- The grinding poverty and repression of Taliban-era Afghanistan is depicted in no uncertain terms. There isn't a scene where you can't feel the characters' very tangible sense of anxiety and exhaustion.
- Nurullah is clearly sad to see a former student like Idrees become a thoughtless militant thug.
- Mama-jan being violently beaten by an angry Talib for daring to travel outside, even as she desperately pleads for her husband's freedom.
- Razaq, who Never Learned to Read, asks Parvana (in disguise as "Aatish") to read him a letter. It is a notification that his wife was killed by a landmine while travelling to visit her relatives. Upon hearing it, he stares off emptily into space before letting off a heavy, resigned sigh. Then he leaves without saying a word.
- Parvana saying her final good-bye to Shauzia, and their promise to meet each other by the sea in twenty years. Knowing the setting, odds are they'll never see each other again.
- Although Idrees is among the most nasty characters of the film, it is still a little sad to see him being driven off to his first time in war, where he'd be both pushed around and shot at by older, stronger, more experienced men, and if he does survive it may harden him into even more a monster than what he already is. Idree's sad, uncertain expression sells it.
- As the Taliban mobilise for war, Mama-jan tearfully begs Parvana to call off her search for her Baba, knowing that it's far too dangerous to go out now. She even calls her by Sulayman's name, revealing the deep wound from the family's loss of its eldest son.
- The Reveal of Sulayman's fate: he was killed after he picked up a toy on the street, which turned out to be a mine. It's presented in the Story Within a Story as the hero's final ascent towards the mountain lair of the Elephant King, which personifies the grief and trauma carried by Parvana's family.
Tear Jerker / The Breadwinner