It's not easy for a movie to be so moving that viewers will genuinely feel sad and shed tears. Only the deftest filmmakers have the ability to tap into the most potent emotions in the audience.
Which makes Pixar Studios all the more impressive, as they've consistently put out cinematic masterpieces that move the soul and speak deeply to the human condition—all through animation, which adds yet another layer of sophistication.
From their very first feature-length film in Toy Story to their most recent hit Luca, the Disney-owned animation company has perfected the art of drawing out tears with viscerally beautiful stories.
Want to feel emotional? Here are my picks for the saddest Pixar movie scenes and moments that'll have you reaching for the tissues.
15. The Balloon House Floats Away in Up (2009)
Part of the ending to Up sees Carl Fredricksen lure Charles Muntz into his floating house and jump from the window, using his balloons to get to safety. Muntz tries to go after them, but falls to his death.
However, in the battle, Carl loses the last thing in his life that ties him to his departed wife, Ellie. As Muntz falls to his doom, Carl watches as the home that represents his time with Ellie floats away into the clouds, effectively saying goodbye to his late wife.
It's a moment that showcases the end of something that means a great deal to a person, and it's a goodbye that's akin to that of Wilson in Cast Away. But, despite the sadness that comes with it, it also means the start of something else for Carl.
14. The Spell Fails in Brave (2012)
As Princess Merida tries to bring her mother back to human form (who's trapped for much of the film as a bear), she manages to get the spell and items together by sunrise—but nothing happens when she does.
Her mother's bear body remains, and Merida just sobs at the loss of her mother. Despite their disagreements, their journey has brought them closer together than they had ever been.
For a moment, it leaves the audience stunned as everything looks bleak. However, the spell eventually takes effect and Merida's mother returns to her human form, and their embrace is as emotional as it gets.
13. "Goodbye, Boo" in Monsters, Inc. (2001)
The entire journey of Sulley, Mike, and Boo in Monsters, Inc. takes the audience through an emotional roller coaster, with Sulley falling in love with Boo for her innocence and overall cuteness.
Of course, he has to keep her away from Randall, which he does after a long struggle. But he reaches the point where he must say goodbye.
The moment is such a bittersweet one to watch, as Boo shows Sulley her toys (complete with a Nemo doll, long before the movie came out). But when he puts her to bed and closes her closet door, she cheekily runs to open it—only to find her closet empty.
Her disappointment is devastating to watch, as is his when we see her door being shredded.
12. "I Will Go Sailing No More" in Toy Story (1995)
What is it to be human? It's a question that's been asked since the dawn of mankind itself. So, when Toy Story came along, it decided to ask a slightly different question: What is it to be a toy?
When Buzz Lightyear finds out that he isn't actually a space ranger and that he is, in fact, a toy, he attempts one last daring feat in denial, hoping to prove that he isn't a toy by flying.
As Randy Newman's music swells to "I Will Go Sailing No More," Buzz tries to jump through the window above the stairs with his wings out—and plummets to the ground, losing his arm in the process.
It's a very emotional moment as Buzz's world comes crashing down around him, all to such a heartbreaking theme.
11. Riley Comes Home in Inside Out (2015)
When the climax of Inside Out reaches its zenith, Riley interrupts her plan to get on a bus back to Minnesota and instead runs back home to her worried mother and father.
As they begin to panic over her absence, she walks in through the door—and before they can get angry, she bursts into tears because she misses her life in Minnesota.
It's a moment that feels so real to so many of us who were relocated as children, with Riley's emotions cutting so close to home. She's just a little girl who feels as though she has no place in her new home, something that most of us have felt at one time or another.
10. EVE and Broken WALL-E in WALL-E (2008)
EVE and WALL-E's love story is as charming and beautiful as any love story one could imagine. So, when WALL-E almost kills himself (to save the plant that EVE found on Earth) and you hear EVE scream, it's emotionally crushing.
The moments that follow are tense and heart-wrenching for the audience as WALL-E appears to fade away, shutting down in the process. EVE carries WALL-E's body to his home, attempting to replace his broken parts—and when he wakes up, he isn't the same.
Upon realizing that WALL-E is gone, a devastated EVE "kisses" WALL-E one last time. The slight electrical charge that passes between them revives WALL-E's memories, and the pair happily realize their feelings for one another.
9. Hector Is Almost Forgotten in Coco (2017)
When Miguel finds out the truth that Hector is his great-great-grandfather, he must hurry to save Hector from being forgotten by his elderly daughter, Coco, in the human world.
Miguel rushes to get back to the human world to make his great-grandmother remember her father.
As he reaches Coco, she's already close to losing her last memories of her father, but Miguel plays her father's song "Remember Me" for her—and she once again remembers Hector.
The sequence is moving, and the audience wills Miguel forward to help his stricken great-great-grandfather. The ending sequence is beautiful as Coco gives Miguel a photo of Hector, ensuring he will not be forgotten even after she's gone.
8. Barley Speaks to His Dad in Onward (2020)
The zesty and fun journey taken by Barley and Ian with their departed father's legs in Onward is one of Pixar's most outwardly hilarious.
During the final sequence, as Ian and Barley have fought so hard to restore the rest of their father so they can speak with him before the sun sets (and he disappears forever), Ian gives up his chance to talk to the man he never knew so that Barley can instead.
Ian gets trapped inside rubble, and from a distance he watches as his father comes to life, speaks shortly with Barley, then fades away. The moment is moving—Ian realizes that Barley has always been his father figure, and Barley finally gets to say goodbye to his father.
7. Bing Bong Fades Away in Inside Out (2015)
Inside Out is one of Pixar's most imaginative and wholesome adventures, telling the story of Riley and the emotions that control her.
After she and her parents move to San Francisco, Riley finds it hard to adjust to her new surroundings—especially after Joy and Sadness accidentally leave her emotional center.
When Joy selfishly attempts to get back to the emotional headquarters without Sadness, she falls into the Memory Dump next to Bing Bong, Riley's old imaginary friend. The pair use a magical kart to try and get out, but Bing Bong realizes that both of them can't make it—and sacrifices himself so that Joy can fly out.
As he fades away, the audience mourns the deaths of all their imaginary friends from childhood, but know that Bing Bong died a hero in his own way of protecting Riley.
6. Jessie's Song in Toy Story 2 (1999)
Toy Story 2 is one of the rare movie sequels that actually improved on the original in every way. It has bigger stakes, it has grander adventures, and it has a stronger emotional punch.
When Woody attempts to pacify Jessie by telling her about Andy, she responds by telling Woody about her own owner, Emily.
The heartbreaking song tells the story of her childhood, with Jessie singing about how she was given up by Emily when she got older—and how lonely she's been ever since.
It's a Pixar moment that's remembered even to this day, reminding adults everywhere of the toys they used to play with when they were young, and mourning for a time long passed.
5. "I Don't Want to Forget..." in Finding Nemo (2003)
Overall, Finding Nemo has the most intense emotions of any Pixar movie, with the central story about a father in search for his lost son. Marlin's journey to retrieve Nemo is full of peril, but he has help from the ever lovable Dory—who forgets most things almost immediately.
When Marlin thinks Nemo has died, he falls into despair and starts swimming away. This prompts Dory to beg him not to leave her behind. She tells him that she doesn't want to forget him—that when they're together, she's home.
It's a moment made of pure love and emotion, made all the more painful as Marlin tells her he doesn't want to remember and swims away. She's found panicking by Nemo and delivers Nemo to his father, becoming part of the family in the process.
4. Ellie and Carl's Life Montage in Up (2009)
Up masterfully tells the story of a lifetime in the space of a few minutes, taking is on a roller coaster of hilarity and devastation. The saga of Carl and Ellie plays out through a montage and features a bond that endured decades of marriage.
Their happiness, their challenges, and their heartaches are laid bare for the audience to see. From their lively wedding to when they find out they can't bear children, all of it passes in the blink of an eye.
The montage is beautiful as it captures what life is all about—it's a mist that's here one second and gone the next—while also letting us know that age is really just a number.
3. Spot Finds a Family in The Good Dinosaur (2015)
The Good Dinosaur is far from Pixar's most well-known work, but it packs an emotional punch that contends with any in the Pixar library.
The journey that Spot and Arlo go on to get Arlo back home is a wondrous one. They see the best and worst of all creatures as they slowly head back, with the duo forming a bond that's one of Pixar's most adorable.
However, when Spot and Arlo are finally about to return home, Spot sees a family of humans that come down to meet him.
Arlo sees that they want to take him in as part of their family and makes the hardest decision to let Spot know that it's the right path, even if it means an end to their journey together.
2. Woody Says Goodbye in Toy Story 4 (2019)
Think of all the most iconic and enduring friendships in all of cinema, and you'll probably think of Woody and Buzz. A bond that started as a rivalry became as close as any depicted on the big screen.
But in Toy Story 4, when Woody's time to be a child-owned toy comes to an end, he must choose to stay with his love Bo Peep or leave with Buzz and the gang. It's a decision Woody can't make, so, as any best friend should, Buzz tells him that it's okay to go and be with Bo.
It means a goodbye between Woody and the whole gang, and when he hugs Buzz for the last time—knowing they may never meet again—it's profoundly beautiful and sad.
1. Andy Says Goodbye in Toy Story 3 (2010)
It was the moment that marked the end of an era, a generation, and childhood for so many adults. For those who were children when the first Toy Story released in theaterss, seeing Andy say goodbye was almost too much to bear.
Woody's decision to stay with the gang and not go with Andy to college was one that he had to make alone. He had always been Andy's best friend and had always been there for him. But as Stinky Pete once warned him, Andy grew up and it was now time to face reality.
Andy is ready to give his toys away to Bonnie, but the recoil we see in Andy when Bonnie reaches for Woody is devastating. Everything Woody means to Andy is evident at that moment, and we felt the weight of it all as he resigns and moves on.