A few years back Play.com had as its lead piece, Top 10 list of films that make grown men cry (the original web page has since disappeared). I don’t believe it ever became a ‘official‘ meme, but I’ve seen similar reported on various newscasts over the years, as well as other online pieces on the subject. Including some blog posts, just like this one, where someone adds their 2¢. Let’s not forget this UK site is an online retailer in the business of selling movie DVDs and Blu-rays. Takes no great leap that the site looked to spur film sales than make a point.
Yet, this was an emotional subject and due all serious consideration. Ahem… as Tracie Egan Morrisey stated in her Jezebel piece, “If a man cries, he fears it will earn him ridicule — unless it’s for a film role, in which case it could earn him an Academy Award.” Hell, even Wikipedia has its own entry, Guy-cry Film. The key themes of this “…are concepts of brotherhood, sacrifice, loyalty, and family.” There is a physiological component, though, that Paul J. Zak made clear in his 2009 Why We Cry At Movies – Confessions of a movie crier piece for Psychology Today.
“Cognitively, we know that the story we are watching is (usually) fictional and the actors are paid to play on our emotions. But still we can’t help it. I can understand crying when you see your child or spouse get a painful medical procedure, or even when you watch an injured person on the TV news, but at a movie?”
The neuroeconomist noted the neuropeptide oxytocin modulates the quite human ability in people to understand and share the feelings of others. In other words, empathy. It correlates with most us (Hannibal Lector, Anton Chigurh, and the like need not apply). That he went on to explain all this after seeing one film in particular (a Clint Eastwood work [†] I’ll include on my list) shouldn’t surprise. Those of us who’ve encountered it can certainly identify with his reaction.
“I hadn’t seen it and wondered how a movie with such an awful title could have won the Best Picture Oscar.”
I now have the reason to explain to my daughter why her dear old dad chokes up from time-to-time. So for those who’ve never read it, here was Play.com’s tear-inducing list:
- Toy Story
- Forrest Gump
- Return of the Jedi
- Jerry McGuire
- The Notebook
- Marley and Me
- Shawshank Redemption
Back then, I guess the article’s subject gathered me in because we’d just watched Toy Story 3 again that Thanksgiving, and my daughter noted that my eyes seemed a little misty at times. Yeah, well… it happens. I’m comfortable enough in my masculinity, especially as I creep up on the big 6-0, to admit there are plenty of films that fit into the category for this movie watcher. Even my good friend over at Pop Culture Nerd knows this byway of a comment of mine. As to the retailer’s list, here are some of my thoughts:
- You might as well list the entire Toy Story trilogy here. I personally can’t get through any of them without this reaction. Jessie’s Song sequence in Toy Story 2 and Andy’s final good-bye to his playthings in Toy Story 3 epitomized those moments.
- Sorry, but Forrest Gump hasn’t elicited much from me in subsequent viewings.
- The closing scenes with father and son in Return of the Jedi made up for more than a few problems with the film, or Lucas endless digital edits to the series.
- As much as I’ve enjoyed ET over the years, I’ve come to feel a tad ‘used’ by Steven Spielberg in this instance. But that’s just me.
- If for nothing else, the old couple laying next to each other one last time, or Jenette Goldstein telling the final bedtime story to her children, Titanic will sink me every time (up until that ending).
- I’d put Jerry McGuire (which I found irritating) and Marley and Me into a sub-category of film where I imagine most guys got hauled off to because their dates wanted to see the films. No way they voluntarily opted for these on their own*.
- Up and The Shawshank Redemption are way too low! Who put this list together?!?
* the exception would be The Notebook, which I admittedly came to because of James Garner’s opinion and his role in the film.
With that in mind, and in no particular order, here would be my personal list of films, and the specific scenes, that gives this grown man a certain lump in his throat:
Gladiator – Any guy that lists this film as a favorite, and doesn’t feel something by the time Maximus ends his journey to Elysium, is either lying or made of stone.
Brian’s Song (1971) – I was 16 at the time I first saw this. Needless to say, among my friends and other young males in high school, none of us could verbalize any part of that hospital scene we watched, err…experienced, by the next day.
Field of Dreams – Between old Doc Graham coming off the field to save the child choking to death, and Ray and his long dead father playing catch at sunset, I lose it every time.
The Iron Giant – The Iron Giant’s choice of what it wants to be, instead of what it was built for, has lost none of its power. Even after multiple viewings all these years later.
Million Dollar Baby – I have no words. Devastated was I in the movie theater after Maggie Fitzgerald and Frankie Dunn’s last scene together. I still have the disc in my library collection, unopened.
To Kill A Mockingbird – There so many scenes here that get to me, but if I’m to pick one… “Jean Louise. Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passing.” is it.
Old Yeller – It got to me as a child when I first saw it…and hadn’t a dog in my life to that point. I simply don’t know what Travis’ realization would do to me now.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – I gotta tell ‘ya, my throat was so sore keeping it together with my date at the time when I first saw this in theaters. And don’t get me started on what J.J. Abrams and Star Trek Into Darkness did with it. Just don’t.
Pat Garret & Billy the Kid – The poignant death of Sheriff Baker in this western will always haunt me. The melding of Bob Dylan’s song, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, within the scene just makes it even more heartbreaking.
It’s A Wonderful Life – How can I not mention this film’s ending? A journey that rewards every single time I watch it.
“A toast to my big brother George: The richest man in town.”