Have you ever cried in the cinema? Every felt the salty touch of tears on your cheek, safe in the dark, popcorn on your heaving stomach, while watching a film on the sofa? Is there a film out there that makes you cry every time? It’s okay, you can admit it. We all can.
In this age of thawing from the emotional ice-age that was the past, what, ten-thousand years of modern civilisation, we’re embracing tissues and sore eyes. Some movies are manipulative tear-bringers – we’re looking at you, My Sister’s Keeper, for fuck’s sake – but some creep up on you all of a sudden, without you expecting it. Some movies are soft-soled hitmen who pop up without ceremony and cut you all the way down to size before you can say “No, I’m not crying… I just… Sorry, I just have a cold”.
Here are our writers’ picks for films that make them cry like a baby.
(WARNING: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS AHEAD. THIS IS YOUR WARNING. YOU CAN’T MOAN NOW.)
10. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Not proud of it. I think it has something to do with a girl I went out with once. A girl who bore some resemblance to one of the film’s protagonists. All I know is that as soon as I hear Yo-Yo Ma’s mournful cello riff (do cellos riff?) I’m thrown headlong into a multi-sensory, nostalgia-drenched flashback of Proustian proportions. This arguably makes the whole thing doubly pathetic: I’m crying because the film reminds me of myself. How maudlin and self-aggrandizing can you get? I’m glad she left me. She deserved better.
- Joe Mackertich
Sam Says: Come on, Joe. Yo-Yo Ma’s doleful chello skills apart, you need to get a hold of yourself.
9. The Force Awakens
In the years since the Star Wars prequels I’d convinced myself that maybe that galaxy far, far away was, in fact, crap all along – a childhood folly that was best left in the past. Then, as I sat in the cinema on the opening night of The Force Awakens, something truly did, well, awaken. I’m not sure what is was exactly – the Millennium Falcon, the characters, the lightsaber fight – but by the end, I was in tears.
It happened again when I went to see the film for a second time the following week, and every time I’ve watched it on DVD since. It spoke to me in a way I was not prepared for – reminding me that Star Wars was not, in fact, crap but a crucial part of my childhood that had been stolen away by dud prequels and spin-offs. And somehow, all that magic had been given back to me. It was like overcoming a traumatic event. Now, all it takes now is the sound of a tie fighter to set me off.
- Tom Fordy
Sam Says: I am happy that your childhood is no longer ruined but, despite The Space Lads’ best efforts, this only gets one cry out of five from me.
8. Field of Dreams
Listen, I don’t have time to tell you how a ghost played by Ray Liotta manages to bring a team of other spectral baseball players to the cornfields of Iowa farmer played by Kevin Costner. That’s not important. What is important is that by the very end of it Costner’s farmer, Ray Kinsella, gets to play catch one last time with the dad he never got to make up with before his passing. Nothing on the screen makes my bottom lip shake as uncontrollably as a father-son relationships (think Warrior, La vita è Bella, Road to Perdition) and Field of Dream truly knocks it out of the park.
After a warm exchange in which Ray (the Costner one, remember, not Liotta) introduces Ghost Dad to his family (“This is my - this is John”), the audience isn’t supposed to know if John knows who Ray is, and then it comes: “Hey, Dad”, whimpers Ray, voice going an octave higher as his old man is walking into the distance, “Want to have catch?”. He does, and with it, like Costner himself, I’m turned from an adult male into a lump of quivering goo. And I hate baseball.
- Joe Ellison
Sam Says: Ghosts and father-son relationships are good, baseball is bad. Tough one, but I would say it’s a “uncomfortable sniffer and a shuffle in seat” not a “my eyes have burst” film, Joe.
7. Good Will Hunting
Similar to the old injunction ‘never meet your heroes’, sometimes it’s best never to revisit the your childhood favourites, and even less advisable to revisit the things you loved in adolescence like cheap hair dye and clown sized ‘skate shoes’. But for Good Will Hunting, I’ll sort of make an exception. ‘Sort of’ because watching it now, at 24, has two regrettable consequences.
A. 90% of it is trite rubbish.
B. “It’s not your fault” gets me puffy eyed every single time.
It’s the tale of a self-sabotaging, class anxiety ridden, deeply troubled manboy genius from South Boston and how he comes to terms with his gifts, his roots and his past. Robin Williams is perfect as the empathetic, grief mauled counselor who coaxes Will from his self-destructive spiral and helps to heal his deep psychic wounds. And if you’ve never sunk five pints and been tempted to leave your mates with the immortal “I’ve gotta go see about a girl” (get a three-piece and chips from Chicken Cottage) then you’re a liar, mate.
- Francisco Garcia
Sam Says: Okay, now we’re talking – agree on the triteness and the puffy eyes, but Will Hunting (still can’t believe that’s his name) is such a sociopath that it’s hard to feel THAT bad for him, really.
6. It’s A Wonderful Life
All festive movies have some sort of heartwarming, sickeningly twee conclusion, where all minor problems are solved and the true meaning of Christmas is revealed, but It’s A Wonderful Life is in a whole league of its own. First of all, it’s a movie about a man willing to commit suicide so everyone will be better off, which is a pretty bleak premise for a time when movies are supposed to be centred around turkey and snow.
But it’s the very last scene that gets me, when George Bailey’s years of generosity and dedication to the hometown he never escaped finally saves him from financial destruction, where he looks around a room full of friends and family and realises he’s got everything he could ever want. And the note left by Clarence the angel: “Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.” SHIT ME, CAN WE PLEASE GET SOME COMEDIC CRIMINALS GETTING HIT IN THE FACE WITH PAINT CANS IN HERE PLEASE?!
- Jamie Carson
Sam Says: Fine, that is very sad, but it feels like old people committing suicide at Christmas is almost cheating so I’ve had to deduct points here.
5. The Time Traveler’s Wife
Oh, the howling pain. Oh, the hot and howling pain of The Time Traveler’s Wife. I fell in love with this novel and watched with feverish anticipation as it made its way onto the screen in 2009. Two moments in the film are captured vividly enough to shake my lip and quicken my feeble heart: Henry, the time traveler, spluttering and dying in his wife Claire’s arms as New Year fireworks crash and explode over them; and the pair of them desperately, breathlessly sprinting towards each other in a sunlit garden, aware that this meeting may be their very last.
Anyone who has ever been in love will feel the urgency in their voices, the gargantuan significance of every last second they must spend together. Even as I write this, a shiver runs down me. I’m off to watch it again. Yes, Sir, I am a glutton for misery. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
- Ralph Jones
Sam Says: This is extremely sad but only makes mid-table because, sorry Ralph, but you knew what you were signing up for and you went and did it anyway.
4. Inside Out
I went to visit my girlfriend’s Italian familia at Christmas for the first time last year. It’s a lovely big house with a lovely big family in it and I was sat down on the lovely big sofa next to her lovely (imposing) six-foot-five Italian father. I am not six-foot-five nor Italian, and sat down next to him I look, and move, a bit like a Thunderbirds character, strings and all. The first thing we did was get comfy to watch the Pixar film Inside Out - you know, a nice, animated story about the development and changes in a small girl’s mind.
But it isn’t actually that nice at all. It is fucking harrowing and it crucified me in front of the whole family. The physical manifestation of someone’s childhood constants collapsing in front of my own eyes was enough for me to blurt out a salty English Channel of tears whilst giving me a headache of Nurofen defying proportions. The destruction of ‘Honesty’ followed by the closing down of ‘Imagination Land’ (elements of her personality represented by buildings in her head) had me clutching onto her dad like a chic Prada handbag, It all ends well, she turns out nice and goes back home to her mom and dad. I felt like doing the same.
- James Bird
Sam Says: Extra points for IRL harrowing situation playing out as you watch the fictional harrowing situation playing out on the screen. Doctor prescribes some ibuprofen and a big lay down.
3. The Muppet Christmas Carol
When Charles Dickens hung up his quill in 1843 and thought to himself “I think this is a good one”, I imagine he would have been surprised had someone told him that the definitive version of his festive classic A Christmas Carol would not coalesce for another 149 years and that, when it did, it would see the tale performed by a variety of felt puppets, led by a talking frog.
But The Muppet Christmas Carol is exactly that: the best version of the story ever told. And while the songs, dances and Michael Caine brilliance would have been enough on its own, its dramatic triumph comes with the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come when we discover a heartbroken Bob Cratchit (Kermit the Frog) remembering poor Tiny Tim, played by Robin the Frog, sporting pale green skin, a small, weak cough but always optimistic and full of Christmas spirit before his untimely passing.
Not once have I made it through this moment in the film without weeping giant tears of sadness at the stoic, quiet dignity in the face of tragedy that only Kermit can pull off, mourning the passing of his poor, sickly, innocent frog son. I cry even though I know that Scrooge will change his ways and save him – the acting is simply that good. I’m welling up now because, come December, I know I’m going to have to watch it again. Quite simply, a truly beautiful cinematic moment. Who’d have thought you’d ever get that upset about a frog?
- Dave Fawbert
Sam Says: Despite my “Christmas is cheating” rule, this film is a heart-breaker and Caine does some absolute peak broken-Michael-Caine-voice in this which is just dynamite to the old ‘motions.
(NB. I recently, finally, watched Up. Good grief. - Dave)
I've spent 9 years building up the emotional toughness required to watch the opening sequence of Up. It seems I was still not ready 😢😥😢— Dave Fawbert (@DaveFawbert) April 9, 2018
2. The Truman Show
Feel like a lot of emphasis is often put on the ‘what if we’re really living in our own dystopian Truman Show unreality and everything is fake?’ hypothetical, or on the film as a morality tale on the exploitation of reality TV. For me, and just in my opinion, it’s more about forcing yourself to confront something, something you always sort knew but don’t want to acknowledge; that life, in its inanity and inadequacy, is crushingly dissatisfying, and that you have to find something in the face of that - some stoicism, some will - to carry on.
Jim Carrey was my childhood hero, so it’s a film I first saw at weirdly early age, but it still did me in, even if I was too young to really understand why. I’d say I’ve probably rewatched it at least once a year since, and it still does. That fucking bit at the end where he smashes his boat into the edge, extends a tentative hand, lets out a half-crestfallen half-relieved gasp, then starts furiously and impotently raging against it, crumples broken to the floor, picks himself up, walks to the exit, bows and leaves. Fuck me. A magic bit of acting and a perfect ending. Five popcorns. Extra salty on account of all the tears.
- Tristan Cross
Sam Says: It’s very “Yes, I did Media at AS Level” but this film is fantastic, the best on the list, and Jim Carrey is fantastic in it and the crushingness of it when it all comes tumbling down on top of him is making me quite sad just thinking about it. More of a slow emotional constriction of the throat than a frantic crowding: I respect that.
1. The Rugrats Movie
I remember when I was a kid and someone put The Rugrats Movie on. I’d already grown out of Rugrats, let alone their movie spin-offs, bound to be reductive and revisionist, not a patch on the original series, but there I sat, watching it anyway out of sheer laziness. That’s when it got me. There’s a bit with a party in an Italian restaurant at the start and just after all of the mob movie references, there’s a mother-and-child dance on the dancefloor and everyone’s there… except Chuckie.
I’m pretty sure stuffing a scene where a child hides in a cupboard yearning for his deceased mother set to ‘When You Love’ by Sinead O’Connor into a movie FOR CHILDREN is abuse. I didn’t sign up to that. My eyes immediately burst into tears. I got that thing where all the sadness migrates to one spot in your neck and you can’t really speak. I’m also pretty sure I missed the rest of the movie because I was crying in the bathroom. Still getting a lump in my throat just thinking about it. Fuck Rugrats, man.
- Sam Diss
Sam Says: So, me, you won. Never watch that video – or that film – or any of these films – ever again.