If you had asked us yesterday what the most tear-inducing movie scene of all time was - not the saddest, but the one most likely to make you cry, regardless of context or emotional investment in the characters - we would have said "the scene in 'The Champ' where the boxer dies and his kid cries."
Honestly, when we were kids, this was the Pepsi Challenge in our neighborhood; no matter what happened, no how much you were prepared for it, 'The Champ' would make you well up. We must have seen that movie 15 times, and we couldn't tell you as single plot detail. But we know the crying scene.
Like everyone, we thought this was something specific to our childhoods rather than some sort of shared experience. Nope. In fact, the scene is so reliably weepy that it turns out scientists have dubbed it the saddest movie of all time. They tried out tons, too:
[The scientists] ended up evaluating more than 250 films and film clips. They edited the best ones into segments a few minutes long and selected 78 contenders. They screened selections of clips before groups of undergraduates, eventually surveying nearly 500 viewers on their emotional responses to what they saw on-screen.
Some film scenes were rejected because they elicited a mixture of emotions, maybe anger and sadness from a scene depicting an act of injustice, or disgust and amusement from a bathroom comedy gag.
The psychologists wanted to be able to produce one predominant, intense emotion at a time. They knew that if they could do it, creating a list of films proven to generate discrete emotions in a laboratory setting would be enormously useful.
Scientists are freaking mean, man. They went through all kinds of scenes, from Bambi's mom dying to Sophie's choice (that's the one that always gets our mom) to 'When Harry Met Sally.' The fake orgasm scene from 'Sally,' they say, is the most reliable for amusement, a revelation that sort of makes us question this whole study, frankly.
But we believe 'The Champ.' That scene is the worst. It's Ricky Schroeder crying over Jon Voight, his dead dad. This is gonna get you every time. Are you ready? Can you take it? We'd shut the door to your office right now, if we were you.
OK, here goes. Here it is:
"The Champ seems to be very effective in eliciting fairly pure feeling states of sadness and associated cognitive and behavioral changes," says one of the scientists. That's one way to put it. Also: WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. Champ, wake up! Wake up, Champ! WAKE UP!!!!
Will Leitch writes for Yahoo Movies.