Movies

The Saddest, Most Tear-Jerking Songs In Disney’s Animated Movies, Ranked

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The Incredibles 2 is many things: a wild success for Disney; visually dazzling eye candy; a welcome reprieve from serious superhero movies. It’s also very good, but there’s one thing the long-overdue sequel is lacking: a song that turns you into a puddle of tears. The Incredibles, as a series, ranks fairly low on the list of Disney movies that are most likely to make you cry (it’s not even in the top-10 for Pixar alone), which became all the more apparent when the film was released the same week as the live-action Dumbo trailer. “Baby Mine” equals instant sobbing, but is it the saddest song from a Disney animated movie (which includes Pixar and, in one case, Touchstone Pictures)? Let’s find out!

10. “Goodbye May Seem Forever” from The Fox and the Hound

Saddest lyrics:

Goodbye may seem forever
Farewell is like the end
But in my heart’s a memory
And there you’ll always be

“Goodbye May Seem Forever” would be higher if The Fox and the Hound was a better movie. Overall, it’s mediocre, but this song hits the emotional target. After Amos Slade threatens to kill Tod, Widow Tweed is forced to return her pet fox, who she’s kept in her care, to the woods. Sad pet songs are never not effective.

9. “Not in Nottingham” from Robin Hood

Saddest lyrics:

Can’t you see the tears we’re crying?
Can’t there be some happiness for me?
Not in Nottingham

“Not in Nottingham” was written (and performed) by Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Roger Miller, who also penned “King of the Road” and “Dang Me,” which includes the lyrics, “Dang me, dang me/They oughta take a rope and hang me/High from the highest tree/Woman would you weep for me?” He took that cheeriness and channeled it to minstrel rooster Alan-a-Dale, who sang about the poor imprisoned animals of Nottingham while behind bars himself. He was Disney’s Randy Newman years before he sailed away or had a friend in… me? You know where you can’t have friends: jail. Oo-de-lally!

8. “Out There” from The Hunchback from Notre Dame

Saddest lyrics:

All my life I memorize their faces
Knowing them as they will never know me
All my life I wonder how it feels to pass a day
Not above them
But part of them

The Hunchback from Notre Dame is part of the Disney Renaissance, which ran from 1989’s The Little Mermaid to 1999’s Tarzan, but it’s rarely spoken of in the same breath as stone-cold classics like Beauty and the Beast or Aladdin. That’s not an unfair assessment, but Hunchback boasts some of Disney’s finest animation (the attention to detail paid to Notre Dame is stunning), and killer songs. “Heaven’s Light/Hellfire” is a top-five Disney villain song, while “Out There” is a would-be karaoke mainstay. It’s yearning, and powerful.

7. “Remember Me” from Coco

Saddest lyrics:

Remember me
Though I have to travel far
Remember me
Each time you hear a sad guitar

The expression “is someone cutting onions in here?” is overused to the point of expression. It’s also stupid. If you’re crying, own up to your tears! I am not ashamed to admit I was bawling at the end of Coco, and you shouldn’t be, too. How could you not, after hearing “Remember Me” transform from an upbeat mariachi song to a lullaby to something beautiful that connects Miguel to his great-grandmother? There’s nothing ugly about crying to this poignant song.

6. “When She Loved Me” from Toy Story 2

Saddest lyrics:

So the years went by, I stayed the same
And she began to drift away, I was left alone

What makes “When She Loved Me” (written by powerhouse Randy Newman and performed by Sarah McLachlan) so powerful is that it comes from a place of bitterness and confusion. Jessie doesn’t understand why she was left behind on the side of the road by her owner, with whom she had spent many blissful years together. Those are some very adult themes sung by a toy cowboy in a kid’s movie. The emotionally complex song is a nifty piece of storytelling (instead of clunky exposition, we get an affecting flashback that shows us Jessie’s fears) and maybe should be higher, but every time I think of “Sarah McLachlan” and “sad song,” I’m reminded of that ASPCA ad, and NOPE.

5. “Sally’s Song” from The Nightmare Before Christmas

Saddest lyrics:

And will we ever end up together?
No, I think not
It’s never to become
For I am not the one

A song from The Nightmare Before Christmas was always going to appear on this list — but which one: “Jack’s Lament,” in which Jack Skellington admits that he’s growing weary of the thing that’s supposed to make him the most happy (celebrating Halloween), or “Sally’s Song,” where the 11th word in the song is “tragedy.” It was a close call, but the “Jack’s” was covered by the All-American Rejects and “Sally’s” was performed by Amy Lee, which settled the debate. The Pumpkin King is a poser compared to the Hot Topic emo goldmine that is the woman from Evanescence asking, “Will we ever end up together?”

4. “Wherever You Are” from Winnie the Pooh’s Most Grand Adventure

Saddest lyrics:

I’m empty and I’m cold
And my heart’s about to break
Come and find me

From Winnie the Pooh’s Most Grand Adventure‘s Wikipedia page: “In recent years, the film has developed a cult following among fans for its mature story, characterization, animation, vocal performances, and cinematic score.” You can see all that in the “Wherever You Are” scene, where Pooh, voiced with wistful sincerity by Jim Cummings, asks the moon to come out because he’s “here in the dark, all alone and wide awake.” It’s like this for three nearly-unbearable (sorry) minutes. There’s no moment of cheerfulness, only Pooh saying he “used to believe in forever, but forever’s too good to be true” and lamenting that “when the morning comes and the sun begins to rise, I will lose you.” Christopher Robin ain’t got nothing on Winnie the Pooh’s Most Grand Adventure.

3. “Baby Mine” from Dumbo

Saddest lyrics:

Baby mine, don’t you cry
Baby mine, dry your eyes
Rest your head close to my heart
Never to part, baby of mine

With the possible exception of Pinocchio, Dumbo is the saddest animated Disney movie. It’s about a circus elephant who is mocked for having big ears; his only friend is a mouse (I don’t know why I find this sad, but I do) and, later, some racist crows, one of whom is literally named Jim Crow; and his mother is thrown in circus-jail after protecting her son from some bullies. While locked in a cage, Mama Dumbo sings “Baby Mine,” a tear-jerking lullaby that has made mothers and fathers want to hug their children for decades. In other words:

2. “Married Life” from Up

Saddest lyrics:

N/A

Think of this way. “Married Life” has no lyrics, but you know exactly what song it is (it’s maybe the most famous instrumental of the 2010s — discuss). Composer Michael Giacchino (who rightly won the Academy Award for Best Original Score that year) should have gone with his original title, “That Song From the First Heart-Wrenching 10 Minutes of Up That Will Gut You.”

1. “I Will Go Sailing No More” from Toy Story

Saddest lyrics:

Now I know exactly who I am
And what I’m here for
And I will go sailing no more

“I Will Go Sailing No More” isn’t an obvious choice for number one. It’s not even the most famous song from Toy Story (that would be “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”), but it’s the one that most cuts me to my core. “I Will Go Sailing No More” plays soon after Buzz Lightyear realizes [extremely Woody voice] YOU. ARE. A. TOY. He’s crestfallen, unsure of who he is anymore (been there), and when he tries to fly to infinity and beyond to escape Sid’s house, he crashes to the ground, defeated (definitely been there).

We’ve all been Buzz in this moment at some point — your hopes and dreams are exactly that, fantasies we tell ourselves to get through the day. This scene was effective when I saw Toy Story as a kid, and it’s only gotten more powerfully relevant as I’ve grown into an adult. That’s the beauty of Pixar, those emotionally manipulative bastards.

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