2019's most emotional movie moments

We're fast approaching the end of 2019, and what a year of movies it's been. Plenty of unmissable films and their assorted stars have given our emotions a thorough workout, so we're recapping the most powerful movie moments from the last 12 months.


1. The Favourite – Queen Anne's rabbits

The year got off to a fabulous start with Yorgos Lanthimos' scabrous The Favourite. This account of a triangular love affair between England's Queen Anne and her court advisors throws stuffy convention out of the window thanks to acidic performances and surreal camerawork.

Yet it's also laced with pain and real emotion, embodied by a tremendous, Oscar-winning Olivia Colman as Anne herself, who reveals that she keeps pet bunnies as a tragic reminder of the 17 children she's lost.

2. How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World – Hiccup and Toothless bid farewell

Audiences from all over the world have grown up with Viking Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and dragon Toothless, stalwart heroes of the How To Train Your Dragon franchise, and best buds to boot.

We all knew the end was coming, whereby humans and fire-breathers must adjust to their new place in the world and part company. But that didn't make the scene in this year's The Hidden World any less raw or powerful – it's not just because of the animation and John Powell's emotionally charged score, but also the fact that this series has brilliantly invested us in the friendship over the course of a decade.

Thank god, therefore, that we get a resolution of sorts, reminding us that while this duo have gone their separate ways, they're still deeply connected.

3. If Beale Street Could Talk – Fonny learns about the baby

Barry Jenkins' sublime follow-up to his Oscar-winning Moonlight adapts James Baldwin's hard-hitting novel of racial prejudice in 1970s New York. Jenkins' movie is composed of arrestingly placid long takes, accompanied by Nicholas Britell's surging score, and the performances put a human face on the drama.

The moment where wrongfully incarcerated Fonny (Stephan James) learns that his beloved girlfriend Tish (KiKi Layne) is about to have their baby, but can do nothing behind bars, resounds with both sadness and impassioned anger.

4. Fighting With My Family – Zac is dropped from the WWE trials

Now here was a delightful surprise: the feature film debut from Stephen Merchant, executive produced by Dwayne Johnson, focusing on the unlikely ascension of Norwich wrestler Saraya-Jade Bevis to WWE stardom. That the film works is entirely down to Merchant's observant direction and terrific performances, led by the increasingly impressive Florence Pugh as Saraya-Jade herself.

Yet for all the movie's good humour, it has a darker and grittier side. The moment where Saraya-Jade's brother Zak (Jack Lowden) is dropped from the WWE trials, which stirs up all manner of resentment and disillusionment, hits harder than one of The Rock's piledrivers. Well, probably.

5. Us – Adelaide discovers the truth

Emotion doesn't necessarily just equate to laughs or tears. Shocks and fears also play a part, especially in Jordan Peele's sensational horror-comedy Us. Amid a barrage of memorable dual performances, arresting imagery (all those rabbits and scissors) and politically-charged writing, the real humdinger comes at the end.

During the climax, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong'o) realises she was in fact 'tethered' all along, and the doppelganger Red, whom she's brutally killed, originated above ground. It's a diabolically clever moment that we're still thinking about now.

6. Eighth Grade – Kyla makes amends with her dad

One of this year's finest indie offerings came from comedian/actor turned filmmaker Bo Burnham, perhaps best known for his appearance in The Big Sick. He makes for a remarkably confident helmer, transforming Eighth Grade into a painfully observant, funny and sad depiction of adolescent woes.

The central fractured relationship between teenage girl Kyla (brilliant newcomer Elsie Fisher) and her father (Josh Hamilton) is something many will recognise, which only amplifies the redemptive power of the bonfire scene when they finally make amends.

7. Avengers: Endgame – Tony's funeral

Avengers: Endgame was less a movie and more a once-in-a-generation moment. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) had been building to this for the best part of 11 years, and it didn't disappoint, providing an onslaught of twists, betrayals, character beats, laughs and tears.

And the scene that had everyone wiping away the tears (admittedly, there was more than one) was the historic farewell to Tony Stark/Iron Man himself. The Russo brothers' tracking shot through the funeral to Alan Silvestri's stirring score is one of the year's greatest moments, and a monumental summation of the regard in which the character is held.

8. Booksmart – Bon voyage

Olivia Wilde's accomplished feature film debut, Booksmart is by turns raucously rude and heartbreakingly honest about the perils of teen friendship, not least when one of the parties comes to a fork in the road.

Our central duo of Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever go through a lot of craziness together, yet we know we're headed towards a melancholic ending. It's the kind of bittersweet, profound moment where bidding farewell teaches the characters more about the value of solidarity and growing up than any amount of alcohol-fuelled insanity.

9. Beats – Johnno and Spanner part ways

Director Brian Welsh's terrific movie Beats is a nostalgic, black and white immersion in early nineties Scottish rave culture. The movie pits the euphoric rave scene against the British political establishment of the time, exploring how bonds were formed and friendships forged amid the strobe lights and pulsating rhythms of so-called 'illegal' raves.

Such an instance is the catalyst for the final blow-out between best mates Johnno (Cristian Ortega) and Spanner (Lorn Macdonald). We know that, at the end of the movie, these guys will be forever divided, owing to the fact they come from opposite ends of the tracks. And the tear-jerking finale is truly bittersweet, a classic example of how anarchic, hedonistic memories will always linger, even if best mates are destined never to see each other again.

10. Rocketman – 'I'm Still Standing'

Kingsman star Taron Egerton is simply excellent as troubled British pop supremo Elton John in Rocketman. Dexter Fletcher's movie orbits reality and fantasy, shuffling around the chronology of John's foot-stomping hits to craft an impressionistic, rather than realistic, narrative.

But it would be all for naught without Egerton's performance. Not only does he assimilate the great man's mannerisms, his singing voice is spot on, and the comeback moment set to 'I'm Still Standing', one that follows years of bitterness and drug abuse, is hugely cathartic.

11. Toy Story 4 – Buzz and Woody say farewell

In the run-up to Toy Story 4, there was an ongoing question about whether we needed it. After all, the climax of Disney-Pixar's Toy Story 3 ranks among the greatest in cinema, as Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen) and the gang bid farewell to owner Andy.

Of course, we needn't have worried: the fourth film is resplendent in all the warmth and character depth we've come to expect from Pixar. And it's honest enough to recognise the devastating moment where Woody and Buzz's paths must diverge, even after having been through so much. That emotional maturity is ultimately what keeps us coming back to Pixar.

12. Spider-Man: Far From Home – Peter uses Tony's tech

Tom Holland's sophomore movie as Peter Parker is largely a frothy, globe-trotting jaunt,but it knows how to land some emotive punches where necessary. Having been outfoxed by devious villain Qu entin Beck aka Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), all Peter needs is a pep talk from Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), former friend of Tony Stark, and the final confrontation is on.

But before we get there, we're witness to a lovely scene where the newly matured Peter works with Tony's holograms to form a new suit. This is the moment where the boy starts to become a man, living up to his mentor's formidable legacy.

13. Midsommar – cliff jump

Truly great horror movies like Ari Aster's Midsommar are capable of invoking all manner of contradictory reactions – often within the space of one horrifying scene. The director's follow-up to his skin-crawling Hereditary is more of a hallucinogenic, blackly comic acid trip than a true scare fest, drifting along on a surreal atmosphere of vague threat, and anchored by a sensational Florence Pugh performance.

That said, the moment where a Swedish cult demonstrates one of its grisliest initiation ceremonies is genuinely shocking, aided by the superb filmmaking. As the sound fades into an indistinct warble and Bobby Krlic's woozy score takes over, we're placed inside the rapidly fracturing Pugh's head – a brilliant example of how gore and character development can go hand in hand.

14. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood – Sharon watches herself

Quentin Tarantino's ninth movie (if you don't count Kill Bill volumes 1 and 2 as separate) is a delirious miasma of fact and fiction. How you read the movie is entirely dependent on your knowledge of Tinseltown history circa 1969, chiefly embodied in this case by Margot Robbie as actor Sharon Tate.

In reality, Tate was brutally murdered by the Manson Family, but in Tarantino's world, he joyously reclaims her dignity and reworks her fate. The moment where Tate sneaks into a movie theatre to watch herself in The Wrecking Crew (in which she plays Miss Carlson, "the klutz") is possibly the happiest and most endearing in Tarantino's canon.

15. Blinded By The Light – 'Born To Run'

Gurinder Chadha's uplifting, eighties-set comedy offsets bleak Thatcher-era consumerism with the effortlessly upbeat music of Bruce Springsteen.

The movie explores how the music of 'The Boss' breaks down boundaries and opens one's eyes to the world, a cathartic realisation experienced by central character Javed (Viveik Kalra). The sequence where he and his two friends surge around dreary old Luton to the sound of 'Born To Run' is a classic example of how music dissolves the mundane edges of reality and offers the opportunity to escape, if only for a short while.

16. IT Chapter Two – Eddie dies

In 2017, the first half of Stephen King's terrifying horror tome IT tore up the screen with a blend of coulrophobic, sewer-dwelling horror and wholesome eighties nostalgia. This year, we got the second half, and owing to the oddball nature of King's plotting, it was always going to be the trickier section to adapt.

Yet amidst the near-three-hour plethora of monsters, emotional revelations and character arcs, the quieter moments resonated, and made us realise how much we'd bonded with the Losers' Club. The moment where a devastated Richie Tozier (a standout Bill Hader) bids farewell to deceased friend (and seemingly more) Eddie Kaspbrak (James Ransone) cuts through the noise to evoke tears.

17. The Farewell – Saying goodbye to Nai Nai

One of the year's most beautiful and affecting dramas, The Farewell is drawn directly from filmmaker Lulu Wang's experiences. The movie is the story of a devoted Chinese family who staunchly refuse to inform their Nai Nai (grandmother) of her terminal cancer diagnosis, instead lying for the greater good.

In the central role, comedian Awkwafina turns serious to remarkable effect, demonstrating terrific dramatic chops. And this only makes the inevitable farewell moment harder to bear. (Don't worry, though – the real-life Nai Nai is, amazingly, still going strong after six years, and still unaware of her diagnosis.)

18. Ad Astra – Roy lets his dad go

Brad Pitt has had a barnstorming 2019, what with Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and also philosophical space epic Ad Astra. Writer-director James Gray pitches this as Apocalypse Now in space, and it's not hard to see why as Pitt's introverted astronaut heads off to Neptune to track down his missing father, narrating all the while.

The subtlety of Pitt's performance, whereby character Roy McBride's facade starts to crack, is quietly affecting. Less quiet but just as emotional is the final scene whereby Roy, having tracked down dad Cliff (Tommy Lee Jones), must finally learn to let go. Big emotions run rampant against the coldness of space in this visually arresting treat.

19. Joker – bathroom breakdown

Joker was arguably the biggest talking point of the autumn movie season, propelled to staggering box office success off the back of Joaquin Phoenix's ferociously committed performance.

He plays Arthur Fleck, a struggling, aspiring stand-up comic whose litany of emotional and physical humiliations hastens a transformation with serious implications for Gotham City. The moment of Arthur's emotional freefall, a quasi dance routine in a bathroom set to the despairing cellos on Hildur Gudnadottir's score, is both deeply sad and highly disturbing – a standout scene that reminds us of what Phoenix is capable of.

20. Judy – phone call to the children

Like John Wick star Keanu Reeves, actor Renee Zellweger has experienced a resurgent career boost in 2019. She stuns as tormented Hollywood icon Judy Garland in Judy, never sanding down her abrasive, drug-fuelled edges, but always making us care deeply for a talented individual who was horribly abused by the Hollywood studio system.

The movie shows us the twilight years of Garland's career as she was compelled to perform 'Talk of the Town' in London, far away from her children. The moment of emotional collapse during a telephone conversation is a powerful reminder that there's more to Zellweger than Bridget Jones.

21. Le Mans '66 – remembering Ken

For a movie so high on fumes both actual (all that Ford GT action) and figurative (one can practically smell the testosterone), Le Mans '66 has a surprisingly bittersweet sting in the tail. Those unfamiliar with the shared history between car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and racing driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) will likely have been poleaxed by the ending, centering on Ken's shocking automotive death just two months after completing Le Mans (although, controversially, not winning).

The climactic moment of resolution between an affecting and powerful Damon, and an equally impressive Noah Jupe as Miles' son Peter, invests this roaring, turbo-charged drama with notes of sensitivity.

22. Frozen 2 - Olaf fades away

The world of Frozen is built as much around friendship as it is around the bonds of sisterhood. And cuddly snowman Olaf has been there alongside siblings Anna and Elsa since the beginning - his creation was foretold at the beginning of the very first Frozen, before his sentient nature became a delightful reality.

That's why the scene midway through Frozen 2, in which Elsa's discovery of her evil grandfather's misdeeds leads to self-sacrifice, has such heart-wrenching consequences. If she stops, then by definition the magic within Olaf must stop too, leading to the most heartbreaking use of a snow flurry since Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands. The top-notch voice acting from Josh Gad and Kristen Bell (as Anna) helps enormously - although thankfully, it all works out with a happy ending, looping back around to that classic tune, 'Do You Want To Build a Snowman'.

23. Jumanji: The Next Level - Milo stays in Jumanji

In 2017, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle emerged as a wonderful surprise, not least because it afforded Dwayne Johnson the best possible opportunity to demonstrate his comic chops. Sequel The Next Level is just as hilarious, particularly in the scenes where Johnson's avatar Smolder Bravestone brilliantly assimilates the mannerisms of the grouchy (and decidedly non-muscular) Danny DeVito.

That said, The Next Level also packs a surprising emotional wallop during the climax. It occurs when Danny Glover's ageing character Milo, trapped inside the body of a winged horse, opts to stay within the Jumanji video game - he reasons that, with nothing left in his ordinary life, the opportunity "allows him to fly". It's so genuinely sweet and moving that we forget we are sympathising with an equine character.

24. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – John Williams signs off

Composer John Williams' achievement with the nine-film-long Star Wars saga is nothing short of astonishing, surely the 21st century equivalent of Wagner's 'Rings Cycle' or Beethoven's Ninth. Since 1977, Williams has interwoven a remarkable plethora of character themes that capture the multifaceted emotional truths lurking within a galaxy far, far away.

It's more than a little heartwrenching to see him bow out from Star Wars with The Rise of Skywalker, but he does so triumphantly with a score that is by turns joyous, scary and utterly beautiful. Who will be brave enough to pick up the baton for the next round of movies is anyone's guess at this stage.

25. Little Women – Jo's book is published

Writer-director Greta Gerwig scrambles the timeline of Louisa May Alcott's classic 1868 novel, refreshing a property with which millions of people are familiar. Past and present, old and young, triumph and despair all criss-cross as the film zips between the older and younger March sisters, before it all reaches an appropriately celebratory climax.

We're witness to breakout writer Jo (a typically excellent Saoirse Ronan) as she synthesises her myriad life experiences into the novel that will become known as 'Little Women'. Alexandre Desplat's accompanying score is attractive yet purposeful, a perfect summation of life's contradictions, not to mention a terrifically rhythmic mirroring of the printing press on which Jo's novel comes to life.

Well, that's our list of the most emotional movie moments of 2019, and now we want to hear from you. Tweet us your choices @Cineworld.

With 2020 just around the corner, don't miss out on the magic of cinema. With a Cineworld Unlimited card, you can enjoy the greatest actors and the biggest movies for a set monthly price, and you'll even get to watch movies in advance of their release date. Click here to join Cineworld Unlimited.