I don’t cry much at movies. I don’t say that to brag or to show how emotionally stunted I am; it’s merely a fact about myself. So, when a movie can actually bring tears to my eyes, I know it’s a good one.
However, I have never sat down and listed the movies that have actually made me cry. So, I would like to take some time to give you guys the movies that have emotionally affected me so much that I have actually teared up or even sobbed when watching them.
Please note: these are not in any specific order. I’m only listing these in the order that I remember them.
Also, there will be spoilers for both old and new movies in here, so read at your own risk!
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Million Dollar Baby is one of my favorite movies because it shows that no matter how old you are, it’s never too late to chase your dream or better your situation. Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) is a poor, working-class women who seeks training from the crotchety Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood), a coach at the local boxing gym. When I first watched the film, I was already drawn in by the boxing element; I’m a sucker for a good boxing (or sports in general) film. However, I wasn’t expecting to be gut-punch as hard as I was by Maggie’s eventual demise after a cheap shot during a boxing match causes her to break her neck. Dunn’s decision to put his surrogate daughter Maggie out of her misery always brings tears to my eyes; Morgan Freeman’s somber narration doesn’t make it any better.
The Green Mile (1999)
Tom Hanks is an absolute stud and no one can change my mind. The Green Mile utilizes his inherent acting ability and skill at making me cry by giving him one of the more emotionally rich roles in his career. In 1930s America, Paul Edgecomb (Hanks) is a prison guard in charge of death row inmates; one day, a strange inmate by the name of John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) arrives, starting a life-changing journey for Edgecomb. The darkly spiritual film has a beautiful Thomas Newman score to underline its somber message. It is this score that always gets me in the end when Coffey finally reaches his execution date. I appreciate that the camera doesn’t focus on Coffey’s death the way it did with the other inmates, but I hate having to look at Tom Hanks’ crying face because it makes me cry, too. I just really hate/love how the movie makes me love this man and then cruelly kills him.
Schindler’s List (1993)
This one isn’t unique to me but it still deserves to be included. First of all, the John Williams is magnificent and brings tears to the eye all by itself. Secondly, the decision to film in somber black-and-white will always be one of Steven Spielberg’s greatest cinematic decisions. And thirdly, it brings the horrifying violence of the Holocaust right to your eyes — something that’s hard to imagine. Liam Neeson brings such convincing emotion to the role of Oskar Schindler; his performance near the end of the film, when he breaks down into tears thinking of all the other people he could have saved, will remain one of the best I’ve ever seen an actor do. His tears manage to make me and every other member of the audience cry as well.
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Hi. My name is Kali and I cry randomly when I think about Avengers: Endgame.
Seriously though — did the Russo Brothers really have to reach in and crush my heart like that? Did they really have to kill off Tony Stark to finish off his character arc? There were so many other options that did not involve my boy Iron Man dying an early death; yet, the Russo Brothers had to choose cinematic excellence and pure poetry over making Kali happy so here we are. And then, just when I thought I could just maybe get over Iron Man, they hit me with the happy ending for Captain America and cause my eyes to swell up from crying. No, I don’t think I will ever get over this movie no matter how many times I watch it.
Steel Magnolias (1989)
Steel Magnolias never makes me break out into full-out sobs, but it does get me a little choked up. I love that this movie is kind of a slow-burner; we aren’t immediately pulled into an engaging plot line, rather, we are witness to the life of a Southern family slowly unfolding over the years. We learn the relationships and love the characters. The characters grow and develop over the years as their problems and priorities shift, but it all has roots in the family. I especially love the strong women that the film features, played by powerhouses like Sally Field, Daryl Hannah, Shirley MacLaine, Dolly Parton, Julia Roberts, and Olympia Dukakis. When the daughter (Julia Roberts) passes away, it does leave a sad, empty hole in the story, but is quickly filled with the laughter and love of family so it doesn’t sting as hard.
Life Is Beautiful (1997)
The first time I watched this film was in a film class — it was the first foreign film I ever watched. Let me tell you something: it was probably the best introduction to foreign film that I could have ever had. Italian Roberto Benigni won an Oscar for his performance as Guido Orefice, a man just trying to do what’s best for his young son in the dark days of the Holocaust in a concentration camp. While Life is Beautiful has its sweet, humorous moments between father and son, there’s always the grim backdrop of World War II and the massacre of so many people. The movie ends in tragedy when, in trying to save his son, Orefice is shot and killed. I think what really gets me about Life Is Beautiful is the fact that the son is so young and so innocent — a fact reinforced through the movie — and yet he is exposed to so much violence, including the death of his own father.
Penny Serenade (1941)
I don’t remember why I cried at Penny Serenade. It has Cary Grant and Irene Dunne as parents who desperately want a child. The film goes through their struggle with miscarriages, court battles for their adopted daughter, and the eventual death of their child. It’s sad, but it really doesn’t have that great an emotional impact after rewatching it. I think I was just very emotional the day I watched it. And I really like Cary Grant.
I will say that this is one of Grant’s more emotive films, as the scene where he pleads for custody of his daughter is really touching. But, probably not as sob-inducing as these other films now that I rewatch them.
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