Tear Jerker / The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Don't worry, she's not really dead... in this version.

Live-action films

  • In the 1939 film, as Esmeralda is pardoned, Quasimodo (Charles Laughton) sees her kissing Gringoire, and he asks the gargoyles why isn't he made of stone.
    Why was I not made of stone like thee?
  • Quasimodo's flogging in the 1997 version is extremely upsetting, as unlike the other versions, he doesn't deserve it. While in the other movies he genuinely attempted to kidnap Esmeralda, the only reason he was present at the scene here is because he saw Frollo pay two men to kidnap her, and was fighting them off - the soldiers happened to appear just as he had sent them packing and assumed that he was the culprit, completely ignoring Gringoire when he told them that Quasimodo wasn't at fault.

The Disney film

  • The sheer intensity of "The Bells of Notre Dame" informing us of Quasi's backstory:
    "You can lie to yourself and your minions
    You can claim that you haven't a qualm
    But you never can run from
    Nor hide what you've done from the eyes
    The very eyes of Notre Dame..."
  • When Quasimodo is tormented by the townspeople during the Feast Of Fools.
    • Also: Quasimodo flinching in fear as Esmeralda approaches him while he's tied up, and her reassuring him to "Don't be afraid".
      • It gets worse when you realize that Esmeralda's compassionate look isn't born out of the fact she feels sorry for Quasimodo and because she's a nice person. The look on her face is that of somebody who knows what it's like to be outcast (as her ballad "God Help the Outcasts" later on reveals). Esmeralda has been established as a resilient, intelligent and kind person...and most likely has endured being shunned/outcast/humiliated as Quasimodo just endured.
      • The shot of Esmeralda from Quasi's POV, bathed in light, with an expression of pure compassion on her face? Kills me. Kills!
      • Quasi being tortured by the crowd. He begs his master to help and Frollo just looks away and does nothing!
      • Worse still, Phoebus is so appalled that he insists he be granted permission to stop this spectacle, and Frollo snidely refuses so that Quasi "is taught a lesson".
    • ALSO: Quasi limping back to Notre Dame in the pouring rain, and then shutting the massive door behind him with... Oh God, that heartbreaking look on his face...
      • If you listen closely, you can hear the crowd saying things such as "Oh my goodness, he's hideous!". Poor Quasi.
      • The fact that only minutes prior, he was literally crying tears of joy at being accepted.
  • Every song Quasimodo sings is, if not tragic (my God, "Heaven's Light (Reprise)") is unbelievably beautiful and uplifting
    I knew I'd never know that warm and loving glow
    Though I might wish with all my might
    No face as hideous as my face
    Was ever meant for Heaven's Light...
    • "God Help The Outcasts". It might be the most beautiful Disney song ever created.
  • When Frollo holds baby Quasi over the well during 'Bells of Notre Dame', fully prepared to kill an infant. It's one of the most callous things a Disney villain has done - preparing to drown a baby simply for its deformity.
  • The fact that Frollo gave Quasi a name that means "half-formed" will in itself make you cry, if it doesn't make you boiling mad first. The guy is the epitome of Jerk Ass.
  • When Quasi thinks Esmeralda is dead, the look on his face is just so heartbreakingly sad.
  • The song at the end, with the line "Who is the monster and who is the man?" because it sums up the theme of the film, and causes you to flash back through the events of the story and appreciate Quasi's journey.
  • At the beginning, Quasi is all excited about going to the festival, but the second he bumps into Frollo, all joy is gone and he is scared and trembling. Quasimodo has to be the woobiest of all Disney heroes.
  • During the opening of "Out There", Frollo curls his fist like his is threatening Quasimodo.
    • And in the intro to "Out There" when Frollo sings that Quasimodo is deformed and ugly and he is the only one who is looking out for Quasimodo, Quasimodo brokenly repeating these lines. It really hits home for someone who has been emotionally abused by a parent.
    • Heck, "Out There" itself is a really sad "I Want" song if you think about it. It's all about Quasimodo's longing to be able to be normal and be amid people...for just one day. It really resonates for people who have been bullied, outcast or shunned for things they couldn't control.
  • Try not to cry when Quasi finds out that Esmeralda loves Phoebus instead of him.
    • Especially when he rips the ace of hearts in half...
    • Topped off with the heartbreaking reprise of "Heaven's Light".
  • Frollo revealing to Quasi that his mother had died to save his life from none other than himself. After years of believing that he had been abandoned, to learn this from the one man who was the closest thing he had to a parent up until now leaves Quasi in utter disbelief.
    • Then there's the poor boy's mother, who fought desperately to save herself and her son immediately after losing what might have been her husband to Frollo's clutches, forced to save herself so that her son might have a chance. She meets her end on the steps of Notre Dame, unable to save her son until the Archdeacon, the only one present to mourn her needless death intervenes.
  • "I ask for nothing; I can get by. But I know so many less lucky than I..." Even after everything Esmeralda goes through—sexual harassment, imprisonment, persecution for her race—she still uses her prayer to ask God to help others, not herself, saying she'll be fine. That single line shows just how selfless she really is.
  • Say what you will about it being an Award Bait Song, but the intended version of Someday still exists on some special features, and is perhaps more heartrending than "God Help the Outcasts" in its plea for justice.
    • In fact that was the very reason the song was cut and replaced with "God Help the Outcast," it was too emotional.
  • True, most of Hellfire is Frollo singing about how much he blames Esmeralda for tempting him and how if she won't submit to him she'll burn - he'll kill her - but after he throws her scarf on the fire, he murmurs "God have mercy on her," and his voice breaks as he whispers "God have mercy on me." He hates what's happening to him and knows it's wrong, but he can't see any way out. There's just enough of his real faith left for him to beg for one.
  • Of all things, A Guy Like You. It's cheesy, childish, and totally at odds with the tone of the film...but then you remember that the gargoyles are figments of Quasimodo's imagination. The entire sequence is not just Quasi convincing himself that Esmeralda returns his feelings, but an earnest attempt to have a little confidence — and a successful one. It makes it all the more painful to watch that belief in himself crumble.
  • The deleted number, "In a Place of Miracles" is this and heartwarming in equal measures. Towards the end, Esmeralda approaches Quasimodo — who has only moments ago found peace with her choosing Phoebus — and invites him to dance. As they happily begin to do so, Clopin watches them through a wine bottle, and we see Quasimodo as a tall, handsome, able-bodied young man. Eventually the dance ends, the song ends, Esmeralda returns to Phoebus's side while Quasimodo cordially bows her off, and the wine bottle goes up to show Quasimodo as we've always known him. It's a deeply bittersweet moment.
  • "What am I supposed to do? Go out there and rescue the girl from the, from the jaws of death and the whole town cheers like I'm some kind of a hero?! She already has her knight in shining armor and it's not me!" (deep breath) Frollo was right. Frollo was right about everything. And I'm tired of trying to be something that I'm not."

Stage Play (Berlin and USA Productions)

  • Esmeralda's introductory song (in the German version) where she got thrown out of a city for protesting injustice. She calls herself a fool for continuing to right wrongs and paying the price.
  • "Someday" is included in the German version, sung by Esmeralda and Phoebus as she's escorted to the stake.
  • While chained to the cathedral and Forced to Watch Esmeralda's execution, Quasimodo tells the gargoyles to Get Out in song form since they're "Made of Stone" and every time he takes their suggestions he gets in trouble. They finally agree with him and turn to stone
    Antoine: But we thought you were made of something stronger.
    • The entirety of "Made of Stone," for that matter is a powerfully heartbreaking song in it's own right. Quasimodo has reached his Despair Event Horizon and in his sorrow over his part in the upcoming demise of Esmeralda, his only true friend, he chooses to break off ties with his sanity and with the rest of humanity, choosing to live a life void of emotion and feeling as if he too where "Made of Stone"
    • The worst part is seeing the look of despair on the gargoyles' faces as Quasimodo gives into his despair. You know that the gargoyles are figments of Quasimodo's imagination and you can see it as the loving and caring side of Quasimodo heartbroken that all of his hopes are dashed.
  • Esmeralda gets Killed Off for Real, despite Quasimodo saving her from the stake, suffering from smoke inhalation. She thanks him for being a friend to her and falls unconscious.
    • Quasi, not understanding, shakes her several times, saying her name, until it sinks then. Then he breaks down.
    • To drive the knife in further, Frollo appears, and is ecstatic that he and Quasi are free from the "spell of Esmeralda." Quasi, grief-stricken, attacks his former master and drops him from the Notre Dame steeples. While this is going on the gargoyles (or the Greek Chorus) echo Frollo's words "The wicked shall not go unpunished".
      • From the libretto: the man and woman who begin the echo are the ghosts of Jehan Frollo and a gypsy woman...who is just referred to as "Gypsy Woman" in the lyric booklet, but the actual score and libretto refer to her as Florika, aka Quasimodo's mother. Ouch.
      • It gets worse if you choose to look at Quasimodo's asking Frollo "Loved? What do you know of love? Who have you ever loved?" as one last desperate attempt to hear that somebody, anybody loves him, namely from the only person he's known and the only person he loves left in his life. Frollo's denial of this serves as the straw that breaks the camel's back for Quasimodo.
    • In the USA production, Phoebus tries to pick up her body, but his injuries prevent him from doing so. He responds by sobbing into her stomach.
    • After this, Quasimodo does a Dark Reprise of "Out There" about how the world is full of cruelty, but also sparks of light, like Esmeralda. He and Phoebus exit with Esmeralda's body, and Clopin offers another Dark Reprise of "Bells of Notre Dame."
    • Clopin, formerly the bright-eyed narrator, Well-Intentioned Extremist and A Father to His Men, is completely broken in the end. In this case, he says "I wish I could offer you a moral/ A trinket to hold in your palm." His question of "what makes a monster and what makes a man?" has more moral ambiguity, given that Quasimodo actually did a monstrous (if satisfying) thing by killing Frollo instead of watching him fall to his death.
  • In the USA production, the death of Frollo, of all people, is actually quite tragic, due to him being a much more sympathetic and fatherly character. After Quasimodo hurls him to his death, he stares at his master's (offstage) body on the ground and quietly states "There lies...all that I have ever loved..." before breaking down completely.
  • In the USA production of "Someday", Esmeralda, who had spent the whole musical being The Determinator, and had just refused Frollo's deal to spare her, breaks down when the imminence of her death begins to sink in. Phoebus comforts her and they sing the rest of the song in each other's arms.
  • "Danse Mon Esmeralda" from the French rock opera version. Quasimodo goes into the catacombs to find Esmeralda's body and sings a very heartbreaking song about how much he loves her and that he will gladly stay with her body until he dies. IN the background are dancers on wires with them slowly working their way up to a light, possibly signifying that Esmeralda has gone to heaven.