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Single Tear

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"A beautiful tool... for terrible work."

"… and Death sheds a single, gray tear."

For whatever reason, a character is moved. But this person is made of strong stuff: They are beyond blubbering and won't turn on the water works. They dammed up the Sparkling Stream of Tears and had their Ocular Gushers surgically removed. And they promised themself! They are not going to cry.

Well, maybe just one drop.

A Single Tear happens any time somebody cries only one teardrop. If a being is generally incapable of crying, this is a sign that they are 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. As can Beautiful Tears, if the crying is considered nice-looking. And Tears of Awe, if the crying is seeing something jaw-droppingly amazing.

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.


    open/close all folders 

  • The best-known example is probably the Crying Indian.
  • In the Johnny Turbo series of ads, after being told by a Feka goon that he needs an additional hundred dollars to put towards a companion console for his new Feka CD system, this is the reaction of a young boy.
  • A 1970s Smokey Bear PSA starts with footage of a forest fire, which turns out to be an image projected into Smokey's eye, which sheds a tear while he forlornly says "Only you."
  • 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.
  • Mischa the Bear sheds a tear upon blowing out the Olympic Flame during the closing ceremony of the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi.

    Anime and 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.
  • Mitsuki Oosawa's adaptation of Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War 'loves this trope, and one of the biggest examples is Jamke quietly shedding a tear when he both saves Sigurd's life and takes revenge for his father's murder by shooting Sandima down with a single, perfect arrow shot.
  • 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 the One Piece film, 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 (Classic) 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.
    • After his final fight with Naruto, Sasuke sheds a single tear of remorse.
    • After Kakashi inadvertently kills Rin, a single tear runs down the left side of his face.
  • 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.
    • One tachikoma starts leaking oil around its optical sensor when it sacrifices itself to save Batou.
  • 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.
    • Kaname when he finds Ishida in sooul society.
  • 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.
  • Misaki in the ending of K Return of Kings - in contrast to the very many tears he cries in the flashback to Totsuka's death in season 1.
  • The second-to-last episode of S Cryed begins with Ryuho crying in grief over the sacrifice of Scheris while Kazuma sheds a single stoic tear after having flashbacks of all the needless deaths that have occurred over the course of the series.
  • Signum does this in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's when Fate tells her they can still be friends despite the fact that Signum is trying to kill her to protect Hayate.
  • Episode 40 of Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans ends with Orga doing this upon finding out about Naze's death.
  • In chapter 62 of School-Live! Yuki cries a single tear when Kurumi tells her that she most likely won't last much longer. Yuki starts crying in earnest several panels later.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1999), Link cries a single tear after he kills his former pet dragon.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS, Specter sheds one upon sensing the death of his Ignis, Earth in utter confusion as to what he's feeling.

    Asian Animation 

    Comic Books 
  • Chassis: When Covergirl suffers a Villainous BSoD over her hatred of Chassis, a single tear escapes from under visor and rolls down her cheek.
  • Used in Clean Room to affirm the humanity of characters otherwise unable to do so: a demon being tortured and a man fleshwarped into a human-animal hybrid.
  • Creature Feature seems to like this.
    • After Erik accidentally steps on Curtis' tail in "A Gorey Demise", Curtis does this.
    • He also does this again in the pilot comic from "The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth" after Erik revived him.
  • In The Flash shows Eobard Thawne shedding one tear after seeing his past self frolick around in a Flash suit and embracing his role as a hero, lamenting that it won't last and that he will never become The Flash like his old idol.
  • In Supergirl story arc Bizarrogirl, Kara sees Bizarro and Bizarrogirl embracing, remembers Superman and herself hugging each other after the loss of New Krypton, and sheds a tear.
  • In Superman story Krypton No More, Supergirl cries one teardrop after her cousin talks about how much he loves Earth.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Promise: Aang cries a single tear when severing his spiritual link to Roku, because regardless of disagreements, it is a painful parting.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes: At the end of The Great Darkness Saga, Light Lass sheds one single tear when she announces she's quitting the team because being a Legionnaire has become too painful for her.
  • The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan: In "To Catch A Pitcher" (issue #3, Gold Key), Mimi cries a tear after Scooter retrieves a second baseball. Scooter gives Mimi the second ball.

    Comic Strips 
  • AJ & Magnus: John sheds a single tear in "Meet the Parkers 6," when Alex thinks he cheated on him with a woman and storms out.
  • The political cartoons in The Onion have the Statue of Liberty cry either a tear of joy or a tear of remorse nearly Once an Episode.
  • In Prickly City, when Carmen says goodbye to Winslow because they won't see each other for a while, Winslow is off-hand — but cries a single tear once gone.

    Fan Works 
  • The Ultimate Evil:
    • Valerie Payne sheds a tear at the end of the first story when she's saying goodbye to the Chan Clan.
    • Valerie brushes away a stray tear after all her friends but Nat walk out on her in the sequel for allying with Shendu and Drago against Tarakudo.
    • When Shendu is in his melancholy ready to let the Chans turn him back to stone in the sequel, Valerie sheds a tear which ends up next to the ring he gave her, prompting her to tell him to escape and continue his search for his mother Tiamat.
  • 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 the Bleach fanfic series Heirverse, Aizen sheds one in Sanctuary while holding Gin.
  • 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.
  • In Lost Latte Queen Teatinu sheds a single tear after Chiyu tells her that her daughter Latte has died. Sora also sheds a tear after fighting with Mashiro.
  • Loved and Lost:
    • Applejack sheds a tear in the 7th chapter when she and Pinkie Pie lament over their hopeless situation.
    • When her hanging commences during the 12th chapter, Celestia sheds a tear when she asks Twilight to take care of everypony for the deposed princess.
    • After Jewelius' soldiers are turned to stone, the redeemed Lieutenant Shackle sheds one more tear as she vows to atone for helping Jewelius.
  • The Bolt Chronicles:
    • In “The Rings,” a single tear rolls down Mittens's cheek when Bolt asks if she will accept him as her soulmate.
    • In “The Ship,” a single tear rolls down Mittens's cheek after definitively declaring her love for Bolt.
  • In Son of the Sannin, after Ino and Sakura team up to defeat Sakon and Ukon, Ino begs Sakura to forgive her for ending their friendship over Sasuke (since Sasuke's mother killed Ino's father, and she was angry at Sakura for still having a crush on him). She sheds a single tear while doing so, and they reconcile shortly after.
  • In Chapter 23 of Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, Ash is confronted by the local Knight of Cerebus Belladonna Tyrian, who after telling him her story, asks him if he knows the pain of seeing someone he cares about being hurt. Ash thinks about when Paul blasted Primeape into the sky, with potentially fatal results, and the tear he sheds clues Belladonna that, indeed, he does.
  • What You Wish For: When Lori Loud is remembering her brother Lincoln and regretting wishing for not having a brother, she cries one tear.
  • In Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail, Lexi sheds one when he learns that he's being permitted to travel with Chloe and Atticus to the other cars by his father. This is also a Shout-Out: Lexi has an appearance based off of Specter who also shed a tear when he sensed the death of the Earth Ignis, who Specter was the origin for, yet felt confusion as to why he was crying.
  • A Powerpuff Girls story, "Red, White and Misconstrued," dealt with Blossom coming to grips about what freedom is about following the 9/11 attacks of 2001. Flying off on her own, she comes across City Hall and sees the American flag atop the dome. As Blossom watches the flag, a tear trickles down her cheek.
  • In Limitless Potential, X sheds a single tear when Dr. Cain explains to him that his creator, Dr. Light, has long passed away and that he's awakened over a century in the future.
  • The Heart Trilogy:
    • As the human version of Smaug writhes in pain during one of the visions Kathryn has in Heart of Fire, he sheds a single tear.
    • Before Kathryn unleashes a magical shockwave in Heart of Fire, she sheds a tear out of loathing towards her "curse".
    • Kathryn does this again when Smaug nastily refuses her request to visit Lake-town.
    • Kathryn has yet another one when she's too frightened to answer Smaug's furious question about what she saw in her vision.
    • Kathryn has one in the ninth chapter of Heart of Ashes after Smaug gives her a soft kiss.

    Films — Animation 
  • The eponymous character of Bambi cries a surprisingly subtle single tear when learning his mother's fate.
  • The king in Tangled cries a single tear whilst he is releasing the lanterns for the first time.
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie:
    • Mr Krabs, who's been magically frozen by King Neptune, sheds one when Plankton steals his secret Krabby Patty formula, which itself freezes and falls to the floor.
    • SpongeBob and Patrick each shed a tear as they're being dried out under a desk lamp, both of which combine to form a heart. The resulting tear ends up sliding down the lamp cord and into the electrical outlet, causing a short that releases smoke that activates the overhead emergency showers, which brings them and the rest of the gift shop back to life.
  • In Yellow Submarine, after the Blue Meanies silence and petrify everyone in Pepperland, one of them sheds a single tear in helplessness, and a little girl silently cries after a Snapping Turk eats her pinwheel. One person in Liverpool also sheds a single tear as they watch the titular submarine pass by.
  • In Quest for Camelot, Garrett sheds a single tear after telling Ayden about his feelings that Kayley wouldn't see him as a knight if he went back with her to Camelot to return Excalibur.
    Garrett: You don't understand. In Camelot, she'd only see me through their eyes: not a knight, not a man... not anything.
  • In Turning Red, Robaire sheds one while singing to help Mei's family.
  • In Franklin and the Green Knight, Franklin cries a single tear after agreeing when Snail asks him if he was really worried about his parents not having enough time for him once the baby comes.
  • At the climax of Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, Puss sheds one when the events of the story, particularly his adventures with his new friend Perrito and his love interest Kitty, flash before his eyes, giving him the courage to pick up his sword and face Death himself in a duel for his life.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Act of Valor. A reluctant female jihadist does this before blowing herself up with an explosive vest.
  • Alien 40th Anniversary Shorts: The android Hope sheds a single milky-white tear when she defaces a portrait with her hand twitches.
  • Alita: Battle Angel. The title character on several occasions; the last one (when she's remembering Hugo's death) has her angrily drawing her sword and cutting the tear in half before it hits the ground.
  • Babylon (2022): Invoked. Astonished that Nellie can cry on cue, the director Ruth Adler does take after take of the crying scene with her and eventually settles on a take where a single tear drops slowly from Nellie's eye. Ruth gushes about the emotion conveyed by this shot.
  • In Batman & Robin, Mr. Freeze sheds one tear that immediately freezes when Poison Ivy informs him that his wife is dead (of course, adding the little lie that it was the dynamic duo who disconnected her). Cue Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Lex Luthor cries a single tear when creating Doomsday.
  • 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.
  • In Cry-Baby this is not only lampshaded, but tied to the protagonist's Freudian Excuse. Both of his parents were murderers who got sent to the electric chair and he breaks the law every now and then to honor their memory. He states that he'll cry for having to do evil, but one salty tear is all anyone will ever get out of him.
  • Déjŕ Vu (2006):
    • 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.
  • Trip's single tear in Glory probably earned Denzel Washington the Academy Award.
  • 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.
  • The King of Qin in Hero (2002) sheds a single manly tear when he realizes the man who most understands him is his most hated enemy.
  • 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.
  • O-Ren 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 Last King of Scotland: Idi Amin sheds a single tear after he let his henchmen tortures Nicholas for attempting to poison him and for having an affair with one of his wives, Kay.
  • In the film Legion, Gabriel sheds one after killing Michael. Don't worry, he gets better.
  • The Lord of the Rings
    • After Gandalf dies in The Fellowship of the Ring, 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 The Return of the King when he sees the Dark Tower tumbling down.
    • Also Aragorn when Boromir dies. Manly Tears, indeed.
    • Wormtongue sheds one when he sees the army of Uruk-hai in The Two Towers.
  • 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.
  • In Mario (1984), Mario sheds one after breaking some bird eggs.
  • Mars Attacks!: The president's Patrick Stewart Speech makes the Martian Leader shed a single tear, and then offer to shake the president's hand.Said hand detaches and kills the president, revealing the whole thing to be an act.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe
  • In The Passion of the Christ after Jesus dies on the cross, a single drop of rain falls from the sky.
  • In Please Stand By, Audrey sheds one while watching home videos of herself and her institutionalized sister Wendy, and another one later when Wendy reminds her that their mother is dead.
  • 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.
  • In Ready Player One (2018), Wade drops one when the Halliday avatar gives him the Egg.
  • 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.
  • Star Wars: 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 Padmé's apartment.
  • 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.
  • In Top Gun: Maverick, after Rooster is shot down during the final mission, Hondo can be seen wiping a tear from his cheek.
  • 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.
  • Under the Piano: Regina sheds one after she overhears her daughter Franny talking about her to the housekeeper Mrs. Syms and saying, "She never gave us any reason to stay!"
  • 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".
  • Andrew Neiman 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.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • X2: X-Men United: Professor X sheds a single tear of joy when he's able to stand again on his own—but then he quickly realizes that he's in a Lotus-Eater Machine and tries to resist Jason Stryker's ability.
    • X-Men Origins: Wolverine has Kayla doing this when Wolverine discovered she is blackmailed into working for Stryker, making him muse the folktale that he is just a fool who got played.
    • X-Men: First Class:
      • Xavier 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.
    • X-Men: Apocalypse: Magneto sheds a lone tear when he remembers the close friendship he once had with Charles.
  • In When the Bough Breaks (1994), Jordan sheds one when he is finally released from his cell after ten years of institutionalization and reunited with his long-lost twin Jenny. She wipes it away.

  • The BFG sheds a single tear when he hears about Sophie being locked in the cellar at her orphanage: a giant-sized one that would fill a bucket, making quite a puddle.
  • 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-Shur'tugal, 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.
  • Terje Vigen at the end of the poem. Terje stands on a viewpoint and watches the British nobleman set sail for England. When the British yacht gives a cannon salute at the place where Terje lost his barley years before (because of said British nobleman), Terje sheds a Single Tear and gives God his thanks.
  • In Belgarath The Sorceror, a spin-off book from The Belgariad, Belgarath meets a troll-like monster named Grul. Belgarath manages to disembowel Grul in self-defense, but feels pity for Grul when he sees Grul shed two tears, and conjures a needle and stitching material so Grul and sew himself back up.
  • In How to Be Comfortable in Your Own Feathers, the bird is practising an unhealthy lifestyle, so its mother sheds one tear.
  • In The Place Inside the Storm, Tara sheds one when she sneaks into her father's office to get information from his glasses, knowing she will likely never see him again.
  • In The Way Things Work: Just before he enters the digital domain, Mammoth sheds a single tear, which saturates Bill's tennis shoes.
  • Where the Crawdads Sing: Mrs. Culpeper, the truant officer, who testifies at Kya's trial, sheds one when Kya is found innocent.
  • Invoked and mocked in World War Z: at the height of the zombie crisis in which every nation has been overrun to some degree, what remains of the UN is interrupted with a big speech from the US President declaring their intent to go on the offensive. The interviewee regaling us with this says if this were some bullshit yankee movie, they'd all break into slowly-building rapturous applause with the camera focusing on a Single Tear going down someone's face. None of that happens, and instead the UN breaks out into an argument.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Korean Drama Bad Boy, most of the main characters, male and female, do this on occasion.
  • 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.
  • Big Brother: When Kate won UK Big Brother 3 and had to wait in the house before her interview, a single tear was shown running down her face.
  • 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.
  • Julia sheds one in the Title Sequence of Cowboy Bebop (2021).
  • Doctor Who:
  • 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!"
  • 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.
  • Parodied in Hyperdrive when a robot sheds an oil tear in the narmy Show Within a Show Captain Helix.
  • Janda Kembang: Wulan takes Malik politely rejecting her pretty well in the penultimate episode, but it couldn't stop her from shedding one drop of tear after Malik leaves.
  • Legion: In "Chapter 24", a single tear falls from David's eye after Lenny commits suicide.
  • 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 a Halloween episode of M*A*S*H, 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.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Sauron sheds a tear while confessing to Galadriel how relieved he was to be finally free of Morgoth.
  • Merlin sheds a single tear when he kisses Freya for the first time.
  • 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.
  • Outlander: In “Wentworth Prison” Jamie sheds a single tear after being left alone with Black Jack, who has made it very clear he plans on torturing Jamie
  • In the final episode of Person of Interest, Shaw quickly wipes away a single tear after being given a final message from Root. Especially effective considering what the message is.
  • Power Rangers:
    • Jayden does this every so often in Power Rangers Samurai.
    • In the Power Rangers S.P.D. episode "Reflections", Mirloc, a criminal who can use reflective surfaces to teleport, invokes this by provoking his interrogator over his worst memory (his father dying), causing him to shed a single tear that allows Mirloc to escape.
  • Profit: 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.
  • Raven: In series 5 on day 3 of the final week, Suhan sheds a single tear after failing to safely guide Kyson through the threads in the challenge Thrall Demons.
  • Rise of Empires: Ottoman: Mehmet sheds a single tear when he orders the execution of Halil Pasha, who signed his own death warrant by conspiring against his Sultan, but a man that Mehmet nonetheless considered a beloved mentor.
  • Skins
    • 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.
  • 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.
    • In "The Best of Both Worlds ", 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.
  • Star Trek: Picard: As a boy in "Absolute Candor", Elnor sheds a single tear shortly before Admiral Picard beams away when the latter is recalled by Starfleet because he's hurt that his father figure didn't spend as much time with him as he had promised.
  • Dean Winchester of Supernatural. Heck, there's even a drinking game based on each time this happens.
    • Not only that, the crew has a name for it. They call it the One Perfect Tear.
    • Parodied in the Musical Episode, where they wrote a song for it titled "A Single Man Tear".
    A single man tear slips down his face
    He shows emotion without a trace
    He hides behind a mask so strong
    Worried that he could be wrong.
  • The Untamed: Lan Wangji sheds a tear when Wen Ning reveals Wei Wuxian had given up his golden core to replace the one stolen from Jiang Chen, hence why he turned to demonic cultivation.

  • My Beloved Mother has the (chronologically) final scene featuring Sinbell, the Raised by Robots protagonist when he salvaged the remains of his robot mother, with whom he had just reconciled with, a lone teardrop falling on her remains. The following chapter then reveals the now-adult Sinbell has crafted a life-sized Memorial Statue for her in remembrance.

  • Billie Eilish sheds a single tear on the cover of her album Happier than Ever. In an interview, she admitted that it's a real tear and since she can't cry on command, the photographer put on Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron for her until she cried.
  • "Savior" by Rise Against has the following lines (alluding to loneliness).
    As the telling signs of age rain down, a single tear is dropping
    Through the valleys of an aging face that this world has forgotten
  • In the video for Poets of the Fall's Obsession Song "Carnival of Rust," fortunetelling automaton and Sad Clown Zoltar cries a black, make-up stained tear when he realizes his customer is leaving the Carnival and will never return his affections.
  • Taylor Swift, near the end of the music video for "Teardrops on My Guitar", cries a single tear over the guy she likes being with someone else.

  • It is said that when he heard Orpheus play his lyre, Hades sheds a single tear of iron.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Big Bird has one during his song "I'm So Blue" in Follow That Bird, as well as in Big Bird in China.
  • The Christmas Toy: During a reprise of "The Greatest Christmas Toy of All", Apple sheds a tear (while in a frozen position) in a flashback showing Rugby getting opened on Christmas and taking her place as Jamie's favorite toy.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
      • Echoed in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots during his own death scene, once again at the grave site of The Boss. He sheds a single tear as he tells his son to live for his own sake and enjoy the freedom from the servitude of a soldier, and as he thinks back to The Boss's last words to him before her death, 50 years ago.
    • Also, The Sorrow. Though that's because he got shot in that eye.
  • 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 sheds a single tear. That suffices for the challenge.
  • In Mother 3, the Mecha-Drago cries a single tear right before she dies of her injuries given to her 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.
  • In Farm Mania 2 hovering over the "yes" button on the quit screen makes the game's sheep mascot shed a tear.
  • One incredibly sad example takes place in Fire Emblem Fates's Birthright route, as Prince Xander sheds one while he holds his dying little sister Elise, whom he accidentally struck down whe she tried to stop his and the Avatar's Duel to the Death.
  • Klonoa sheds a barely visible one just before leaving Lunatea at the end of Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil.
  • At the end of the first promotional video for Myst III: Exile, Saavedro drops a single tear. The developers later recalled being impressed with Brad Dourif's ability to do one of these on command.
  • Played for Drama in Final Fantasy VII Remake. When Cloud sneaks out of Aerith's home in the Sector 5 slums to make his way back to 7th Heaven, he ends up running into her anyway, insistent on joining him. Then he seizes up with a vision of the future and Aerith's death within the City of the Ancients, causing him to shed a single distraught tear. He's left speechless from the sudden rush of emotion.
  • Played for Laughs in the Kirby series. It's pretty much a Running Gag for the classic Warm-Up Boss Whispy Woods (and various offshoots like King Golem, Flowery Woods, Yggy Woods, etc.) to shed a tear after Kirby beats him.

    Web Animation 


    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Big Hero 6:The Series: Parodied in "Muira-Horror!" When Krei is explaining how he knows so much about wilderness survival (by getting shipped to Fire Scouts camp after returning home from boarding school), he ends his discussion by saying "single tear" without even changing his facial expression.
    Krei: "I guess that's why I still love it out here and don't mind that I don't have any friends. Single tear."
  • 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 Gushers, 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.
  • 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 one minute opening sequence alone has five, while episodes will have at least one character shedding one of these.
  • 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 summoning a demon using a spell he found in Mandrake's library. Earlier, the demon had tried to frighten Kshin into silence by convincing the boy that Mandrake would disown him if he found out he had disobeyed his instruction not to touch his sorcery books.
  • Moppy, a sentient mop from Fanboy and Chum Chum sheds one after seeing Fanboy with Chum Chum's cousin. It Makes Sense in Context.
  • Futurama
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Hilda: Shed by Hilda herself near the end of episode 1 after failing to reason with the Prime Minister and realizing she's forced to leave the woods she lived in.
  • 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, when Jinora gets her tattoos.
  • William Murderface cries one single tear of blood in Metalocalypse when he learned that his bandmates, who he thought didn't care for him at all, got him the car Kennedy was shot in, along with the chair Lincoln was shot in, explicitly for Murderface to destroy in a demolition derby. (He likes the idea, don't worry.)
  • Most Season One episodes of Moral Orel have Orel crying a single drop at the Rev. Putty's latest sermon.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998)
    • Buttercup sheds one in "Little Miss Interprets" when she wrongly thinks that she along with the rest of her sisters will be ditched by the Professor.
    • Robin cries a single tear in "Super Friends" during the "Signal in the Sky" song.
  • In The Problem Solverz episode "Funny Facez", Roba sheds a tear after his idol, Tony Marv, calls him ugly.
  • The Rugrats episode "The Smell of Success" has Chuckie's stuffy nose cured. But when it’s revealed that the cure will wear off in time, his father Chas sheds a tear, and Chuckie dries his eyes to prevent him from crying some more.
  • 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 trope is played straight in the show's first episode, in which Homer cries a single tear, due to being ashamed of the cheap gifts he purchased for his family.
    • Mr Burns of all characters sheds a single tear at the beginning of "Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk," due to feeling depressed over his job sucking away any time to pursue any additional interests of his.
    • In "Homer at the Bat", the kids are heckling Darryl Strawberry from the bleachers and Marge tells then off. They assure her he's a professional who wouldn't take it personally — Description Cut to Strawberry wiping away a single forlorn tear.
  • 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.
  • In the prehistoric Spongebob Squarepants episode 'Ugh', a club sheds a tear when Squog chooses his other club over him.
  • We don't know if Duck was crying in the Railway Series book, but in the Thomas & Friends adaption of the story Dirty Work, the pannier let out a tear before heading to Edward's station. You just want to be there to comfort the poor engine...
  • The koala man from Ugly Americans is prone to this.
  • Wakfu: Two of the Big Bads have this. A tear escapes from beneath Nox's mask when the latter is destroyed by the Heel Realization that his two-hundred-year-long genocidal quest to reverse time and save his family (whilst Ret-Goning all the harm he committed along the way to reach that end) was All for Nothing. Qilby himself involuntarily sheds a tear when reminiscing on the Eliatrope homeworld and its destruction, which he is secretly responsible for and is implied to be feeling repressed guilt for.
  • 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.

  • The emoticon for crying. :'(
  • After Donald Trump signed his "Muslim ban" order, the cover of the New York Daily News, which is vigorously anti-Trump, depicted the Statue of Liberty shedding a single tear, alongside the headline "CLOSING THE GOLDEN DOOR".
  • Those Harlequin clowns with the single tear drop drawn onto their face.
  • 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.

    Real Life 


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Sexy Cry


"I'm too awful to cry"

When Ant catches the Awful Aardvark crying over his lost skateboard, the latter tries to deny it by stating he's too mean to cry, with a single tear disproving his statement.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / SingleTear

Media sources: