This week’s team-up feature came from a question our editor Jon Abrams posed to the group:
I’m fascinated by this topic, because I know why you humans cry but it is something I can almost never do. After all the reports of tears being jerked by the STAR WARS trailer and by the CREED movie, I’m wondering…
WHAT MOVIE MAKES YOU CRY?
2001. The final image of the Starchild. Never fails. I get overcome by the beauty of Kubrick’s achievement (and everyone else involved) and powerfully moved by my own interpretation of the film’s “meaning” (I believe it is about a Higher Power of any infinite definitions and experiences rewarding humanity’s noble acts at the precise moments when humanity is ready to leap forward—and be reborn).
I’ll be weeping in 70mm come February when 2001 returns to the Music Box.
Shit — good question. I can’t quantify it and it’s not necessarily anything tragic or sad or what have you.Truth be told, the only movie I remember tearing up at is Bill Forsyth’s LOCAL HERO, when that empty phone booth is ringing at the end. It still gets me every time, but most other people’s reaction to it is “awwww, that’s cute.” So I guess it’s just a matter of something hitting me the right way, and I can’t explain it any better (or worse) than that.
I cried watching FADE TO BLACK (starring Dennis Christopher) on Showtime as a newly minted teen film buff. I cried watching I AM SAM. I cried watching IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, when the kid version of Jimmy Stewart gets his painful injured ears boxed.
In 1990, I was 12 years old, just going through puberty, and realizing something was different with me. This was the same year NIGHTBREED was released. This was a movie that portrayed monsters (or those who are different) being persecuted by Christianity and right-wing thugs. It really hit home with me. All the monsters wanted to to do was live their lives, their way, in their little part of the world, but mainstream society wouldn’t let them. They wanted the monsters dead, just for being different. NIGHTBREED helped me come to terms with my sexuality. I remember crying the first time watching NIGHTBREED. I want to go where the monsters live.
I have a love for Larry Cohen’s films that borders on unhealthy obsession. But even a viewer who doesn’t keep a running tally of James Dixon cameos cannot help but be touched by the climactic moments of Cohen’s 1974 classic, IT’S ALIVE.
(Spoilers for a 41-year-old-movie ahead..)
Cohen largely ignores the horror possibilities set up by the premise of a mutant killer baby loose in Los Angeles. Instead, he focuses on Frank Davis (John P. Ryan), the baby’s father. Sinking into self-pity and misplaced shame at fathering what he believes to be a monstrosity, Frank is a hard character to like, but Cohen and Ryan never try to garner audience sympathy for him. As the baby kills his way across the city in an apparent effort to get home to his family, Frank’s desire to be seen as anything other than the father of a freak curdles into a misguided machismo that finds him wanting to be the man who finally kills the seemingly murderous child. Frank’s mental state devolves to such a point that he loses his job, alienates his other son, and is viciously cruel to his fragile wife.
By the time Frank, armed with a rifle and the police on his tail, finally gets the drop on the baby, the audience is prepared to fully hate Frank when he pulls the trigger. And then a moment happens that gives me goosebumps just to write about it.
For the first time, Frank gets a good, clear look at his monstrous-looking offspring. He is wounded and screaming in terror. That is the point when Frank’s paternal instincts kick in. Finally understanding that his son is not some cold-blooded killer, but merely a frightened child with the curse to be born with lethal self-preservation instincts (not to mention, sharp teeth and claws), Frank puts down his gun, picks up his son, and shushes him so the police will not hear his cries.
For me, it’s a powerful scene in a film that could have easily been forgettable schlock. Much of that power comes courtesy of Ryan’s career-best performance. He brings a frightening amount of commitment to his hateful behavior through so much of the film, so it’s a remarkable moment when you can see the wave of understanding, regret, and eventual love cross his face. I’ve seen IT’S ALIVE probably close to two dozen times. Each and every time, Frank’s emotional transition from hunter to protector brings me to tears. That’s a hell of an accomplishment for any film, let alone one that was supposed to just be a cheaply knocked out horror flick.
I rarely cry at movies. I mean, I’ll get choked up at a FAULT IN OUR STARS from time to time, but it takes a lot to really get my tear ducts pumping. There are, however, two occasions where I totally – pardon the expression – lost my shit. One was at the end of SCHINDLER’S LIST. That film really drove home the horror of the Holocaust in you-are-there fashion, but it also nodded to something more hopeful, specifically that the people Oskar Schindler saved produced generations of heirs. The other one to make me cry was the documentary DEAR ZACHARY, which is about a little boy who was placed into the custody of his mother, who previously murdered his father. She then murdered the child. It probably didn’t help that I saw this film about two weeks before the birth of my son. When it was over, I just sat and bawled for twenty straight minutes. I’m getting worked up just thinking about these two movies. Someone pass the Kleenex.
Its not exactly hard to get me to tear up during a movie, and maybe its just because I’ve been living in BalboaLand for the last month prepping a new piece, but if I watch ROCKY from start to finish, by the last scene I will have tears streaming down my face. Thee reasons are pretty clear, since as a fellow East-Coaster whose taken his fair share of beatings, I identify with the big lug more than I can really put into words. Its just a really well-built movie though, and from the start, where all Rocky really has is his ability to take a beating, to meeting Adrian, to finally proving that he might be a human punching bag but he’s no punchline, it just hits all of my sweet spots.
When Frankenstein’s Monster goes through the time portal at the end of THE MONSTER SQUAD. Every time. I saw it again at the theater last month, and I had to fix my makeup before exiting the building. I think it’s because he was my first crush when I was a little kid, and I have a lingering love for him. I didn’t want him to go either.
I am a sap. If a director and his cast (and the DP, and the score’s composer) have any ability at all, and they want me to cry, chances are there will be waterworks. Pixar has this down to a science,
The most memorable breakdowns of recent vintage include the finale of Tim Burton’s BIG FISH, which I probably shared with a lot of men of my generation who had a problematic, distant relationship with their father, both men knowing it and yet having no idea how to resolve it.
The one that really blindsided me, though, was MINORITY REPORT. Now, Steven Spielberg is exceptionally good at playing the Emotion Game, as evidenced by the audible sobs I heard in the theater during E.T., right? (Yes, I contributed) Still, I felt myself fairly safe going into a sci-fi cop action movie.
Then we come to the scene where the pre-cog tells Cruise the story of his son’s life had he not been abducted six years earlier, had he lived; this spoke to a very deep, very personal trauma shared between myself and my wife, and people were probably wondering who that guy was sobbing in the dark, and why. My wife still hasn’t seen MINORITY REPORT, and I can’t bring myself to recommend it, past saying that it is a very good movie (which it is). It hit me that hard. Perhaps largely because I was not expecting it, perhaps not. But the inclusion of that scene seems to indicate that someone, somewhere in the chain of the movie’s creation had a similar trauma, and this was their way of dealing with it, and that is, somehow, comforting.
Then again, Michael Caine has made me cry at least twice during movies, and this may make everything I’ve said suspect.
I rarely cry at movies. That statement is not meant to make me look like a tough guy (I’m not), but growing up with two older brothers — and a police officer father — honest expressions of emotion tended to be discouraged. However, after my father’s death, I decided to finally sit down and watch Leo McCarey’s MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW, and it left me a pathetic, blubbery mess. It decimated me. Not bad for a movie from 1937. Just something about the sincerity of the central relationship, and seeing my own parents reflected in these two figures, was too much to bear. Orson Welles once said that MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW could “make a stone cry,” and it remains absolutely devastating.
I still get hit really hard by Pixar movies. The TOY STORY ones always leave a lump in my throat, and I think during INSIDE OUT I cried from the time Bing Bong fell off the cliff to the very end.
I have never cried buckets – or even shed a tear – during a film but I admit to ‘welling up’ or feeling quite emotional at specific moments. There are the usual culprits – when Clarence gets his wings in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE or even THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL (how can you not be moved by that film?) — but I generally shy away, or avoid, anything to do with animals after seeing THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY when I was very young. It was a painful experience – the thought of those lost pets… I just can’t. The worst was FRANKENWEENIE — do not get me started.
Apart from animal films I feel pangs at certain moments: when Orson Welles, in ED WOOD, tells Ed to believe in his dream (I see a lot of myself in Ed because we share the same struggle), Doc Holliday’s death scene in TOMBSTONE, and the end of THE CROW (for obvious reasons).
BLACKFISH and THE COVE back to back. I often considered working as a Domme in my later years, but the idea of raising my hand to beat a man put me off slightly… then I watch both of these movies back to back and felt such a revulsion about my species that I felt this would be the pair to drive me to a dungeon. I can’t watch either without bawling and wishing a swift end to humanity.
Michael Mann is probably my favorite living filmmaker, and his movies have haunted and instructed my life in ways I’m sure neither he nor his characters would ever recommend to a younger person. The movie I was thinking about when I asked this question was HEAT, which I saw upon its initial release in 1995. It’s the first movie I remember shedding a legitimate tear over. Now, HEAT isn’t exactly what you’d call a tear-jerker, although there’s a valid argument to be made that Michael Mann makes deeply romantic movies, despite working in the most violent genres. Michael Mann characters aren’t quick to cry, and neither am I. Not saying that makes me any tougher; it is what it is. But when I think of Neil McCauley’s final fate, and how it could so easily have been avoided if he’d only stuck to the plan and gotten back into that car with Amy Brenneman, I see myself and the inexplicably self-destructive choices I’ve made.
In December of 1995, I would have been coming off my first real heartbreak, and it was one I had really nobody to blame for but myself. So many of my subsequent heartbreaks have been the work of the same guy. Though neither film managed to squeeze water from the same stone, I found similar moments of extra-textual truth in COLLATERAL (“What the fuck are you still doing driving a cab?”) and MIAMI VICE (“Luck ran out. This was too good to last.”) and every time I rewatch those movies I feel the weight of my own faulty choices. Really, if there’s a leitmotif of Mann’s career, if there’s anything he’s been trying to tell us through his movies, it’s that “time is luck” (a direct quote from several Mann films most recently echoed in 2015’s BLACKHAT). I know for a fact that’s true — tomorrow is promised to none of us — but at press time, I’m still making the same mistakes in life and romance. I believe I somehow knew back in 1995 that I would be. I do believe that’s why I shed that tear at the end of HEAT, not for Robert De Niro’s character but for my own.
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