We have reflected on Pixar's filmography and have discussed what made these movies so great, or so bad. But one thing a majority of Pixar films have in common is the way they are able to channel our emotions and make us feel happy or extremely sad.
For this list, I wanted to focus on the sad aspects of Pixar's filmography because let's face it... we've all cried during a Pixar film. Whether it was the ending of Monsters, Inc. or the "married life" segment of Up, these films have brought us to tears or at least to a moment of, "wow that was really sad."
I will give a heads up that this list will include spoilers, so if there are any Pixar films you haven't seen you might want to take a pass or at least skip over sections that would spoil anything for you. I will also give a disclaimer that although this list is in numerical order, it's not in any specific least to most sad moments so give that some thought before blowing up the comments section. You will also see multiple moments from the same movie because movies can have more than one sad moment.
Disclaimer: This list contains spoilers and is in no particular order
15. Toy Story 3 - The toys face the incinerator
Kicking off the list with one of the biggest daggers in the heart for my age bracket, we follow the group of Andy's toys as they are attempting to escape the garbage dump. After being tricked and left for dead by Lotso, the group is sent down to the garbage incinerator where instead of fighting it, they accept their fate together as a family.
I remember seeing Toy Story 3 in theaters and seeing my dad crying at this moment. To see the toys holding hands and accepting their fate together, especially Buzz and Woody, was just horrible. It did have a semi-happy ending because the toys are saved at the last minute, but it is still super sad.
14. Cars - Doc's story
Cars is pretty hit or miss for people, but Doc Hudson's story was a pretty sad one. We learned through flashbacks that Doc was sidelined by a racing accident after winning three Piston Cups. Doc believed his return would be a grand event, but in the end he found that people had forgotten about him and didn't want anything to do with him. He decided to retreat, retire, and live a quiet life in Radiator Springs.
13. Brave - Merida rips the family tapestry
Pixar attempted to break from the standard damsel in distress mold with Brave, but the film unfortunately fell flat for most viewers. However, that didn't make this moment any less sad for viewers.
When confronted by her mother for not being lady-like, Merida lashes out at her mother and her expectations for how she should act complete with destroying a long standing family tapestry. This resonated with a lot of people as you were forced to think about arguments and disappointments we've all faced with our parents and how much of a struggle it can be to just be ourselves despite any expectations of us.
12. The Incredibles - Mr. Incredible thinks his family is dead
A brief sad moment in an action-packed animated film, this moment when Mr. Incredible believes his family to be dead grounds you back in reality for a second.
After being captured by Syndrome, Elasitgirl and the kids show up to attempt to rescue the patriarch of the family only to have their jet shot down by the supervillain. The family lives, but in the moments that Mr. Incredible believes his family to be lost you see how a strong man can be hollowed out and broken.
11. Finding Nemo - Marlin leaves Dory
Throughout Finding Nemo we are watching a friendship develop between Marlin and Dory as they search for Nemo. It isn't until they are led to believe that Nemo is dead that Marlin decides to abandon his forgetful friend to fend for herself in unfamiliar waters.
Dory begging Marlin to stay because she feels so connected and safe with him is what makes the dagger slide even farther in. You feel so sad for her and you want to believe that she can be happy, but that's only possible with Marlin and he chooses to leave her. *sniffle*
10. Inside Out - Riley runs away
Inside Out tapped our emotions pretty much the whole time, but I found Riley's depression leading to her making the decision to run away to be very sad. What amplifies our emotions is when she makes the choice to get off the bus and return home. After being greeted by her parents she tearfully collapses in their arms and finally expresses the sadness she's felt since they moved from Minnesota to California.
Anyone that has moved away from where they called home and left their friends behind was able to relate to Riley and brought back some sadness we've all felt.
9. Toy Story - Buzz learns he is a toy
Buzz believes he's a real space ranger throughout the entire first part of Toy Story, but it isn't until he is stuck at Sid's house that he learns the sad truth of his existence. While trying to find an escape route, Buzz see's a Buzz Lightyear action figure commercial on the television and realizes that Woody was right all along about Buzz just being a toy.
The sadness gets even worse as Buzz, in denial, leaps from the stairs to try and fly out a window only to crash to the ground breaking his arm off. It's at that moment he fully realizes that he is just a toy and it's sad for just about everyone watching.
8. Monsters, Inc. - Sulley says goodbye to Boo
Monsters, Inc. is full of quite a few sad moments and most are surrounding Sulley and Boo, but it isn't until Sulley is forced to return Boo to her bedroom that the waterworks really start flowing. By returning Boo it comes to light that Sulley can't see Boo ever again and that once he steps out of her closet, her door must be shredded to prevent her from ever seeing Monstropolis or Sulley again.
Sad enough, right? Well, it gets even more sad when Boo hops out of bed and opens her closet door expecting to find Sulley on the other side but only sees her closet. Pixar might as well have just ripped our hearts out.
7. Toy Story 2 - 'When Somebody Loved Me' (aka, Jessie's story)
This was probably the first Pixar moment that actually made people weep. When confronted with possibly never seeing Andy again, Woody is given a reality check when Jessie shares her story of being forgotten and donated by her previous owner, Emily.
The segment shows Emily playing with Jessie, similar to how Andy loved Woody, only to be shoved under the bed and forgotten for years until she cleans out her room. After rediscovering Jessie, she is taken for one last car ride only to to be abandoned in a donation box. As if Sarah McLachlan's ASPCA commercials weren't sad enough, this song is enough to make people cry every single time.
This is easily one of the saddest and most heartbreaking moments that Pixar has delivered.
6. Inside Out - Bing Bong's entire storyline
As far as Riley's emotions went, I found Bing Bong to be the most sympathetic character because although he was once her favorite and had big plans for her imaginary friend he had been almost long forgotten. Throughout his interactions with Joy and Sadness he was constantly relaying excitement for his plans to take Riley to the moon, but he was so blinded with denial and believed it would happen as long as he could get to headquarters with the lost emotions. What he didn't realize was that he was fading in Riley's memory.
Bing Bong's exit is the saddest moment within his storyline as he sacrifices his desire to play with Riley once more to ensure that Joy got back to headquarters so Riley could be happy forever. It was definitely a tearful moment.
5. Ratatouille - Ego's flashback
Ratatouille was more of a happy movie than sad, but I thought this moment was worth mentioning because we've all had these memories flash into our minds at some point.
Upon expecting to be underwhelmed and disappointed once again, famous food critic Anton Ego is surprised after being served ratatouille at Gusteau's restaurant as it reminds him of being a child and having his mother comfort him with the dish. This moment might be more adorable than sad, but it enough to make you cry if the memory is strong.
4. Finding Nemo - Coral dies
Quite a way to start a movie, eh?
Finding Nemo starts with Nemo's parents, Marlin and Coral, as they look onto their abundance of eggs soon to hatch. That is until a barracuda is seen swimming through the waters near their home. Coral decides to swim to protect her soon to be born babies instead of swimming to safety with Marlin.
Marlin awakens after being knocked out to find his wife and all but one of his children were eaten by the barracuda. At that moment he promises to forever protect the damaged egg containing Nemo.
3. Toy Story 3 - Andy gives his toys away
In a movie filled with tears, they flowed even harder as Andy decides it's best to donate his toys to Bonnie, the daughter of a family friend. As he goes through with his decision, we get to see him say his final goodbyes to each toy, including his best pal Woody. The most heart wrenching moment is no doubt when Bonnie reaches for Woody and Andy pulls him away from her.
This was sad on multiple levels as it felt for a lot of people in my age bracket like we were giving these toys away, too. Hearing Andy tell Bonnie why these toys were special and how they helped him through and also seeing the toys be played with by Andy one last time was just heartbreaking.
2. WALL-E - WALL-E doesn't remember Eve
WALL-E was another film to have quite a few tearful moments, but the ending was perhaps the saddest. After sacrificing himself to ensure the Axiom space vessel returns to Earth with the plant, Eve is forced to think quickly and replace the broken parts so WALL-E could live. Upon replacing his broken pieces, his memory is lost and he has no sense of who Eve is and starts doing what he was programmed to do... making trash cubes.
Seeing how hard WALL-E fought to get Eve's attention in the first place and seeing the robots fall in love, him not remembering who she was might as well have just been a slap in the face.
1. Up - Carl and Ellie's love story
Anyone who says the beginning of Up didn't make them cry is a filthy liar.
Pixar delivered perhaps the most emotional segment in animation with the beautiful reflection on the married life of Carl and Ellie. The full segment that is approximately 10 minutes long follows the couple from childhood to the eventual 'till death do us part moment and it's better than most live-action movies portray love and marriage. It's happy and sad at the same time.
After Carl and Ellie are married, we learn that Ellie is infertile after suffering a miscarriage but it shows the couple's resilience as they make plans to travel together only to have normal life challenges get in the way. As the couple becomes elderly, we see Ellie get sick and frail and eventually we say goodbye to Ellie as she passes away.
Hungry for more Pixar? Check out my posts ranking Pixar's filmography and Pixar's villains!