Wednesday, 26 February 2014

List #27 | Films That Make Me Cry

The next list to make it into my Listography series is a collection of the films that have managed to break me down and make me cry. As I've gotten older I've found that the number of films that bring me to tears seems to have lessened considerably so the list of films that have made me actually cry isn't a very long one.

For now, here are the biggest offenders.

The Fall

I went into most of the films on this list knowing fully well that the endings would be sad and try to evoke a strong emotional response from me, but that wasn't the case with The Fall. I didn't know a lot about the plot of this film, aside from it being a fantasy//adventure full of stunning costumes and locations, and so when Roy and Alexandria's story reached it's climax I was caught completely off guard. Their relationship throughout the film is a lot of fun to watch and Lee Pace and Catinca Untaru have a lot of really sweet moments together, and so by the time the darker nature of their friendship gets explored towards the end of the film I was completely in love with them both and couldn't handle it. Both of the actors give brutally honest performances that feel so real, helped enormously by Untaru believing that this was all actually real. The Fall is now one of my favourite films, and the chemistry and relationship between this pair is the primary reason for that. The scene in which Roy breaks down at Alexandria's bedside is the films most remarkable achievement and is just as impressive to watch as any of the more spectacle-based scenes spent in their fantasy world.


Titanic is one of the earliest films that I remember ever really having a strong emotional effect on me. Obviously the whole film is based around an awful real-life event and focuses on a tragic love story, so it was always gunning for a spot as one of cinema's biggest tearjerkers and it's presence here should be no surprise for anyone. While the fate of Jack Dawson and his relationship with Rose is the films primary tear-bait it is actually a much smaller scene, that lasts less than a minute, which sets me off every time. The scene I'm talking about is one of an elderly couple who have accepted their fate, and rather than fighting to get onto a lifeboat simply lie in bed together as their room fills with water. There's a good number of emotional action that happens before this scene and I'm always pretty good at keeping myself composed through all of that, but every time I watch Titanic it is this scene that sets me off. Everything that happens afterwards certainly doesn't help, but this is the scene that opens up the floodgates and starts everything. Seeing elderly people suffering is almost always guaranteed to upset me and this scene is how I know that I've always reacted the same way to such scenes. I also recently discovered that this short scene was based on an old couple who were actually on the Titanic, which makes it all the more distressing.

The Elephant Man

All of the films featured on this list have greatly upset me and brought me to tears, but only a few of them have completely destroyed me and reduced me to an emotional mess. The Elephant Man is one such film. By the time that I got around to watching The Elephant Man I had become familiar with the story of Joseph Merrick and like many was fascinated by him. I did not expect to be so utterly entranced by John Hurt in this role though, his work here is so incredible and so affecting that it instantly became one of my favourite performances in film. Merrick's story is an incredibly tragic one, but what David Lynch achieves here goes above and beyond any expectations I could have had. This combination of actor and director brings Merrick to life and pays tribute to his tragic, yet beautiful story. The final scene is heartbreaking and so masterfully crafted, it hit me extremely hard and left me sobbing long after the credits had finished rolling. The subtlety of the script makes the films conclusion so effective; Merrick's desire to sleep like any other 'normal' person was foreshadowed earlier in the film and this scene, with the beautiful 'Adaigo For Strings' playing over it, perfectly captures the tragedy of this man's life in a heartbreaking manner.

Dear Zachary

When a friend who claims to be cold-hearted tells you that a film has broken them emotionally, you sit up and pay attention. This was the situation that led me to track down a documentary called Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father. I'm going to be extremely vague here as I truly believe that anybody who watches this documentary should go in knowing as little as possible. Director Kurt Kuenne decided to make a documentary about his longtime friend Andrew after he was cruelly murdered in 2001. The documentary was to serve as a record of how great Andrew was, so that it could be shown to his child Zachary as a monument to the boys father. During the making of the film the story developed in tragic ways that no one could have expected and altered Kuenne's purpose and motivation for making the film. This is a truly heartbreaking story, and one that sent me into that region of silent, headache-inducing, runny nosed sobbing that I am so thankful nobody was around to see. I've never felt my emotions being attacked so violently as I did watching this film and I doubt I'll ever watch anything like it again. It's a fantastic documentary that I would recommend to anybody, providing they watch it with a full box of tissues close by.

Marley & Me

I mentioned earlier that seeing elderly people in distress is a surefire way to stir an emotional response from me. Well animals also hold a spot on that list, particularly dogs. I actively avoided Marley & Me for quite some time for two reasons; I didn't think it would be particularly good and I knew that the dog would die and I would be left a mess. When I was finally convinced to watch the film it was with a friend who loved it in spite of how upset it made her, while I lay on the sofa, wrapped in a duvet waiting for the inevitable. When it finally came it hit me like a ton of bricks. I very often fall for the misconception that if I know a sad ending or scene is coming, that knowledge will lessen the impact and help me get through it without a leaking face, but rarely is that the case. Knowing what was coming only worsened the blow when it came, this was the kind of crying that you can fight off for a while through some kind of intense focus, but after so long you get beaten and it's all over. I spent the last ten minutes of this film barely peaking out from under the duvet that was hiding me and acting as my official tear-wiper, and when it finally finished I had to stay wrapped up in my cocoon of sadness for a while longer before I could compose myself.

The Orphanage

When I first watched The Orphanage it was at a weekly cinema at my Sixth Form and all I expected from it was an above-average horror film. To call this a horror film though seems like an injustice, as it offers so much more than that. The Orphanage is a story of a mothers grief when her child goes missing, and the lengths that she will go to try and find him. Maybe it's because it was a public viewing or that I didn't fully take in the tragedy of the story the first time around, but I didn't cry when I first saw the film. I have, without fail, every time I've watched it since though. It's not a film that will cause floods of tears or 20 minutes of intense sobbing, but the beautiful screenplay and a brilliant performance from Belén Rueda make this a very upsetting experience. I thoroughly enjoy the creepier atmosphere of the films early scenes, but once the plot unfolds and it becomes clear what is really happening, that is when the film hits its stride and becomes something truly special. Ghost stories often downplay the tragedy of their plots in favour of cheap scares, but this one strikes a perfect balance.


Along with Titanic, Stepmom is one of my earliest memories of a film that got me good and made me cry every time I watched it. For the most part this is a film about two women who struggle to get along with each other when their lives become merged through their relationships with one man. Susan Sarandon as the ex-wife and Julia Roberts as the new one are both perfect here in what was probably my first introduction to two such important actresses. When Sarandon's character Jackie is diagnosed with cancer the relationship between the two women becomes much more complicated than the simple rivalry it had previously been. Like many 'tearjerkers' this is a film loaded with clichés and familiar tropes, but having grown up watching this film I'm still sucked in every time I return to it. The ending is quite ambiguous, but still packs a strong emotional punch as we see Jackie spending what will probably be her last Christmas with her children. I have a great fondness for Susan Sarandon which I am sure is the result of watching this film so much as a child, and every time that Christmas sequence comes around I'm helpless to it's effects.

Monsters, Inc.

I've mentioned before on this blog that Monsters, Inc. is my favourite Pixar film, and the main reason for that is the beautiful relationship between Sulley and Boo. I adore how cute and playful they are together, love how strongly they care for each other after such a short time and absolutely fall apart every time I watch them get separated. Disney and Pixar are responsible for some of the most devastating stories in 'children's' films and Monsters, Inc. is the one that hurts the most for me. That scene with Boo opening up the door and expecting to see Sulley, the excitement just disappearing from her little face, hurts so much. And then there's her line 'Kitty?', Pixar really know what they're doing. I recently read an extremely in-depth theory of how all of the Pixar films could be connected, which had Boo growing old looking for her lost friend. While I don't think that this theory would ever actually be considered canon, I loved it because it meant there was still a little ray of hope for their story and I need that.

E.T the Extra Terrestrial

E.T the Extra Terrestrial is one of my Mum's all time favourite films. For the longest time she had been trying to get me to watch it with her because neither of us had seen it since I was very young, but I wasn't too bothered with seeing it in a hurry. I could remember the basic plot and I knew that the ending was sad, but when she finally convinced me to watch it I wasn't prepared for how upsetting I would find it. It's obviously very over-sentimental in it's story but that by no means lessens the impact that it has. I really don't know how anybody could watch Drew Barrymore and Henry Thomas crying like they do in those final scenes and not get torn apart by it. Needless to say that my Mum was rather smug about me liking the film so much and getting so affected by it after I had been dismissing it for so long. Watching this so many years after my first viewing also convinced me that a number of films should probably have a compulsory waiting period between re-watches so the full emotional impact of the story stays strong.

For all of the other lists in this series I limited myself to just ten entries to start with so that these lists can grow as I watch more and more films, but I haven't watched a number of the other films that have made me cry for so long that I don't think I could write about them very well just now, so this list only has nine.
Do you agree or disagree with my choices? Be sure to let me know some of your favourites too!

You can find my list of Favourite Animated Films here, my Guilty Pleasures list here, my Best Movie Posters list here, my choices for best movie villains here and my list of the most romantic move scenes here.

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