Worldwide icon-chevron-right Europe icon-chevron-right United Kingdom icon-chevron-right England icon-chevron-right London icon-chevron-right 21 animated movie moments guaranteed to make you weep like Bambi
Up (2009)1/21
The opening journey through elderly Carl’s long, rich life The animators at Pixar know how to play with our emotions in smart ways, and at the beginning of ‘Up’ they spend a mere five minutes running through the whole life of 78-year-old Carl, from small boy and happy husband to grieving widower. Just when you’re enjoying the laughs, joy and love in his life, they throw a shadow over Carl and his wife Ellie’s story and you’ll be sobbing your heart out as you realise Pixar has managed to condense the essence of life’s ups and downs into one tiny chapter of an animated movie. Dave Calhoun ‘Up’ is number 20 in our list of the 100 best animated movies Read review
Transformers: The Movie (1986)2/21
When Optimus Prime meets a rusty end We’re already weeping just thinking about Optimus Prime’s final moments in this 1980s animated spin on the Transformers toys – from the moment the sublime soft-rock strains of Sam Bush’s ‘The Touch’ surge manfully as Optimus declares ‘Megatron must be stopped…no matter the cost!’ to the moment Optimus’s paint job inexplicably goes black and white as he dies after an act of self-sacrificing generosity. What a guy. Robotic, but still: What. A. Guy. Andrzej Lukowski Read review
Finding Nemo (2003)3/21
Right at the start, when Marlin loses his entire family From its first splash, ‘Finding Nemo’ convinces you that life really is better down where it’s wetter. Under the sea lies a colorful paradise full of fun for fishy families. And then, before the credits even roll, Marlin’s clan is destroyed in one fell swoop of sharp-toothed-barracuda doom. His wife is gone. Their hundreds of kids-to-be have been swept away to their would-be death, and he is left with one egg: Nemo. And we all know where that’s headed. It’s an emotional log flume, and everyone’s getting drenched. Ashleigh Arnott ‘Finding Nemo’ is number 31 in our list of the 100 best animated movies Read review
Dumbo (1941)4/21
When Dumbo visits his mother in her cage at night Poor old Dumbo. Not only does he have big flappy ears but his mom’s chained up and there’s a sign saying ‘Mad elephant’ hanging outside her cage. When Dumbo visits, he can only see her trunk, and as they rub noses together, the lullaby ‘Baby Mine’ plays on the soundtrack and we see other animals – monkeys, lions – snuggling with their kids in bed. Hang on, there’s something in my eye. Dave Calhoun ‘Dumbo’ is number six in our list of the 100 best animated movies Read review
The Fox and the Hound (1981)5/21
When Widow Tweed decides it’s time for Tod to stand on his own four feet You know it’s no normal day out when sad-faced Widow Tweed drives peppy young fox Tod into the forest in her shaky old car. He’s all grown up and it’s time for Tweed to leave the orphan to fend for himself in the wild. As Tod makes loving eyes at Tweed, she forces herself to look in the other direction. It’s only when she drives away – alone – that we see a tear rolling down her cheek. No wonder kids find this traumatic to watch. You can almost hear their thoughts. Could this happen to me? (Could it? Tell me no!) Dave Calhoun Read review
Toy Story 3 (2010)6/21
When it all ends in tears For all its catchphrase-spouting, cultural-referencing tomfoolery, the ‘Toy Story’ trilogy is ultimately about growing up, and at no point is this clearer than at the very end of the series. Andy hands Buzz, Woody and Co. over to Bonnie and drives off to college knowing he’s on his way to becoming a man. And then the camera pans up to the clouds the exact same clouds from the first shot of the first ‘Toy Story’. The circle is complete, the Kleenex soaking wet. David Clack ‘Toy Story 3’ is number 32 in our list of the 100 best animated movies Read review
Grave of the Fireflies (1988)7/21
When Setsuko comes face-to-face with the Grim Reaper The Japanese wartime memoir is one of the most harrowing of all animated movies (yes, even worse than ‘Watership Down’). But in a film overflowing with despair, sickness, grief, horror and desperation, one scene stands alone: the death of little Setsuko from malnutrition, coughing and hallucinating through her final hours. Tough stuff. Tom Huddleston ‘Grave of the Fireflies’ is number 15 in our list of the 100 best animated movies Read review
Animal Farm (1954)8/21
When Boxer the horse meets his maker This British-made adaptation of George Orwell’s satire on the Soviet state was partially funded by the CIA, so it’s hardly surprising they went all-out to ramp up the emotional content. The old workhorse Boxer stands in for the proletariat in Orwell’s story, and when he goes hooves-up and gets carted off to the glue factory by scheming pig Napoleon, there’s nary a dry eye in the stable. Tom Huddleston ‘Animal Farm’ is number 59 in our list of the 100 best animated movies Read review
When the Wind Blows (1986)9/21
When an elderly couple falls afoul of nuclear weapons A corrective to the British government’s ludicrous late-’70s ‘Protect and Survive’ campaign advising citizens how to outlive a nuclear war, this adaptation of Raymond Briggs’s graphic novel was precision-built for jerking tears. It’s the story of a fusty, lovable old couple dealing with the aftermath of a nuclear fallout, going about their everyday routine as their taps run black, their hair falls out and their glands clog up. The ending is inevitable, but still shocking. Tom Huddleston ‘When the Wind Blows’ is number 40 in our list of the 100 best animated movies Read review
South Park (1999)10/21
When Satan finally kicks his Saddam Hussein habit Satan sheds tears of triumph as he shakes off the shackles of his abusive sexual relationship with Saddam Hussein and casts the dictator back to hell. It’s grotesque – but entirely fitting – that Satan should prove the most complex, conflicted and lovable character in the ‘South Park’ movie, and when he finally takes control of his destiny, we can’t help but give him a rousing cheer. Tom Huddleston ‘South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut ’ is number 26 in our list of the 100 best animated movies Read review
WALL-E (2008)11/21
When Wall-E tries to wake up Eve Second only to ‘Up’ in the tearjerkers-of-Pixar canon, the near-silent ‘WALL-E’ uses the oldest trick in the cartoon book – great big Disney eyes – to provoke an emotional reaction. But manipulative or not, the scene where our cybernetic hero tries to shake his dormant lover Eve out of her snooze-function stupor by dragging her around his favorite haunts is beautiful and heartbreaking. Tom Huddleston ‘WALL-E’ is number 36 in our list of the 100 best animated movies Read review
The Snowman (1982)12/21
When the Snowman starts to feel all warm inside That sweet snowman in the 1982 adaptation of Raymond Briggs’s children’s book isn’t just made of snow, you know: He’s childhood, innocence, fun, imagination and the spirit of Christmas, all packed tightly together with a battered old hat on top. His tragic, puddly end is a powerful metaphor for growing up. But however much we rationalise it, it still hits us right in the chest whenever it’s shown on TV at Christmas. (Sob.) James Manning
Watership Down (1978)13/21
When the rabbit Hazel finally stops getting lucky The ‘Bright Eyes’ scene in Watership Down – a tale of biblical proportions starring jerkily drawn rabbits – is burned into the emotional psyche of anyone who watched it as a kid. After surviving near extermination and leading his intrepid band of bunnies across the danger-filled rolling English countryside, our intrepid hero Hazel finally loses his life. Cue the ethereal voice of Art Garfunkel, searing strings and a realisation that Hazel is no more. Kids (big and small) will be blubbering like the first time they fell off a bike. Mark O’Donnell ‘Watership Down’ is number 27 in our list of the 100 best animated movies Read review
Lady and the Tramp (1955)14/21
When Trusty the dog has a run-in with a truck Throughout most of ‘Lady and the Tramp’, posh pooches Jock the Scottish terrier and Trusty the bloodhound treat stray mutt Tramp with lofty disdain. But the film’s weepy climax comes when they realise their mistake (he’s actually a hero!) and run off to save Tramp from the dogcatcher. It all gets a little overwhelming when Trusty’s sense of smell miraculously returns and he stops the dogcatcher’s truck – only for it to run him over. The sequence’s final shot has Jock howling over Trusty’s limp body in the pouring rain. We all think the worst has happened. Daisy Bowie-Sell ‘Lady and the Tramp’ is number 57 in our list of the 100 best animated movies Read review
Bambi (1942)15/21
When a shotgun blast rings out The death of Bambi’s mother may have become the stock answer to the question ‘What’s the most traumatic moment in a kids’ movie?’, but there’s a reason for that. Facing up to the idea that your parents may not be around forever is a huge leap for any kid, and few films have managed to capture that nerve-shattering sense of loss more keenly, or with greater impact. Tom Huddleston ‘Bambi’ is number 24 in our list of the 100 best animated movies Read review
Toy Story 2 (1999)16/21
When Jessie the cowgirl sings about being dumped Love and loss run right through the ‘Toy Story’ series, as the characters confront the idea of being thrown away – tossed aside because their beloved owner has no room for playthings in their new, grown-up life. And how many of us haven’t faced similar, deep-seated fears? The clearest expression of this theme comes halfway through ‘Toy Story 2’, as Jessie the cowgirl recounts the heartbreaking tale of how she was quite literally dumped by the one she loved most – in a cardboard box by the side of the road. Tom Huddleston ‘Toy Story 2’ is number 30 in our list of the 100 best animated movies Read review
The Lion King (1994)17/21
When Scar kills Mufasa Mufasa, king of the lions, is hanging by his claws from a cliff edge above a stampede of wildebeest. Fear not. His brother Scar is here to save the day. Or maybe not. Disney traumatised ’90s kids by getting all Shakespearean in ‘The Lion King’. How many kids have shed a tear watching this scene while looking suspiciously across the room at their smirking younger sibling? Cath Clarke ‘The Lion King’ is number 72 in our list of the 100 best animated movies Read review
The Jungle Book (1967)18/21
When Baloo falls victim to Shere Khan All in all, ‘The Jungle Book’ is a pretty light affair – give or take the odd sly snake and grumpy vulture – so it’s a bit of a downer when good-time bear Baloo gets into a scrap with the fierce tiger Shere Khan and is left lying facedown and motionless in the dirt. Mowgli is heartbroken. Even the sober-faced panther Bagheera is welling up. And we’re left weeping, knowing that every good party has to end sometime. Or does it? Dave Calhoun ‘The Jungle Book’ is number 29 in our list of the 100 best animated movies Read review
Snow White (1937)19/21
When the dwarfs mourn Snow White Not the poison apple! Oh well, too late: Snow White bites into the apple given to her by the wicked witch and the next thing you know she’s slipped off this mortal coil (or so it seems). Snow White’s demise is itself pretty heartbreaking. But what really exercises the tear ducts is the sight of everyone else in the film mourning her death. The dwarfs are sobbing and hugging each other. The animals in the forest are distraught, and even the weather seems to be upset. We can’t help but join in. Dave Calhoun ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ is number eight in our list of the 100 best animated movies Read review
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)20/21
When the magic fades and maturity beckons Children’s fables often end with the characters moving on to a new chapter in their lives: Christopher Robin leaves the 100 Acre Wood and Mowgli joins the Men Folk. In the Japanese classic ‘My Neighbor Totoro’, the same shift happens when the kid characters suddenly decide to engage with children their own age, meaning there’s no room left in their lives for their old magical forest playmates. Could it happen to me? Could my friends abandon me? No! Wail! Tom Huddleston ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ is number three in our list of the 100 best animated movies Read review
The Land Before Time (1988)21/21
When Littlefoot’s mother dies Parents die. Some children learned this in ‘Bambi’, some learned it in ‘The Land Before Time’, in a scene that also involves an earthquake and a deathbed speech: ‘Let your heart guide you. It whispers, so listen carefully.’ Gulp. Cath Clarke Read review

21 animated movie moments guaranteed to make you weep like Bambi

Trust us – these heartbreaking cartoon scenes will have you reaching for the Kleenex. (Warning: contains spoilers and traumatic events)


Discover more from the world of animation...

The 100 best animated movies

We’ve polled over 100 experts in the field of animation – from directors like ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’s Wes Anderson, ‘Ice Age’ and ‘Rio’s Carlos Saldanha, and ‘Wallace & Gromit’s Nick Park, to critics and hardcore fans alike – to come up with the 100 best animated movies ever made.

See the 100 best animated movies

    You may also like

      Support Time Out

      We see you’re using an ad-blocker. Ad revenue is Time Out’s main source of income. The content you’re reading is made by independent, expert local journalists.

      Support Time Out directly today and help us champion the people and places which make the city tick. Cheers!

      Donate now