I don’t know about you but I love a good movie cry. In fact, the measure of real emotional connection between a film and my heart is equal to the number of tears shed. A couple of sniffles usually equals a decent picture while full-on blubbering is generally a classic. So, movies that get you to the ugly cry are all pretty special films. Some of these films will have you in kleenexes the entire time while others have that one shining moment of pure tear rolling bliss. I’m being purposefully vague with “the moment of the ugly cry” moment so as not to spoil the films. In no specific order, here is a list of movies that get you to the ugly cry.
This tender and clever film somehow weaves time travel into its perfect romantic tapestry. Domhall Gleeson and Rachel McAdams have chemistry to burn but it’s Bill Nighy who really ties the film together. About Time is a film about the importance of being in the moment but also honoring the moments that make you who you are, Hands down one of my most favorite romantic films to date.
Moment of the ugly cry: The ping pong game.
Is there anything that will reduce you to a blubbering pool of weepy goo faster than a sad dog movie? No, no there is not. This true tale of loyalty will fill your heart and empty your tissue box. Richard Gere and Joan Allen star, but Hachi steals the show.
Moment of the ugly cry: Waiting for the train.
Life is Beautiful
Roberto Benigni won an academy award for his portrayal of a Jewish Italian bookstore owner who makes up stories so as to shield his son from the horrors of the concentration camp they are imprisoned in. This film also won the best foreign film that year. It is as whimsical as it is heartbreaking.
Moment of the ugly cry: The walk off.
If you’re one of the eight people who hasn’t see The Notebook yet, it’s about a couple dealing with Alzheimer’s disease. Told mostly in flashback, the two lovers recount their wonderful romance before it is lost forever. Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, James Garner, and Gena Rowlands star in what is absolutely Nick Sparks best cinematic adaptation.
Moment of the ugly cry: The dance.
This Ang Lee masterpiece is the picture of repression and romantic longing. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal both should have won awards for their performances, as should of the vastly underrated (in this role) Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams. Lee took home a directing statue but accolades aside, Brokeback Mountain is right up there with the best-forbidden romances of all time perhaps being bested only by Romeo and Juliet.
Moment of the ugly cry: Ennis hears the news.
Field of Dreams
Turns out there IS crying in baseball. This baseball classic is more about a father and son’s relationship than about our national past time. Thematically it dives into the ideas of legacy, loss and honoring the past. Kevin Costner stars in this, his second best baseball movie. There’s far less crying in Bull Durham.
Moment of the ugly cry: You wanna have a catch?
A Monster Calls
A young boy escapes into a fantasy world to grapple with the fact that his mother is dying of cancer. Lewis MacDougall plays the English lad with a depth reserved for much older actors. Liam Neeson provides the voice for the monster and Sigourney Waver and Felicity Jones add some very nice supporting work as well. There are several moments that will get the waterworks flowing but for our purposes, I’ll choose this one.
Moment of the ugly cry: The boy tells his story.
Before Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey dirty danced they were wolverines. Not Michigan alums mind you but members of a rebel faction fighting the Russians who have invaded the US of A. Costarring eighties legends Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen, and C. Thomas Howell, this action film has a lot more heart than most of its ilk.
Moment of the ugly cry: The park bench.
This Ron Howard film is probably the most surprising of all the entrants on this list. What’s so sad about an action/ mystery film about firefighters starring Kurt Russell, William Baldwin (before he went cuckoo) and Robert Deniro? Not much to be frank but there is a scene toward the end of this heroic tale that slays me every time. It’s this one.
Moment of the ugly cry: “That’s my brother.”
Unlike many of the other films on this list, Rudy tears are happy tears. Based on the true story of an undersized football player who never took no for an answer, Rudy is so iconic that his name is synonymous with the idea of the underdog. Sean Astin is great in this film and Vince Vaughn makes his screen debut in it. Many will site the end of the film as the biggest weepy moment but for my money, it’s this one.
Moment of the ugly cry: The Jerseys.
Pride and Prejudice
Period pieces can seem slow to some but Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen have such great chemistry that they make this costume drama feel as light as a rom-com. This adaptation put Director Joe Wright on the map as the person to go-to when you want to produce an epic/ sweeping romance. If you loved this film, and you should, you’ll love his others including Atonement.
Moment of the ugly cry: Mr. Darcy.
The Man in the Moon
This bittersweet coming of age story put Reese Witherspoon on the map. Often looked over, The Man in the Moon is a wonderfully tender tale not to be missed by anyone who loves young love.
The Moment of the ugly cry: The tractor.
If you don’t like Love Actually then face it, you’re dead inside. Quite possibly the greatest rom-com ever, this Richard Curtis film has everything – wonderful writing, several independent/ interlocking storylines, and a wonderful cast which includes a very young Rick Grimes for the Walking Dead fans out there. Add to that a Christmas backdrop and boom, rom-com perfection. Several parts of this film will make you misty but this one is by far the winner.
Moment of the ugly cry: Joni Mitchell song.
Road To Perdition
Now I know what you’re thinking, Higgins, Road to Perdition is a film about the Irish mob. There isn’t any way I’m tearing up for this one. True, this is a mob movie but it is also visual poetry. Cinematically breathtaking throughout, Sam Mendes directs Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, and Daniel Craig through a surprisingly emotional tale which will suck you in. When the scene in question happens, you’ll be so invested in the characters that I challenge you not to lose your shit.
Moment of the ugly cry: Looking at the beach.
Somewhere in Time
Christopher Reeve will always be Superman first but arguably his best performance is in the tear-jerker. The second film on this list that deals with time travel, this film manages to be both a modern and costume drama. One of just a few of its good qualities.
The moment of the ugly cry: The penny.
Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn
Every geek out there knows exactly why this sci-fi classic is on this list. Captain Kirk and Spock are the peanut butter and jelly of space and this is their best film. RIP Leanoard Nemoy.
The Moment of the ugly cry: “The good of the many out ways the good of the one or few.”
The HBO film was directed by Mike Nicols and written by both Nichols and star Emma Thompson. It’s based on the 1999 Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same title by Margaret Edson. It’s a story about a college professors fight with cancer and how she refused to let it take the best of her. Emma Thompson is brilliant in the lead role and this often overlooked gem never got the audience it should have. Wit is as inspiring as it is devastating and it will wreck you.
Moment of the ugly cry: The entire film.
Young at Heart
I wouldn’t be surprised if this documentary slipped past you but do yourself a favor and search it out. It’s a film about a chorus of senior citizens from Massachusetts who cover songs by Jimi Hendrix, Coldplay, Sonic Youth, and other unexpected musicians. The unassumingly warm film mines some pretty significant depths, touching on the elements of life that make us all human.
Moment of the ugly cry: The Coldplay song
This might be my favorite Disney movie ever or at least the one I’ve seen the most. The writing is witty, the characters are well rounded, the music is infectious and the princess is the hero. For those of you who aren’t familiar, this is Disney’s take on Rapunzel. Mandy Moore voices Rapunzel and she’s joined by the hilarious Zachary Levy as Flynn Ryder. . . my ride or die. This is an action-filled comedy with a heart that, if you have a heart, will certainly get you in the end.
Moment of the ugly cry: You were my dream.
The first ten minutes of this Pixar film is by far the saddest ten minutes in animated film history. There are so moments you could lose it but I think this particular one takes the cake. The rest of this movie is a life-affirming joy but wow the beginning is a doozy.
Moment of the ugly cry: balloon note.
Leaving Las Vegas
Arguably the most depressing picture ever made, this Mike Figgis film tells the story of an alcoholic screenwriter who, after losing everything, becomes hell-bent on drinking himself into oblivion. So, unsurprisingly he goes to Las Vegas to do it. There he meets a prostitute and the rest, as they say, is history. If that plot synopsis doesn’t scream feel-good movie of the year, I don’t know what does. This doomed love story is brilliant and in my top five. Nicholas Cage, who won an Oscar for his role, and Elizabeth Shue star and both deliver some of, if not, their best work.
Moment of the ugly cry: Their first and last time.
I’d be remiss for not mentioning movies like ET, Sophie’s Choice, Terms of Endearment, Beaches, Steel Magnolias, Fried Green Tomatoes, Brian’s Song, etc. I left these off because they were just too obvious. Sure, I have a couple of obvious ones here but I think they do a great job at balancing the list.
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