20 Greatest (Emotional) Disney Movie Moments

It’s no joke that some movies meant for kids these days can bring even the strongest adult to their knees with emotion. It’s as though Disney has finely tuned their ability to tug at heartstrings and tell a compelling story using everyday items such as toys, dogs, lanterns, robots and balloons to tell some of the greatest love stories in recent memory. While there certainly is a trend with the most recent Disney/Pixar movies being the biggest tearjerkers, there are certainly some classics that can elicit a tear or two from a parent or child.

I’ve loved Disney movies for as long as I can remember, I’ve never not liked them and therefore have seen them all. I’m also a card carrying member of the “heart on my sleeve” club. After I wrote down what I considered to be the greatest moments of emotion in Disney movies according to me, I asked my friends on Facebook to see if they could think of one that I had forgotten. Can’t lie, I was pretty pleased with myself when I realized a majority of the crowd favorites  were already on my list.

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  • The First 15 Minutes of Up 1 of 20
    The First 15 Minutes of Up
    I base my opinion of people off of how they felt during the Carl and Ellie montage in the beginning of Up. Not a single word is spoken and yet more emotion is conveyed between those two little cartoon characters in four and half minutes than most people emote in a year. I've watched it more than two dozen times and I still weep every. single. time.
  • The Rest of Up 2 of 20
    The Rest of Up
    How about the unwavering love of Dug? The fact that squirrels rank on a whole new level for eternity and that moment when Carl opens Ellie's seemingly failed adventure book only to find it full of the greatest adventure of all, her love and life with Carl? Then there's the whole Ellie badge thing at the end. Feelings all over the place with that movie.
  • Baby Mine in Dumbo 3 of 20
    Baby Mine in Dumbo
    I'm pretty sure the first Disney movie I ever cried during was Dumbo. First when the other elephants were saying terrible things about Dumbo as well as when the kids were picking on him. But the one that really gets me (especially now that I'm a mom?) When Mrs. Jumbo sticks her trunk out of her cage and rocks Dumbo while 'Baby Mine' plays. I've sang that song to Addie almost every night of her life.
  • Mr. Banks Unclenches 4 of 20
    Mr. Banks Unclenches
    Mary Poppins is easily one of my most favorite movies ever, even though it came out in 1964 the theme of 'busy uninvolved dad' has rung true for more than half a decade. While he wants his kids to grow up and understand the important things of the world, his children just want to play with him. When he finally figures life out and takes Michael out to fly a kite? That's the kind of moment all families need.
  • Paperman Short (Which Leads to Wreck It Ralph) 5 of 20
    Paperman Short (Which Leads to Wreck It Ralph)
    This was the short that showed before Wreck it Ralph. It's another love story with no words that had me in tears. The music. The tiny bit of magical whimsy. *sigh* It was perfect and lovely, not to mention it was followed by perhaps one of the greatest lines ever to end a movie in Wreck it Ralph "Turns out I don't need a medal to tell me I'm a good guy, because if that little kid likes me? How bad can I be?" *cue tears*
  • Ray Joins Evangaline 6 of 20
    Ray Joins Evangaline
    I'm convinced Ray is one of the greatest secondary characters in a Disney movie ever. He's outrageously happy, kind, benevolent and selflessly gives of himself to save his friends. When Dr. Facilier smooshed him? Oh, I was so mad at Disney for letting that happen. But they made up for it when they showed Ray up with his belle Evangeline.
  • Paper Lanterns in Tangled 7 of 20
    Paper Lanterns in Tangled
    I...I mean. I can't even put into words what this scene did to me in the theater. The whole movie was spectacular, but the detail that went into this scene from the king and queen lighting their lantern to the lights spreading throughout the kingdom then lighting up the entire sky? I made sure to see the movie in 3D again for that scene alone and it was totally worth it. When I asked Cody what Disney scene made him feel things, this was the one he mentioned, he clearly has good taste.
  • The King in Tangled 8 of 20
    The King in Tangled
    I don't think the king in Tangled ever says a single word, but he has the kindest, most expressive face of any Disney king (perhaps any human Disney character.) He reminds me of my dad a lot too, with the big mustache and really good hugs. When the guards find him and he realizes they found his baby girl? That's the face of a dad who loves his family more than anything in the world.
  • Nora Sings ‘Candle on the Water’ for Paul 9 of 20
    Nora Sings 'Candle on the Water' for Paul
    Can't knock the classics, while the scene in Pete's Dragon with Nora standing in the lighthouse singing 'Candle on the Water' to her lost love Paul may not be as visually stunning as the paper lantern scene in Tangled, the song has taken on a whole new meaning to me and to a lot of people in their own lives. "I'll be your candle on the water, my love for you will always burn. I know you're lost, and drifting, but the clouds are lifting, don't give up, you have somewhere to turn."
  • McQueen Pushes King Across the Finish Line 10 of 20
    McQueen Pushes King Across the Finish Line
    I had this one on my list, but my friend Beth Anne summarized it best: "The last race in Cars where Lightning stops being a douchebag & the Hudson Hornet shows up & then he pushes The King over the finish line." Yep. Friends. They're the best.
  • Lewis Fails in Front of Everyone 11 of 20
    Lewis Fails in Front of Everyone
    Meet the Robinsons is one of the most under-appreciated Disney movies of all time. At one point Lewis is at dinner with his friend's family when he screws up. As he's apologizing to the family they respond by saying "You failed! AND IT WAS AWESOME! EXCEPTIONAL! OUTSTANDING! From failing you learn, from success? Eh, not so much." I wish all families were like the Robinsons.
  • Simba Crawls Under Mufasa’s Paw 12 of 20
    Simba Crawls Under Mufasa's Paw
    I noticed that this scene is big with people around my same age. When Mufasa is trampled by wildebeest and Simba finds him dead at the bottom of the ravine? Oy, that was rough for a cartoon. Simba's squeaky little voice begging him to wake up, then finally crawling underneath his dad's giant paw one last time? Oh Simba. It wasn't your fault.
  • Finding Nemo 13 of 20
    Finding Nemo
    Nemo is another one with so many *feeeeeling* moments. When Cora dives to save her eggs in the beginning, to Marlin finding that only Nemo was left behind. Then there's the scene where Dory says when she looks at Marlin she's home and then when they think Nemo is dead but he's not and then Nemo convinces his dad he can help the fish in the net? I mean, you've seen it right? Then you get it.
  • Quasimodo Sings 14 of 20
    Quasimodo Sings
    This is where my Disney nerd shows. I know every word to every song in the Hunchback of Notre Dame and Quasimodo is another one of the most genuine Disney characters ever developed. All he wants is one day in the sunshine, one day to be able to do what everyone else takes for granted, one day to just be normal. How many of us feel like this and how many of us appreciate all of the simple things we are able to do every day that others cannot?
  • Wall-E. All of it. 15 of 20
    Wall-E. All of it.
    Whoever is responsible for Wall-E's eyes deserves a cake. Or a medal. Or a Nobel Peace Prize. Wall-E is easily the most loveable robot to ever exist since Number 5. The little songs he sings to himself, his love for old movies and Eve. Oh! When he takes care of Eve after she finds the plant! Holding the umbrella over her, holding her hand...I know they're just robots, but they're robots that made me cry.
  • Partly Cloudy Short 16 of 20
    Partly Cloudy Short
    This one is also a short, I don't even remember what movie it was before but I remember crying by the end. Another story of a seemingly impossible friendship told with absolutely no words, just facial expressions between a storm cloud and a stork.
  • Remy Hears and Sees Flavor 17 of 20
    Remy Hears and Sees Flavor
    Sometimes when I tell people I can feel light I get funny stares, but when Remy explains that he hears and sees music when he tastes food? It makes perfect sense. When there's something we're passionate about, it takes over our whole existence. I only wish everyone could appreciate what they love the way Remy does.
  • Sully and Boo 18 of 20
    Sully and Boo
    Giant so-called scary monster becoming best friends with a tiny little girl. He lets her sleep in his bed, she draws pictures of them together, he plays peek a boo with her, she calls him Kitty. When he accidentally scares her to impress Mr. Waternoose? I hate seeing little kids scared, animated or not.
  • Fox and the Hound 19 of 20
    Fox and the Hound
    Two natural enemies playing and swearing that they'll be best friends forever and ever while Pearl Bailey sings "Best of Friends?" It's all the best parts of little kids' innocence embodied in a puppy and little fox.
  • Toy Story 3 20 of 20
    Toy Story 3
    This was the one that took second place to Up, perhaps even first considering how many men were willing to admit to shedding a tear during the final scene of Toy Story 3. It's the first time we have all literally grown up with a a Disney character. I was still a kid who loved toys when the first Toy Story came out, now I'm a parent who will someday have to decide what to do with all these toys that fill my days and bring my children so much happiness. Hopefully there will be a Bonnie around when it's time to make the decision. Honorable mention goes to the scene when they're all holding hands headed for the furnace.

Other moments my friends mentioned on Facebook that I didn’t have in my original list:

  • “When She Loved Me” montage from Toy Story 2 with Jessie’s story.
  • The scene when Mrs. Incredible realizes her hips are a bit wider than they used to be.
  • When the desk lamp crushes the ‘I’ in Pixar.
  • When spirit Mufasa tells adult Simba to remember who he is.
  • Ending scene of Brave.
  • When the mama Gorilla finds the orphaned baby Tarzan.
  • When Mrs. Incredible yells “Abort, abort! There are children on board.”
  • Bambi. YOU KNOW THE SCENE.
  • The end scene of Mulan with her dad and when Shang abandons Mulan.
  • The end of Beauty and the Beast.
  • “Your Mother and Mine” in Peter Pan.

What’s your most emotional Disney movie moment?

MORE ON BABBLE:

20 classic movies to watch with your kids
25 things every kid should experience
20 simple ways to show your kids you love them
8 things I never thought I’d say… until I became a mom
18 questions all parents secretly ask themselves

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