The all-time greatest happy endings in films

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There's no joy quite as visceral as crying tears of happiness over your favourite film ending, glass of white wine in one hand and a clutch of tissues in the other. If you haven't tried it yet, we highly recommend it; it's wonderful, cathartic stuff.

In fact, the mere mention of certain scenes - "Daddy, my daddy!" from The Railway Children, or "I love you, Molly. I've always loved you" from Ghost - are enough to make certain Stylist staffers well up with the sheer emotion of it all.

No matter if we've watched them a gazillion times before, these film finales are guaranteed to give us goosebumps and re-watching them brings all the delicious anticipation and promise of being wrapped up in the moment with a good old feel-good weep.

Behold our pick of the greatest, most tear-inducing end scenes from movie history, from Babe to Shawshank Redemption and E.T.

Warning: Multiple spoilers alert! Don't read on if you don't want to find out how these films end

  • It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

    "Remember no man is a failure who has friends"

    It would take a hardened soul indeed not to be moved by this king of cinematic happy endings. George Bailey thinks he's lost everything and is contemplating suicide one fateful Christmas Eve night in Bedford Falls. But then guardian angel Clarence descends to show him what life would have been like if he'd never been born for the residents of his town; and it's not a pretty vision. With a renewed sense of vigour for life, George returns to the heart of his loving friends and family to conclude that life really is wonderful.

    Watch it here

  • Ghost (1990)

    "I love you, Molly. I've always loved you."

    Molly and Sam might not be able to enjoy erotic pottery sessions together anymore but thanks to the supernatural powers of Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg) they're reunited one last time after Sam's tragic death to say goodbye. As the orchestral version of Unchained Melody rises and swells, Sam tells Molly he loves her, she replies "Ditto" and he disappears into the afterlife one last time. Leaving us in floods of tears.

    Watch it here

  • Babe (1995)

    "That’ll do pig, that’ll do"

    What had the potential to be a naff kid's animation managed – in the expert hands of director George Miller - to become a film so loved and celebrated that we watch it time and time again. And when it comes to tearjerkingly joyful final scenes, they don’t come much better than this. The final scene of Babe sees the charismatic pig who dreams of being a sheepdog charming a flock into doing just as he wants. The crowd go wild, the snooty judges put aside their disapproval, awarding him top marks and – most important of all – his proud and gentle adoptive "father" Arthur Hoggett utters the simple reassurance "That’ll do pig, that’ll do". Oh the tears!

    Watch it here

  • The Railway Children (1970)

    "Daddy, my daddy!"

    The story of the Waterbury children, forced to say goodbye to their happy life in London and head to Yorkshire after their beloved father is falsely imprisoned, provides one of cinema's most powerful reunion scenes. When oldest daughter Bobbie, played by Jenny Aguter, discovers her father’s innocence and appeals to a kindly old gentleman for help, she holds little hope of justice.

    But days later, as she stands on the platform, a shadowy figure slowly emerges as the train’s smoke dissipates. As she realises that her beloved father has been released, and is finally home, she lets out the famous cry "Daddy, my daddy" - running into his arms with delight.

    Watch it here

  • Shawshank Redemption (1994)

    After a film that has put these two flawed but brilliant men through beatings, injustice and utter despair, this final scene – which sees Shawshank’s protagonists Andy and Red reunited on a beach in Mexico – packs a powerful punch.

    Having struggled to integrate back into society following his release from a 40-year jail term, Red remembers his long-ago promise to visit Andy on a beach in Zihuatanejo. Finally the pair meet with nothing around them but blue sea and freedom and, unsurprisingly, a moment of pure cinematic joy unveils.

    Watch it here

  • Dead Poets Society (1989)

    "O Captain, my Captain"

    The final scene of Dead Poets Society is guaranteed to send a shiver up the spine as the schoolboys tutored by the radical John Keating (Robin Williams) rise up on their desks and pay tribute to the man who opened their eyes to the power of words and ideas.

    In the manner of a truly exceptional teacher, he urged them to break out from their lives of everyday convention , shrug off expectations, embrace their dreams and individuality: "Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary". And against all the odds, and in the face of tragedy, in the end that's what they did.

    Watch it here

  • Life Is Beautiful (1997)

    "Maybe this is all a dream, and in the morning, Mommy will wake us up with milk and cookies."

    Tragicomedy Life Is Beautiful (La vita è bella) is brimming with touching, funny and tear-worthy moments but perhaps one of the more uplifting of them is right at the very end, when little Giosué climbs off the tank and runs to reunited with his mother, Dora.

    "Mama, mama - we won!" he cries, as he's covered with kisses from his elated mum. The fact that it's such a bittersweet victory, brought about by the sacrifice of his father, is enough to make us choke up every time.

    Watch it here

  • E.T. (1982)

    "I’ll be right here"

    Yes we know he’s going back to his family – and that is, of course, a happy thing. Yet as E.T stands at the mouth of the spaceship waiting to take the little round alien back to his people, and Elliot begs "stay" we can’t help but hope his wish would be realised. The heart-breaking goodbye between two unlikely best friends during which E.T promises his cherished friend, "I’ll be right here", gets us every time. A childhood favourite that we’re proud to admit we love just as much today.

    Watch it here

  • Forrest Gump (1994)

    "I'll be right here when you get back"

    After all the heartbreak of Jenny's death, Forrest Gump ends on a high note with Forrest seeing Little Forrest off on the bus on his first day of school.

    You get the feeling that Forrest's life has finally come full circle as he sees waves his son off on exactly the same route as Forrest himself took many years before. It's so right and is the silver lining we were all yearning for throughout this rollercoaster of a film.

  • Brief Encounter (1945)

    "I love you. I love you. You love me too. It's no use pretending it hasn't happened cause it has."

    The dramatic climax of this classic love film - set to the heady swell of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 - never fails to move us. Laura and Alec are so in love, it's so passionate, never of them can say what they really feel; and yet they're breaking it off for the greater good (Laura is married with children).

    And the worse thing is, some random woman comes along and insists on making small talk with them just as they're parting for the very last time. So they never get to say goodbye properly. It's just TOO MUCH.

    Watch it here

  • Tell No One (2006)

    When the final scene of a film is so powerful that - five years after seeing it - you have the YouTube clip bookmarked for times of need, you know it’s a good one. The powerful closing scene of Tell No-One (Ne le dis à personne) is a denouement in every sense of the word; the culmination of a gripping thriller which has seen a traumatised widow chase the ghost of his long dead wife. Or so it seems. If you haven’t seen it then go, do so immediately. If you have then why not jump over here and have a good cry – you know you want to.

    Watch it here

  • Edward Scissorhands (1990)

    "Before he came down here, it never snowed. And afterwards, it did"

    This one is so sad. But so great. But so sad. After being embraced by the community of small-town America, events conspire against Edward Scissorhands (Johnny Depp) and he is driven out of town - to live in isolation forever. But he's warmed by the memory of his one true love, Kim (Winona Ryder), and he makes it snow by making ice sculptures of her forever more. Sob.

    Watch it here

  • Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)

    "I feel better as all these people will live, as long as you remember them"

    The epic story of the power of friendship and its amazing ability to rescue you at your lowest depths was always going to be a tearjerker. But little prepared us for the powerful final scene of this film which sees Evelyn Couch, recently awakened from a mid-life crisis, offer to take in the woman whose stories from the past brought her back to life.

    As Ninny Threadgoode observes the debris that was her much loved house, alone in the world but for a small suitcase, she turns to see Evelyn ready to welcome her into her life and her home. The tears are threatening to fall even as we write this and, while some were disappointed the film didn’t follow the books rather more bleak ending, this was the happy ending we needed at the end of this wonderful tale.

  • An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)

    Granted, it's a little smushy but there's an undeniable feel-good lift to the moment when Zack (aka Richard Gere) literally whisks his love Debra off her feet and carries her out from her beleaguered factory job amid passionate snogs and to the soundtrack of Up Where We Belong.

    After all, who wouldn't be rescued from their dull, unfulfilled day job by a well-dressed sailor... ?

    Watch it here

  • Erin Brockovich (2000)

    Few could fail to be moved by beautiful finale to this film, not least because it's based on real life events.

    Straight-talking Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts) bares her lesser-seen tender side as she tells Donna Jensen, one of her clients who has suffered most through the Hinkley water contamination, about the huge payout she has been awarded.

    Donna breaks down in tears of joy and shock as Erin hugs her and the viewer is drawn into this wonderful, rare David Vs. Goliath moment.

    Watch it here

  • Little Women (1994)

    There are SO many moments which make us cry during this film, Beth dying being the obvious one. So when happy events do occur we’re just as likely to sob our hearts out. When Frederich Bhaer turns up at the house to deliver Jo her book, and then they kiss in the rain - "Will you have me? With all my heart My hands are empty. Not empty now." OH GOD WE’RE CRYING.

    Watch it here

  • Empire of the Sun (1987)

    The most heart-rending family reunion of all time comes about as a young Christian Bale chances across his parents once more, years after losing them in a panicked crowd in Shanghai during the Japanese invasion of World War II.

    Bale's breakthrough performance as young, vivacious Jim sees him suffer all manner of hardships in an internment camp and he grows up more quickly than could have ever anticipated. But at the very end, he gets to be a child once more.

    Watch it here

  • Beaches (1988)

    "There's nothing in the world I want more than to be with you"

    As if the end of Beaches wasn't devastating enough, the producers rank it up a notch with the gut-wrenching scene between CC Bloom and Hillary's daughter.

    CC (beautifully played by Bette Midler) is a most unlikely substitute mother figure, but somehow you know the little girl will be in very safe hands under her guardianship. We're in pieces every time we watch this scene.

    Watch it here

  • Up (2009)

    When an ill-tempered, grief-stricken widow who has checked out from the world- thanks to the help of a lot of balloons and a very nimble house - is confronted with an enthusiastic little boy with nowhere else to go, he has little choice but to take him on his adventure with him. What could have gone done the path of many a saccharine children’s film instead becomes a poignant story about two very different characters who need each other more than they realise.

    In the penultimate scene, young Russell stands scouring the crowd for the man he has grown to see as a father, as he awaits his final Scouts badge. And the happiness on his face when he hears the words "old man coming through" will melt even the coldest of hearts.

    Watch it here

  • Jerry Maguire (1996)

    "I love you. You complete me"

    Tom Cruise and Renée Zellweger have never looked so good together as in the finale of this unexpected rom com hit.

    We get misty-eyed every time we watch Jerry deliver his heart-rendering "you complete me..." speech in front of a roomful of gobsmacked women. And then Dorothy cuts in - "you had me at hello" - and they throw their arms round each other. It's beautiful.

    Watch it here

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Stylist Team