This started out as the title suggests -- thanks to Beth Mann for the idea -- but it has morphed into something more. I'm going to mention the corny movies that always manipulate me into crying, then some of the more serious ones that evoke tears. Even writing these lists was emotional. As a former film critic, some of my choices might be a little out there, and others are more obvious. I could mention about a 100 more movies that make me cry but these are the ones that come to mind first. Every time one of these films plays on TV, I stay up late to watch them, even though I own most of them. Such is the power of cinema and my tear ducts.
The Way We Were -- I don't even like Barbra Streisand, yet there is something about this Hollywood movie that is authentic in spite of itself. The casting is impeccable, the writing is seamless, the romance over the top, but I cry in many places, especially at the end when Barbra says, "Your girl is lovely, Hubble." True love never dies.
Midnight Cowboy -- It was a fine book made into a so-so movie but there are moments that I can't resist. The final scene on the bus to Florida always twists my heart, but I also cry a little when I see Dustin Hoffman's diminutive character hobbling alongside cowboy Jon Voight on the busy New York streets.
Born on the Fouth of July -- There is a tortured moment when Tom Cruise wails to his parents, "But who will LOVE me?" as he realizes what his new life as a paraplegic entails. Some of his best acting is in this movie, and again, I'm not a fan.
Terms of Endearment -- Another great book by Larry McMurtry. This is a no-brainer but still, it takes actors of the calibre of Debra Winger and John Lithgow to make something real out of Hollywood maudlin and they do it proud. You'd have to be made of stone not to cry when Winger tells her kids that she is dying.
Almost anything about animals -- The Black Stallion, It's a Dog's Life, Bambi, Lassie, Old Yeller, Black Beauty, Watership Down to mention a few. Just show me an animal in distress, and I'll probably start bawling.
Dark Victory -- No matter how many times I watch the end of this movie, I always cry. Corny yes, but it gets me every time. Bette Davis rules!
Breakfast at Tiffany's -- Mega corny but two scenes bring on the waterworks. When Audrey Hepburn rejects her loving but hopeless husband, Buddy Ebsen, for the final time, and when she throws "Cat" out of the taxicab. I know, I know, but tears are immune to logic!
To Kill a Mockingbird -- The death of childhood. 'Nuff said.
The Elephant Man -- Again, an obvious choice but I think the scene where he receives the comb set is the saddest and most tender of many sad scenes.
Phantom of the Opera -- Not a great movie but who can resist a thwarted love story this grand?
I'm borrowing this from the title of Ian Tyson's seminal CD. I'm attributing the choice of these films to my praire/ranch upbringing:
Urban Cowboy -- The death of the love between John Travolta and Debra Winger is a terrible thing to watch.
The Electric Horseman -- I can't help it. This is a bad movie but I always lose it when Wilford Brimley (!) dies in his saddle. It makes me cry just thinking about it. One honest moment that is a tribute to a bygone era.
The Last Picture Show -- A classic based on the second Larry McMurtry book in this list, and it's not corny. There isn't a false note it in it. Even Cybill Shepherd is perfectly cast. Several scenes make me cry but the one where Cloris Leachman discovers that her young lover, Timothy Hutton, no longer wants her, is devastating. And then there's the death of Sam the Lion (Ben Johnson), the cowboy mentor who touched so many lives. Picture perfect.
Mask -- Manipulative as all get out, but it's almost impossible not to be moved.
My more "out there" choices
The Sweet Hereafter -- One of my favourite movies ever, based on the book by Russell Banks. A momumentally tragic film about a town full of children killed in a bus crash, it is also inexplicably uplifting. Director Atom Egoyan makes grief palpable without resorting to cliches. Just about every scene in the movie hurts, but the one I love is when Bruce Greenwood's character threatens to beat the lawyer (Ian Holm) senseless. Both men are drowning in pain.
Wit -- A cancer flick that doesn't pander. Emma Thompson is a revelation as the brilliant John Donne scholar dying of terminal cancer. The movie is subtle despite the subject matter, and the medical profession does not come off terribly well, but its essential humanity is revealed.
The English Patient -- Where to begin? The movie is distant in places but Kirsten Scott-Thomas brings it home in the cave scenes. Ralph Fiennes is superb as a dying man destroyed by grief.
The Remains of the Day -- The book was brilliant and Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins give performances that echo in their opportunities lost. The final scene is a mastery of understatement.
Two similar-in-tone movies:
Breaking the Waves -- Lars von Trier's masterpiece (in my opinion) about what grief does to a woman (Emily Watson) whose new husband is terribly injured. Watson is resplendent, tragic, wild, and one of the most under-rated actors working today.
Trois couleurs: bleu (Blue) -- Juliette Binoche is a composer's wife who loses her husband and child. Crazy sad and beautiful. The first film of the late Krzystof Kieslowski's trilogy.
The Bicycle Thief -- One of the first movies I saw as a film student and it has stayed with me. The young boy's face when he learns the family's bicycle, essential for their livelihood, is stolen says it all.
La Strada -- One of Federico Fellini's best. The scene when Anthony Quinn's brutish character challenges sensitive clown Giulietta Masina's love for him is my sad favourite. The music is exquisite.
The Pianist -- Say what you will about Roman Polanski, he knows how to direct a film and Adrien Brody rises to the devastating subject matter. I can't pick just one moment.
Kundun -- I sat crying silently in the theatre throughout much of the second half of the film triggered by the gorgeous/awful image of a blood-red flower expanding to represent the genocide of Tibet.
Wings of Desire -- One of the most beautiful and poetic movies ever made. Wim Wenders shows the transcendence of ordinary life in death. You just have to see it to understand.
Separate Tables -- I've never forgotten David Niven as Major Pollack or Deborah Kerr as Sybil in this movie about the sadness and smallness of "proper" British life among residents at a seaside hotel. The scene where the disgraced Niven enters the dining room and Kerr stands up to acknowledge him always makes me cry.
Truly, Madly, Deeply -- Juliet Stevenson and Alan Rickman explore the meaning of love and death. And yes, I cry. A lot.
Jules et Jim -- Francois Truffaut's classic love triangle. Bittersweet doesn't seem adequate to describe it. My favourite self-sacrificing moment is when Jules gives Catherine (Jeanne Moreau) the freedom to pursue a romantic adventure with Jim. There is no such thing as perfect happiness, but Moreau almost makes us believe it is possible.