- While Ash kicking her Jerkass boyfriend Lance out after discovering he cheated on her is awesome, the following day is not. She's visibly heartbroken and only goes a few lines in her rehearsal before collapsing in agonized sobs. And not the small, quiet kind of Cry Cute, but ugly, heaving sobs of pain that make her heartbreak all the more sad to watch. Lance is pretty heartbreaking in general, especially given how realistic he is. He's constantly running Ash down about the songs she writes herself and cheats on her because she got selected for the show and he didn't.
- Buster's Heroic BSoD after the destruction of the theater. To see that eternal optimism be completely crushed by despair, give up on everything and resigning himself to a miserable future is just painful...
- He runs through the collapsing theatre, giving it one last plea to "hang in there" before he flees, but only a moment later, the whole thing collapses. Buster's tiny, heartbroken "no" as he stumbles forward is agonizing, almost more than the pitiful sobs that follow when he picks up all that's left: the bucket he always keeps in memory of his father.
- The worst part is when he lashes out at Meena, especially since he's been nothing but kind and supportive with her throughout the movie:Buster: You really believe that you're going to be a singer?
Meena: Well, yeah. Maybe.
Buster: Well, then you're just as big a fool as I am!
(Beat. Meena is shocked by what Buster just said.)
Buster: Look, kid...You and me, we're both afraid for good reason. 'Cause deep down, we know... (Sighs) We just don't have what it takes.
(Meena angrily slams the cake tin on the ground and runs off.)
- Meena's stage fright prevents her from even singing at her first audition, and when she does finally get a big break the Moon Theater is destroyed by flooding. Her chance has been taken from her again. She's even shown crying on the couch with her mother and grandparents doing their best to comfort her after the disaster.
- The other contestants aren't that much better. Rosita comes home to learn that her Rube Goldberg Device has malfunctioned, hanging her family out to dry. Ash, who lost her admittedly-jerky boyfriend due to the rift in being selected, sees him and his new girlfriend having a gig at the same place they were first seen in. Johnny goes to visit his father in prison, but Marcus doesn't come out to the visiting room and stays in his cell looking very morose. It's extremely likely he regretted telling Johnny I Have No Son! long before he saw his son playing in the final show. Even Mike, who at this point is the least likeable of the contestants, is in a pitiful situation as he fearfully hides from the bears who want to kill him for cheating them out of their money in a card game, knowing that the prize money he initially just wanted but now desperately needs to cover his debts is basically nonexistent.
- On a related note, Meena's initial return from the theatre is rather sad too—after working up the courage to ask for a second audition (complete with a cake she baked), her opportune assistance to Buster when he's trying to steal power from the building next door causes him to offer her a role in the show...as the stagehand. She comes home, dejected, only to find her whole family waiting for her with signs and a party to celebrate, and when she is forced to admit she "sort of" has a role in the show, they all cheer for her, making her feel even more like a fraud. And her mother even makes her promise not to speak (to save her voice) and only nod or shake her head, so she can't explain the truth even if she wanted to.
- Johnny tries to do both his rehearsal and his lookout job at once and doesn't succeed, which gets his father arrested. Then his father audibly (and venomously) wonders how he ever ended up with a son like Johnny. His heartbroken expression says it all. As Johnny explains later, the contest has probably destroyed any chance he has of ever speaking to his father again.
- Johnny's dad gets one when he sees his son's performance. At first, he's proud as punch to see his son doing what he loves, but then remembers the above moment of I Have No Son! and is clearly heartbroken.Marcus: (happily) That's my son! (his happiness slowly turns to shock and sadness) My son...
- Sure, it's played for laughs, but Buster literally living in his office becomes this when you stop and think about it — he's flat broke, so presumably if he had a place of his own beforehand, he probably lost it (or maybe sold it for funds). The theatre is literally all he has left, which is why he's so desperate to keep it open. And that makes its collapse even more heartbreaking.
- Initially, the way Buster washes cars also seems rather ridiculous, but the more it sets in just what his father did for him to help him buy the theatre, and how demeaning the whole thing is, the more Harsher in Hindsight it becomes; you find yourself laughing, then cringing at having done so. Worst of all is when Buster sadly apologizes to his dad: "I'm sorry, Dad. I'm just glad you're not here to see this." And how he responds when Eddie incredulously demands to know what he's doing: "The only other job I know." He sounds so dead. Which only makes it all the more heartwarming when later during the comeback show he tells his dad he wishes he was there to see it.
- Johnny's song in the final show, in hindsight. The lyrics are obviously directed toward his father, telling him that he's standing on his own, and doesn't need him or his influence. It makes their reconciliation afterward all the more Heartwarming. Johnny's downcast mood even after his excellent performance counts as well. Even when he had a whole audience of people cheering for him, the one person he wanted to be there wasn't. And as far as Johnny knows, that person wants nothing to do with him anymore.
- The ending, although more in a Tears of Joy fashion. Not only is the show a success and the theatre rebuilt more beautiful than ever before, but Buster, Nana, Eddie, and all the contestants (sans Mike) get to recreate the pose that he, his dad, and the original show performers struck at the opening night gala...and they get a picture taken, just like it. All of it set to the film (and the theatre's) Leitmotif, "Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight".
Tear Jerker / Sing