We can all recall the moments where emotion overtook us and we just couldn’t help ourselves when watching a film. Usually, I’m able to remain staunch and blank-faced even during the most gut-punching of moments in content, whether it’s a breakup scene, a death scene, or the most heartbreaking goodbye ever. Then again, I’m not going to act like I didn’t bawl my eyes out as the toys held hands and accepted their deaths in Toy Story 3, or when James Wan masterfully said goodbye to Paul Walker in Furious 7. For comic book films, I generally don’t tear up.
Yet there are emotional moments in every film intended to tug at your heartstrings even if you don’t cry. Here, I take a look at the top emotional moments that stuck with me the most. Without further ado, here are the top ten most emotional moments in superhero films, with three honorary mentions.
#13. Coulson’s Death, The Avengers
Everyone choked up at this, right? Remember when Phil Coulson was actually a big character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe—you know, before he was relegated to TV in a twist that made literally no sense and undid everything this powerful moment in The Avengers accomplished? But that’s another story. Coulson’s death really got me—not just because he was one of the founders of the Avengers, and clearly a huge fan (even to this day, knowing what happens to Coulson, I still choke up seeing the Avengers look at the trading cards he had in his wallet). It was also emotional because it was the moment that really made the Avengers assemble for the first time.
#12. Rachel Dawes’ Letter, The Dark Knight
Here, even though this was certainly a poignant, rich and emotional scene, I didn’t exactly cry—it was more of an, “Aww, that’s really sad” frown from me. Rachel Dawes, as a character, was a bit hard to connect to emotionally, so her death didn’t hit quite as hard as it could have. She’s certainly no Lois Lane, or Gwen Stacy. However, the brilliant sentiment of her letter will always stick with me. It perfectly encapsulates why Christopher Nolan was so good at making these Batman movies—the simplicity with which he handles everything, and yet still manages to make the metaphors for symbolism and hope so obvious, is truly commendable. Dawes’s letter was a perfect example of that.
#11. Thanos’s Snap, Avengers: Infinity War
Now, I know some of you may be wondering why the hell this isn’t on the proper list. Everyone cried at “Mr. Stark, I don’t feel so good”, right? RIGHT? Wrong. To be honest, as shocking as the deaths in Infinity War were, it didn’t exactly stick as I left the theater. There are certainly great, iconic moments in the film like the million Doctor Stranges. The reason the death’s didn’t stick as hard was due to all of us knowing Far From Home and Black Panther 2 were on the way.
However, Tom Holland is such a great actor that I had to include this moment, just for his wonderful performance to end the film. Gets me every time.
#10. Yondu, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
At the end of Guardians Vol. 2, Yondu dies to save the life of the child he basically neglected and mistreated. It was an emotional moment for Marvel that worked on multiple levels. While I am personally not a big fan of this film as whole, Yondu’s sacrifice was able to move me to tears. This was a wonderful moment and Michael Rooker’s performance here drove this thing home.
#9. Harry Osborn, Spider-Man 3
Spider-Man 3 is not a movie most audiences look fondly back on, but I do. I’ll never forget going to see Spider-Man 3 in IMAX for the midnight premiere when it came out, and I was just so in awe of everything, so excited to see how Raimi’s trilogy concluded, that I wasn’t aware of any of the flaws in the story. I actually had to take my 3D glasses off to wipe my eyes at Harry Osborn’s death. He was one of my favorite characters, and it was a really heartbreaking moment. As long as I live, I’ll remember it.
#8. Rorschach, Watchmen
Watchmen is such a masterpiece. It’s not only one of the best adaptations of all time, but it’s hands-down one of the best comic-book films in recent memory. Zack Snyder truly nailed every aspect of this beast, from casting, to writing, to cinematography and shot arrangement. And of course, he got me.
This moment, with Rorschach, was the first moment on the list where I actually had to wipe away multiple tears. I’m talking, the kind that go into your mouth and where you feel yourself getting all stuffed up. His death scene always got me and Snyder handled Rorschach’s death impressively.
#7. Tony finds out Bucky’s Betrayal, Captain America: Civil War
This was a really special moment for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The third act of Captain America: Civil War brought a level of emotional stakes unseen to the Avengers. This couldn’t be something that ended lightly or didn’t have huge ramifications for every movie going forward, it was too big a revelation. The gasp that the entire theater let out when it was revealed that Bucky killed Tony’s parents is something truly amazing.
Civil War has its amazing moments and also has divisive moments as well. Regardless, no one can argue the importance of the ending. As shocking as it was, it was Robert Downey Jr’s acting that made this an emotional scene for me. His heartbreak, his betrayal, and his anguish were all so well executed by Downey, it was impossible not to cry.
#6. Gwen Stacy’s Death, The Amazing Spider-Man 2
One of the best things in the Amazing Spider-Man movies, besides the genius casting of Andrew Garfield to play Spider-Man (Marvel should’ve just brought him into the MCU, if you ask me) was the wonderfully developed relationship between Peter and Gwen Stacy. I mean, these were practically romance movies, just because the real-life chemistry between Garfield and Stone—who were actually dating off-screen—leapt off the screen and into all our hearts. Even though Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a flawed film, no one cried harder than me at the beautiful death scene for Gwen Stacy. It’s one of the best death scenes in comic-book film history, and not only the way it was adapted, but the way Andrew Garfield acted the scene… heartbreaking.
#5. Superman’s fate, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Batman v Superman put a whole universe in motion, setting up solo movies for Wonder Woman, Aquaman and The Flash, as well as moving forward the five-part Superman story arc that Zack Snyder was building towards.
Superman’s death will never not get me. I cried the first time I saw it in theaters; I cry every time I watch the film. In conjunction with Hans Zimmer’s beautiful score, and the gravity with which Cavill plays the scene…it’s heartbreaking. Truly heartbreaking. Superman is one of my favorite superheroes of all time, and to see the death of Superman storyline adapted so beautifully on screen is something I’ll always remember. I had goosebumps, chills down my spine, and I was sobbing hard.
#4. First Flight into Wakanda, Black Panther
It may not seem like an emotional moment to a lot of people watching. They may just think, oh, sure, that’s cool, Wakanda looks great, the visual effects are working really well here. But not for me. Me? I cried my eyes out here. Not at Killmonger’s death—which was also beautiful, but I wasn’t crying the way I was here. Not even at the scenes in the ancestral plane. I cried entering Wakanda for the first time, because it was just so beautiful to see the fictional city so beautifully adapted from the comics, with Ludwig Goransson’s theme soaring up in the background—a city where things like racism and white supremacy could not exist, could not thrive. For a lot of us, Wakanda served as a shining city on the hill, the perfect reminder of what could have been. And I will always cry when I see that scene.
#3. Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman
The death of Steve Trevor really got me. It was so perfectly handled, with the score, and the expression on Gal Gadot’s face as her man got blown to smithereens… Oh, I’m just choking up to think about it now. In all seriousness, Chris Pine blew me away with his acting here. The slow acceptance in his eyes as he realizes that there is truly no way out of this, he must sacrifice himself, and he will never see Diana again. It’s impossible to sit through it and not cry. This was a continuous sob-fest—I was a mess for a long while after I left the theater seeing Wonder Woman, not just for this scene, but for the film overall.
#2. No Man’s Land, Wonder Woman
I know it’s sort of cheating to put one movie on this list twice, but I don’t care. I really racked my brain to think of the hardest I’ve ever cried watching a superhero movie, and Wonder Woman was the first film to come to mind. As sad as Steve Trevor’s heroic death was, as hard as it was to watch Diana’s face as he was taken from her… this was exponentially more emotional for me. After an ENTIRE movie of men telling her no, she can’t act, she can’t save the people, she can’t help… seeing Diana turn to Steve with her tiara on and triumphantly say, “No, but it’s what I’m going to do.” And then to see her, Wonder Woman, my favorite superhero, climb over that barrier, all on her own, no help from any man or anyone else, and walk across the field defiantly, blocking the bullets and saving the day ALL BY HERSELF…
I cried so hard that by the end of the scene that I had a headache. I cried so hard that the people around me were looking at me funny, like, Is this really that deep for him to be crying like this? But yes. It was.
And finally, the most emotional superhero moment…
#1. Logan’s Sacrifice, Logan
It was really difficult to decide between these two scenes for the most emotional. In the end, I had to go with Logan. Here’s why: Logan is such an artfully, masterfully crafted film that it felt criminal to ignore its ambition. It’s The Dark Knight for today’s audiences. In a landscape of formulaic blockbusters that don’t have anything to say, Logan came in with his claws out, his teeth bared, daring someone to ignore the profound messages James Mangold and company inserted into the film’s third act. And, as much as I love Wonder Woman, Wolverine is a character I’ve followed for almost twenty years. That’s all of my life. And seeing him die is a pain I don’t even think I can fully explain. It’s something I’m still not quite over, something that still makes me cry just to think about it. This is the most emotional moment in a superhero movie for me. Ever.
So what do you think of my list? And what are your most emotional moments from superhero films? Let us know!