Call me a wuss, call me a wimp, call me a cry baby… I don’t care; I’m not afraid to admit that certain movies make me cry. And not just a tear falling down my cheek, a full on, out loud cry because of the sadness, joy or horror I have felt thanks to the movie I was just watching. In truth, a lot of films make me tear up. I love getting lost inside the story of a film and just have it captivate me in every single way. To let yourself get completely emotionally engrossed in a film is truly a rare feat not all films can accomplish. But there are those few films that manage to touch me so deeply I can’t help but well up every time that I watch them. When a film not only manages to entertain me, but to deeply touch me emotionally… that is what I live for as a movie fan. And I don’t mind if people see me crying or even know that I cry at these films; it doesn’t bother me in the slightest.
Warning!!! Because I will be talking about key moments of each of these films as well as the endings for some, I am issuing this SPOILER ALERT right now in case you don’t want to know what happens in a particular film.
SPOILER ALERT!!! SPOILER ALERT!!! SPOILER ALERT!!!
You have been warned…
Directed by: Michael Bay
Starring: Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Ben Affleck,
Genre: Sci-fi disaster film
Run time: 150 minutes
Release date: July 1, 1998
Okay, this is a weird film to start this list off with, but let me clear about why this film is on here: this isn’t a particularly good film, we all know that – but this film does entertain me… I like watching it. That doesn’t explain its entry on this list, though. Just because I like a film doesn’t mean it’s going to make me tear up. But as the film is coming towards its conclusion, as Harry (Bruce Willis) and his men decide to draw straws to see who will stay behind on the asteroid to make sure the nuclear weapon goes off, when Harry ask to speak one last time with his daughter Grace (Liv Tyler), dammit… that scene gets me every time. A father making the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that his daughter lives… it always gets me.
Directed by: Todd Haynes
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler
Genre: Romantic drama
Run time: 118 minutes
Release date: November 20, 2015
As odd as this is, my wife, her sister and her sister’s friend were actually laughing at me because I teared up at the end of this film. After watching the struggles that Carol (Cate Blanchett) and Therese (Rooney Mara) have to go through to live out their forbidden love, a lesbian affair in conservative 1952 American society between a young woman and a married mother, you watch as they find love and happiness and hope with each other. But just as soon as they do they find themselves torn apart by societal roles and the machinations of Carol’s jealous husband, Harge (Kyle Chandler), and they are separated from each other with the threat of Carol losing custody of her daughter (Sadie Helm). But at the end of the film, for a fleeting moment before the screen goes dark, you see both women stare at each other and realize that things may just work out… even if it is a secret affair.
Directed by: Robert Zemekis
Starring: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, Sally Field
Genre: Comedy drama
Run time: 142 minutes
Release date: June 23, 1994
A lot of people crap on this film nowadays, but back when this film was released I remember hearing people rave about it to no end. Still, all these years later I still enjoy watching this film over and over again. Mainly because there are two scenes in the film that really get to me the most. The first is when Forrest (Tom Hanks) meets Jenny (Robin Wright) in the 1980s after she invites him and she tells him about his son, Forrest Jr. (Haley Joel Osment). The second scene that gets me is after Jenny has passed away and Forrest is there remembering her in his own way at the tree where he had her buried. It’s a touching scene of a man in love who lost one of the biggest parts of his life and you can feel that soul crushing emotion pouring out of Hanks as he stands there and makes you believe that his pain is real.
Directed by: Jerry Zucker
Starring: Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg
Genre: Romantic fantasy
Run time: 128 minutes
Release date: July 13, 1990
Ever since I was a young boy, I have loved this film. It was probably the first romantic film that I can honestly say I truly enjoyed. Watching the story of Sam (Patrick Swayze) being murdered and him staying around as a ghost to try and protect his fiancé Molly (Demi Moore) against his former best friend (Tony Goldwyn) who had him killed so he could secretly embezzle millions, all while enlisting the aid of a sham psychic (Whoopi Goldberg). The film is touching and emotional through and through, but it is the end of the film, when Molly finally has a chance to see the ghost of Sam as he ascends to heaven, with that beautiful instrumental version of “Unchained Melody” playing in the background… that scene always makes me well up inside.
I Am Sam
This is the story of a man, Sam (Sean Penn) – a man with a developmental disability, who is fighting to retain custody of his young daughter, Lucy (Dakota Fanning), after people are convinced that he is an incapable father and try to take custody of Lucy away from him. I’ll be honest, there is hardly a scene in this film that doesn’t get to me emotionally. But the one that had the biggest impact on me, that got me upset and frustrated, was the scene in the courtroom when the opposing counsel forces Sam to emotionally break down on the stand and gets him to admit that he may not be a suitable parent for Lucy, despite his clear and evident love for the girl. It’s a scene that still haunts me to this day, probably more so than before, because, as a father myself, I often wonder about any shortcoming I may have as a parent.
Directed by: Robert Stevenson
Starring: Dorothy McGuire, Fess Parker, Kevin Corcoran, Tommy Kirk
Run time: 89 minutes
Release date: December 25, 1957
I almost placed Marley and Me in this slot, but as the first film where I got to see the connection between a boy and his dog, Old Yeller really hits that spot. To watch Travis (Tommy Kirk) grow and bond with Old Yeller over the summer, to watch them interact with each other and his younger brother Arliss (Kevin Corcoran) – to watch Old Yeller rise up time and time again and defend the family from bears, wild hogs, and even a feral wolf… you can see the love grow between the boy and his dog. But when Old Yeller begins to suffer from rabies, and you see the steps that Travis has to take to protect his family and put his beloved canine companion out of his misery, it sinks your heart hearing Travis pull the trigger and the shot ringing out signaling the death of Old Yeller.
Directed by: Jonathan Demme
Starring: Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Mary Steenburgen
Run time: 126 minutes
Release date: December 22, 1993
This film was made in the midst of the AIDS epidemic when homophobia, homosexuality and HIV/AIDS were at the forefront of the cultural mindset. People may have tried to ignore the situation, people may have wanted to believe that the disease was a “gay” sickness, but this film did a lot to bring some of these issues to the forefront. As Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) struggles to hide his identity and sickness from those around him, as it is soon revealed and he is shunned and ostracized for it, even as he seeks the help of Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) who also fears Beckett’s homosexuality and disease, you get this sense of despair at the sheer vitriol that people exhibit towards Beckett. But Beckett and Miller, who soon accepts that Beckett is a normal human being, fight on and eventually win. But that victory comes at a cost as eventually Andrew collapse during the trial before finally succumbing to the ailments brought on by his disease.
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes,
Genre: Historical drama
Run time: 197 minutes
Release date: December 15, 1993
If this movie doesn’t get you; if the sheer scope of the tragedy that occurred to the people whose lives are brought forth in this film doesn’t pull at your heart… man, are you even human? Just knowing the overarching story behind the Holocaust is enough to bring a tear to my eye, but to watch as Spielberg brings that to life in this film, to watch as Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), with the help of Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley), has a change of heart and starts to see the forced Jewish laborers as actual people and victims of this horrid atrocity, to see as he breaks down realizing that he could have done more to try and save more lives only for the Jewish workers at his factory to console him… there is nary a moment in this film where I don’t feel like tearing up, but the scene with the little girl in the red coat and that ending – those scenes just break my heart.
I like the movie The Champ. It isn’t the best sports film out there, but it doesn’t have to be. In reality, director Franco Zeffirelli didn’t do anything new or present something totally different than the 1931 version of this film. But what does make this movie such a touching and emotional film is the final 10 minutes of the film. After former boxing great Billy Flynn (Jon Voight) battles through one last match to make enough money for him to be able to take care of his young son T.J. (Ricky Schroder), he wins the fight but soon collapses on the way to the locker room. His body beaten, he has a final touching moment with T.J. before passing away. A surprised and saddened T.J. begins to cry uncontrollably and pulls and shakes Billy’s body, desperately trying to wake him to no avail. Watching a young Ricky Schroder pour his life out in that scene… oh man, there is a reason people say it is the saddest scene ever put to film and its Schroder’s acting that really cements that in.
The Green Mile
Directed by: Frank Darabont
Starring: Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Morse, James Cromwell
Genre: Fantasy drama
Run time: 189 minutes
Release date: December 10, 1999
There are several scenes in this film that have me break down every time that I see them. The scene where Del (Michael Jeter) is horribly executed because the sadistic guard Percy (Doug Hutchison) sabotages the preparations. The scene where John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) is taken by guards Paul (Tom Hanks) and Brutus (David Morse) to cure Warden Moore’s (James Cromwell) wife Melinda (Patricia Clarkson) of her inoperable brain tumor. But the scene near the end of the film, when John convinces Paul and Brutus and the other guards that letting him die, to be executed even though he didn’t commit the crimes he was convicted of, would be an act of mercy for him so that he could stop feeling the world’s pain. Watching John accept his fate and die in the electric chair… that scene will always break my heart no matter how many times I watch it.