The Scientifically Proven Saddest Movie Scene Ever


Have you enjoyed your daily cry yet today? If you’re not in the mood for an emotional roller coaster right now, it’s probably best to avoid this heart-wrenching scene from 1979’s The Champ at all costs. The movie is a remake of a 1931 Oscar-winning film of the same name, telling the story of a washed-up boxer (Jon Voight) who — spoiler alert — dies in front of his young son (played by 9-year-old Ricky Schroder.)

Scientist Robert Levenson and his grad student James Gross began studying how movies elicit different emotions back in 1988. In 1995, they published their findings: the orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally was the most amusing, and the clip above of a child weeping over his father’s body elicited the strongest sad emotions. From Smithsonian Magazine,

The Champ has been used in experiments to see if depressed people are more likely to cry than non-depressed people (they aren’t). It has helped determine whether people are more likely to spend money when they are sad (they are) and whether older people are more sensitive to grief than younger people (older people did report more sadness when they watched the scene). Dutch scientists used the scene when they studied the effect of sadness on people with binge eating disorders (sadness didn’t increase eating).

Since their findings in 1995, The Champ has been used repeatedly by researchers to understand what, exactly, triggers the emotion of sadness in people (from the Cry At The Drop Of A Pin’s to the You Can’t Melt This Heart Of Stone’s). Unofficial Jezebel poll: did this scene make you weepy? It sure as hell got me all riled up (brb, going to call my father to tell him I love him.)

[Smithsonian via A.V. Club]

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