Tear Jerker / Saving Private Ryan

  • The beginning of this movie in spades- even having no context from the actual story at all, seeing Private Ryan break down as he enters the graveyard tells you everything you can expect from this movie.
    • Though when it returns for the ending it's more powerful, as you now know what happened. Hard to keep still when he salutes Miller's grave.
    Private Ryan: Tell me I'm a good man.
    • That cemetery in Real Life is a Tear Jerker all its own. Just row upon row of crosses and stars. Just... damn...
    • The Hymn that plays over/under the scene
  • "Earn...This..."
  • The line, "Think about the poor bastard's mother," when they're all bitching about why they have to rescue Ryan.
    • The response ("We ALL have mothers!"), belligerent as it is in tone, just makes the following deaths (like Wade's, which has him even calling out for his mother as his last words) all the more painful to see.
  • The whole D-Day landing scene at the beginning. Often imitated, never duplicated, entirely tear-wrenching at the seeming futility of it all and the incredible, undeniable vision of death and hell on a beach.
    • The young soldier sobbing while cowering behind a tank trap as bullets fly past him. It's really depressing when you think of how young some of these boys actually were in the war.
    • Wade successfully stopping a soldier from bleeding to death, only for a bullet to go straight through his patient's helmet.
    • How about a meta example that falls into Nightmare Fuel territory? The amount of veterans from WWII seeing psychotherapists went up after this movie hit theaters.
    • The scene after the D-Day landing showing a room full of women typing letters of condolence to likely countless families across the United States. The script refers to it as "the paperwork of Death".
    • To be followed up by a series of brilliant scenes where Mrs. Ryan finally gets all three telegrams on the same day. The imagery was just perfect - from the ceaseless typing of telegrams to the four stars on Mrs. Ryan's window. One for each son, three of whom were never coming home. One of the most powerful scenes in the film, moreso because it has no dialogue.
    • But, in particular, the completely wordless scene in which Mrs. Ryan watches the car driving up the road, goes out to see what it's about, looks slightly uneasy when a senior army officer climbs out, but when he's followed by a priest, her legs just give way under her. Great acting, great cinema.
  • When General Marshall says "...that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle."
    • That's actually a quote from a letter Abraham Lincoln wrote to a mother of five during the American Civil War, and it is the impetus for Marshall's orders to bring James Ryan home.
  • Doc Wade's death. The sound of his crying out for his momma as he bleeds out is about as heartbreaking as it gets.
    • Particularly since you can spot exactly when he realizes that he's going to die, as well as the other soldiers' facial expressions when they figure it out too ("...m-more... morphine...") and him saying he wants to go home & crying for his mama as he dies. Combine that with his earlier monologue about his mother, and you have a brilliant, but damn depressing scene.
  • While the first Ryan they find turns out to be the wrong James Ryan, the way he reacts to the news, bursting into tears and begging to go home, is heart-breaking.
  • Private Ryan refusing to go home because he feels that the men he's serving with deserve it just as much as him, that he's not going to abandon them and they're the only brothers he has left.
  • When searching through a bag of dogtags taken from dead paratroopers, the squad turns it into a joke, slapping the tags around like shuffling cards, laughing about some of the funnier names, etc (even Captain Miller starts laughing). The whole scene, however, is intercut with paratroopers returning from the front, looking on with the Thousand-Yard Stare on their faces. The way it subtly subverts then plays straight The Dead Have Names trope is what gives it power.
  • Ryan's story about his brothers always does it for some. As funny as the story is, throughout the telling of it, Ryan is visibly breaking up about the knowledge that all of his brothers are dead.
  • Reiben having a solitary breakdown after Captain Miller dies, standing unresponsive in the road, numb to the point that arriving reinforcements have to skirt around him. All the more poignant when you consider at one point he was on the verge of deserting over his frustration with perceived lack of leadership.
  • Miller talking to Horvath on the church and remembering some of the fallen soldiers of the platoon before saying that, if getting Ryan out of the battleground alive is the mission that will buy him his ticket to return home, then that is all the reason he needs to pull it through.
  • Captain Miller breaking into tears after Wade's death.