I queried menfolk and these are the films that make them bawl like babies.
The first movie that made me cry? As an adult? It was a Sylvester Stallone movie about arm wrestling.
I hadn’t been out of college that long, but I was already married and had two kids. I traveled a lot for my job, so I became pretty acquainted with cookie-cutter hotel rooms and HBO. I remember that night, throwing myself on the hotel bed, drinking a Coke and flipping on the television, finding the last part of Sly’s 1987 flick Over the Top. I’d never heard of the film. I had absolutely no interest in it. An arm wrestling drama? C’mon. But I watched anyway, thinking it might be good for a laugh.
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But this Stallone story of a grizzled truck driver-slash-arm wrestler trying to patch up his life… I don’t remember much of the movie other than the final match — father struggling to win for his boy, son cheering, crying for his old man. And there I was, crying too. Maybe I was thinking about my own son. Maybe, subconsciously, I was tabulating all the nights I’d spent away from home, holed up in anonymous Hiltons and Hyatts. Whatever it was, tears ran down my cheeks. And since no one was there to see, I let them run.
News flash. Most guys still don’t like to cry much. Even though we’re all part of the 21st century now and men can be caring and sensitive these days, we’d still rather have that stiff upper lip than watery eyes. We certainly don’t like people to see us cry, especially not at the movies. But sometimes … we do it anyway. We can’t help ourselves. And truthfully? It can feel kinda good.
But heavy romances or weepy dramas don’t typically do it for us. Forget the Nicholas Sparks flicks. Shelve Steel Magnolias. No, I talked with several men about this very issue, and according to them, we need a special kind of movie to make us bawl like a baby. So ladies, think your husband needs a good cry? A healthy emotional cleansing? Or maybe you simply want to point at his tear-stained face and laugh? Try these flicks and see what happens.
You might still find this flick in theaters if you run out right now — and you might get the satisfaction of watching your significant other sob into a tub of heavily buttered popcorn. Chris Evans (Captain America) stars as Frank Adler, a single guy who’s given unexpected custody of his young, incredibly smart niece, Mary (Mckenna Grace). When Mary’s maternal grandmother gets wind of Mary’s mathematical talents, though, she tries to wrest custody from Frank. It’s for the girl’s own good, the grandmother argues, and perhaps it is. But the love of this adopted father is powerful and poignant. One fellow reviewer starts crying just when he talks about a certain scene.
Can’t see Gifted? You have other options. Fathers find stories about dads and their kids deeply moving. We long to protect and cherish our children. It’s our most sacred duty, and we sometimes feel like we’re not very good at it. So movies that show fathers succeeding, or fathers who’ve failed but keep on trying — that can move us immensely.
The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)
Not all movies on this list are guaranteed weepers for every guy, of course. As much as I like this flick, it never made me want to cry. But when I queried menfolk as to what made them sob, this Oscar-winning film was mentioned more than a few times. The commeraderie and sacrifice shown by Frodo, Samwise et al brought these guys to tears.
If Return of the King goes a little above your husband’s geek quotient, think of Saving Private Ryan or Dances with Wolves. The sense of shared sacrifice — giving your all for a worthy cause or sacrificing everything for your brothers in arms — is an emotional trigger for many men. Surely, I’m not the only one who gets a little misty during Braveheart.
War Horse (2011)
This Steven Spielberg drama focuses on a beautiful horse (and his various masters) dealing with the death, carnage and the changing face of conflict during World War I. Nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, War Horse was perhaps my favorite pic I reviewed in 2011 — even though toward the end, I could barely see the notes because of all the teary blinking I did.
Men can still get surprisingly sappy when it comes to cinematic animals, particularly those in peril. Old Yeller was for years the gold standard of Hollywood weepers. When a teacher showed my 5th-grade class Where the Red Fern Grows — about two very pretty (and very doomed) dogs — most of the girls brought tissues from home and more than a few boys borrowed them. It doesn’t really matter whether guys are 11 or 51, though. These sorts of stories can hit us where it counts.
The Impossible (2012)
Not many people saw this harrowing drama. And while that’s a crying shame for the movie’s makers, it saved a lot of guys from embarrassment. It dramatizes one family’s terrible ordeal in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami in Thailand (which killed about a quarter of a million people), and man, it wiped me out.
The film leverages a few elements we’ve already discussed: Family, sacrifice, working toward a common goal (in this case, simple survival). But I wanted to use this film to call out another important element: Quality, compelling stories can pull our heartstrings something awful, and this was one of the best films I’ve seen this decade.
Almost Anything by Pixar
Speaking of great stories, this Disney animated affiliate has been churning out some of the best stories for more than a decade. These tales invariably embrace so many of the powerful elements we’ve already seen, sometimes all of them in the very same film. They’re tear-tuggers of the highest order. Of all the films I’ve teared up for, I bet half have been Pixar flicks.
I’m not alone. When I asked men what movies made them cry, Pixar movies were named more than any other: The Incredibles. Finding Nemo. Wall-E. Up. Toy Story 3. Inside Out. But if I had to pick one weeper above all, my personal pick would be Up. The first 10 minutes — almost completely devoid of dialogue — are as close to true movie magic as you’re likely to find. And if that, paired with the movie’s climactic emotional wallop, doesn’t make you cry … well, I can only assume that you’re a Marvel supervillain.
Disagree? Think of any more? Feel free to tell me all about them in the comments below. I’m always looking for more movies that’ll make me cry.
As long as no one’s watching me, that is.