Hands up who likes a good cry? Come on, I know you do. I certainly do. For me, it’s a cleansing release and wholly therapeutic. Ever since I used to sob at the Emmerdale theme tune as a toddler (my parents used to fetch me and sit me in front of the TV when it came on as some kind of party trick for their friends. And yes, my therapist has said that I’m making good progress with this of late), TV, film, music, books and art have always moved me with ease. So, for me to try and list my favourite films that have left me dangerously dehydrated is not an easy task at all as there is a plethora to choose from. So here goes, a list of 15 of them in descending order of the amount of tears shed. Please feel free to tell me which films have left you snivelling and sobbing in the cinema aisle too.
15. Once Were Warriors
New Zealand may not be immediately known for its film industry, but considering The Piano, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Heavenly Creatures, The Whale Rider, and the grotesquely brilliant Bad Taste, New Zealand really has made it’s mark in the movie world. But it is was when I went to see Once Were Warriors in the cinema in Australia that I was first introduced to New Zealand films and what an introduction it was. Once Were Warriors tells the story of an urban Maori family set in Aukland. It portrays the reality of domestic violence, alcoholism and sexual abuse, so as you can imagine, it’s not an easy film to watch.
The bit that really sets you off: the death of daughter Grace, is one of the hardest scenes I’ve ever watched in the cinema and I would defy anyone to watch it without shedding a tear.
14. Blue Valentine
Eurgh. I can’t even…. Never has there been a sadder film that depicts the breakdown of a relationship and ultimately a family. This film is so perfect in so many ways. The way it shows them falling in love, the way it shows the cracks starting to appear, how they try to fix their relationship and finally the inevitable break-up. The film is brilliant for two other reasons though: 1) Ryan -yes please thank you very much- Gosling, who also happens to be very, very good in this 2) Michelle Williams, who I think is one of the best female actors in America at the moment. I mean just look at her heartbreaking scene in Manchester by the Sea for gawd’s sake. She does emotional very well. The two of them were outstanding in this film.
The bit that really sets you off: as Bobby (Gosling) walks away, his young daughter runs after him and begs him to come back. Honestly, this film will literally break your heart.
13. 12 Years a Slave
As I settled down for my favourite night of the year, the Eurovision Song Contest, I noticed that on another channel showing at the same time was 12 Years a Slave. Well, what a juxtaposition of choice TV channels had thrown up for us all that night. As one cannot get further way from the wonderfully camp and colourful world of Eurovision as you can with this film. Based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a New York born African American who was kidnapped and and sold into slavery. Chiwetel Ejiofor’s performance as the film’s protagonist was exceptional and quite rightly earned him an Oscar nod (personally I would have given it to him, but the Academy never bloody asks me what I think. Idiots). It did win him the BAFTA though and Lupita Nyong’o also won the Oscar for Best Supporting Female Actor.
The bit that really sets you off: When Solomon is forced to whip his friend and fellow slave Patsey (Nyong’o) by the bastard plantation owner. It’s nothing short of horrific.
12. Schindler’s List
I remember leaving the cinema in Reading with my friend Stephen after seeing this film in stunned silence. We struggled to talk to each other about it. It seemed pointless to try and put into words how this film made us feel. It’s inconceivable to think that the events that took place in this film, actually did happen. This wasn’t some kind of fabricated, elaborate story and this makes the narrative of the film very hard to grapple with. Schindler’s List won 7 Oscars and & 7 BAFTAS. Filmed in black and white (apart from the famous red coat), it is one of Steven Spielberg’s greatest achievements in film (there’s a good chance that his greatest ever film also features further down this list).
The bit that really sets you off: generally the whole film will have you in bits, but it’s between when Schindler realises the girl in the red coat that he saw earlier has been killed and when he breaks down claiming that he could have saved so many more lives. Devastating.
11. Inside Out
Nothing makes me cry more than a Pixar film. So here we are, with the genius that is Inside Out. What a beautiful way to try and explain emotions and what they do to us, for children and young people to understand. Believe it or not, along with Joy- Anger, Disgust, Worry, Fear and Sadness are all in fact, our buddies. Yes, that’s right. We should make friends with them and be at peace with them. I think I learnt more watching this film than I did doing my Psychology A-level.
The bit that really sets you off: Do I really need to explain? It’s the bit when Riley’s imaginary friend Bing-Bong is lost forever as he sacrifices himself to allow her to grow as a human. “Take her to the moon for me” WHAAAAAAA.
10. The Impossible
For some reason, I stupidly didn’t think that watching a film that was a true story about a family who were separated during the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami in Thailand and then (SPOILER ALERT) eventually get reunited, would be a tear jerker. What a colossal twat I was. It floored me. I mean, Ewan Mcgregor was swirled around in the devastating tsunami along with two of his sons whilst his wife was whisked off in another direction with his other son. They each thought, each other were dead. There was desolation EVERYWHERE. It would have been THE most stressful and heartbreaking day of their life. AND it was based on true events. Why would that have had me balling my eyes out and wailing?
The bit that really sets you off: There’s no contest. When Ewan McGregor is reunited with his other son and realises his wife has also survived. His little face. Mate, I barely recovered.
Well of course Up is in this list. I’m not a monster.
How Pixar likes to start a charming children’s film for all the family to enjoy:
- Portray the beautiful, flourishing love between two people
- Watch them marry. Aah that’s lovely.
- Watch them start a new family. Just perfect.
- WATCH HER LOSE THE BABY.
- WATCH THEM GET OLD
- WATCH HER GET ILL
- AND DIE.
And that’s the first ten minutes of the film done. And now you are broken. Forever.
The bit that really sets you off: Obviously the beginning bit, but I also cried like a fool at the end when we see that their home is settled in the place that they always wanted to visit together. Beautiful.
8. Girls’ Night
It feels like me and me bestie are the only ones to have watched this film. In case you missed this gem of a film, what happens is that national treasures Julie Walters and Brenda Blethyn, are the best of friends and work together in a factory. Then Blethyn gets a brain tumour, so they pop to Vegas with Blethyn’s bingo win and when they return she dies. It affected my friend in the same way as it affected me. In that, we both literally cried for days just thinking of it.
The bit that really sets you off: predictably the end when Brenda Blethyn’s character dies. It’s like Pringles, once you pop you can’t stop. I mean cry. Once you start crying.
7. Toy Story 3
Damn you Pixar *shakes fist*. Why are your films so hard wired to make me a complete and utter snivelling mess? Toy Story 3 is no exception. It won the Oscar for best animation feature and unusually for an animation film, was also nominated for best film (it lost to The King’s Speech). I would have been quite happy if it did win best film though. It’s a beautiful film that illustrates friendship and that horrific moment that a person almost instantaneously grows from a child into an adult.
The bit that really sets you off: even though I started crying when all the toys held hands as they thought they were about to meet their demise in an incinerator, we all know the most emotional moment is when the toys watch Andy’s departure before they start their new life with Bonnie. Only adults will ever get why this is so gut-wrenchingly moving and incredibly poignant.
The hardest thing to swallow about this film, is that everything that happened in it, didn’t happen that long ago. My parents were alive during these times and it was only 11 years before I was born. For me, that is staggering. From the look on Oprah Winfrey’s character’s face at the beginning of the film when she isn’t allowed to vote, you know that you’re in for an emotional and disturbing ride. The peaceful defiance of Martin Luther King will have you both in awe yet reeling at the injustice of it’s necessity in the first place. Whilst I’m slagging off the Academy, how Ava DuVernay wasn’t at least nominated for a best director Oscar will be one of the poorest judgement errors the Academy has ever made (especially when the abhorrent Birdman picked up all the awards that Selma should have won).
The bit that really sets you off: the ending when King makes his speech about the equality of black and white citizens. We see clips of the real life marches along with text telling us what happened to each of the film’s main characters. It is then followed by the song Glory by John Legend & Common. The effect is profound. I cried all the way home from the cinema.
5. I, Daniel Blake.
Good ole Ken Loach, he’s not one to put a silver lining on things, is he? But hey, there really aren’t many silver linings to be found within poverty and within this film (apart from the loveliness of the film’s hero Daniel). This is a film designed to make you angry. Angry at the government and it’s unjust systems. A widower willing to work, but is deemed unfit to work by his doctor after suffering a heart attack, is in turn denied any financial support from the government. His friendship (and his moving generosity) with a single Mother who is equally suffering, demonstrates human nature at it’s best in adverse contrast with the harrowing depiction of the benefits system.
The bit that really sets you off: Whilst the horrific and almost inevitable ending will completely ruin you for the rest of the day. It was the scene where single Mum Katie, almost collapses in the food bank (in order to allow her children to eat, she had had to starve herself for days), whilst desperately trying to eat cold bake beans out of a can and apologising profusely to everyone whilst sobbing, will stay in my mind forever. Heartbreaking.
I told you Spielberg’s greatest ever film was in this list. As an 80’s child, it would be near impossible for me not to be a fan of this film, but here’s what is especially wonderful about it. It has managed to transcend over 30 years of cinema. Now my 6 year old daughter is also a big fan and every time I watch it with her, I still blub like it’s the first time I’ve watched it. I love this film in its entirety. I love how wonderfully 80s it is, I love it’s sentimentality, the cuteness of Drew Barrymore, the film’s score, Henry Thomas’s emotional performance and of course, I love E.T. himself. Even though the special effects are now outdated, if there was even just a sniff of a threat to remake this film, I would plan my boycott of its release immediately. E.T. makes me feel cosily nostalgic and it will fill me with joy forever.
The bit that really sets you off: Difficult to choose, so it’s between when Elliot screams after a dying E.T. and when they finally have to say goodbye before he boards his spaceship (even the pet dog didn’t want E.T. to leave ffs) “I’ll be right here”. *cue heart rending music* *cue me losing my shit*
3. Watership Down
During the last week of school before Christmas, my Primary school headmaster would fetch a film from the local video store for us to watch on the VHS player in the school hall. I remember watching fun films like the Karate Kid or family films like The Muppets. However, one year my headmaster, for reasons that will always be lost on me, came back with Watership Down. What followed next was several children crying during the film, but I cried so much and so hard, I was the only child that had to be removed from the school hall. It traumatised me so much, I haven’t been able to watch it since, I certainly can’t listen to “Bright Eyes” and I have no intention of letting my daughter see it until she is at LEAST 18. In fact, why doesn’t this film have an 18 certificate? Richard Adams who wrote Watership Down, did reflect in later years that perhaps he had made it a tad too dark. No shit Sherlock.
The bit that really sets you off: It’s either the distressing fighting or when Hazel dies and her spirit floats off into the afterlife. Anyway, shut up, I can’t really talk about it.
Whilst everyone else was banging on about either Moonlight or La La Land winning the Oscar for best film, I was in a completely different corner chanting “please, please, please let it be Lion“. However, yet again the Academy failed to take any notice of me and gave the Oscar to Moonlight (or was it La La Land? Boom!). I cried from beginning to end watching this film about an Indian child who becomes separated from his family, who then gets adopted by an Australian couple and then later in life tries to find his Indian family. At the end, when the lights went up in the cinema, there was a gentleman in his 70s crying loudly one side of me and a gentleman in his 40s in a similar state the other side. So it has to be said that if a film can make men of variable ages cry out load in public, it’s a hardcore tear jerker for sure. Also, and completely unnecessarily, can we talk about how hot Dev Patel is? Thanking you.
The bit that really sets you off: there isn’t just one bit. You will cry from the beginning of the film, throughout the middle of the film and just as the film ends and you don’t think you can cry anymore, they will show you some real life footage that will tip you over the edge. Good luck with that.
So here we go…..
Here’s the film that made me cry like no other….
The film that left me like a pathetic puddle on the floor…..
1. Marley & Me
Yep whilst most of the films in this list cover important topics such as slavery, the Holocaust, domestic violence, poverty, terminal illness and racism, the film that has made me cry like nothing else, is a a film about….a dog. A fairly stupid dog at that. It was released in 2008 and was based on the memoir journalist John Grogan wrote about his dog, Marley. We see Marley grow up alongside his owners as they get married, move, get promoted and become parents. I cried a lot at this film. And when I say “a lot”, I mean a gargantuan amount, a dangerous amount, a “is she ok, shall we call her family/a doctor/a priest” amount. I cried the next day when I thought about it and when I started describing it to a friend a week later, I cried some more. In fact, just thinking of the ending has made tears spring into my eyes right now as I type. Anyone that has or has ever owned a pet will be moved by this film that beautifully depicts the special relationship humans have with their pets.
The bit that really sets you off: I start wailing as Jennifer Anniston says goodbye to Marley as he’s placed in the boot of the car before he is taken to the vets, BUT that is nothing compared to what is to come. It’s the moment when Owen Wilson says goodbye to Marley at the vets, letting him know much he was loved and telling him he was the greatest dog. We see Marley look into his owner’s eyes as if he understands everything that’s being said to him. It destroyed me.
The one that almost, but not quite made the list: Mask
The bit that really sets you off: Rocky passes away and after discovering him in his bedroom, his Mum puts pins in the map of the world that’s on his bedroom wall, telling him that he can go anywhere in the world now.