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Posted at 12:07 PM ET, 06/17/2010

The five Pixar movie moments most likely to make you cry

By Jen Chaney

Just two of the fish that made us weepy in "Finding Nemo." (Pixar)

In Hollywood, there is at least one thing that can be relied on, no matter what. Its name is Pixar.

Virtually every summer, no matter how dismal the slate of blockbuster contenders might look, we can count on the godfathers and godmothers of CGI animation to deliver yet another family-entertainment masterpiece. Oh, and there's another thing we can count on from those Pixar movies: that at least one moment will turn us into teary, blubbering idiots.

In keeping with that tradition, I heard quite a few sniffles around me at a recent screening of "Toy Story 3," particularly as the movie came to its poignant close. (The Post's review of the film is online now, by the way.) That's one benefit of seeing this Buzz Lightyear adventure in 3D; with those big, goofy specs on, fellow audience members can't see the mist in your eyes.

Not that there's any shame in admitting that, yes, a clownfish made me weep. With that in mind, here's my list of the five Pixar moments most likely to make you cry.

5. The conclusion of "Wall•E": After returning from outer space and reviving our trash-compacting hero, Eve quickly realizes that the robot love of her life has no feelings and no memory of who she is. It takes the touch of her hand to bring Wall•E back from the mechanically brain-dead. If the tears don't flow when his eye-noculars perk up in recognition ("Ev-a?"), they probably will once the movie's signature tune -- "It Only Took a Moment" from "Kiss Me, Kate" "Hello, Dolly" -- gently kicks in on the soundtrack.

4. "Our Town" montage from "Cars": One could argue that a tribute to smalltown USA set to the sentimental vocals of James Taylor is a pretty easy way to make audiences verklempt. Fair point. But it doesn't make the scene any less effective.

3. The end of "Finding Nemo":The conclusion of this film is actually happy because -- SPOILER ALERT -- Nemo does, in fact, get found. But there's still a moment prior to the conclusion when Nemo's dad Marlin finally learns to let go and allow his baby to be independent. When the voice of Marlin, Albert Brooks, croaks out a "Goodbye, son" as his little guy with the itty-bitty right fin swims off to school, it's okay if there's suddenly something in your eye.

2. "When She Loved Me" from "Toy Story 2":
This absolutely lovely, so poignant-it's-painful number from the second "Toy Story" uses all the powers of the musical montage to full effect. Turning Jessie's story into a tragic version of "The Velveteen Rabbit" is undeniably sad. But throw in the vocals of Sarah MacLachlan -- the same woman whose Lilith-Fair sensitive sound makes me bawl during those SPCA commercials -- and forget it. I'm done.

1. "Married Life" from "Up":
This is easily the most adult scene in any Pixar picture, one that accomplishes something that plenty of lesser live-action films can't manage in two-plus hours: it tells a richly detailed, incredibly moving love story. Add in the Academy Award-winning score of Michael Giacchino -- a man with a special gift for eliciting sobs with his music -- and you've got the most cry-worthy scene in Pixar's history and, perhaps, the most emotional moment of any movie released last year.

Agree with my ranking? Or is there another weepy animated-movie moment I missed? Wipe your tears and share your thoughts in the comments section.

By Jen Chaney  | June 17, 2010; 12:07 PM ET
Categories:  Movies, Pop Culture  | Tags:  Movies, Summer Movies  
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"It Only Takes a Moment" is from HELLO DOLLY not KISS ME, KATE (a far better score musical).

Posted by: pirate1 | June 17, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

I don't think it's Pixar, I think it's Brad Bird. Just watch The Iron Giant and try not to tear up at 'Superman'.

Stupid robot, never liked him anyways...

Posted by: DorkusMaximus1 | June 17, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

everytime the lamp crushes that poor letter I... every time...

Posted by: quintiliusvarus | June 17, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, pirate1. Had an obvious brain freeze on the "Hello Dolly" thing. The correction has been duly noted.

Posted by: Jen_Chaney | June 17, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Just reading this post made me want to cry as I remembered these scenes, especially the one from Up. I have only watch the beginning of Up once and have vowed to avoid if possible so I also wait to watch about 20 minutes into it.

Posted by: yanni1976 | June 17, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

The song title from Toy Story 2 is actually "When She Loved Me."

Posted by: stella117 | June 17, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Oh yeah, if you don't tear up a bit in "Up" you have no soul.

Posted by: DCCubefarm | June 17, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Note that "Our Town" and "When Somebody Loved Me" were both written by Randy Newman, one of the most under appreciated movie composers of our time.

Posted by: angelos_peter | June 17, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Man, I love Pixar movies. It's hard to believe that I saw the 1st Toy Story movie when I was just 13 years old. Pixar does have an uncanny ability of making a grown man tear up.

Posted by: dalcow | June 17, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

Randy Newman, one of the most under appreciated movie composers of our time.

Depends how tall you are.

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | June 17, 2010 6:55 PM | Report abuse

The moment that gets me every time, even when I think I've steeled myself for it, is the very end of "Monsters, Inc," when [SPOILER] Sully completes Boo's door with the little piece that's attached to his clipboard and gets to go see her again. My eyes are getting watery just thinking about it.

Posted by: mouse4 | June 17, 2010 8:06 PM | Report abuse

Totally agree with "Up". I still think it deserved Best Picture. Movies are supposed to move, not talk, and the married life sequence occurred with virtually no dialogue, yet said volumes. Brilliant's an overused word, but that part was brilliant.

Up probably had better character development than any movie in years (LA Confidential? Diner?).

Posted by: gbooksdc | June 17, 2010 8:55 PM | Report abuse

"When She Loved Me", from Toy Story 2, was one the best uses of a song in any movie I've ever seen. The song told the back story of Jessie and was probably more emotional than any dialogue could have been. It did what songs are supposed to do in a movie. It moved the story along.

Can anyone remember the song that won the Oscar that year?

A Phil Collins song from Tarzan, rather than a beautiful Randy Newman/Sarah McLaughlin song?

Phil Collins? Really? Makes my skin crawl.

Posted by: wmwitz | June 17, 2010 9:01 PM | Report abuse

That opening sequence from UP has made it the only Pixar movie I cannot, in good conscience, recommend to anyone else. I cried so hard I nearly skipped the rest of the movie and my tough-as-nails husband blinked back tears.

Don't get me wrong: it was one of the most perfectly executed segments of movie-making I can recall. I thought it was brilliant. Brilliant.

I just can't watch it again.

Posted by: cfow1 | June 17, 2010 10:14 PM | Report abuse

Fine selections. Good order, too. UP by far is the winner here. But I remember when DISNEY (not Pixar) films excelled at the weepiness.

In fact, the first time I saw my Mom cry was during Disney's the "Fox and the Hound." Specifically, when the Fox and the Hound realized they couldn't be friends anymore and had to be enemies.

Posted by: ablasko73 | June 18, 2010 12:28 AM | Report abuse

I'd add the Anton Ego's review near the end of Ratatouille. Peter O'Toole's voiceover elevates the moment. Thanks for the memories.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | June 18, 2010 12:42 AM | Report abuse

Oh, absolutely agree with your top 3! Though I would probably swap Nemo & Toy Story 2. Each of these 3 have strong memories for me.
I remember once listening to A Prairie Home Companion on the radio and heard a performance of Randy Newman's “When She Loved Me”, and the way it was sung* combined with the memory of hearing it for the first time in the film was enough to almost make me stop the car in its tracks.
My wife and I started watching Finding Nemo for the first time at my mother's house when she was recovering from a grave illness. We got home to finish watching it with now no kids around. My mother-in-law called from halfway around the world and was on the phone (probably asking about my mom) when the scene comes where Nemo's dad finally finds him. She asked why we were crying. My wife blubbered something like “it's that darn fish!”, leaving my mother-in-law completely baffled. Plus I was a relatively new father at the time, and I just about lost it when Nemo comes back to hug Marlin goodbye at the end.
There were no tears, or weeping, during the wordless montage in Up. I sat perfectly upright and rigid, not moving a muscle and very consciously controlling my breathing. Being the “man of the house”, there was no way I was letting that film visibly break me down like some king of emotional waterboarding. I had seen it once before on a plane. It so succinctly captures the hopes, disappointments, dreams, and sadness of a lifetime together with someone.
Someone mentioned Anton Ego's review at the end of Ratatouille. I think it was then that I realized one of the critical factor's to Pixar's brilliance—their willingness to trust their filmmakers instincts. Can you imagine a Brad Bird going to any other studio and saying “I want to make a film about rats in a restaurant. And the thrilling climax of the movie is an old critic reading aloud one of his reviews, in its near entirety, from a newspaper!”

*Googling, I see that it was performed by Maria Jette and Dan Chouinard:

Posted by: canda | June 18, 2010 2:43 AM | Report abuse

You're killin me! Really great stuff.

Posted by: lindalou1 | June 18, 2010 8:41 AM | Report abuse

Totally the wrong post to read, first thing in the morning! ((blows nose/sobs))

Posted by: CentreOfNowhere1 | June 18, 2010 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Well, that just killed my day......

Posted by: wm49rs | June 18, 2010 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Doesn't Randy Newman win an Oscar about every other year?

I agree that the end of Monsters, Inc. belongs on this list, as does Anton Ego. I'd even ditch Cars and Wall-E for these two.

Posted by: Fruitfly1 | June 18, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

From the Wikipedia entry on Randy Newman:

"Newman had the dubious distinction of receiving the most Oscar nominations (fifteen) without a single win. His losing streak was broken when he received the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2001, for the Monsters, Inc. song "If I Didn't Have You", beating Sting, Enya and Paul McCartney. After receiving an enthusiastic standing ovation, a bemused but emotional Newman began his acceptance speech with 'I don't want your pity!'"

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | June 18, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Randy Newman. So underappreciated. I was so happy when he finally won that Oscar. His music for the movie "Ragtime" was fantastic, too.

Dorkus, I'm completely with you re: Brad Bird. "The Incredibles" is probably my favorite movie ever, with "Iron Giant" way up there too ("Hogarth!").

Despite being a cynical, middle-aged man, I cannot watch "When She Loved Me" from "Toy Story 2" without losing it. I even make my kids fast forward through it. I don't even like Sarah McLaughlin, but seeing Jessie first happily sitting by her owner in the car and then shocked and sad in the cardboard box dumped by the side of the road watching the car drive away just does me in.

Posted by: td_in_baltimore | June 18, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

UP had both me and my husband (who I had maybe only seen cry once before in 15 years together) bawling in the theater and squeezing each other's hands until we cut off circulation. It may be the best Pixar movie ever, but I'll probably never watch it again. Also, not fair that it's at the beginning of the movie!

When Sully returns Boo to her home in Monsters Inc., I cry every single darn time.

I am excited for Toy Story 3 (I hope to make it my 2 1/2 year old's first theater experience), but I am dreading the inevitable waterworks, especially while wrangling a toddler.

Posted by: whatrocks9 | June 20, 2010 8:32 AM | Report abuse

I finally watched UP a week or so ago, and while I'd been warned about the sentimentality of the movie, I was NOT expecting to be bawling in the first 5 minutes of the film. Adding to that, there were at least 2 other moments that had me wiping tears away. It was really beautiful how those adult themes transcended the silly story that was front-and-center.

Posted by: NewB45 | June 21, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

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