In life I rarely, if ever, cry. But the movies are a whole other story. Perhaps I possess the ability to keep my emotions so well-checked in real life because I don’t have any sort of filter for them in the movies. This displacement gives me a healthy outlet which allows me to remain stoic in the real world. I’m Jack Paar in the movie theater so I can be Clint Eastwood in my interpersonal relationships.
Yeah. That’s the ticket.
Anyway, without further preamble, here’s my list of the ten movies that have reduced me to a tearful, quivering shell of a man:
ET: The Extraterrestrial
I was twelve years old when I saw this film in 1982. It’s the first movie that I can recall causing streams of tears to pour down my cheeks. So in a way, we could say that my tearful relationship with the movies started right here.
If you’re ever on a date with a girl that you don’t know very well, do not watch this movie with her if you don’t want her to think you’re an emotional basket case. I made that mistake. It was a third date, the one where you feel comfortable having her at the house, eating in, and throwing a movie on the VCR (yes, this was during the VCR days). Not only did I not get lucky that night, she never returned my calls. Damn you, Anthony Hopkins. Damn you.
Saving Private Ryan
“Earn this.” The tears for this, the best World War II movie ever made (in my opinion) are well-earned. Plus, since it’s a war movie, it’s totally fine to tear up and stay manly.
I saw this at the behest of my girlfriend. In the end it was me that was blubbering and my girlfriend laughing at me. She’s a cruel, cruel woman.
Cameron’s long roller-coaster ride into the icy waters of the arctic hit all the right notes for me (despite that awful song). It was, however, a purely theatrical experience, as I’ve never connected with it on the small screen like I did that first time when it was twenty feet high. I recognized that would be the case as I walked out of the theater, and I said to my friend, “This is going to be a maligned movie in the future, but we should always remember that as a first time viewing experience it was pretty damned awesome.” Today it seems it’s more hip to diss Cameron’s admittedly bloated extended melodrama, but it’s initial effect cannot be denied.
When Gordon says, “I never did thank you,” and Batman replies, “And you’ll never have to,” I prayed the house lights in the theater would never come up. How do I explain to my girlfriend that I was just reduced to tears by a Batman movie? “Yes, honey, I’m even more of a geek than you would have ever suspected.”
The Iron Giant
I was totally unprepared for the emotional assault this film would launch against me in its climactic final moments. When the giant launches himself in the air to intercept the nuclear missile that threatens to destroy Hogarth’s town, he hears Hogarth’s voice in his head: “You are what you choose to be…”
The giant closes his eyes and says, “Superman.” Getting teary just writing it.
The talking pig movie did a number on me. I’m not too shamed by it, because Quentin Tarantino also admitted that he did a bit of blubbering at this film. (And as we all know, QT is the auteur responsible for some of the most manly films yet fashioned by human hands.) The moment that gets me is, of course, the farmer’s totally unemotional final delivery of the line, “That’ll do, pig.” A lesser director would have had the actor infuse that last reading with all sorts of pathos, and the effect would have been nullified. It works here because Cromwell’s delivery at the end of the film doesn’t differ at all from any of the other myriad times he said it before, giving us in the audience the opportunity to discover the emotion of the moment, rather than having it thrust on upon us.
The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
No one expects hobbits to be anything but humble farmers who enjoy their pipeweed a little too much and suffer a touch of agoraphobia whenever they wander too far from their Shire village. So I teared up several times over the course of this film as Frodo and his friends overcame seemingly impossible odds. But the most memorable has to be when Frodo steps up at the council meeting and volunteers to carry the One Ring to the fires of Mordor – a task arguably beyond the most capable hero in the land. It is as perfect a moment as you can get in a movie – where sight, sound, and story all come together to create a pure, non-pandering emotional response.
Good Night, and Good Luck
I saw the movie on DVD a while after the 2004 election, which was a rather emotional time for me. I’m a political junkie and a history buff, and this George Clooney-directed film did an excellent job, I believe, of capturing the toxic atmosphere wrought over this country by the McCarthy hearings. It started when he said, “We must not confuse dissent from disloyalty. We must remember always, that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another, we will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason.” By the end of that famous speech, I was reduced to literal sobs. Edward R. Murrow was just a newsman, and no one would have expected that his words could destroy the most powerful man in America. But he exceeded those expectations.
So there it is. My confession to being a big fat movie crybaby, with apologies for the shameless political punditry.
What are the movies that have made you cry the hardest? Yes, it’s okay to admit it.