For whatever reason, a character is moved. But this guy is made of strong stuff: He is beyond blubbering and won't turn on the waters works. He dammed up the Sparkling Stream of Tears and had his Ocular Gushers surgically removed. And he promised himself! He is not going to cry.
Well, maybe just one drop.
A Single Tear happens any time someone (man or woman) cries only one teardrop. If a being is generally incapable of crying, this is a sign that he is genuinely upset. The tear can be shed for anything, from patriotism to pollution, but the more traumatic, the better.
Compare with Manly Tears, which can often overlap with this.
One reason for this is that it's difficult even for actors to cry on command, so filmmakers sometimes use an eyedropper to put liquid in the actor's eyes just before a crying scene. Of course, you can only squeeze so much water out before the next take, leading to this. Also shows up frequently in animation, because it's easier to animate. It's actually older than film, though: Dante mentions it in the Divine Comedy.
Not quite a Discredited Trope; lots of examples are parodies, but there are still many, many works that play it straight.
- The best-known example is probably the Crying Indian. He even has his own trope!
Anime & Manga
- Sailor Moon
- In the arc where Mamoru breaks up with Usagi for her safety, he cries a single tear onto his motorcycle helmet.
- Also, Usagi's single tear when Mamoru is wounded in the battle with Zoicite is how she is revealed as the moon princess. The one tear also forms the Silver Crystal.
- The Oosawa Mitsuki adaptation of Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War loves this trope.
- One Piece
- Whitebeard. The strongest man in the world sheds a tear at the death of Ace.
- Genzo sheds a single tear when he hugs Nami and tells her that the whole village knew her secret all along.
- Shadow Man in Mega Man Megamix, a Darker and Edgier Adaptation Expansion of the Mega Man games, starts laughing and is finally shown to shed a single tear when he realizes that his home has been destroyed, all the other Wily Numbers have been massacred and he wasn't even able to die an honorable death in battle with them since he had to get Dr. Wily to safety. It's especially dramatic since until now this character has been The Stoic and his reaction to the death of Copy-Rock was to vow revenge.
- Naruto: Gaara does this following talking to Sasuke before their fight in Part II.
- One hears, in parodies, of Mary Sues crying a single perfect crystalline tear, but that may be a Dead Unicorn Trope.
- In Bobmin's Healing Harry, one of the flashbacks has past!Harry drop a single tear, which disturbs present!Ginny much more than anything else, given that she knows how he was treated at the Dursleys.
- In My Immortal, Ebony cries a single tear when she's sent to her Ironic Hell in the hacker chapter.
Films -- Animation
Films -- Live-Action
- Anakin Skywalker, after murdering hundreds of Jedi and all the helpless separatist leaders, showed that there is still humanity and decency inside him as he sheds one of self-hatred in Revenge of the Sith.
- Trip's single tear in Glory probably earned Denzel Washington the Academy Award.
- Oren Ishii cries a single tear at her mother's murder in Kill Bill's "The Origin of Oren Ishii". She probably would have cried more, but then the bed started weeping blood...
- The Fellowship of the Ring
- After Gandalf dies in the film version, Frodo does this. (A while after. He's sort of a screaming sobbing wreck for a while.)
- A straighter example would be Gandalf himself in Return of the King when he sees the Dark Tower tumbling down.
- Also Aragorn when Boromir dies. Manly Tears, indeed.
- Wormtongue has one he sees the army of Uruk Hai, though in this case it's more of a My God, What Have I Done? moment than actual grief.
- The King of Qin in Hero sheds a single Manly Tears when he realizes the man who most understands him is his most hated enemy.
- In Velvet Goldmine, the stone-cold pretty boy Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) sheds one single tear after breaking up with his boyfriend Curt Wilde (Ewan McGregor), at the end of his performance of "Bitter-Sweet".
- A Matter of Life and Death: When the ghost of Peter Carter kisses his one true love June, a single tear falls from his eye. More interestingly, although she is petrified and in another time altogether she also sheds a single tear - which is later used as proof of her love for him.
- The eponymous character in Cry-Baby, as well as several others over the course of the film. It's mainly used for comedic effect.
- Strangely enough, Halloween's Michael Myers has a Single Tear moment in the fifth film... before reverting back to his Complete Monster self, of course.
- In Dark of the Moon, Sam sheds one when it seems like he's about to be forced to watch Bumblebee, who's probably his closest friend in the world, be executed by Soundwave right in front of him. Fortunately, this doesn't happen.
- In The Passion of the Christ after Jesus dies on the cross, a single drop of rain falls from the sky.
- This viral ad for Prometheus shows David shedding a single tear after being asked what makes him sad.
- As mentioned above, it pops in Dante's The Divine Comedy, specifically in the first few cantos of Purgatorio. There is a soldier mentioned who is a brutal, bloody bastard his whole life, but when he is struck down in battle he cries a single tear of repentance, which is enough to send him to Purgatory instead of Hell.
- Almost all of the flashback scenes in Inheritance Cycle involve a single shining tear. This one happens so frequently that Anti-Shurtugal, an anti-fan's website's tagline was, "where we shed many single tears."
- This also shows up a lot in Chronicles of Blood and Stone, including a two-tear variation (one per eye.)
- This happens to Albus Dumbledore near the end of Harry Potter.
- The Xanth novel, Yon Ill Wind, follows a bet between the Demon X(A/N)TH and his fellows. In order for him to win, a young woman has to shed a single tear for him. It's her last tear.
- Xaro Xhoan Daxos does this while trying to convince Daenerys of his love for her, but she's not fazed as she's aware that it's an act. Apparently, the Qartheen are able to cry a single tear at will.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation
- The clue that Sarek has Vulcan Alzheimer's was he was moved to one tear while listening to a (Mahler?) recital.
- Also, when Picard is in the process of getting Borgified, a single tear shows that he is still there underneath the Borg uni-mind that has suppressed it.
- Dean Winchester of Supernatural. Heck, there's even a drinking game based on each time this happens.
- Jim Profit cries a single tear when he kills his father in the pilot. Justified because he's a Heroic Sociopath who does not understand these strange human things called emotions.
- Parodied in Hyperdrive when a robot sheds an oil tear in the narmy Show Within a Show Captain Helix.
- Parker of Leverage cries a single tear when she hears Hardison pull off a difficult violin solo perfectly. It screws over the team's heist. Worth it? Hell yes.
- Emily in the season 4 finale. Her eyes are watery as a very watery thing, but only one tear gets out.
- Rich does it as well when watching Grace at the ballet.
- Doctor Who
- The Doctor, at the end of "Doomsday". Well, he had more than a single tear there, though he was crying silently.
- Another example is Nine's Single Perfect Tear in "The End of the World".
- Also Amy, near the end of "Victory of the Daleks".
- In the Korean Drama Bad Boy, most of the main characters, male and female, do this on occasion.
- In the Friends episode "The One where the Stripper Cries", in a flashback to 1987, Chandler, for comedic effect, sheds a single tear upon learning that Ross broke one of their college pacts.
- Flight of the Conchords, "Albi the Racist Dragon":
"And at that, Albi cried a single tear, which turned into a jelly bean all the colours of the rainbow!"
- Big Bird has one during his song "I'm So Blue" in Follow That Bird.
- Midna sheds a single tear at the end of The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess, when she must leave Hyrule. Interestingly, after Midna materializes through the portal, the tear itself breaks the Mirror of Twilight, severing the only known bridge between the Light World and the Twilight Realm.
- Shadow sheds a tear during the final ending of Sonic Adventure 2: Battle during his realization of Maria's promise.
- A significant plot point in Wild ARMs 5, occurring in the first hour, whose importance is only revealed all the way at the end of the game.
- Ophelia at the end of Brutal Legend cried a single tear. It was black, implying there was still some traces of the Sea of Black Tears in her.
- Metal Gear Solid 3
- The ending, wherein Snake sheds a singular tear at the grave of The Boss, his teacher and "mother", whom he was forced by politics to kill. Notable here is that, unlike many other characters that cry a single tear for whatever reason despite having both eyes in perfect working order, Snake has the excuse of having one eye fried by muzzle flash and the tear ducts around it damaged.
- Also, The Sorrow. Though that's because he got SHOT in that eye thus likely causing the single tear but you know... Boss just squeezes out like 2 tears as well(though she probably could have cried more). Manly tears indeed.
- Averted with Otacon (though he's not the epitome of manliness) who bawls like a bawling thing at the drop of a hat.
- From Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep, Terra when Master Eraqus dies and Aqua during the Say My Name segment of the secret ending. Quite the Tear Jerker in both cases, although the latter example is more hopeful. Also Sora once he starts feeling Ventus' heart and taking it in, and thus starts feeling by magic heart-to-heart empathy what any sane person would feel after that ending. Notably, since Sora's feeling it by proxy, he doesn't even know why he's letting out that single tear.
- From Kingdom Hearts 358 Days Over 2, Roxas gets one when he kills Xion at the end of the game.
- From Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+, after Sora fights Roxas and beats him, an extra cutscene not found in Kingdom Hearts II initiates, with Roxas and Axel on the clocktower in Twilight Town. At the end of the cutscene, Roxas says he has to go back to Sora, Axel and Roxas say their goodbyes, and a single teardrop is shown falling and disappearing. There was no indication of the person who cried, whether Roxas cried again, or if Axel, also a Nobody, is the one who cried.
- In King's Quest VI Heir Today Gone Tomorrow, if you challenge the Lord of the Dead for the sake of two mortal souls, he defies you to make him cry. You can do so by showing him the mirror of truth, which recants his terrible history, to the point that the mirror itself shatters from the strain- and Death cries a single tear.
- In Mother 3', the Mecha-Drago cries a single tear right before he dies of his injuries given to him by Flint.
Strong Sad: And we end on an extreme close-up of your reflection in the gooey filling of a jelly doughnut as you shed a single tear.
- Weebls-Stuff: Eagles are proud to fly with squirrels.
- Half Life Full Life Consequences: "A tear droped out of John Freemans' eye and landed on Gordon Freeman."]]
- Combined with Tears From a Stone towards the end of the Lady Lumps VS Boy Bumps video Dr. Doom Likes to Watch. A drop of rain slides down Doom's mask like a tear as he mourns the loss of Doom Chair, his beloved hover chair.
- Problem Sleuth had, on some occasions, "a single tear of black liquid sorrow".
- Homestuck has single tears in the intermission between Acts 4 and 5.
- The Order of the Stick: Whether listening to your son and husband quarrel as the son goes off to fighter school, separating from a woman because you must put Honor Before Reason, reuniting with your long-dead little brother in the afterlife, hearing that someone will send a messenger to your home to see whether you can return—a Single Tear is the appropriate response in this webcomic. Possibly for ease of drawing.
- Pibgorn in response to a Heroic Sacrifice.
- In Girl Genius, Vanamonde von Mekkan sheds one after an encounter with the perfect cup of coffee.
- Roza too weak to continue to search.
- In Blue Yonder, when his family's disappearance catches up to him.
- In Question Duck, tragically, love was not possible between a man and a mermaid; she sheds one.
- Soli of The Meek has a teardrop tattooed on her face. She regrets getting it, because she's a bandit but the tattoo makes her easy to recognize.
- Tibalt does it in this strip of Five Color Control.
- The crying eagle picture, popular on the Something Awful forums.
- The Onion's editorial cartoonist Kelly likes to use the image of the Statue of Liberty shedding a single tear.
- The animated short Kiwi uses this to heartbreaking effect.
- During the Britanick sketch, "Academy Award Winning Movie Trailer", Nick has one as the kid lays dying.
- Most Season One episodes of Moral Orel have Orel crying a single drop at the Rev. Putty's latest sermon.
- The picture from Gargoyles currently on Tears From a Stone.
- In He-Man and She-Ra: Secret of the Sword]], He-Man sheds a single tear as She-Ra vanishes into the sunset.
- Not quite this trope, but in The Simpsons episode "Bart Gets an F", the creators had difficulty stopping the animators from creating Ocular Gushers, so they gave instructions saying something like, "Bart cries a single tear." The end result is Bart shedding a series of single tears in succession, which is much more distressing to watch than what they were probably going for.
- The Batman the Brave And The Bold episode where Red Tornado (robot) builds himself a son, who ends up going crazy and is taken out by him and Batman. Looking at his corpse, a single "oil drop" runs down his face, before he goes away muttering about oil leaks needing maintenance.
- The koala man from Ugly Americans is prone to this.
- When Wendy gets jealous of Stan's teacher that he likes in one episode of South Park, he blows off their Valentine's Day date to try to impress the teacher. Wendy cries a single tear and sniffles at a montage of him barfing on her.
- Clone High
- Abe cries one single tear after he screens his thinly-veiled autobiographical film, "It Takes a Hero." He even comments on it.
- Clone High parodies the single tear thing a lot; the opening sequence alone has five.
- Happens when Fry is trying to choose between saving Bender and Leela versus drinking a trough of Slurm, with him crying a single tear into the Slurm. Naturally, his friends think they're pretty screwed.
- Also the episode where he drinks the leader of a planet of water people and has to cry him out. Believing Leela to be dead, is only able to muster a single tear. After she's revealed to be alive, everyone proceeds to beat the tears out of him.
- Happens again when Leela gets plastic surgery to make it look like she has two eyes. Upon looking into a mirror and realizing that she looks normal, she sheds a single tear. The surgeon exclaims "Woops! Looks like we got some leakage. Let me just cauterize that for you." Cue a painful scream from Leela.
- In the prehistoric SpongeBob SquarePants episode 'Ugh', a club sheds a tear when prehistoric Squidward chooses another club over him.
- Moppy, a sentient mop from Fanboy and Chum Chum sheds one after seeing Fanboy with Chum Chum's cousin. It Makes Sense in Context.
- In the Beetlejuice episode "Doomie's Romance," Lydia brushes a tear from her cheek after Doomie's attempt to bring Pinkie (Mayor Maynot's former convertible) to life fails.
- In The Problem Solverz episode "Funny Facez", Roba sheds a tear after his idol, Tony Marv, calls him ugly.
- Shed to tragic effect by Twilight Sparkle in the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode "The Return of Harmony, Part 2" upon finally losing the last of her faith in her brainwashed friends and crashing down on rock bottom. The tear's splash on the ground forms the shape of a broken heart. Viewable here.
- Those Harlequin clowns with the single tear drop drawn onto their face.
- Those hardened convicts with the single tear drop tattooed onto their face. The most hardened ones avert it, since generally each tear represents X number of years in prison. That Other Wiki says each tear represents a man they killed.