Everyone needs a good cry once in awhile and there are only a select few movies that have been able to break the levy to my eyes. Sometimes they are tears of joy and other times they are tears of sorrow, but either way, they are still tears. I’m not counting movies that made cry from laughter or from how bad or disappointing a film was, but maybe we can have that for another list.
The criteria is simple and based on my own opinions. Obviously not everyone cries at these movies, but maybe you like the list anyways.
(SPOILER ALERT): I will reveal details about these movies that may be considered spoilers. You’ve been warned.
10. Seven Pounds (2008): This was the first I went to see with my mom that I saw her legit cry and sob which in turn made me cry. That alone makes it a movie that will invoke tears, but it’s the fact the Will Smith plays such a tormented and guilty character who ends up sacrificing his life to give back to seven people with physical and financial issues. It’s a touching story that has Will Smith’s character dying at the end in a tub of ice cold water and a jellyfish.
9. Boyz N Da Hood (1991): If you haven’t seen this film yet, treat yourself. One of my all time favorite films, Boyz N Da Hood may come off as a stereotypical “urban” drama, but it is in fact a coming of age story from a world that few have lived. Being from the ghetto doesn’t make you ghetto nor does it define you, but when you’re caught in the crossfire (literally) of crime, drugs, violence, and discrimination, you begin to shatter. The iconic shot with Cuba Gooding Jr. and Morris Chestnut still makes me tear up.
8. Life is Beautiful (1997): This movie conflicts the emotional spectrum because it’s a Holocaust film, but is trying to be a comedy. As Roberto Benini and his son are captured by the Nazis, he attempts to make all the tragic moments light hearted for his son and in doing so, it becomes beautifully tragic no matter which way you look at. I would put Schindler’s List on here, but any Holocaust movie is sad, and this was the film that had a mixture of happy and sad.
7. Old Yeller (1957): There’s a reason everyone mentions this or Marley and Me as some of the saddest movies ever put to screen. We love animals and rightfully so, but when we lose them, it’s very much like losing a human family member, only on screen it’s much worse to watch. Travis and Yeller were a reluctant pair at first and they only grow fonder for another as their adventures go on and it’s just when you think they’re going to have a happy ending does Yeller get attacked by a rabid wolf.
6. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996): Unlike the last few films on the list, this is an animated musical from Disney. The music and range of emotion the songs and scenery give are what bring tears to my eyes with this one. Quazi Moto is an outcast in a world that won’t accept him because they judge his appearance. The songs are some of the best in any film and cast a tone that is far heavier than we comprehend. Imagery that could scare most children and adults to this day are what get me each time.
5. Toy Story 3 (2010): I don’t think any fan of this franchise didn’t say that they thought our heroes weren’t going to legit die in the movie. The tension and next step in a near perfect franchise was more or less capped with the passing of the torch or in this case toys as Andy is set to go to college. Woody, Buzz, and the gang have seen their friends come and go and no one was safe from being given away. It was one of the most mature of Pixar’s films and managed to get every man and woman, boy and girl, who grew up watching Toy Story to bawl their eyes out when they saw this movie.
4. 12 Years a Slave (2013): This is a movie I have only been able to watch a couple times and two is more than plenty. Slavery is like the Holocaust or any other sick human act people have done in the past that we can’t forgive and you see first hand as to why in this film. A free man kidnapped and wrongfully sold by slave traders is held captive for 12 years of his life only to witness the atrocities that black slaves went through on plantations in the south. Chiwetel Ejiofor’s passion and heartbreak are coupled with an award winning performance by Lupita Nyong’o and you’ll be hard pressed to not cry.
3. Green Mile (1999): This is the measure of most “men” and their capacity to hold in water fountains of tears, but so far, I haven’t met a man who didn’t get even a little misty eyed at this Stephen King adapted film. Tom Hanks is the big star in this one (and does a great job as always), but it’s the standout performance by Michael Clarke-Duncan that makes us feel some type of way. Duncan’s performance as a falsely accused rapist sentenced to death by electric chair is gutwrenchingly sad, especially when get to see his character develop into the character he eventually is revealed to be. His large stature, but innocent qualities proved Duncan was an actor who knew how to hit where it hurts the most.
2. Tarzan (1999): The 90’s was a golden age of Disney animation at the end of that run came Disney’s animated version of Tarzan and in Disney fashion, it brings the swelling eyes. There is nothing more powerful than the love a mom has for her son, but it’s crazier when you couple that with idea of poaching, prejudice, and not fitting in. The Phil Collins soundtrack has one song in particular that can be a lullaby to all children aptly detailing the love parents should have for their kids and that alone is beautiful and touching.
1. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006): One of the most personal stories on film I’ve ever seen, a parent doing any and everything for their child. Couple that with the real life son and father relationship Will Smith and Jaden Smith have as well as the crying scenes of all crying scenes you have the most tear inducing film imaginable. Never should we compare things like this to the Holocaust or horrible moments of that sort, but there’s something about it solely about a couple people in a world that others are living casually. The scenes in the bathroom or at the end when (spoiler alert) gets the job he worked the whole film to get, it lets you breath and once that release comes out you feel like you were able to get the weight off your chest at last.