Sports Movie Scenes Guaranteed to Have You Misty-Eyed

Laura Depta@lauradeptaFeatured ColumnistApril 2, 2016

Sports Movie Scenes Guaranteed to Have You Misty-Eyed

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    Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

    If your eyes don't well up just a little during the hospital scene in Remember the Titans or the final fight in Warrior, then you are a hard, hard person.

    The fact is that sports are emotional. It's one of the reasons why people love them, and it's also one of the reasons why so many sports movies have the power to make grown men and women cry.

    The following movie scenes illustrate that point. There is such sadness, joy and overwhelming emotion that crying should be a given. There are moments of ultimate glory and unbearable defeat. The tragedies and triumphs of life are well-represented—sickness, death, love, resentment.

    These are powerful words, people—so much so that the absence of at least a trace of a tear in your eye would be impressive.

    The scenes are not ranked because, really, who's to say what is more emotionally impactful to one person than something else? They are all, however, stirring. So, good luck keeping your eyes dry. 


    Yo Adrian! What’s the most memorable line from your favorite sports movie? From Rocky to The GodfatherCaddyshack and more, the stories behind the movies you love are coming to CNN! The new CNN original series The Movies, from the people who brought you The Seventies and The Eighties, starts Sunday, July 7 at 9 p.m. ET/PT only on CNN.

Braddock Begs for Money in 'Cinderella Man'

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    Cinderella Man is the emotional story of James J. Braddock, a heavyweight boxer who finds himself a victim of the Great Depression, like so many Americans in the 1930s. Braddock, once a title contender, struggles to find work and is forced to go on public relief.

    Perhaps the lowest point of the film occurs when Braddock has to beg boxing bigwigs for money. Russell Crowe's performance will suck the tears right from your ducts, but the most poignant line comes from Paul Giamatti, who plays Braddock's manager, Joe Gould.

    Braddock apologizes for begging, and Gould says, "What in the hell do you have to be sorry about?"

    Ahh, that Giamatti. So good.

    In case you can hold it together up to that point, Thomas Newman's beautiful score should push you over the edge.

Mickey Dies in 'Rocky III'

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    The Rocky series produced many emotional cinematic moments—"Yo, Adrian!" in the second installment, the death of Apollo Creed in the fourth—but a real tearjerker occurs in Rocky III, when Rocky's longtime trainer dies of a heart attack.

    Rocky has just lost to Clubber Lang. He returns to the locker room where Mickey lies dying and tells him it "was a knockout," allowing Mick to believe Rocky won. Rocky urges him to seek medical care, but the grizzled old trainer simply tells Rocky he loves him and fades away.  

    Poor Rocky. Even Sylvester Stallone's gibberish crying can't take away the sadness of the moment.   

'You Had Me at Hello' in 'Jerry Maguire'

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    Here's one for the romantic suckers out there. Jerry Maguire isn't exactly a tearjerker of a movie, but Tom Cruise does make several impassioned speeches that prove his talent goes beyond train jumping in Mission Impossible movies.

    The title character, a big-time sports agent, has an attack of conscience and is ultimately relieved of the duties of his corporate job. As he sets out on his own, he falls for a single mom, Dorothy Boyd (played by Renee Zellweger), but eventually mucks it up with her.

    Jerry ultimately realizes he wants to be with Dorothy and goes to her house to woo her back with the romantic speech to end all speeches. If "you complete me" isn't the greatest pickup line of all time, then nothing is.

    The speech is great, but it's Dorothy's misty eyes as she listens that will make your eyes misty too.

The Final Race in 'Seabiscuit'

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    Seabiscuit, based on the true story of the undersized Depression-era racehorse of the same name (and the excellent book by Laura Hillenbrand), can make you cry out of utter jubilation and crushing devastation with equal emotion.

    When the horse's longtime jockey, Red Pollard, suffers a brutal injury, it's devastating. When Seabiscuit defeats War Admiral in the highly anticipated match race, it's exhilarating.

    But that final race, as Red and Biscuit race together after enduring so much, as Georgie helps them overcome a dismal start to reclaim the lead, now that's emotional.

    Good luck keeping your eyes dry as Red says via voice-over: "You know everybody thinks we found this broken-down horse and fixed him, but we didn't. He fixed us."

Acceptance Speech in 'Brian's Song'

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    Brian's Song can and should move grown men and women to tears.

    Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers were Chicago Bears teammates during the 1960s. They were the first interracial roommates in the NFL, and their real-life friendship was later depicted in the 1971 television movie.

    Piccolo was diagnosed with cancer during the 1969 season. Sayers, having recovered from an injury, was awarded the George S. Halas Award for courage.

    During his acceptance speech, Sayers said, as he recalled in his autobiography I Am Third (h/t ESPN Classic):

    "You flatter me by giving me this award but I can tell you here and now that I accept it for Brian Piccolo. Brian Piccolo is the man of courage who should receive the George S. Halas award. Mine is tonight, it is Brian Piccolo's tomorrow … I love Brian Piccolo and I'd like all of you to love him, too. Tonight, when you hit your knees, please ask God to love him."

    Those real-life words were immortalized by Billy Dee Williams in Brian's Song. Piccolo died not long after the speech in June 1970.  

Betty Spaghetti in 'A League of Their Own'

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    A League of Their Own is one of the best baseball movies ever. A fictional story based on a real women's baseball league, the movie is funny, moving, memorable—everything moviegoers could want.

    The final baseball scene, in which Rockford Peaches catcher Dottie Hinson (probably, maybe?) lets her younger sister win the World Series for the opposition, is as exciting as it is irritating.

    And yet, the realest, most heartbreaking moment comes earlier in the film.

    The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was formed in 1943 as young male players were sent to fight in World War II. In the movie, one female player, Betty Spaghetti, finds out her husband has been killed, a crushing reality for all too many families during that time.

'You Saved My Life' in 'Coach Carter'

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    Warning: Clip contains NSFW language.

    Coach Carter is based on the true story of Ken Carter, a high school basketball coach who put academics above athletics.

    In the movie, Carter locks the players of his undefeated team out of the gym when they fail to meet academic standards (much to the disapproval of the players and supporters).

    Ultimately, the players come around and use the gym to study instead of practice. One player who has been particularly troubled throughout the film, Cruz, recites a passage from Marianne Williamson's book A Return to Love to illustrate the impact Coach Carter has had on his life.

    He ends with, "Sir, I just wanna say thank you. You saved my life."

G-Baby Dies in 'Hardball'

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    Photo by Lance Staedler/Paramount Pictures via Getty Images

    Hardball tells the story of a youth baseball team near the housing projects of Chicago. Keanu Reeves plays Conor O'Neill, a troubled man who agrees to coach the team in order to pay off gambling debts.  

    The team members often face dangerous circumstances in their home lives. One afternoon, a player's younger brother and sort of the honorary team manager, G-Baby, is killed during a gang fight.

    The scene can be viewed here (warning: NFSW language), and it is as gutting and devastating as it sounds.

'Wake Up' in 'The Champ'

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    The Champ is a 1979 movie starring Jon Voight as a boxer taking care of his young son. The boxer, Billy Flynn, ultimately dies after a bout.

    Young Ricky Schroder, playing Flynn's son T.J., won a Golden Globe for his masterful and devastating performance. Unscientifically speaking, it's impossible not to cry watching it.

    Richard Chin of actually called The Champ "The Saddest Movie in the World" and reported researchers have used the death scene to study how likely people are to cry when watching it.

Lou Gehrig's Speech in 'Pride of the Yankees'

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    Lou Gehrig's "Luckiest Man" speech is widely known as one of the most emotional moments in real-life sports history.

    Gary Cooper immortalized the life of the New York Yankees great in the 1942 film Pride of the Yankees, which depicted his playing career, battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and, of course, the speech.

    P.S. If you're wondering what a Babe Ruth look-alike is doing in the movie clip, guess what? That's really him, playing himself.  

Chanting in 'We Are Marshall'

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    In 1970, a plane crash killed almost all of the University of Marshall football team—37 players as well as the coach, team doctors, the Marshall athletic director and 25 boosters, according to

    We are Marshall depicts that story, its aftermath and the healing process for the football program and community.

    A moving scene occurs early on, as the university considers eliminating the football program. Droves of Marshall supporters appear outside the president's office, chanting, "We are Marshall," with the support of surviving team member Nate Ruffin (played by Anthony Mackie), who was not on the plane.

    Honorable mention to Matthew McConaughey's stirring pregame speech in honor of the memory of the fallen teammates.   

The Sack in 'Rudy'

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    Rudy is a classic sports underdog story—the tale of an undersized, under-talented dreamer who walked his way onto the Notre Dame football team through sheer will and a staunch refusal to give up.

    The film shows rejection letter after rejection letter arriving from Notre Dame, and even Rudy's own father didn't think he should waste time on an impossible dream.

    And yet, Rudy eventually got into ND and onto the team. Though there have been some discrepancies pointed out from the real-life story of Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger and the movie, the film's final scene is a true cinematic treasure.

    Tears will pour down your face as the crowd in South Bend chants Rudy's name, before you even realize it.

    Also, Fortune's slow clap is everything.

Radio's Mother Dies in 'Radio'

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    Before he took on the role of O.J. Simpson in American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson, Cuba Gooding Jr. played James Robert "Radio" Kennedy in the 2003 film Radio.

    The film is based on a 1996 Sports Illustrated article by Gary Smith about a mentally disabled adult who befriends a high school football coach.

    In the movie, Radio's mother dies suddenly of a heart attack, and the coach, Harold Jones (played by Ed Harris), goes to his house to console him.

    Gooding's performance is touching throughout the movie, but that scene is particularly raw. 

'Mo Cuishle' in 'Million Dollar Baby'

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    Clint Eastwood and Hilary Swank won Oscars for Million Dollar Baby—rightfully so. Eastwood directed the film and played Frankie Dunn, a boxing trainer who takes on Maggie Fitzgerald (Swank) as a fighter.

    Together, they achieve great success and forge a father-daughter-like bond. After Fitzgerald suffers a debilitating injury in a fight, she asks Frankie to help her end her life. "Don't let me lie here til I can't hear those people chantin' no more." So sad.

    At first he refuses, but ultimately, Frankie sneaks into the hospital. He tells her his nickname for her, "Mo Cuishle," means "my darling, my blood." A tear rolls down Maggie's cheek as he prepares to give her a fatal shot of adrenaline.

Boobie Cleans Out His Locker in 'Friday Night Lights'

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    Warning: Clip contains NSFW language.

    H.G. Bissinger wrote a book about his experiences following the Permian Panthers high school football team from Odessa, Texas, in 1988. That book spawned a movie and a television show.

    In the film Friday Night Lights, the team comes up just short—literally, inches—of a state championship, and the scene of collective despair is undeniably sad.

    And yet, even sadder is the scene involving star running back Boobie Miles as he grapples with the consequences of a season-ending injury.

    Miles, played exquisitely by Derek Luke, puts up a good front clearing out his locker but breaks down when he gets outside and into his uncle's car. He is faced with the very real concern about what will happen to his life without football.  

    It's heavy stuff.

Victory in 'Miracle'

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    Miracle is a movie about one of greatest stories in American sports history—the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team.

    OK, it's the greatest story.

    The upshot is this: An underdog team pieced together with college players defeated the Soviet Union, which was widely considered the greatest hockey team in the world, during a time of great political tension between the two nations.

    Everything about the iconic semifinal victory is captured brilliantly in the film, from Herb Brooks' pregame locker room speech to Al Michaels' immortal call of "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!"

    You will cry because the gravity of the situation is just so big you can't hold it in.

'I'm Here' in 'Creed'

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    Creed, released in 2015 and starring the uber-talented Michael B. Jordan, was the best possible scenario for a Rocky revival. The bond between an aging Rocky and Apollo Creed's illegitimate son, Adonis, makes for rich material.

    Add in Adonis' struggles with his identity and Rocky's battle with cancer, and it's bound to create some waterworks.

    One particularly raw scene shows the two talking at the gym about Rocky's diagnosis. He tells Adonis, "Everything I got is moved on, and I'm here."

    Poor Rocky—again!

'Wanna Have a Catch?' in 'Field of Dreams'

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    Field of Dreams is a classic baseball movie, one of the best of all time. An Iowa corn farmer, Ray Kinsella, builds a baseball field where his corn used to be, and at that field, famous ballplayers long gone come back to life and relive their glory days.

    Most of the film centers on Ray's quest to make sense of mysterious voices, but the heart of the story is really about his broken relationship with his now-deceased father.

    The final scene shows a young version of Ray's father, John Kinsella, on the field in a baseball uniform. They talk for a moment, and as John turns to leave, Ray calls after him, "Hey Dad, wanna have a catch?"

    It turns out that moment was what the voices were all about.

'That's My Life' in 'The Fighter'

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    Warning: Clip contains NFSW language.

    The Fighter is the story of welterweight boxing champion Micky Ward, but it's also about his relationship with his brother Dicky, a former boxer who struggled with drug addiction.

    Dicky, trying to get his life on track, is helping Micky train and is being filmed for a documentary he believes is about a boxing comeback. At one point, he lands back in prison, and there, the documentary airs as the inmates look on. The film reveals itself to be about addiction rather than boxing.

    The scene is painful to watch. Dicky gets up to turn off the television and yells, "That's my life. That's my f--kin' life out there."

Home Run in 'The Natural'

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    Like in Miracle or Seabiscuit, The Natural will have you crying out of happiness rather than despair.

    Roy Hobbs, played impeccably by Robert Redford, overcomes so much throughout the movie.

    Once a touted prospect, Hobbs comes back to baseball years after a shooting derailed his career and proves he still has his natural gifts.

    Hobbs hits a clutch home run to end the movie, and though the stadium light fireworks are a little unrealistic, you're just so darn happy for the guy that you might feel a little moisture in your eyes. That, combined with the triumphant music and that epic slow trot—good stuff.

Final Fight in 'Warrior'

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    Warrior is a deeply human film about two estranged brothers who meet as opponents in an MMA tournament.

    Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy play Brendan and Tommy Conlon. Each has his own demons, motivations and feelings about their alcoholic father, played by Nick Nolte. (In fact, an honorable mention goes to this scene with Hardy and Nolte at the hotelwarning: NSFW language.)

    Brendan prevails in a brutal final fight, which is about as potent a dose of family heartache as there is.

Locker Room Speech in 'Hoosiers'

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    Hoosiers, loosely based on real life, tells the story of a small-town high school basketball team that defies all odds to win the 1954 Indiana state championship.

    Gene Hackman plays Norman Dale, a coach looking for redemption in his own way.

    Before the state championship game, the team sits in the locker room. Instead of giving a grand inspirational speech, Dale merely thanks the team. It is a solemn yet powerful moment, and instead of a "rah rah" at the end, he simply says, "I love you guys."

    And of course, it's OK to cry when Jimmy Chitwood hits that buzzer-beater to win it all, too.

The Boardwalk in 'The Wrestler'

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    Mickey Rourke won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in The Wrestler.

    Rourke plays a washed-up professional wrestler, Randy "The Ram" Robinson, who attempts to make a comeback in the ring and restore a relationship with the daughter he abandoned.

    There is a scene in which Randy opens up to his daughter, Stephanie, expressing regret for leaving her and telling her how alone he is. He says, "I just don't want you to hate me." As their eyes get misty, so will yours.

'That's My Brother' in 'Remember the Titans'

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    Let's talk about one of the greatest smile/cry moments in sports movie history. In Remember the Titans, T.C. Williams linebacker Gerry Bertier has just been in the car accident that paralyzed him from the waist down.

    His teammate and rival-turned-best friend Julius Campbell, played by Wood Harris, goes to visit him in the hospital. The nurse explains that only family is allowed in the room, and Bertier, played by Ryan Hurst, responds, "Alice, are you blind? Don't you see the family resemblance? That's my brother."


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