The Champ

All morning, the bloggers have been passing around movie clips trying to make each other cry. Popular choices have included Terms of Endearment, The Way We Were, and Beaches. The inspiration is the recent news that scientists have officially named the saddest movie scene ever. The winner is... The Golden Globe-winning performance by a young Ricky Schroder in the 1979 film The Champ. Apparently, it's even sadder than the death of Bambi's mother. 

The hunt for the saddest movie scene has been going on since 1988, when two researchers, now at Stanford, starting looking for a clip that would reliably bum people out that they could use for studies. After testing hundreds of movies on hundreds of viewers, they settled on The Champ as the cinematic scene "most likely to produce tears." The deserving couple of minutes depict the titular champ, after winning a come-back match, slowly dying in front of his young son. The son, Ricky Schroder, has a full head of bouncy blonde hair, and he doesn't take it too well.

This saddest of scenes has been used by masochist scientists for years in all sorts of studies. Are depressed people more likely than happy people to cry? They are not. Are sad people more likely to spend money? Yes, and old people are more weepy than the young. They also reported that people with binge-eating disorders do not eat more when sad, but that's crap. After spending the morning watching these clips, we decided to move our lunch break up an hour.

Commentarium (49 Comments)

Jul 26 11 - 2:48pm

Most embarrassing high school moment ever: watching "The Perfect Storm" in class after reading the book and crying during the movie.

Best high school moment ever: consoling hug from super hot teacher after class, convincing classmates that it was my plan all along.

Aug 02 11 - 10:20am


Jul 26 11 - 3:06pm

Luke Wilson's suicide scene in The Royal Tenenbaums

Jul 26 11 - 6:34pm

That scene is gorgeous. The blue lighting and the bright red blood. Love it.

Jul 26 11 - 3:55pm

The original champ was a better movie.

Jul 26 11 - 7:45pm

Jeff Bridges going up to the spaceship at the end of Starman. The look on Karen Allen's face kills me every time.

Jul 26 11 - 7:46pm

Hey ALT -

Sad Kermit rocks Elliot Smith

Jul 26 11 - 8:36pm

Toy Story 3 when they were all about to be dropped into the fire. sad sad sad.

Jul 27 11 - 12:31am

Oh god yes -especially when they all hold hands -and then at the end when Andy leaves. Beautiful and sad.

Jul 26 11 - 8:50pm

When Bruce Willis dies at the end of Armageddon. He was like a father to young Ben Affleck!

Jul 26 11 - 9:45pm

The Big Lebowski. ...When they pee on his rug... So sad. So, so sad... That rug really tied the room together.

Jul 26 11 - 11:48pm
Wayne Williams

Bwahahahaha!!!! I almost choked here!

Jul 27 11 - 10:54am

Sorry I made you cry.

Jul 26 11 - 10:22pm

Schindler's List is full of tear-producing moments. "The Champ" rated more highly?!

Jul 26 11 - 10:25pm

marley and me. or anything with a dog in it, really.

Jul 27 11 - 12:04pm

What about "Hachi", I didn't even watch the movie, just the trailer made me cry so much, and I don't really like dogs.

Jul 26 11 - 11:31pm

Iron Giant, "Superman". I cry every time.

Jul 27 11 - 6:59pm

I with you on that one...

Jul 26 11 - 11:43pm

Silent Running, when the little robot is left all alone to tend the last remaining garden.

Harry & Tonto, when the kitty dies.

Songcatcher, when all the recordings, notes, and instruments get burned.

Jul 27 11 - 12:01am

it's a beautiful life, hands down.

Jul 27 11 - 1:22am

That may be the saddest movie part but, I have yet to see anything top Big Bird singing It's not easy being green at Jim Hensens funeral.

Jul 27 11 - 1:40am

The closing argument in A TIME TO KILL. It brings me to tears every time.

Jul 27 11 - 1:56am

Are foreign films disqualified? Nearly all of the French film "Ponette" will make anyone want to adopt an orphan or weep uncontrollably. Victoire Thivisol as the newly-motherless title character is every bit the emotional equal of young Schroder.

Jul 27 11 - 4:50am

Escape From Sobibor: when Rutger Hauer's chartacter Sasha gets up on a box in front of the assembled inmates, and proclaims that the time has come to take their freedom; and the following free for all. To know that actually happened, the walking dead had the courage to take on the apparatus of the Final Solution, and 'win' (win, because the camp was immediately closed as a result of this revolt).

(Can be seen on youtube, starting at Escape from Sobibor [UNCUT] 13/15 , at 9:13)

Jul 27 11 - 8:39am

Grave of the Fireflies....saddest movie ever

Jul 27 11 - 7:05pm

Agreed... If you are not in tears by the end, you are not human...

Jul 27 11 - 9:14am

The final scene in The Boy In The Striped Pajamas. The entire time I watched that, I was sure that Bruno's dad would make it in time..The ending depressed me for days.

Jul 27 11 - 1:51pm

omg, yes. I kept thinking, ok any second now they'll save him...any second....I still can not believe how that ended.

Jul 27 11 - 9:15am

The end of Scrooged, when Bill Murry does his monologue about how we can have the Christmas feeling all year long, the little boy talks, and the look on Alfre Woodard's face.

Jul 27 11 - 10:13am

"Life is Beautiful" - a father simply making his son laugh one last time. Tears every time.

Aug 01 11 - 4:09am

Absolutely. But for me it was more silent shock than tears.

Jul 27 11 - 10:47am

An old WWII movie called GALLANT BESS. A young farmer kid serving as a Seabee on a Pacific Island finds a horse, but the kid is wounded and being evacuated by a LST, a tank-landing ship whose stern opens to the surf. The kid is being evacuated and can't see that the horse, following him, is swimming toward the ship as the stern door is being raised; the horse will die in the surf. The captain, observing the evacuation remarks to his XO that he didn't like the way that door was closed, and orders it re-opened. By this time my mother, sister, and I are sobbing openly.

Jul 27 11 - 10:54am
Johnny Blaze


Jul 27 11 - 11:24am

The end of "A Perfect World" If you have a dry eye after that you have no soul. Eastwood's best movie, bar none.

Jul 27 11 - 12:13pm

Brian's song. When Billy D. (Gayle Sayers) is receiving his award and says "I love Brian Piccollo and I want you to love him too" I just can't hold it together.

Jul 28 11 - 1:34pm
Axe Nox

I agree "Brians Song" has to be the saddest movie I remember seeing.

Jul 27 11 - 1:56pm

End of Field of Dreams, when Kevin Costner asks his dad to play catch. It isn't sad, but it is guaranteed to bring tears to eyes.

Jul 27 11 - 2:33pm

My Girl, when Maculay Culkin dies from the bees. Pretty depressing.

Jul 27 11 - 4:20pm
Sgt. York

Final Scene in The Color Purple does it to me every time I watch it.

Jul 27 11 - 5:05pm

Requiem For A Dream, because it isn't manipulative; it's real. It just tosses you back and forth until you have nothing left to hold onto.

Jul 27 11 - 5:44pm

Spock's funeral. "...most human..." I want Amazing Grace on bagpipes at MY funeral...

Jul 27 11 - 7:28pm

That episode of Futurama where Fry's dog is waiting for him at the end and passes away. Saddest effin cartoon ever, fo sho

Jul 27 11 - 10:23pm

Tombstone. I can't watch Doc Holiday die without crying.

Jul 27 11 - 10:25pm

last two scenes of 'moulin rouge' when nicole kidman dies and ewan mcgregor lets out a guttural cry. gets me every time.

Jul 28 11 - 8:43am


Jul 28 11 - 9:32am

The existential sadness of "Groundhog Day" and "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter." Can't help but tear up. But, oddly, in a good way.

Jul 29 11 - 3:17pm

how about a happy sob: Billy Elliot, when his father finally sees him dance and 'gets it' ....oi, every single time!

Aug 01 11 - 10:57am

Message in a Bottle. I really expected a Hollywood-ized ending. The fact that he dies sent me into wracking sobs.

Jan 01 12 - 11:44pm
Krisada Mahotarn

The ending of " The Way We Were"