"My God... it's such a finely-crafted sword!"
"… 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
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.
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- The best-known example is probably the Crying Indian. He even has his own trope!
Anime & Manga
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.