"… and Death sheds a single, gray tear."For whatever reason, a character is moved. But this guy is made of strong stuff: He is beyond blubbering and won't turn on the waters works. He dammed up the Sparkling Stream of Tears and had his Ocular Gushers surgically removed. And he promised himself! He is not going to cry. Well, maybe just one drop. A Single Tear happens any time someone (man or woman) cries only one teardrop. If a being is generally incapable of crying, this is a sign that he is genuinely upset. The tear can be shed for anything, from patriotism to pollution, but the more traumatic, the better. Compare with Manly Tears, which can often overlap with this. One reason for this is that it's difficult even for actors to cry on command, so filmmakers sometimes use an eyedropper to put liquid in the actor's eyes just before a crying scene. Of course, you can only squeeze so much water out before the next take, leading to this. Also shows up frequently in animation, because it's easier to animate. It's actually older than film, though: Dante mentions it in the Divine Comedy. Not quite a Discredited Trope; lots of examples are parodies, but there are still many, many works that play it straight.
— Narrator in King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow
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Anime & Manga
- Sailor Moon
- In the arc where Mamoru breaks up with Usagi for her safety, he cries a single tear onto his motorcycle helmet.
- Also, Usagi's single tear when Mamoru is wounded in the battle with Zoisite is how she is revealed as the moon princess. The one tear also forms the Silver Crystal.
- The Oosawa Mitsuki adaptation of Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War loves this trope.
- One Piece
- Whitebeard. The strongest man in the world sheds a tear at the death of Ace.
- Genzo sheds a single tear when he hugs Nami and tells her that the whole village knew her secret all along.
- It should be noted that instances of this trope are extremely rare in One Piece, as the series prefers to go the exact opposite route.
- In One Piece Film: Z. of all people, the hardened Doberman sheds a tear during Z's final moments, seeing how Z was once his mentor.
- Shadow Man in Mega Man Megamix, a Darker and Edgier Adaptation Expansion of the Mega Man games, starts laughing and is finally shown to shed a single tear when he realizes that his home has been destroyed, all the other Wily Numbers have been massacred and he wasn't even able to die an honorable death in battle with them since he had to get Dr. Wily to safety. It's especially dramatic since until now this character has been The Stoic and his reaction to the death of Copy-Rock was to vow revenge.
- Naruto: Gaara does this following talking to Sasuke before their fight in Part II, specifically, when he realizes that Sasuke is WAY beyond redemption.
- Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: The episode "Escape From" presents a Brown Note: a film in a virtual theater that is so moving that The Stoic Major actually sheds a tear—something extremely rare coming from her.
- In Bleach the "Old Man", the embodiment of Ichigo's Quincy power sheds a single tear before releasing the part of Ichigo's Shinigami power he was suppressing, proud of the man Ichigo has become.
- A very subtle one in FLAG 189 of The World God Only Knows: Despite having successfully revitalized the Jupiter Sisters, and thwarted a looming threat with their help, Keima was forced with this trope at the end of the said FLAG due to one single mistake he committed throughout the Goddesses Arc: he was forced to break Chihiro's heart in the process of searching for the last Goddess host.
Keima: Chihiro, I'm sorry... I didn't really mean... what I said that time...
- In Digimon Adventure, Mimi having one of these land on her (appropriately tear shaped) Crest of Sincerity, wishing there was something she could do to help, is what triggers Togemon's evolution into Lillymon.
- Folken of The Vision of Escaflowne has a single tear tattooed on his face. Whether it's meant to symbolize the same thing as when Western prison inmates do it or something else is unclear.
- One hears, in parodies, of Mary Sues crying a single perfect crystalline tear, but that may be a Dead Unicorn Trope.
- In Bobmin's Healing Harry, one of the flashbacks has past!Harry drop a single tear, which disturbs present!Ginny much more than anything else, given that she knows how he was treated at the Dursleys.
- In My Immortal, Ebony cries a single tear when she's sent to her Ironic Hell in the hacker chapter.
- In Ace Combat The Equestrian War, Firefly wipes a tear away from her eye after overhearing a conversation where Derpy decides to adopt Pipsqueak when she learns his parents were killed during the war.
- In Becoming Female, Professor McGonagall cries one at the prospect of Gryffindor not winning the Quidditch Cup.
- In Revolutionary Fire, Celestia drops one of these when Joshua tears her a new one for ponifying him without his consent.
Films — Animation
Films — Live-Action
- Anakin Skywalker, after murdering hundreds of Jedi and all the helpless separatist leaders, showed that there is still humanity and decency inside him as he sheds one of self-hatred in Revenge of the Sith.
- Anakin also sheds a tear earlier in the movie as he stands in the Council Chamber looking towards Padme's apartment.
- Trip's single tear in Glory probably earned Denzel Washington the Academy Award.
- Oren Ishii cries a single tear at her mother's murder in Kill Bill's "The Origin of Oren Ishii". She probably would have cried more, but then the bed started weeping blood...
- The Fellowship of the Ring
- After Gandalf dies in the film version, Frodo does this. (A while after. He's sort of a screaming sobbing wreck for a while.)
- A straighter example would be Gandalf himself in Return of the King when he sees the Dark Tower tumbling down.
- Also Aragorn when Boromir dies. Manly Tears, indeed.
- Wormtongue has one he sees the army of Uruk Hai, though in this case it's more of a My God, What Have I Done? moment than actual grief.
- The King of Qin in Hero sheds a single manly tear when he realizes the man who most understands him is his most hated enemy.
- In Velvet Goldmine, the stone-cold pretty boy Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) sheds one single tear after breaking up with his boyfriend Curt Wilde (Ewan McGregor), at the end of his performance of "Bitter-Sweet".
- A Matter of Life and Death: When the ghost of Peter Carter kisses his one true love June, a single tear falls from his eye. More interestingly, although she is petrified and in another time altogether she also sheds a single tear - which is later used as proof of her love for him.
- The eponymous character in Cry Baby, as well as several others over the course of the film. It's mainly used for comedic effect.
- Strangely enough, Halloween's Michael Myers has a Single Tear moment in the fifth film... before reverting back to his evil self.
- In Hannibal, Clarice Starling sheds one single tear when she is up against the fridge and Hannibal Lecter kisses her.
- In Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Sam sheds one when it seems like he's about to be forced to watch Bumblebee, who's probably his closest friend in the world, be executed by Soundwave right in front of him. Fortunately, this doesn't happen.
- In The Passion of the Christ after Jesus dies on the cross, a single drop of rain falls from the sky.
- This viral ad for Prometheus shows David shedding a single tear after being asked what makes him sad. Arguably a subversion in that it shows the artificiality of his emotions rather than his emotional control.
- At the end of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy Bill Haydon, having been exposed as The Mole, is assassinated by Jim Prideaux, his former lover and colleague, with a small calibre bullet through the head. Before Haydon collapses a single teardrop of blood runs down his cheek, matching the single tear shed by Jim.
- Three instances in Star Trek Into Darkness:
- Kirk after the attack on the war room and the death of his mentor, Captain Pike.
- Harrison, whilst talking about how he failed to save his crew.
- Spock, after the events in the warp core.
- In the film version of Bell, Book and Candle, when Gillian's familiar Pyewacket is running away from her and she runs into the street, a tear starts running down one side of her face, which is significant because witches aren't supposed to be able to cry. A subsequent cut shows that she has been crying for some time, but it's the close-up of Kim Novak's face that counts.
- Occurs thrice in X-Men: First Class:
- Charles wipes a single tear from his cheek after he uncovers a happy memory from Erik's childhood involving the latter's mother with his telepathy. Despite living a much more comfortable and privileged life than his friend, the one beautiful thing that Charles never got to experience is a mother's warm affection.
- In the same scene, a visible tear falls down Erik's face because he didn't know he still carried that cherished memory of his mother.
- After Charles gets shot, he only sheds one noticeable tear which is partly because of his injury, but mostly because he is forced to tell Erik that no, they really do not want the same thing, and knows that this realisation will push his friend away for good.
- In the film Legion, Gabriel sheds one after killing Michael. Don't worry, he gets better.
- In Oblivion (2013), after Victoria tells Sally that she and Jack are no longer an effective team, she sheds one tear from her left eye ... and then one from her right.
- Act of Valor. A reluctant female jihadist does this before blowing herself up with an explosive vest.
- Déjà Vu:
- At the end Claire does this when she and Doug are in the car with the bomb and she's certain she's going to die.
- After Doug's interrogation of the terrorist responsible for the bombing, he lets out a single tear after he confides in Doug his belief that everything is inevitable.
- Andrew Neyman in Whiplash at one point invokes this trope after being brutally verbalized by his harsh musical instructor for the first time. Upon seeing this, the instructor grows even more incensed, mocking Andrew for his lack of emotional endurance.
- Claire Dearing in Jurassic World sheds one after a severely injured Apatosaurus dies in front of her and Owen, realizing that the dinosaurs are not just attractions but living beings.
- As mentioned above, it pops in Dante's The Divine Comedy, specifically in the first few cantos of Purgatorio. There is a soldier mentioned who is a brutal, bloody bastard his whole life, but when he is struck down in battle he cries a single tear of repentance, which is enough to send him to Purgatory instead of Hell.
- Almost all of the flashback scenes in Inheritance Cycle involve a single shining tear. This one happens so frequently that Anti-Shurtugal, an anti-fan's website's tagline was, "where we shed many single tears."
- This also shows up a lot in Chronicles of Blood and Stone, including a two-tear variation (one per eye.)
- This happens to Albus Dumbledore near the end of Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix.
- The Xanth novel, Yon Ill Wind, follows a bet between the Demon X(A/N)TH and his fellows. In order for him to win, a young woman has to shed a single tear for him. It's her last tear.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, Xaro Xhoan Daxos does this while trying to convince Daenerys of his love for her, but she's not fazed as she's aware that it's an act. Apparently, the Qartheen are able to cry a single tear at will.
- During an early scene in House of Sand and Fog, Jennifer Connelly sheds a single tear. She's on the phone with her mother.
- In Artemis Fowl, Angeline trying to get Artemis to hand over the lemur to her, and egging him by saying, "don't you love me?". Well, he's spent 3/4 of the book trying to save her and a single tear rolls down his cheek as he says, "if only you knew." Aww.
- In John C. Wright's The Hermetic Millennia, Oenoe cries one from each eye before starting her story — which wins one from Illiance.
- In John Milton's Paradise Lost, Eve weeps one from each eye after being reassured about her dream, and would have wept two except that Adam kissed them away.
- In The Saga Of Ragnar Lothbrok, Aslaug weeps a single tear of blood for her stepsons Erik and Agnar.
- In Julie Kagawa's The Iron Daughter, when Ash is controlled by Virus, and Meghan and the others escape, he weeps a single tear.
- In The Dresden Files during Skin Game Nicodemus cries one tear when Harry taunts him about Nicodemus killing his own daughter, just before he wrecks his plan and reputation by ordering his minions to kill Harry.
- Breaking Bad: In a Saul Goodman commercial made to promote the show, after doing a sleazy commercial advertising his services to victims of the Wayfarer 515 incident, Saul has his cameraman zoom in on his face, where a single tear is falling.
- In Smallville, Fever, a single tear slides down Chloe's cheek when Clark, in his delirium, muttered Lana's name when she is alone by his bedside.
- In Phantom, she does it again and it falls on a badly wounded Lois' forehead, healing her completely.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation
- The clue that Sarek has Vulcan Alzheimer's was he was moved to one tear while listening to a (Mahler?) recital.
- Also, when Picard is in the process of getting Borgified, a single tear shows that he is still there underneath the Borg uni-mind that has suppressed it.
- Dean Winchester of Supernatural. Heck, there's even a drinking game based on each time this happens.
- Jim Profit cries a single tear when he kills his father in the pilot. Justified because he's a Sociopathic Hero who does not understand these strange human things called emotions.
- Parodied in Hyperdrive when a robot sheds an oil tear in the narmy Show Within a Show Captain Helix.
- Parker of Leverage cries a single tear when she hears Hardison pull off a difficult violin solo perfectly. It screws over the team's heist. Worth it? Hell yes.
- In an episode of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century called The Return of the Fighting 69th, an evil villainess takes a slave child's memory globe of her parents and breaks it in front of her out of pure wickedness. Cue the heartbroken girl with this trope.
- Emily in the season 4 finale. Her eyes are watery as a very watery thing, but only one tear gets out.
- Rich does it as well when watching Grace at the ballet.
- Doctor Who
- The Doctor, at the end of "Doomsday". Well, he had more than a single tear there, though he was crying silently.
- Another example is Nine's Single Perfect Tear in "The End of the World".
- Also Amy, near the end of "Victory of the Daleks".
- At the very end of "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe." Humany-wumany.
- Eleven sheds one during his Badass Boast in "The Rings of Akhaten".
- In the Korean Drama Bad Boy, most of the main characters, male and female, do this on occasion.
- In the Friends episode "The One where the Stripper Cries", in a flashback to 1987, Chandler, for comedic effect, sheds a single tear upon learning that Ross broke one of their college pacts.
- Flight of the Conchords, "Albi the Racist Dragon":
"And at that, Albi cried a single tear, which turned into a jelly bean all the colours of the rainbow!"
- Merlin sheds a single tear when he kisses Freya for the first time.
- Jayden does this every so often in Power Rangers Samurai.
- On Monday Mornings, Dr. Tina Ridgeway sheds one perfect Single Tear when she and Dr. Wilson talk about her break up with her husband. He hugs her and tells her he wants to be there for her (which is the least he could do, considering that it's their affair that led to this). Cue the show's favourite close-up shot of the doctor's gorgeous eyes, and one tear flowing down her face.
- In a Halloween episode of Mash, as wounded are brought to the 4077th, one had already been declared dead. At the end of the episode, Father Mulcahy received word that the dead soldier was Catholic, and stopped the truck taking him to the morgue so he could perform last rites. As he's doing so, he notices a tear rolling down the soldier's face. Realizing he isn't dead, they rush him to get medical attention.
- Big Bird has one during his song "I'm So Blue" in Follow That Bird.
- Midna sheds a single tear at the end of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, when she must leave Hyrule. Interestingly, after Midna materializes through the portal, the tear itself breaks the Mirror of Twilight, severing the only known bridge between the Light World and the Twilight Realm.
- Shadow sheds a tear during the final ending of Sonic Adventure 2: Battle during his realization of Maria's promise.
- A significant plot point in Wild ARMs 5, occurring in the first hour, whose importance is only revealed all the way at the end of the game.
- Ophelia at the end of Brütal Legend cried a single tear. It was black, implying there was still some traces of the Sea of Black Tears in her.
- Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
- The ending, wherein Snake sheds a singular tear at the grave of The Boss, his teacher and "mother", whom he was forced by politics to kill. Notable here is that, unlike many other characters that cry a single tear for whatever reason despite having both eyes in perfect working order, Snake has the excuse of having one eye fried by muzzle flash and the tear ducts around it damaged.
- Also, The Sorrow. Though that's because he got SHOT in that eye thus likely causing the single tear but you know... Boss just squeezes out like 2 tears as well(though she probably could have cried more). Manly tears indeed.
- Averted with Otacon (though he's not the epitome of manliness) who bawls like a bawling thing at the drop of a hat.
- From Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep, Terra when Master Eraqus dies and Aqua during the Say My Name segment of the secret ending. Quite the Tear Jerker in both cases, although the latter example is more hopeful. Also Sora once he starts feeling Ventus' heart and taking it in, and thus starts feeling by magic heart-to-heart empathy what any sane person would feel after that ending. Notably, since Sora's feeling it by proxy, he doesn't even know why he's letting out that single tear.
- From Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days, Roxas gets one when he kills Xion at the end of the game.
- From Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+, after Sora fights Roxas and beats him, an extra cutscene not found in Kingdom Hearts II initiates, with Roxas and Axel on the clocktower in Twilight Town. At the end of the cutscene, Roxas says he has to go back to Sora, Axel and Roxas say their goodbyes, and a single teardrop is shown falling and disappearing. There was no indication of the person who cried, whether Roxas cried again, or if Axel, also a Nobody, is the one who cried.
- If you look closely at the video, you can see that is in fact Axel
- In King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow, if you challenge the Lord of the Dead for the sake of two mortal souls, he defies you to make him cry. You can do so by showing him the Mirror of Truth, which displays his own terrible history, to the point that the mirror itself shatters from the strain- and Death cries a single tear.
- In Mother 3, the Mecha-Drago cries a single tear right before he dies of his injuries given to him by Flint.
- In the good ending of Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, Laharl sheds one after believing that Flonne is dead.
Laharl: What is this...? A tear...? Hmph... I never knew I could shed tears...
- In Elemental Gearbolt, one is shed by the protagonist (an animated corpse who had not expressed any emotion until this moment) in the final cutscene.
- From Homestar Runner, as Strong Sad describes his proposal for Strong Bad's 150th email episode:
Strong Sad: And we end on an extreme close-up of your reflection in the gooey filling of a jelly doughnut as you shed a single tear.
- Weebls-Stuff: Eagles are proud to fly with squirrels.
- Half-Life: Full Life Consequences: "A tear droped out of John Freemans' eye and landed on Gordon Freeman."]]
- Combined with Tears from a Stone towards the end of the Lady Lumps VS Boy Bumps video Dr. Doom Likes to Watch. A drop of rain slides down Doom's mask like a tear as he mourns the loss of Doom Chair, his beloved hover chair.
- Rann, of Drowtales sheds a single tear as he attempts a Taking You with Me in a final attempts to kill Snadhya'rune to avenge Diva'ratrika.
- Problem Sleuth had, on some occasions, "a single tear of black liquid sorrow".
- Homestuck has single tears in the intermission between Acts 4 and 5.
- The Order of the Stick: Whether listening to your son and husband quarrel as the son goes off to fighter school, separating from a woman because you must put Honor Before Reason, reuniting with your long-dead little brother in the afterlife, hearing that someone will send a messenger to your home to see whether you can return — a Single Tear is the appropriate response in this webcomic. Possibly for ease of drawing.
- Pibgorn in response to a Heroic Sacrifice.
- In Girl Genius, Vanamonde von Mekkan sheds one after an encounter with the perfect cup of coffee.
- Roza too weak to continue to search.
- In Blue Yonder, when his family's disappearance catches up to him.
- In Question Duck, tragically, love was not possible between a man and a mermaid; she sheds one.
- Soli of The Meek has a teardrop tattooed on her face. She regrets getting it, because she's a bandit but the tattoo makes her easy to recognize.
- Tibalt does it in this strip of 5 Color Control.
- In Cucumber Quest, on being rejected because they want peace, not pizza.
- The crying eagle picture◊, popular on the Something Awful forums.
- The Onion's editorial cartoonist Kelly likes to use the image of the Statue of Liberty shedding a single tear.
- "In other news, an elderly black woman is still following President Obama around and shedding a single tear whenever he does anything."
- The animated short Kiwi! uses this to heartbreaking effect.
- During the Britanick sketch, "Academy Award Winning Movie Trailer", Nick has one as the kid lays dying.
- In the Nostalgia Critic Top 11 Coolest Cliches list, this is one, although it's under the title of "Sexy Cry" and the fact that there are unsexy examples wasn't addressed as much.
- Most Season One episodes of Moral Orel have Orel crying a single drop at the Rev. Putty's latest sermon.
- The picture from Gargoyles currently on Tears from a Stone.
- In He-Man and She-Ra: Secret of the Sword, He-Man sheds a single tear as She-Ra vanishes into the sunset.
- Not quite this trope, but in The Simpsons episode "Bart Gets an F", the creators had difficulty stopping the animators from creating Ocular Gushers, so they gave instructions saying something like, "Bart cries a single tear." The end result is Bart shedding a series of single tears in succession, which is much more distressing to watch than what they were probably going for.
- The Batman: The Animated Series episode "The Man Who Killed Batman" has the Joker shed a single tear during his impromptu funeral for Batman.
- The Batman The Brave And The Bold episode where Red Tornado (robot) builds himself a son, who ends up going crazy and is taken out by him and Batman. Looking at his corpse, a single "oil drop" runs down his face, before he goes away muttering about oil leaks needing maintenance.
- The koala man from Ugly Americans is prone to this.
- When Wendy gets jealous of Stan's teacher that he likes in one episode of South Park, he blows off their Valentine's Day date to try to impress the teacher. Wendy cries a single tear and sniffles at a montage of him barfing on her.
- Clone High
- Abe cries one single tear after he screens his thinly-veiled autobiographical film, "It Takes a Hero." He even comments on it.
- Clone High parodies the single tear thing a lot; the opening sequence alone has five.
- Happens when Fry is trying to choose between saving Bender and Leela versus drinking a trough of Slurm, with him crying a single tear into the Slurm. Naturally, his friends think they're pretty screwed.
- Also the episode where he drinks the leader of a planet of water people and has to cry him out. Believing Leela to be dead, is only able to muster a single tear. After she's revealed to be alive, everyone proceeds to beat the tears out of him.
- Happens again when Leela gets plastic surgery to make it look like she has two eyes. Upon looking into a mirror and realizing that she looks normal, she sheds a single tear. The surgeon exclaims "Woops! Looks like we got some leakage. Let me just cauterize that for you." Cue a painful scream from Leela.
- In the prehistoric Spongebob Squarepants episode 'Ugh', a club sheds a tear when prehistoric Squidward chooses another club over him.
- Moppy, a sentient mop from Fanboy and Chum Chum sheds one after seeing Fanboy with Chum Chum's cousin. It Makes Sense in Context.
- In the Beetlejuice episode "Doomie's Romance," Lydia brushes a tear from her cheek after Doomie's attempt to bring Pinkie (Mayor Maynot's former convertible) to life fails.
- In The Problem Solverz episode "Funny Facez", Roba sheds a tear after his idol, Tony Marv, calls him ugly.
- Shed to tragic effect by Twilight Sparkle in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "The Return of Harmony, Part 2" upon finally losing the last of her faith in her brainwashed friends and crashing down on rock bottom. The tear's splash on the ground forms the shape of a broken heart. Viewable here.
- The Legend of Korra: One of the most heartwrenching moments in the series comes when Amon, of all people, pulls this trope. It's left vague whether it was because he was happy about starting a new life with his brother, regret for his actions - particularly robbing his own brother of his bending - or because he knew what Tarrlok was going to do and accepted it. More than likely, it was a combination of these and/or other emotions that led to that moment.
- And then Korra herself at the end of Season 3.
- X-Men: Evolution: At the end of the Christmas episode Rogue sheds one of those when listening to the little girl talk about her Angel.
- In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Road to Danville" Doofenshmirtz sheds a single tear when Perry does something nice for him. Doof saves it in a test tube in case he needs it again later. Turns out he does, in a climactic Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
- Enforced in Clerks: The Animated Series. The DVD Commentary explains that there was a particular animator on the Korean animation crew named Animator Han who would continually argue in favor of Ocular Gushing, on the theory that if one tear is funny, many tears must be that much funnier. The only way the writers were able to get him to tone it down was to instruct him to animate one, and ONLY one tear.
- Mandrake sheds a single tear at the end of the Defenders of the Earth episode "A Demon in His Pocket" out of pride that Kshin had the courage to admit to not only reading one of his sorcery books (which Mandrake has expressly forbidden him to do) but also to summoning a demon using a spell from the book. Earlier, the demon had tried to frighten Kshin into silence by convincing him that Mandrake would disown him if he found out his instructions had been disobeyed.
- Those Harlequin clowns with the single tear drop drawn onto their face.
- When Kelly Johnson, the founder of the Skunk Works aviation firm died, the company ran a black bordered ad in the Los Angeles Times that featured the Skunk Works logo skunk shedding a single tear.
- Those hardened convicts with the single tear drop tattooed onto their face. The most hardened ones avert it, since generally each tear represents X number of years in prison. That Other Wiki says each tear represents a man they killed.