A Dozen Movies That Made Me Cry
I love music – like a lot of people in my industry, music is like oxygen, it’s essential to my everyday life. But I’m a big movie buff too. Coaster Boy Josh thinks I’m a hater, but I give everything a chance. I have been open-minded to watching obvious ‘non-dude’ movies – The Notebook, Dirty Dancing, Beauty and the Beast – simply because a girl I liked wanted me to watch it with her.
Those movies are all pretty good, and a shout out to some others that I’ve witnessed ladies get all misty-eyed over (Legends of the Fall, Beaches, Steel Magnolias, My Girl), but it takes a special sorta movie to make a dude cry – or at least this dude.
I feel no shame. Great cinema is supposed to move you, to make you think, to inspire you. Let’s face it – the more dudes who cry, the better your movie is.
“I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
When Harry Met Sally… (1989) – directed by Rob Reiner
Harry runs through New York City on New Year’s Eve to confess his feelings to his on-again-off-again friend Sally. His speech wins Sally over, and wins me over too. It’s about the imperfections of love, about growing up so you can grow old with someone.
The chemistry between Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan is what resonates most – they’re real people with real problems, they’re selfish and quirky. Through their unlikely friendship, the movie shows them at their most vulnerable, and so when they fall in love, warts and all, you feel just as invested as they are.
Source: Castle Rock Entertainment
“You don’t talk much… I like you!”
Up (2009) – directed by Pete Docter
Tears are usually reserved for the ends of movies, but in Up, the waterworks come early, as an unlikely romance between two young explorers, nerdy Carl and spunky Ellie, forms. You probably think, especially in an animated movie, that here are your main characters, but Pixar sticks the knife in early with a poignant, heartwarming montage of Carl and Ellie’s life together.
Michael Giacchino’s Oscar-winning score heightens real, hard moments in this animated couple’s life, including a miscarriage, and ultimately Ellie’s death. The painful backstory paints an empathetic picture of the older Carl. We root for the cranky old coot as he builds a balloon house that ultimately frees him of the weight of life’s heaviest loss, but still – damn you, Pixar! Stop toying with my emotions.
Note: keep a hanky handy for all three Toy Story movies, as well.
Source: Walt Disney Pictures / Pixar Animation
“I’ll never let go, Jack. I’ll never let go.”
Titanic (1997) – directed by James Cameron
And then she lets him go! You said you would never let go! You. Just. Said. It.
I remember seeing Titanic in a crowded theater, being awestruck by the magnitude of the ship capsizing up on that big screen, a lump in my throat the entire time. Say what you want about the movie as a whole, but once the ship hits the iceberg, the movie gets pretty tense, and pretty epic. I turned towards my girlfriend as Kate & Leo sank down into the dark, unforgiving sea, and she was bawling her eyes out.
I turned back to the screen with a tear in my eye thinking, “Holy shit, this really happened.”
Source: 20th Century Fox Entertainment
“Hi, Mom, it’s me. I’m on the plane that’s been hijacked. I’m just calling to tell you that I love you, and goodbye. This really kind woman handed me the phone and she said to call you.”
United 93 (2006) – directed by Paul Greengrass
I finally watched United 93 a couple of years ago even tho it was released five years after the tragic events of 9/11/01 here in New York City. I’ve lived here my whole life – fifteen years removed, I’m still pretty shaken over what happened, not just because it happened in my back yard – but because of how it happened.
The re-enactment of the hijacked flight that crashed in Shanksville, PA due to the heroic act of a group of ordinary, random people who overtake the terrorists, is essentially a story about people who know they’re going to die – except unlike in the movies, no action hero or supernatural act saves them. They die. This makes the movie incredibly painful to watch, most especially because you already know the outcome. You also can’t help but think, “How did we let this happen?”
“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”
Moulin Rouge! (2001) – directed by Baz Luhrmann
Some dismiss this brilliant, colorful, bombastic musical as too schmaltzy and over-the-top, but I suppose that’s what I like about it. It could be that I was totally high on drugs, but I totally buy into the use of popular music to create a unique and inspiring soundtrack, everything from Nat King Cole’s “Nature Boy” to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” twisted into a romantic pretzel. Nicole Kidman exudes vaudeville sex appeal and – Ewan McGregor can sing!
I first saw Moulin Rouge! after a particularly bad breakup, and anyone will tell ya that a coffee commercial could get the tears flowing at such sour times, never mind a romantic musical in which the bohemian poet and the coveted courtesan overcome the odds and wind up together only for the whole thing to end in tragedy. Pass the tissues, please.
Source: Bazmark Productions
“On the afternoon on November 7th, 2001, my sister called to tell me that doctor Andrew Bagby, my closest friend since the age of 7, had been killed.”
Dear Zachary: A Letter To A Son About His Father (2008) – directed by Kurt Kuenne
I challenge you to get through this gut-wrenching documentary without losing your shit. Dear Zachary begins as an independent filmmaker’s memorial of a murdered friend and turns into something much more unbelievable when the deceased friend’s ex-girlfriend announces she is expecting his son.
Without giving anything more away, the true events depicted in Dear Zachary are hard to swallow, reminding us again that people are crazy. Real people with real problems like yours and mine who are just out of their freaking minds.
“The Power of Christ compels you!”
The Exorcist (1973) – directed by William Friedkin
I watched a lot of scary movies when I was a kid – blame my Dad, he was my doorway into the darkness. Dad was a big fan of the Universal monster movies, King Kong, The Twilight Zone, and The Night Stalker, and he turned me on to them all.
The Exorcist, however, the gruesome godmother of girl-possessed-by-a-demon movies, was way too much for a 7 year-old to handle. Spinning heads and suicidal priests, pee pee on the carpet and pea soup in your face – and the language! The Exorcist had me crying like a baby. Today, it’s one of my favorite movies, but back then, it was my worst nightmare.
Source: Hoya Productions
“If I can go the distance… and that bell rings and I’m still standin’, I’m gonna know for the first time in my life….that I wasn’t just another bum from the neighborhood.”
Rocky (1976) – directed by John G. Avildsen
Sure, I know what happens to Rocky – he wins the rematch with Apollo, he beats Clubber Lang, then he beats Ivan Drago to avenge Apollo’s death and end the Cold War, then he does some more stuff that I don’t really care about.
But in the first – and best – film in the franchise, Rocky loses. I love movies with great scores and Rocky, of course, has one of the the most iconic ever, Bill Conti’s dramatic jazz heightening every scene, especially the fight scenes between Rocky and Apollo. In the end, Rocky gets the girl instead of the title, but most of all, he gets the validation for all his hard work and his passion – and a few Academy Awards, too.
Source: Chartoff-Winkler Productions
“Life isn’t like in the movies. Life… is much harder.”
Cinema Paradiso (1988) – directed by Giuseppe Tornatore
Italian composer Ennio Morricone is one of my idols, his dramatic film scores have lent an added dimension to everything from Sergio Leone’s classic spaghetti westerns to Quentin Tarantino’s most recent films.
This drama about a friendship between a movie theater projectionist and his young apprentice in post-World War II Italy is a touching and romantic story about life and death and unrequited love, but it’s also a movie about loving the movies. Morricone’s score is so beautiful and affecting during some of the film’s more tragic moments, you’ll soon find yourself sobbing into your spaghetti and meatballs.
SOURCE: Les Films Ariane
“Dying’s a really hard way to learn about life.”
My Life (1993) – directed by Bruce Joel Rubin
Michael Keaton is one of my favorite actors. Although he’ll always be remembered most for Batman, Beetlejuice and Birdman, Keaton had a run in the late ’80s and early ’90s playing ordinary guys in tough situations – none more tough than in the 1993 tearjerker My Life. Keaton plays Bob Jones, a man about to become a father who receives news that he is terminally ill.
The movie could have been totally maudlin and depressing if not for Keaton’s charm as a man who decides to chronicle his last days on camera for his unborn son to someday see. Nearly a quarter century later, chronicling our lives on camera has become the norm rather than the unconventional act of a dying man. The movie’s final scene, and Bob’s final breaths, are touching – and somehow, optimistic.
“You see, before he came down here, it never snowed. And afterwards, it did. If he weren’t up there now… I don’t think it would be snowing. Sometimes you can still catch me dancing in it.”
Edward Scissorhands (1990) – directed by Tim Burton
Tim Burton’s awe-inspiring romantic fantasy was one of my first experiences with movie theater magic. Sitting in the dark theater, I became overwhelmed by Danny Elfman’s incredible score, the film’s unique aesthetic….and that falling snow.
Even tho I was still just an innocent kid, the underlying message of the movie – inspired by Burton’s childhood – spoke to me, a romantic goth-in-training. Love is pain. We don’t always end up with those who mattered most to us. It’s not easy being different, and the rest of the world won’t make it easier. These are all lessons I would experience firsthand later in life.
Source: 20th Century Fox Entertainment
“A toast to my big brother George. The richest man in town.”
It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) – directed by Frank Capra
The town saves George Bailey on Christmas Eve after he wishes he’d never been born, Clarence gets his wings, they all sing “Auld Lang Syne” and I lose it every time. ‘Every time’ is a lot – I’ve probably seen this holiday classic at least a hundred times.
James Stewart is an iconic Everyman, and the movie is literally about the meaning of life – his life, enlightening George, and all of us – how much we matter to others and how much they all matter to us. It’s A Wonderful Life reminds me to be grateful. It also reminds me of my childhood, and especially of my parents, who I get a great deal of my sentimentality from. It’s one of my favorite movies ever.
Source: Liberty Films