Some things are undeniably sad. Loss, rejection, and a life full of regret top the list of heartbreakers. When movies delve into these topics, we get some unforgettable lines that remind us not to take life for granted.
1. Meet Joe Black (1998)
One line from Meet Joe Black resonates with everyone because regret is one of the few commonalities that thread throughout the entire human race. “I’m not afraid of dying. I’m afraid I haven’t been alive enough.”
2. Forrest Gump (1994)
In a movie full of heart-tugging moments, Forrest Gump’s desperate, self-aware plea to Jenny simply to love him back may tug the hardest. “Why don’t you love me, Jenny? I’m not a smart man, but I know what love is.”
3. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Loss is the universal thread that tugs at one’s heartstrings, so it’s no surprise that a line from Henry Travers’ Clarence in It’s a Wonderful Life sparks immediate waterworks. “Each man’s life touches so many other lives, and when he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole.”
4. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Faced with subordinates complaining about being on a rescue mission rather than the front lines in World War II, Tom Hanks’ Captain Miller provides a perspective only a weary, veteran soldier can:
“Sometimes I wonder if I’ve changed so much my wife is even gonna recognize me whenever it is I get back to her — and how I’ll ever be able to tell her about days like today… You wanna leave? You wanna go off and fight the war? Alright. Alright, I won’t stop you. I’ll even put in the paperwork. I just know that every man I kill, the farther away from home I feel.”
5. Toy Story 3 (2010)
While Andy’s tribute to Woody likely hits hardest for ’90s kids, parents of ’90s kids might also claim someone is cutting onions when they hear this nostalgia-powered monologue:
“Now Woody… he’s been my pal as long as I can remember. He’s brave, like a cowboy should be, and kind and smart. But the thing that makes Woody special is that he’ll never give up on you. Ever. He’ll be there for you, no matter what. You think you can take care of him for me?”
6. Marley & Me (2008)
What do you say to your best friend in their last moments? Perhaps something like the line Owen Wilson delivered in Marley & Me: “I don’t know exactly where we go from here…but I want you to remember you’re a great dog, Marley. You’re a great dog.”
7. Scent of a Woman (1992)
Al Pacino’s Lt. Col. Frank Slade, a blind, ornery veteran with a hard exterior belying a deep-rooted soft side, delivers one of the more stirring monologues you’ll ever hear in a motion picture. When the young man who has cared for the Lieutenant Colonel is facing dismissal from university, Slade comes to his defense. This excerpt is only a pinch of Pacino’s epic rant:
“I have seen boys like these, younger than these, their arms torn out, their legs ripped off. But there isn’t nothin’ like the sight of an amputated spirit—there is no prosthetic for that. You think you’re merely sending this splendid foot-soldier back home to Oregon with his tail between his legs, but I say you are executing his soul!”
8. Her (2013)
Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore captures the feeling of malaise that can set in once you hit a certain age, especially if you’re not taking active steps to keep life exciting. “Sometimes I think I’ve felt everything I’m ever going to feel, and from here on out, I’m not going to feel anything new, just lesser versions of what I’ve already felt.”
9. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
While Samwise Gamgee’s speech to his pal Frodo has an optimistic conclusion, it is also a grim reminder of the bleak lens through which so many people view the future. “Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer.”
10. Field of Dreams (1989)
Want some serious nostalgia courtesy of Field of Dreams writers W.P. Kinsella and Phil Alden Robinson? James Earl Jones’ Terence Mann answers the question of why people would come to a cornfield to watch a bunch of ghosts play ball:
“The memories will be so thick, they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come, Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again. Oh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.”
11. Leave No Trace (2018)
Tom is a young girl living in the woods outside of Portland with her father, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. When her father plans to move back into the woods after a spell living in a home, Tom painfully describes the quandary of a child who wants a life different than their parents. “The same thing that’s wrong with you isn’t wrong with me.”
12. My Dog Skip (2000)
My Dog Skip has reduced hardened Navy SEALs to blubbering messes, and the movie is full of lines that belong on this list. One line by the narrator, Harry Connick, Jr., summarizes the vexatious nature of getting older. “Why in childhood and youth do we wish time to pass so quickly, we want to grow up so fast, yet as adults, we wish just the opposite?”
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