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Posted at 01:14 PM ET, 07/26/2011

Ricky Schroeder weeping in ‘The Champ’: Saddest movie scene ever?


Little Ricky Schroeder, tear inducer. (MGM)
What’s the saddest movie scene ever?

According to science, it’s a moment in 1979’s “The Champ” when Ricky Schroeder cries.

A Smithsonian.com article (found via Vulture) notes that scientists have long used the clip during studies in which they want to elicit feelings of strong sadness.

And lest you think they lazily chose the moment because they have an obsession with Jon Voight and/or the early career of the “Silver Spoons” star, the Smithsonian story also says that a pair of researchers looked at more than 250 movies and clips, testing various ones on almost 500 people before settling on “The Champ.” The two researchers who first gauged the scene’s consistent-weeper potential — Robert Levenson and James Gross — found that Schroeder’s tears over — spoiler alert — the death of his father elicited more sadness than the death of Bambi’s mom.

“I still feel sad when I see that boy crying his heart out,” Gross tells Smithsonian.

Do you agree? Or are there scenes in other movies that, even when watched out of context, are more inclined to cause tears?

Here’s the scene from “The Champ.” My theory on its effectiveness is that, aside from the fact that Schroeder is pretty incredible, most human beings find nothing more heart-breaking than a grief-stricken child. And that’s why it’s a guaranteed sadness-inducer.

But compare it with, say, this moment from “The Sixth Sense” that always guts me. Or the scenes from a few other movies, video of which I have embedded after the jump. Is one of these more inclined to make you break down in the privacy of your office cubicle? Post a comment and tell me which one is the saddest, or whether there’s another cinematic moment (maybe Gonzo singing “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday” in “The Muppet Movie”?) that always puts you on the express train to Sob Town.

A few more weepers for your consideration:

The scene in “Steel Magnolias,” after the funeral. (It’s actually the bit before this, when Sally Field talks about the gift of watching her daughter come into this world and leave it, that kills me every time.)

The exquisitely sad montage, set to music composed by Michael Giacchino, from Pixar’s “Up.”

Oh lord, the end of “E.T.” Dang it, Spielberg, now I need a Kleenex.

And Bambi after his mother’s death. I don’t care if science says Schroeder makes people more emotional, I’m a wreck now. I can’t stand to see a cartoon deer cry in the snow. (For the record, I am not posting any footage from “Old Yeller” because frankly, I don’t need to launch myself quite that far into despair today.)

By  |  01:14 PM ET, 07/26/2011

 
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