So here's my list of movies at which I'm certain to tear up, no matter how many times I've seen them. For most, the big emotional reaction is at the end, but there are a couple of exceptions.
- It's a Wonderful Life, as already stated.
- Edward Scissorhands. The shot at the end of Edward's eternal memory of unfulfilled love always gets to me.
- Somewhere in Time. Why, oh why, did he have to look at that penny?
- Watership Down. My reaction comes mostly of memory of the book, which gets me so teary at the end that I haven't re-read it in a couple of decades. The one animated version I've seen doesn't visually duplicate exactly what's in the book, but it brings the book vividly to mind.
- The Empire Strikes Back. There have been lots of long drawn-out "NOOOOOOOOOOO"s in cinematic history. None matches Mark Hamil's performance of that line. Hamil does not have a strong screen presence, but his delivery at that moment presages his successful voice-acting career.
- Doctor Strangelove. Slim Pickens' wild "Yahoo!" as he joyfully heralds the destruction of the human race has achieved a new immediacy in light of recent politics.
- Stardust. There were many unnecessary changes from book to film, but there was one change I cannot resist: I'm a sucker for any story that ends "...and they lived happily ever after."