The 10 Most Emotional Action Movie Scenes

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The third and final film in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Return of the King opens to find Middle-earth on the cusp of great change. Weary hobbits Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) venture further into the dark realm of Mordor, guided by the increasingly desperate Gollum (Andy Serkis), the two-faced former owner of the Ring that Frodo must destroy in the fires of Mount Doom.
Photo Credit: New Line Cinema
March 27th, 2014

When audiences think of emotional movie scenes, action films are normally the last genre that comes to mind. However, even some of the most fast-paced, explosive action films boast emotional scenes that touch viewers in a meaningful way. These 10 scenes are some of the most emotional in action movie history, instilling feelings of sadness, anger and nostalgia in even the toughest viewers.

10. "Se7en" - The Box

In this emotional and disturbing scene, the notorious serial killer who murdered victims based on five of the Seven Deadly Sins leads detectives Mills and Somerset to a remote location to find his final victims. Rookie detective Mills, who moved to the crime-filled city with his wife against her wishes, stays with the killer while Detective Somerset investigates the contents of a mysterious box. Mills soon learns the truth from the ruthless killer, leading him to become a murderer himself as he shoots his gun in a flurry of anger and sadness. This scene is both the climactic scene of the film and one of the most emotional in action movie history, stunning audiences with an amazing performance by Brad Pitt.

 

9. "Saving Private Ryan" - Capt. Miller's last stand

As Captain Miller and his friends face off against enemy forces in a flurry of firing weapons, he drags himself away from the rest of the squad. He fires his gun at an approaching tank as he leans his tired body against a motorcycle. Just as the tank is about to crush him, it is destroyed by a bomb dropped from aerial forces.

 

8. "Casino Royale" - Vesper's Death

James Bond dives underwater and attempts to rescue Vesper, who is trapped in a sinking cage. She stares at him as he attempts to rattle the doors open, but it is no use. She holds his hands one last time before breathing in the water, and when Bond finally opens the doors, it is too late. He rises to the surface and attempts to resuscitate her to no avail.

 

7. "Lethal Weapon" - Suicide Scene

As a Bugs Bunny Christmas special plays in his trailer, a depressed Martin Riggs drinks while staring at his wedding photos. Martin prepares his gun, looks down the barrel and presses it against his forehead. After placing it in his mouth, he places his finger on the trigger but is unwilling to commit the deed, so he breaks down crying as he talks to his deceased wife.

 

6. "The Dark Knight Rises" - Batman's "Death"

As a time bomb initiated by Bane is about to destroy the city of Gotham, Batman makes an enormous sacrifice in using a helicopter to carry the bomb over the bay to be destroyed. He finally becomes the hero that Gotham needs, but loved ones grieve his death, particularly Alfred. However, Alfred finds peace when he spots Bruce Wayne at a restaurant, and he discovers that his beloved friend is alive and well.

 

5. "Mission: Impossible III" - Count to 10

Ethan Hunt is tied to a chair as the criminal Owen Davian points a gun to the head of Ethan's wife Julia, threatening to pull the trigger at the count of 10 if Ethan does not reveal where the valuable object known as the Rabbit's Foot is located. Ethan tries to bargain with Davian, but the latter is cold and unflinching as he continues to count. As Ethan cries tears of despair, Davian reaches the count of 10 and pulls the trigger.

 

4. "First Blood" - Nothing Is Over

When Rambo's previous commanding officer angrily explains that the mission is over and the police will kill him if he does not surrender, Rambo explains that nothing is over. Rambo's monologue cuts to the heart of his feelings of anger and betrayal after the war. He breaks down crying, feeling worthless, confused and overwhelmed by the tragedies he faced during the war. 

 

3. "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" - Spock's Sacrifice

To defeat the evil Khan, Spock makes the ultimate sacrifice for his friends as he saves the Enterprise from sure destruction, subjecting himself to heavy radiation in the process. As Kirk approaches the protective area where Spock is being kept, Spock tells Admiral Kirk not to grieve, sinks to his knees and places his hand on the glass wall as he gives the sign of his people. 

 

2. "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" - Terminator's Thumbs Up

After destroying a cyborg bent on killing Sarah's teenage son, the terminator asks Sarah to destroy him by melting him. Although John vehemently protests, the Terminator insists that he must go. As he is being lowered into the liquid steel, he gives his signature thumbs up to the despondent Sarah and John.

 

1. "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" - Frodo's Goodbye

After defeating Lord Sauron and destroying the Ring, Frodo finishes writing his book amidst the quiet life of the shire. However, when taking his uncle Bilbo to a ship set for the land of the Elves, Frodo reveals to his long-time friends that he is leaving as well. Emotional music and a peaceful atmosphere make this the perfect scene to end the legendary " "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. 

These 10 emotional movie scenes may bring viewers to tears, and they are sure to leave a lasting effect that persists long after the closing credits roll. Despite these movies' action-packed plots, endless stunts and tough actors, these scenes are some of the most treasured from their respective films.