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Heartbreaking Farewells in Film and Television: 10 Tissue-worthy, Ice Cream Binging Scenes

heartbreaking farewells
Jennifer Morrison as Emma Swan and Colin O’Donoghue as Captain Killian “Hook” Jones. Photo Credit: ABC

What is an epic romance if it doesn’t have at least one moment of gut-wrenching angst that leaves you in a puddle of tears? That moment comes in many forms; however, heartbreaking farewells certainly lead the charge. Whether it’s a final goodbye or one that is just a bump in the road on the way to happily ever after, they strike swiftly. Before you realize it, you’ve gone through a box of tissues and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chubby Hubby.

“The course of true love never did run smooth.” -William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Below is a mix of heartbreaking farewells from film and television. Covering both modern and period pieces, this list is by no means exclusive. Fair warning, you may find yourself drowning in feels. Be sure to grab a friend! I know I did!

10 Heartbreaking Farewells in Film and Television

(In Alphabetical Order)

#1 Angel – Angel Gives Up Mortality

Heartbreaking Farewells
Sarah Michelle Geller as Buffy Summers and David Boreanaz as Angel. Photo Credit: The WB Television Network

“I felt your heart beat.”

Confession: I watched Angel for the first time for this list. Originally, I had a scene from Buffy the Vampire Slayer selected. Then a friend recommended, “I Will Remember You.” I’m not sure I can ever forgive her. Buffy and Angel have had their fair share of heartbreaking farewells. Yet, this moment takes the cake. After an unexpected side-effect to demon blood renders Angel mortal, he and Buffy imagine a new future for themselves. However, Angel quickly discovers that as a mortal he can’t protect the woman he loves. So, he sacrifices his mortality for Buffy. Heartbreaking doesn’t even begin to describe the moment Angel tells Buffy. Buffy’s  anguish is unbearable and they share another soul-searing kiss. As the seconds count down, they cling to each other until time takes over.

Related Post: Twenty Years Later, The Romances of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Ranked

#2 Arrow – Felicity Leaves Oliver in Nanda Parbat

Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen and Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak. Photo Credit: The CW

“Well, let’s not say good-bye this time.”

After finding their way back to each other, Oliver and Felicity face yet another challenge that threatens to separate them forever. In exchange for the life of his sister, Oliver agrees to stay in Nanda Parbat and become the next Ra’s al Ghul. Felicity must leave him behind and Oliver must let her go, again. Oliver’s eyes shimmer with unshed tears as he stares down at Felicity. They share the sweetest of kisses, savoring their last few precious moments together. As Felicity walks away, the pain and sorrow on Oliver’s face is gut-wrenching to see. He had a moment of bliss before it all disappeared. Two heartbreaking farewells in a single year is more than any man or woman should have to bear!

#3 Atonement – Cecilia and Robbie Make Future Plans (MAJOR SPOILER! CAUTION!)

Heartbreaking Farewells
Keira Knightley as Cecilia Tallis and James McAvoy as Robbie Turner. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

“A friend of mine has a cottage on the coast. Said we can borrow it when you’re next on leave.”

It’s difficult to put this scene in context because it’s not until the end that you realize this moment was the last time Cecilia and Robbie would see each other. That realization changes the emotional depth of this scene. So, while you’re sobbing at the end of the movie, you’re really sobbing over Cecilia telling Robbie what they will do the next time he is on leave. You’re sobbing as you realize they shared one last, urgent kiss not realizing they would never share another. Fate was not kind to these lovers.

#4 Becoming Jane – Jane Leaves Tom

Heartbreaking Farewells
James McAvoy as Tom Lefroy and Anne Hathaway as Jane Austin. Photo Credit: Miramax

“If our love destroys your family, it will destroy itself.”

Jane is eloping with Tom when she finds a letter to Tom from his mother. In it, she discovers just how much Tom’s family relies on him financially. Guilt sets in and she realizes that no matter how much they love each other, his inability to support her, his family, and any family they might have would come between them. They cannot elope. She’d rather lose him while he loves her than give him cause to eventually resent her. So, Jane leaves Tom with a broken smile and barely audible good-bye.

#5 Casablanca – Rick Bids Ilsa Farewell

Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine and Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

“…..it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Here’s looking at you, kid.”

It’s not until Rick tells Louis to put Ilsa’s name on the letters of transit that Ilsa realizes she isn’t staying with Rick. Rick explains that after promising her they would be together, he realized their time was past. They would always have Paris. Now, the world needed Ilsa’s husband, Victor. And Victor needed Ilsa. So, while Ilsa may think she wants to be with him, she would, one day, come to regret it….and resent him. Rick claims he’s no good at being noble. I beg to differ.

#6 Gone with the Wind – Rhett Walks Out on Scarlett

Clark Gable as Rhett Butler and Vivian Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara. Photo Credit: MGM

“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

What list of heartbreaking farewells is complete if it doesn’t feature Gone with the Wind? Spirited survivor Scarlett O’Hara, at last, realizes her own heart but it’s too late. Rhett adored her and spoiled her until his battered heart could take no more. Despite her tear-drenched pleas, he is done. It’s heartbreaking to watch as Scarlett finally, finally, acknowledges the very thing she spent years fighting – her love for Rhett. She is, at long last, letting go of her naive idealism of love but it’s too late. Rhett is unmoved. He proceeds out the door, delivering a final parting shot when Scarlett asks what she is supposed to do next.

#7 Jane Eyre – Jane Tells Rochester She Must Leave Him

Heartbreaking Farewells
Mia Wasikowska as Jane Eyre and Michael Fassbender as Edward Rochester. Photo Credit: Focus Features

“All is changed, Sir. I must leave you.”

The moment Jane utters those words, Rochester falls to his knees. He begs her to stay. To be his wife in every way but the law. Yet, Jane will not. Her integrity will not permit otherwise. Rochester begins tripping over his words, explaining why he lied. It’s a futile gesture though his story tugs at Jane’s heartstrings. He begs her again to stay and despite her feelings and the temptation he offers, Jane will not sacrifice her self-respect. His hands are on her and he sobs. She resists touching him, only doing so when her resolve begins to weaken. But it’s not to fall into his arms. It’s to push him away, leaving him there on the floor. When it comes to heartbreaking farewells, Jane’s breathless sobs mixed with the plaintive begging of Rochester are worth at least half a box of tissues!

Related Post: 7 Almost First Kisses That Stole Our Breath

#8 North and South – Margaret Leaves Milton

Heartbreaking Farewells
Richard Armitage as John Thornton. Photo Credit: BBC

“Look back…..Look back at me.”

Who can forget the look on John Thornton’s face as Margaret’s carriage bears her away to London? The profound sadness. Anguish. He is heartbroken. He whispers to her, calling to her heart.  Yet, Margaret never looks back. Instead, Mr. Thornton stands alone in the door, snow falling around him, watching the woman he loves leave him behind. This scene is one of those heartbreaking farewells that just guts you every time you see Mr. Thornton’s face and the torment in his eyes.

#9 Once Upon a Time – Hook Stays Behind in the Underworld

Heartbreaking Farewells
Colin O’Donoghue as Captain Killian “Hook” Jones. Photo Credit: ABC

“We’ve already had more time than we were ever meant to.”

Hook is without a heart and thus, he cannot leave the underworld. Emma wants him to come to the surface, to find another way. When they reach the elevator, he refuses to get on. Shocked, Emma refuses to listen. She came to the underworld to rescue him and will not leave without him.  Hook makes Emma listen. There is nothing for him on the surface. Nothing that will let him return to Storybrooke. He will not go to the surface, preferring to say goodbye in private and without an audience. Emma is weeping and Hook cannot stop his own tears. They found true love and now must say goodbye. After sharing another bittersweet kiss, Emma finally gets on the elevator. As it lifts her to the surface, Hook holds her hand until he can reach no higher. He watches her go, tears streaming down his face.

#10 When Calls the Heart – Jack Leaves Hope Valley

Heartbreaking Farewells
Erin Krakow as Elizabeth Thatcher and Daniel Lissing as Jack Thornton. Photo Credit: The Hallmark Channel

“I have to go.”

As far as heartbreaking farewells go, watching the love of your life ride off to an uncertain future has to rank high up there on the angst scale. Elizabeth’s plaintive cry for Jack as he leaves Hope Valley is heartbreaking. Jack immediately turns his horse and races back to her, sweeping Elizabeth into his arms for one more farewell kiss. Not a word is exchanged as they stand closely together. They savor these few extra moments. Finally, Jack and Elizabeth share a final kiss. Then, with one last lingering touch, Jack leaves Elizabeth where she stands.

Related Post: Romantic Moment of the Week – When Calls the Heart’s Jack and Elizabeth

If you’re not too emotionally drained, what did you think? What other heartbreaking farewells would you add to the list? Drop a line in the comments below! I’ll be sure to grab a fresh box of tissue before reading!

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By on May 17th, 2017

About Catherine

Catherine is an avid reader and a self-declared professional binge watcher. It's not uncommon to find her re-watching a series or movie for the umpteenth time and still be crying into a box of tissues. When she's not hiding in her closet to read or watch a show or movie, Catherine is a wife, mother, and, in her spare time, a lawyer.

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2 thoughts on “Heartbreaking Farewells in Film and Television: 10 Tissue-worthy, Ice Cream Binging Scenes”

  1. Where is Outlander??? I can think of two utterly devastating goodbyes. In Season 1, when Claire leaves Jamie in the prison and in Season 2, when Jamie sends Claire back to her own time. Buckets of tears!!!

    • Aw! Like I said above, this list is in no way exclusive. I’ve heard Outlander cannot be watched without a box of tissues! I haven’t seen the series yet, but it is on my list of shows to watch! Thanks for reading!


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