Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: Movies that make you cry

Not so long ago I happened to see a letter written to a theater chain lambasting them for the practice of bringing the lights up before the credits ended. Setting aside the fact that most theaters only bring the lights up half-way in the belief that most viewers aren’t going to sit through what has come to be five to 15 minutes of credits, it should be noted that the customer wasn’t some diehard cineaste who just has to know who drove the honeywagon and who catered the food. No, his complaint had to do with his personal discomfort in cases where the movie had an emotional impact on him, and he liked to be able to sit in the dark to compose himself. In other words, he didn’t wish anyone to witness his shame at having been moved to tears by what he’d just seen.

The question that immediately comes to my mind is why this is an issue for him—or anyone else. Assuming for the moment—and I think we may unless the gent in question is a barking loon of the no-holds-barred variety—that this bout of copious weeping wasn’t brought about by, say, Alvin and the Chipmunks, but rather was the result of having witnessed something of genuine merit that touched him deeply, where is the shame in such a response? Should we be so embarassed by our emotions?

Of course, as a film critic and a more or less serious (it’s no good being too serious all the time) enthusiast of the art of film, I get to hide behind various coded bits of critic-speak. Understand this—when a critic tells you he or she found something “deeply moving,” or talks of its “emotional resonance” or “emotional power,” most of the time you may safely translate these phrases as “I cried like a baby.” (The actual wailing noises associated with infants, however, are probably absent, which is frankly just as well.) In itself, that rather suggests that critics are somewhat embarassed by their emotions, too. We probably mask this via a denial mechanism and assure ourselves that it would be unprofessional to claim we’d sobbed like a child.

In many ways, criticism is hemmed in by this approach. Were that not the case, terms like “women’s pictures” and “weepers” and “three handkerchief pictures” would not exist. (Yes, I know there’s a shorter term often used for handkerchief in this case, but it’s not one I care for for some reason.) Those appellations are clearly derogatory. They’re meant to cast a negative light on any film that aims for the viewer’s emotions. Why? No one feels the need to set up a set of demeaning terms for films that aim to make the viewer laugh. But there’s some sense that a movie that makes the viewer cry is automatically a lesser work.

Well, I say it’s spinach and to hell with it. I’m not sure my critical comrades in arms will join me in this, but I think it’s time to come out of the crying closet when it comes to movies. Oh, I’m not suggesting we get all touchy-feely and nauseatingly boo-hoo-hooey over every slab of unalloyed shamelessly manipulative tripe that comes along. I can—and will—attest to the fact that I can sit unmoved and dry-eyed through Nick Cassavetes’ The Notebook. I’ll add that the trailer for his upcoming My Sister’s Keeper made me burst out laughing the first time I saw it. And I didn’t buy the goo of Rob Reiner’s The Bucket List for a minute.

Why? Well, it’s admittedly subjective, but it’s a kind of cinematic BS detector—a sense that the emotions are spurious and that all I’m seeing—and not feeling—is a well-oiled machine engaged in an exercise so manipulative that it would make Pavlov blush. These films—and others I could name—remind me, in fact, of an old single panel cartoon where one dog in Pavlov’s laboratory says to another dog, “They want me to salivate, but I’ll be damned if I’ll give them the satisfaction.” Much like that dog, I get stubborn and dig my heels in at every fresh assault on my tear ducts.

At the same time, one of my most treasured moviegoing memories—and I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before—was witnessing a college crowd in 1973 exiting a showing of King Vidor’s The Champ (1931) wiping their eyes or even openly weeping. It was a beautiful sight—as was the knowledge that we’d all been a part of a shared emotional experience that touched a common humanity, even if only for a little while. The man who wrote the letter to the theater chain would be in a bad way with this one, because there’s only a single “The End” credit on the film—no recovery time there—and it immediately follows the fade-out of a mother (Irene Rich) walking through a silenced crowd of fight fans with her heartbroken son (Jackie Cooper) in her arms. It feels absolutely essentially real. That’s the key. What’s even more remarkable is that it’s in the artistry of it all, because the truth is that eight-year-old Jackie Cooper couldn’t stand the actor (Wallace Beery) he was crying his heart out over.

Looking back over the past few years of movies, I find that the ones that have meant the most to me have been films that touched me in very significant ways. But more to the point, they aren’t by any means what we traditionally think of as “weepers.” I’m sure I need explain to no one why I choked up at least three times during the last 15-20 minutes of Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire last year. I’m probably on reasonably safe ground when it comes to that final shot in his Sunshine the year before. But neither of these films qualify as any of those pejorative terms—even if they do use many of the same elements to provoke an emotional response.

I’m equally sure that no explanation is required for my emotional response to Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe, though I certainly know people who are completely untouched by it or who even dislike the film. But having said that, I’d have to add that the things in the film that make me tear-up aren’t necessarily the most obvious aspects. Yes, I’m a big enough goop to buy into the exchanged looks between Jim Sturgess and Evan Rachel Wood across the rooftops at the ending, but I know that part of that stems from the manner in which the climactic rooftop concert brings a sense of closure by recalling the last public performance of the Beatles on the roof of the Apple building. Other moments, however, are even stronger for me—such as T.V. Carpio singing “I Want to Hold Your Hand” as a painful ballad of unrequieted lesbian longing.

Then again, no one is likely to think of Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind or Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou as tear-jerkers. All three have that effect on me, however—not in their entirety, mind you, but in pieces that give them a kind of cumulative emotional power. I find, however, that I am as apt—or maybe more so—to be moved to tears by things that strike me as unbearably beautiful as much as by those that are traditionally sad. Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! touches me with its ill-fated love story, yes, but the things that go deeper for me are actually celebratory moments in the film—the high spirits of “Your Song” and the joyousness of the “Children of the Revolution” reprise with altered words near the climax. Why? I suspect not because they reflect life, but because they reflect life as I wish it were. As such, these moments fill a need.

Thinking back over my years and years of movie watching, I find that the things that make me cry—or at least tear-up, since the only film I can think of that will actually reduce me to tears that can cross over into stifled sobs is Ken Russell’s 1972 biopic on the French sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (Scott Antony), Savage Messiah—are a curious mix. Some of these emotional moments—moments that cause me show my “affective side,” as a friend who works in spiritual and psychiatric counselling tells me it’s called—are straightforward enough. By that I mean that they’re housed in traditional dramatic stories that lend themselves to such things. The Savage Messiah ending certainly qualifies in that regard. I suppose that the uplifting ending of Russell’s Tommy—which comes under the heading of the unbearably beautiful—does, too.

Some things, however, come out of nowhere or sneak up on me. Josef von Sternberg’s Shanghai Express (1932) is a romance/adventure, but it’s in a very cynical key for the most part. Of course, as is usually the case, there’s a damaged romantic underneath that cynicism, which is perhaps why the purposefully ridiculous line, “What good is a watch without you?” is simultaneously funny and moving. It’s such a perfect way of capturing the cynic’s inability to say what he means that he says it anyway—even if absurdly.

George Stevens made a fairly deep romantic comedy with sociological/philosophical overtones in 1942 called The Talk of the Town. It’s a good film—in some ways it’s a great film—but the scene that sticks with me, causes me to tear-up and resonates with me at all times is a side note. It involves Ronald Colman’s valet (Rex Ingram) watching Colman shave off a beard he’s worn for 15 years. The image of the valet crying at this action—because it marks change and the end of an era, and suggests his boss is likely to get hurt from what may result—is absolutely heartbreaking. (This disproves the idea that you can’t induce tears by showing them. It depends on who’s shedding them and how it’s handled.) It is probably not what Stevens wanted to have stick with me.

Of course, I’ve largely skirted the essential type of film that defines the tear-jerker by not admitting to any fondness for the traditional “soap opera” (a term that’s become largely meaningless)—apart from expressing distaste for The Notebook. We can’t have that, because there are many fine films that could be—and sometimes are—dismissed as “soap.” And more than a couple have been responsible for unseemly displays of emotion on my part. Almost anything from director John M. Stahl qualifies, especially Imitation of Life (1934) and Magnificent Obsession (1935). What of Leo McCarey’s Make Way for Tomorrow (1937)—as a drama about old age, it may not quite qualify as “soap,” but it uses the same tools and its aim is the tear ducts without question.

Tay Garnett’s One Way Passage (1932) tells the story of the shipboard romance of a man (William Powell) being transported back to the States for execution and a young woman (Kay Francis) who is dying of a heart condition. A plot like that is as close as you’re likely to get to the textbook definition of “soap opera.” It may be written with wit and acted with complete conviction, but that hardly changes the actual nature of the material. We are talking about a film with a recurring motif of the lovers smashing cocktail glasses and crossing the stems—a ritual the film has mystically occurring even after they meet their respective fates. Is this a sudsy romance? You bet. Does it work on me? Every damn time.

I could go on and on with other examples, but now I think I’ll turn the floor over to you. What movies make you cry? And if you find the question troublesome, I’ll rephrase it—what movies do you find emotionally powerful?

 

SHARE
About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

89 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: Movies that make you cry

  1. luluthebeast

    I didn’t used to tear up at anything, but after the diabetes set in I find myself tearing up at lots of different situations in movies, TV and even at that Pantene commercial from Thailand, and that was uplifting, not sad! I guess I’ve gotten hormonal in my old age, but if anyone gives me a hard time, they are going to get my cane across their shins!

  2. Jim Donato

    Big Fish. My wife and I cried like babies the first time we saw it. So we went to see it the next weekend. Same thing. Watched the DVD in the privacy of our own home. Still made me cry though my wife was by then developing resistance to a better degree than I was. Of course, it’s not Albert Finney’s death per se that makes me cry. Death itself is not a particularly sad event in most cases. It’s the beauty of his death and how it connects him with his son that hits the chord that works on the tear ducts. When my wife and I read the novel we were shocked at how Burton managed to pull powerful art from nowhere. It certainly wasn’t in the source material.

    Sadness is a time of contemplative reflection for me and it’s never accompanied by tears. Like yourself, it’s forms of beauty that make me cry, not sadness. Usually, I find this most often with music, but on rare occasions, it happens with film. I consider music a more pure form of art than film (to put it mildly) and the most emotional of the art forms, so this makes sense to me.

  3. Ken Hanke

    I guess I’ve gotten hormonal in my old age, but if anyone gives me a hard time, they are going to get my cane across their shins!

    I suppose it may be related to slipping into our dotage — utter cynicism is a luxury of youth — but I’d prefer to believe it has a little something to do with life experience. (Not sure about that Pantene commercial, though.)

  4. Ken Hanke

    Big Fish

    You’re not alone on that. Actually, Burton has managed to hit the emotional resonance gong with me with Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood, too.

    I consider music a more pure form of art than film (to put it mildly)

    Maybe it’s years of having to listen to the argument that silent movies are more pure cinema than talkies, but I always stick at the idea of something being more or less pure as an art form. Now, I’m very keen on music — and the use of music in film is perhaps my favorite aspect of film — but it’s never occurred to me that it’s purer.

  5. Lucia

    Wes Anderson movies always make me tear up as well- I’ve seen Royal Tenenbaums a dozen times, and every time Ben Stiller says “I’ve had a hard year” my eyes leak. The Darjeeling Limited also gets me every time. I’m pretty sensitive, but the films that really do me in are usually documentaries like Murderball or Young at Heart (the latter had long stretches of blubbering from me, to the point where I was totally exhausted) where real people suddenly are captured in a moment of pure emotionality that is just heartbreaking. That being said, the most pivotal cryfest experience I ever had in a movie theatre was during the House of Sand and Fog, specifically when Ben Kingsley is running after his son after he was shot, shouting “I am here!”. My friend and I had no idea what we were in for going to see that movie, and I remember both of us totally falling apart during that segment of the movie and stumbling out of the theatre afterward and unable to really communicate for quite some time. The rest of that movie was a little much on the Shakespearian tragedy side, but that segment was just stunningly devastating. It was years ago and I still think about it.

  6. tatuaje

    ‘Titanic’ gets me every time….

    seriously. I bawl like a little baby.

    I know, I know.

    Let the beatdown commence.

    ‘Dead Poet’s Society’ works just as well.

  7. luluthebeast

    “but I’d prefer to believe it has a little something to do with life experience.”

    Yea, yea, that’s the ticket!

  8. Jim Donato

    To clarify my artistic purity statement, I’ll offer that a single individual can make music, whereas films are a vastly more collaborative art form with infinitely greater technical complexity that carry with them a geometrically proportional stack of factors which can color the outcome. As I watch a film I am keenly aware of this, and in me at least, it serves as an emotional distancing factor. I would call film commerce that (hopefully) strives to be art – whereas music is art that can also strive to be commerce.

    The genesis of music is a human pursuit that needs no technology to occur. You can bolt technology on to it afterward but it is not required to achieve the art. Likewise one can perform a song without the application of commerce to make it exist. Commerce is a factor of dissemination, but as file sharing has proven, not a necessary one. Of course, I sit in a room typing this comment with many thousands of round spinning sound carrier media and a mere 75 DVDs and 200 or so laserdiscs, so take my comment with the necessary grain of salt.

  9. Dionysis

    I’ve reacted emotionally at times to some war movies, not because a particular character was killed, but simply at the tragedy of war. I’m pretty sure that the first movie that I ever bawled over was ‘Old Yella’ when I was a very young child. Ever since then, any film that has a sad moment centered on an animal almost always gets me (like that Jim Belushi movie years ago when his dog pal died). If I find out ahead of time that any movie has such a scene, I usually avoid it.

  10. Dionysis

    Whoops. I guess the title was actually ‘Old Yeller’. It was still a tear-jerker.

  11. luluthebeast

    Old Yeller shouldn’t count, we were kids, it’s like when Bambi’s Mom buys the farm!

  12. luluthebeast

    To be honest, I got a little weepy when I first saw the dragon die in SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD. I still get sad over it.

  13. Ken Hanke

    Wes Anderson movies always make me tear up as well- I’ve seen Royal Tenenbaums a dozen times, and every time Ben Stiller says “I’ve had a hard year” my eyes leak. The Darjeeling Limited also gets me every time.

    It’s funny that Tenenbaums doesn’t affect me nearly as much as Life Aquatic, which strikes three times: the burial at sea, the scene I pulled the frame-grab from when they find the shark, and the whole ending sequence with the Bowie song that oughtn’t fit, but it does, the sense of camarederie — and for a final little jab, who could that figure in the distance at the top of the ship be?

    I’m pretty sensitive, but the films that really do me in are usually documentaries like Murderball or Young at Heart

    That’s very interesting to me, because — while I’ve not seen those two films — the only documentary ever to get to me in that sense is The Times of Harvey Milk. I wonder what it says about me that I am more easily manipulated by fictional narratives than documentaries. I suspect it doesn’t say anything good.

    Sand and Fog didn’t work for me at all, but that’s the thing about much of this — it’s essentially personal. I once showed someone Death Takes a Holiday and he burst out laughing at the ending. Yet I can see nothing even slightly funny about it — and, in all honesty, his response did color my view of him.

  14. Ken Hanke

    The only film to make me cry in the theaters was MONSTERS, INC.

    Okay, but what about not in the theater?

    Monsters, Inc. didn’t make me cry, but it reminds me of something I can’t believe didn’t make my far from all-encompassing list — the damned teddy bear in A.I.. When the bear slips from the kid’s grasp and falls saying, “I’ll break, David,” I am absolutely devastated. The bear is also what destroys me at the very end — it’s the image of the little toy bear hopping up on the bed, presumably to sit there for eternity that gets me.

  15. Ken Hanke

    Let the beatdown commence.

    You know, I couldn’t say because I have never sat through Titanic. What was the point? I knew the damned thing was going to sink.

  16. Ken Hanke

    To clarify my artistic purity statement, I’ll offer that a single individual can make music, whereas films are a vastly more collaborative art form with infinitely greater technical complexity that carry with them a geometrically proportional stack of factors which can color the outcome.

    Yes, but…while an individual can make music, how often is that really the case? A single person rarely records an album without collaboration. (Okay, I’ll concede that Paul McCartney’s McCartney was for all intents and purposes completely him — if we charitably discount Linda’s harmonies — and that may argue against the desirability of such an undertaking.) One person can write a symphony, but he cannot play it by himself — that requires the collaboration of an orchestra. To me, the argument works better in pure theory than in impure practice.

    Now, what I find most amazing about the collaborative nature of the film medium is that somehow or other — regardless of changing writers, cinematographers, studios, etc — when you’re dealing with a certain calibre of filmmaker, there’s very little doubt as to who the controlling vision belongs to.

    The genesis of music is a human pursuit that needs no technology to occur. You can bolt technology on to it afterward but it is not required to achieve the art

    To achieve the art, maybe not. To achieve the vision intended, it usually is. In this regard, writing would seem a purer art than music. I may say that it should be noted that I have little patience for most solo performances, which will undoubtedly color my view on the matter.

    Of course, I sit in a room typing this comment with many thousands of round spinning sound carrier media and a mere 75 DVDs and 200 or so laserdiscs, so take my comment with the necessary grain of salt.

    Whereas I’m sitting in a room with probably 400-500 CDs and in the neighborhood of 4,000 movies.

  17. Ken Hanke

    I’m pretty sure that the first movie that I ever bawled over was ‘Old Yella’ when I was a very young child.

    I was about 3 or 4 when I saw Old Yeller. I don’t remember bawling at it, but more like being traumatized by it. To this day, I find myself wondering, “What idiot thinks this is suitable fare for children?” Oh, I know, I know — life lessons and all that. Still, you go up to a small child and ask, “Say, you wanna go see a movie where a boy has to shoot his dog because it gets rabies?” and I doubt you’re going to get many takers.

  18. Ken Hanke

    Old Yeller shouldn’t count, we were kids, it’s like when Bambi’s Mom buys the farm!

    Interestingly, there was a re-issue of Bambi at the same time that Tommy came out and, for a while, it was the film playing at the Floriland Theater in Tampa when Tommy was in its first-run Quintophonic sound engagement. One night I just asked the middle-aged guy working box office for “two” without specifying the title. He asked which movie and I looked at him fixedly with a “Tommy of course” attitude. (Hey, I was 20.) To this he remarked, “Eh, I go in and watch Tommy and I cry. I go in and watch Bambi and I cry.” I still went to Tommy, but I got the point.

  19. Ken Hanke

    To be honest, I got a little weepy when I first saw the dragon die in SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD. I still get sad over it.

    I feel exactly the same way when Bela Lugosi’s pet gorilla breaks Bela’s back in The Ape Man

  20. irelephant

    Moulin Rouge! and Across the Universe never fail to stimulate my tear ducts. The ending of the Fellowship of the Ring where Frodo and Sam look out over Mordor will forever make weep.

    Good article, Ken.

  21. JOHN-C

    Documentary – Fierce Grace

    About the great spiritual teacher Ram Dass!

    One of the few to make me cry

  22. shadmarsh

    There are probably a lot more, but off the top of my head:

    The Pianist
    Terms of Endearment
    Touching the Void
    The Killing Fields
    Sophies Choice

  23. luluthebeast

    Another emotional scene was in the original Gojira (not the American version) when Dr. Daisuke Serizawa decides to use the oxygen destroyer, knowing he’s going to have to sacrifice his own life so that no one else discovers it’s secret and you have women from all over Japan singing that beautiful hymn in the background.

  24. Whereas I’m sitting in a room with probably 400-500 CDs and in the neighborhood of 4,000 movies.

    I’m approaching 20,000 movies :)

  25. Ken Hanke

    The ending of the Fellowship of the Ring where Frodo and Sam look out over Mordor will forever make weep.

    Another worthy addition. I always find it kind of funny that it’s the ending of the first film in the trilogy that has the greatest emotional punch.

  26. Ken Hanke

    I’m approaching 20,000 movies

    Well, this is because you haven’t learned how to live without Deadly Prey and Troll 2.

  27. luluthebeast

    “I’m approaching 20,000 movies :)”

    My wife would kill me.

    And not shed a tear!

  28. Ken Hanke

    Nacho Libre made me cry, but for painfully different reasons!

    Oh, I bet we could come up with quite a list in this category — “Movies that make you despair for the future of the human race.” Having seen the teaser for Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeaquel — 28 seconds of living hell — I am prepared to weep for humanity.

  29. I cried at MONSTERS, INC. as well, but only the first time I saw it. Bolt was a another kids’ flick that made me cry at the end.

    While I’m admitting to it, I cry in about three places during Gone With the Wind. Every single time I watch it.

  30. luluthebeast

    “Having seen the teaser for Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeaquel—28 seconds of living hell—I am prepared to weep for humanity.”

    I’ll join you. I can’t believe the first one made over 360 million in the theatres! Neither Mary or myself could make it through the dvd (and she’ll watch anything with little critters).

  31. Ken Hanke

    I cried at MONSTERS, INC. as well, but only the first time I saw it. Bolt was a another kids’ flick that made me cry at the end.

    I think I’m fairly resistant to kid flicks in this regard — they always seem to be trying too hard — though I’ll confess to the “this is my family” speech in Lilo and Stitch. I don’t think the Shirley Temple version of Little Miss Marker counts because it’s clearly not actually aimed at kids.

    While I’m admitting to it, I cry in about three places during Gone With the Wind. Every single time I watch it.

    GWTW benefits greatly from being an “end of an era” story. Those always start off with an advantage because of the passing of an age aspect. GWTW even aims at this with its romanticized creeper title about the charms of the old south — before the film has even started.

    I hadn’t thought about this one — perhaps because I find its main characters, except Rhett, awfully tiresome — but I realize it has moments that are emotionally effective to me because they are cinematically iconic and part of a sense of “the movies” with all that implies. The huge words “Gone with the Wind” passing across the screen with the Max Steiner music (never sell the Steiner score short on this), the crane shot across the wounded soldiers up to the tattered flag, the studio designed artistry of the pull-back shot (again with the Steiner score) at the “As God is my witness” curtain speech just before the intermission — these carry a punch that are almost outside the story.

  32. “Oh, I bet we could come up with quite a list in this category—“Movies that make you despair for the future of the human race.” Having seen the teaser for Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeaquel—28 seconds of living hell—I am prepared to weep for humanity.”

    If you lasted 28 seconds, you are super human.

  33. Ken Hanke

    If you lasted 28 seconds, you are super human.

    Actually, 28 seconds is the length of the teaser, so I made it through the whole thing. Now imagine the feeling that comes with the realization that that there’s another 90 minutes of movie in the offing…

  34. Al Cottingham

    Ken, I always cry when Larry The Cable guy hits his head in the doorway in “Health Inspector”. But it didn’t last 28 seconds. Only about 10 seconds than I laugh my butt off.

  35. Windham

    I cry during Field of Dreams. Sure it’s the equivalent of cinematic pablum, but I’m a baseball fan with daddy issues.

  36. Ken Hanke

    My wife would kill me.

    Yeah, but Marc has this video store excuse going for him. You don’t.

  37. Ken Hanke

    Ken, I always cry when Larry The Cable guy hits his head in the doorway in “Health Inspector”.

    Gee, Cull…er Al, I cry merely at the existence of Larry the Cable Guy.

  38. Ken Hanke

    I cried when King Kong died

    With the name of Dr. Zaius, I’m not about to doubt you.

  39. Ken Hanke

    I should note that I now have to add the new Pixar film, Up, to my list.

  40. oplease19

    These quotes by the author show how idiosynchratic crying at a movie, and even liking a movie, can be. “I’m sure I need explain to no one why I choked up at least three times during the last 15-20 minutes of Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire last year”. Then, in a post later in the thread, “I have never sat through Titanic. What was the point? I knew the damned thing was going to sink”. Isn’t that the same with the last 15-20 minutes of Slumdog? You know he’s going to win the money, and you know from the advertising and from the paint-by-numbers script for this part that the 2 leads will be together. I did choke up earlier in Slumdog, during the heartbreaking scenes involving the young children, including (SPOILER ALERT) when acid was poured into one child’s eyes. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was, uh, more emotionally resonant to me than Slumdog Millionaire (and a better movie). To further illustrate the idiosynchratic nature of crying at movies, one of the people I was with cried during the battle on Hoth in Empire Strikes Back.

  41. Ken Hanke

    Not still hating on Pixar, eh?

    I’m not “hating on” this movie, in any case. I never actually “hated on” (though I hate on the use of “hated on”) Pixar. I merely find them wildly overrated in a general sense.

  42. Ken Hanke

    “I’m sure I need explain to no one why I choked up at least three times during the last 15-20 minutes of Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire last year”. Then, in a post later in the thread, “I have never sat through Titanic. What was the point? I knew the damned thing was going to sink”. Isn’t that the same with the last 15-20 minutes of Slumdog?

    Even if I agreed with you about the transparency of the plot of Slumdog — and I don’t, which perhaps just proves that I wasn’t smart enough to figure it out when I first saw the movie before it became a phenomenon — the points are not the same. “I’m sure I need explain to no one why I choked up at least three times” doesn’t say that you — or anyone else — had that experience, merely that the material explains what prompted the response.

    Similarly, if someone said “I’m sure I need explain to no one why I choked up at least three times” about Titanic, I’d understand what was being conveyed whether or not I shared the response.

    Then again, I never suggested that an emotional response isn’t personal and subjective. (I don’t think it’s especially idiosyncratic unless perhaps you burst into tears at the Three Stooges.)

    To further illustrate the idiosynchratic nature of crying at movies, one of the people I was with cried during the battle on Hoth in Empire Strikes Back.

    Now that might be idiosyncratic.

  43. Leigh

    A film that touches me to the point of grateful tears is “Rushmore”. There’s something about Bill Murray that gets me every time (think “The Razor’s Edge). The best movies for me are about redemption.

  44. Ken Hanke

    A film that touches me to the point of grateful tears is “Rushmore”.

    I really need to watch Rushmore again. (Note to self: how hard would it be to convince Justin to sit through a Wes Anderson picture for one of our weekly screenings? Not very.) I remember finding aspects of it quite moving, but I strangely do not remember specifics.

  45. shadmarsh

    I had a similar experience with Rushmore, mainly I think, because it pulls of the emotional and touching aspects without ever becoming sentimental.

  46. Leigh

    Shadmarsh, my feeling exactly. Tender, quirky, and I loved the score.

  47. Dread P. Roberts

    First of all, I should mention that certain movies have become a LOT more emotionally resonate for me after having my little girl. The instant I read the title for this weeks screening room, one particular movie scene stuck out in my mind – the ending of “Blow“. If I didn’t have a daughter, then the ending probably would have had much less of an effect, but when you combine that aspect with the shock that I felt when the credits rolled – let’s just say it was like I had been ’emotionally’ punched in the face.

    I always find it kind of funny that it’s the ending of the first film in the trilogy that has the greatest emotional punch.

    While i think this is a great scene (and ending) it didn’t have any ’emotional punch’ with me, but did I find Gandalf’s “so do all who live to see such times” speech pretty moving. A couple of scenes hit me pretty hard in “Return of the King“. Like the scene where Faramir sacrifices himself for his wicked father’s (King Denethor) approval, while Pippin sings for the king. The way that scene was done is just beautifully moving to me.

    Also, Life Aquatic is the only Wes Anderson movie to make me cry thus far. The Pianist did me in too.

  48. Vince Lugo

    Pixar got me bad with Toy Story 2. The song for Jessie, “When She Loved Me” (and the images that went with it), coupled with her heartbreaking observation that “You never forget people like Emily, but they forget you”, gets me misty eyed every time I watch that film. As a whole, the film has great emotional resonance and I feel that it’s Pixar’s best work to date (although Ratatouille came close to topping it).

    Also, and this may sound silly to you, I cried twice during “Revenge of the Sith”, first when all the Jedi were being slaughtered and again during Amidala’s funeral scene.

    I feel no personal shame. In fact I like it when movies have that kind of impact on me. It happens so rarely, though, that when it does, it’s all the more powerful.

  49. Ken Hanke

    The instant I read the title for this weeks screening room, one particular movie scene stuck out in my mind – the ending of ”Blow”. If I didn’t have a daughter, then the ending probably would have had much less of an effect

    Blow was in large part one of those in-one-eye-and-out-the-other movies for me, though I remember the scene in question. I don’t, however, remember being so much moved by it as impressed by it. Now, the fact that my daughter would have been 25 when Blow came out may have entered into that, but I’ll never actually know. However, it’s certainly true that how we respond to a film is colored by our personal lives.

    While i think this is a great scene (and ending) it didn’t have any ‘emotional punch’ with me

    I suspect it has much to do with the undercurrent of the scene and its build-up, with the way that Frodo is ultimately moved to get over his sense of superiority and admit he’s glad Sam is there. Much as I like to see an audience worked up emotionally, I also like depictions of moments where people drop their BS and admit their need and love for another person. And this is a beautiful portrayal of that.

    In fairness to the other two films, Fellowship may have the edge because it’s the only one I’ve seen multiple times.

  50. Kevin F.

    I think that the last film that teared me up was LOCAL HERO (1983), at the end, when the protagonist returns to the U.S. and the Mark Knopfler track “Going Home (Theme from LOCAL HERO)” kicks in. To me, it really hits the melancholy of arriving home from an amazing trip, the sense of success but also potential missed opportunity.

  51. shadmarsh

    I just remembered I cried during Wall-E, but I am a sucker for robot romances.

  52. Bill Barnwell

    I rarely cry. But I do feel goose-bump emotion on occasion at the movies. Like the sports movie about the friendship between Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo in “Brian’s Song”. “I lloooovvveee Brian Piccolo” gets me every time. Then the movie about the waterboy getting to play the last game of the season with Notre Dame. I well up when the crowd chants “Rudy Rudy Rudy”.

    I’d also like to see more sports movies made.

  53. Ken Hanke

    I think that the last film that teared me up was LOCAL HERO (1983)

    Kevin, are you saying that no film made since 1983 has done this?

  54. Kevin F.

    No, it just happens to be the one freshest in memory because I only saw it a few months ago.

  55. thedj

    Copy that Shadmarsh on “Wall-E”. I saw it in Hendersonville near the tail end of its release and cried several times, particularly during “Hello Dolly” accentuated moments. Perhaps my reaction stems from all the cute alien/robot/animal films of my childhood, including “ET”, “Project X”, “Batteries Not Included”, “Short Circuit” etc.” I’m not sure how those films would affect me as an adult. Would I be cheesed out be the storylines, special effects, and acting that captivated me as a child? Despite a twenty year viewing gap, I assume “ET” and “Project X” would retain their poignancy. Seems hard not to tear up at “I’ll be right here,” or a dying monkey. I can’t say how the other two films would hold up now.
    I prefer to be moved by films as an adult and don’t feel the urge to revist my childhood discography, unless by accident or if I bring some of my own rugrats into this world. For example, I took my three year old nephew to a friend’s backyard get together to see the “The Wizard of Oz” It was his first real movie and as I watched him stare in stunned silence for the next two hours and felt him squeeze my hand when the Wicked Witch of the West would appear, I had a visceral reminder of my childhood reaction to movies like that. Of course, “Wizard…” is one of the greats (script wise and acting) and I was reminded of that as an adult who hadn’t seen the film in over a decade.
    “Wall-E’s” wonderfully paced story and timely plot inspired my adult sensibilities while tapping that childhood reaction to robots as creative devices that amplify and explore humanity; robots searching for identity or love. Movies like “Spirited Away” do the same thing.

  56. Dread P. Roberts

    Some other notable movies that I recently thought of to mention for their emotional resonance are American History X and The Shawshank Redemption. And even though it never quite had a tear inducing effect on me, I’m still rather surprised that no one has mentioned Braveheart. Hmm…I guess everyone just has a harder time sympathizing with Mel Gibson than I had thought.

  57. cleov

    Occasion for tears.

    “Carousel”.

    “Graveyard of the Fireflies.” Even when you know the ending in advance.

    First sight of Boris Karloff’s face in “Frankenstein.”

    Staircase scene toward the end of “The Cat People” (directed by Val Lewton). Irena has been mortally wounded by the insufferable know-it-all psychiatrist (Tom Conway — brother to George Sanders). Psychiatrist has been torn to shreds (take THAT deconstruction, Sigmund!) and the constabulary has arrived. Irena, still impaled with the sword cane, hides near a large potted plant. Among the many people storming up the staircase (left over from the Magnificent Ambersons) set are her husband, the unmitigated doofus Oliver, and his sympathetic co-worker Alice who is obviously going to be the next woman he marries. Jealous and furious, Irena has menaced both Oliver and Alice several times. But now, when she sees that Oliver is holding Alice gently and protectively, she merely gazes up at them sadly and with no resentment. She then makes a tiny gesture with her hand — half blessing, half goodbye, turns and limps down the stairs, unseen, creeping away to die like a despised and wounded animal. It’s that little movement with the hand that gets me every damn time. (That and the way her hand clutches like a cat’s paw, as she dies in agony, her face hidden.)

    Yeah, and the teddy bear from A.I., too. And the nanny robot, protecting David with her skeletal arm, and going so gently and unknowingly to her destruction.

    I’ve gotten so that I WILL NOT watch any movie that has a dog or especially a cat in it. Something always happens to the cat within the first half hour. Most of the dogs make it to the final credits.

    Sometimes, I get ambushed. There was a section in an animated movie called “Allegro Non Troppo” (Italian — same idea as Fantasia — animation inspired by music — but BETTER!). The music was “Valse Triste” (Sibelius?) and there was a little cat haunting the doorframe of an abandoned house. Oh hell, I’ve started myself off — goodbye!

  58. T.H.X. Pijonsnodt, Esq.

    Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li reduced me to tears numerous times through the unflinching verisimilitude of its depiction of the Bangkok real estate market and wushu-trained concert pianists. Also, cancer.

  59. Clocky

    I cried at Secrets & Lies. I still think it’s a wonderful movie.

  60. luluthebeast

    “First sight of Boris Karloff’s face in “Frankenstein.”

    I got choked up at the end with his final screams in the fire. Sent a chill right through me!

    Graveyard of the Fireflies was a good one as well!

  61. Ken Hanke

    The music was “Valse Triste” (Sibelius?)

    Yes, it’s Sibelius.

    I’d actually forgotten how incredibly sad Cat People is, but you’re right, even if I never found Tom Conway’s Dr. Judd exactly insufferable. (Side note: Val Lewton produced the film. Jacques Tourneur directed it.)

  62. Ken Hanke

    Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li reduced me to tears numerous times through the unflinching verisimilitude of its depiction of the Bangkok real estate market and wushu-trained concert pianists. Also, cancer.

    And the heartbreak of genetically inherited stage Irish accents.

  63. TonyRo

    For some reason, no matter how many times I’ve seen it, the last scene of FORREST GUMP always gets me. I know a lot of people hate that flick, but it still kills me each time.

    The same goes for the funeral scene in FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL with John Hannah reading Auden’s poem.

    The newest one to really get me is MILK and it’s odd because I don’t get teared up at the end, but rather at the scene where he answers the phone and it’s the kid who wants to kill himself. I’ve seen the movie close to ten times now and each time I get a bit misty when that scene comes on.

  64. Justin Souther

    Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li reduced me to tears numerous times through the unflinching verisimilitude of its depiction of the Bangkok real estate market and wushu-trained concert pianists. Also, cancer.

    And the heartbreak of genetically inherited stage Irish accents.

    Personally, Chris Klein’s facial hair had me in tears.

  65. Rufus

    King Theoden in THE TWO TOWERS “No parent should have to bury their child”.

    More recently, DEAR FRANKIE on dvd (chosen due positive K.H. review). My wife, daughter and I just looked at each other and wiped our eyes at the ending – though the end was actually heartening.

    Both speak to the depth of a parent’s love, and in the latter, a childs intuition and resilience. The type of stuff that constricts my throat every time.

  66. Ken Hanke

    I know a lot of people hate that flick

    Oh, yes, indeed. Put me down on that list.

    The newest one to really get me is MILK and it’s odd because I don’t get teared up at the end, but rather at the scene where he answers the phone and it’s the kid who wants to kill himself.

    I’d admit to both — as long as by end you mean the candlelight vigil. And even the first time I was expecting it, because of being familiar with The Times of Harvey Milk, and it still got me.

  67. Ken Hanke

    Personally, Chris Klein’s facial hair had me in tears

    “Nash out!”

  68. Ken Hanke

    More recently, DEAR FRANKIE on dvd (chosen due positive K.H. review).

    I’m very glad to hear that. This is a much undervalued and overlooked film.

    And, uh, since you were there 36 years ago, do you remember that screening of The Champ?

  69. Rufus

    And, uh, since you were there 36 years ago, do you remember that screening of The Champ?

    To my everlasting regret and shame, I think I fell asleep during THE CHAMP. I KNOW I fell asleep during THE GOOD EARTH!

  70. Ken Hanke

    To my everlasting regret and shame, I think I fell asleep during THE CHAMP. I KNOW I fell asleep during THE GOOD EARTH!

    I knew about the latter, but not the former. I am shocked — shocked. Yet you made it through A Day at the Races at 3 in the morning (probably because you slept through The Champ in the afternoon).

  71. Rufus

    Yet you made it through A Day at the Races at 3 in the morning

    I don’t know if that speaks to my ability rebound and gain a second wind, or to my taste in movies. It was certainly a memorable, though somewhat grueling weekend!

  72. mt

    I greatly enjoyed this article. The two points in two movies I immediately thought of were when the elves come to Helms Deep in “The Two Towers” and when Schindler comes to the Rabbi to remind him it is the Sabbath and gives him back his role as Rabbi to the people. I know there are others, but these are the two I immediately thought of. I began to consider what linked these and I think it was restoration of hope or possibility. For me, it wasn’t just about films I cry in. Those are many. It was about the films that caused sobs to come up from my gut when I was totally unprepared for it, almost as if I knew what was going to happen before it did, the power of the theme was so sudden and strong. And in the knowing, I wept.

  73. Ken Hanke

    It was certainly a memorable, though somewhat grueling weekend!

    It was easier to gruel back then when I was 18 (which means you musta been about 16).

  74. Ken Hanke

    I greatly enjoyed this article.

    Thank you.

    I began to consider what linked these and I think it was restoration of hope or possibility

    Those are very potent emotions, so that makes perfect sense to me.

    In many ways, I think those emotions become even stronger if they happen to interconnect with the knowledge that things cannot end well. Take, for example, the ending of Ken Russell’s Mahler. If anyone wants to see this film — and everyone should — it might be as well to read no further in case you’re bothered by knowing the ending of a film you haven’t seen. I’ll only speak in broad terms, but still…

    It’s an instance where we have a film that ends on a hopeful note — and, in fact, allegorically speaking, the last line isn’t untrue. But it’s a note that the audience knows will be short-lived, owing to information we have just been given that the characters haven’t. The results — even though Russell freezes the film on the specific moment of uplift — give the ending a bittersweet tone.

  75. Jordan

    “Grave of the Fireflies.” Even when you know the ending in advance.

    I totally agree. I had watched it years ago and decided to rent it just the other week and it sat on my coffee table for almost a week because I knew it would get me upset.

    Forrest Gump also makes me cry when he is talking to Jenny’s grave and the birds fly over.

    The last time I cried in a theater was at “Waltz with Bashir” I was literally jerking with tears; I too felt like such ashamed for some reason and went to compose myself in the bathroom, but then as I was leaving I saw a lot of people all red eyed, so I didn’t feel bad.

    And don’t get me started on the first Pokemon movie! I had to sit through it while watching my nephews (this was when it first came out) and I felt my brain turning to mush and I am just dumbfounded by it and how it didn’t make any sense and why I got so angry over it’s plot holes I have no idea, but I did. AND THEN, the main character “dies” and Pikacu is trying to electrocute him back to life… he’s crying and screaming over his lost owner and I’m crying and sobbing… yes much shame will come upon me for this admission but show me someone that doesn’t cry at that scene and I show you someone without a soul! haha, well maybe I won’t go that far… but it’s sad darn it!

  76. Clocky

    Hoop Dreams, at a very non-climactic moment.

    It’s when the news comes along that the father of one of the players is going to rehab or jail, and he won’t be spending time with the family anymore.

  77. Ken Hanke

    Say, uh, Garth — if you happen to be looking here, I’d like to point out that you’ve a chance to expiate your sins about The Champ. It’s on TCM Wed, June 3 at 10:45 p.m.

  78. luluthebeast

    Finally saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and while I enjoyed it quite a bit and liked the cinematography, it just didn’t make the list for here, not like Big Fish did.

  79. Ken Hanke

    Finally saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and while I enjoyed it quite a bit and liked the cinematography, it just didn’t make the list for here, not like Big Fish did.

    Benjamin Button isn’t fit to clean Big Fish‘s shoes.

  80. Aaron

    I’ve never cried during a movie before, but Emilio’s death in “Dangerous Minds” left me completely heartbroken. Especially when Ms. Johnson told her class that very morning. It’s so sad!!

  81. will

    “Benjamin Button isn’t fit to clean Big Fish‘s shoes.” – Ken Hanke

    Amen!!!

    Benjamin Button was just too … “calculated” … I don’t know …

    anyway, there have been plenty of times I’ve teared up over a film … once was during a part in Marc Singer’s documentary Dark Days (Ken, if you haven’t seen it, you should!), another was during the suicide scene in The Royal Tenenbaums.

    Nice writing, man, I enjoyed this article

  82. Ken Hanke

    Nice writing, man, I enjoyed this article

    Thank you. I haven’t seen Dark Days, but I’ll put it on my ever-growing list of things that need catching up with.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.