10 Disney Moments When You Couldn't Help But Cry, Ranked

A young couple, Ellie and Carl (voiced by Edward Asner), lie on a blanket in the grass as Ellie points up toward the sky in Up (2009)

Disney movies are full of magic, wonder, and some of the most traumatic moments of our young and adult lives. These movies have brought on some of the fondest memories we’ve experienced on the big screen but are never light-handed when tugging at the ol’ heartstrings. As Walt Disney famously said, “Life is composed of lights and shadows and we would be untruthful, insincere, and saccharine if we tried to pretend there were no shadows,” and it’s fair to say that Disney’s storytellers do a great job at offsetting the lighter moments with darkness. 

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With tickets now on sale for Frozen II in anticipation of its release at Regal on November 22nd, we are gearing up for another series of moments that are guaranteed to bring on the water works, and what better way to prepare ourselves than reliving some of the most heartbreaking moments of our childhood? We apologize in advance for any flashbacks and inevitable sobbing—here are the top 10 Disney moments where you couldn’t help but cry.


10. THE LITTLE MERMAID - King Triton’s sacrifice

The Little Mermaid-Triton
Triton (voiced by Kenneth Mars) in The Little Mermaid (1989)

To start off the list, we’ll go easy on you. In an act of fatherly love, we recount the moment in The Little Mermaid when King Triton sacrifices himself and all of his power to save his daughter. Even though Ariel had betrayed him and lost his trust, Triton showed her how much he loved her regardless of what she had done. 


9. FROZEN - Elsa shuts Anna out

Young Anna (voiced by Livvy Stubenrauch) in Frozen (2013)

Who knew wanting to build a snowman could be so heartbreaking? As young Anna sings to her older sister (and former best friend) Elsa from outside her closed bedroom door, we see the two siblings’ relationship come crumbling down. When we flash forward to the now all-grown-up sister, sitting against that same door, we all wanted to run out of the room and hug our siblings.


8. THE FOX AND THE HOUND - Tod is abandoned

The Fox and the Hound-Tod
Tod (voiced by Mickey Rooney) in The Fox and the Hound (1981)

This Disney classic is packed full of soul-crushing moments that might be hard to watch for any dog (or fox) lovers out there. When Widow Tweed realized that Tod was no longer safe with her, she was forced to take him out into the woods and leave him there. A truly heart-wrenching scene that leaves you shouting “WHY?!” 


7. DUMBO - Baby Mine

Dumbo (1941)

"Baby of mine, don't you cry," sings Dumbo's mom to her little one from behind the bars of her cage. How can we possibly stop the flow of tears when we know this is the last time that Dumbo will see his mother, who has been unfairly deemed a "mad elephant" after protecting her son? Easily one of the most gut-turning scenes from early Disney.


6. FINDING NEMO - The barracuda attack

Finding Nemo-Marlin
Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks) in Finding Nemo (2003)

In Finding Nemo, Disney doesn’t hold back by throwing the crying scene right up front, shown in the opening sequence in which a more carefree Marlin faces off against a rogue barracuda and loses everything—his wife and all of his future children. This quick background to the movie’s main character gives a painful explanation as to why Marlin is so incredibly protective over his only surviving egg, Nemo.


5. HOMEWARD BOUND: THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY - Shadow falls into a hole

Homeward Bound-Shadow
Shadow (voiced by Don Ameche) in Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)

Maybe it’s the fact that Disney used real dogs in the movie that made this scene feel all-too real, but this moment of anxiety and despair was almost too much to handle. Yes, he does eventually make it out of the hole and back home, but oh man, when he just gives up and lays down in the mud, the agony is palpable. 


4. TOY STORY 2 - Jessie’s backstory 

Toy Story 2-Jessie
Jessie (voiced by Joan Cusack) in Toy Story 2 (1999)

If having this entire sequence is shrouded in a Sarah McLachlan song isn’t enough to make you sob your eyes out, then maybe this harrowing story of childhood abandonment will do the trick. When Jessie loses her “kid” and best friend Emily to the tragedy of growing up, we see the light drained from Jessie’s eyes as Emily leaves her behind in a donations box. This moment is only made worse when we all realized that we’ve all been an Emily at some point. 


3. BAMBI - Bambi's mother is shot

Bambi (1942)

No matter how long ago you saw this movie, this scene has stuck with you and is as vivid in your head as when you first witnessed it. And for all of us who have braved the trauma and gone back to watch this classic movie, it is almost necessary to fast forward over this opening scene. Hearing that final gunshot as Bambi’s mother tries to get Bambi to safety is far more devastating than anyone could possibly imagine.


2. UP - Ellie and Carl

Up-Ellie and Carl
Ellie and Carl (voiced by Edward Asner) in Up (2009)

For those of us foolish enough to walk into another Disney movie expecting a fun, lighthearted story about an old man in a house full of balloons without being beaten over the head with our own emotions, we really got it handed to us in Up. The first few minutes tell the beautiful love story of Carl and Ellie, which ultimately deals some daggers to the heart. First, we learn the two were unable to have a child despite wanting one so dearly. Then, you see that Ellie becomes stricken with a terminal illness. Finally, Ellie dies just before they were able to take their trip to South America which they were painstakingly saving up for. That final shot of Carl alone at the funeral, holding a single balloon, will haunt us for the rest of our adult lives.


1. THE LION KING - Mufasa's death

The Lion King-Mufasa and Simba
Mufasa (voiced by James Earl Jones) and Young Simba (voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas) in The Lion King (1994)

Well…here we are. We all knew this one was coming, and quite frankly, we don’t want to talk about it. Just watching Mufasa's face as he falls to his death at the hands of his power-thirsty brother, Scar, is unbelievably hard to stomach. The only moment that makes it worse is when Simba finds Mufasa and tries to wake him up. WE’RE NOT CRYING, YOU ARE! 


Witness the next great Disney moment when Frozen II comes to Regal November 22nd. Tickets are now on sale. 

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