Clark Duncan and Tom Hanks or My Life with Michael Keaton…they will rip your insides out.

  130. Ali Khat

    If you can make it to the end of Grave Of The Fireflies without weeping 'till you're ready to slice your wrists open, you aren't human.

  131. Kalonnie Wolfe

    I hated both those movies. Almost as much as Last song.

  132. Paige Ryan

    Black Beauty is a pretty sad movie. It's always made me cry, and I'm not one who cries during movies that easily.

  133. Jared Merrill Dimick

    personally, I cried my eyes out in the Notebook. it was a happy kind of cry though.

  134. Pascale Schollar

    Yesterday, I watched Hachi, A dog's tale. And 24 hours later, I'm trying hard not to think about it, it upset me so much.

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