Some movies are so good that it doesn’t matter that they make me feel incredibly sad. I’ve compiled a list of 10 movies that have the power to make me cry my heart out, but they still keep me coming back for more. Get ready for an emotional rollercoaster.
1. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
I talked in depth about Disney’s Beauty and the Beast in my Movies That Improve on Multiple Viewings article, so I’ll just share the two moments in this film that are the most powerful to me. The first is when the Beast lets Belle go. After their beautiful night together where they dance to the enchanting titular tune, the Beast and Belle share a key moment under the stars. The Beast asks if Belle is happy to be with him, and she answers yes, but she’s more concerned about her father than her own happiness. The Beast lets her see her father through his magic mirror, and she discovers he’s in grave danger. That’s when the Beast makes the painful decision to release Belle from her imprisonment so she can rescue her father. The part that breaks my heart is when the Beast tells her to take the mirror with her so she can always look back and remember him, and she just thanks him for understanding. He looks down dejectedly, and she raises her hand to his cheek for a fleeting moment and then hurries away as he weakly reaches for her. Three times in my life I’ve had to say goodbye to a woman I loved. All three were under extremely sad circumstances where, after the fact, I felt like I had been holding the girl back from finding happiness. This scene encapsulates every unhealed wound I have from those experiences.
The second moment comes after Gaston dies and the Beast lies dying with Belle by his side. He’s just so glad that she’s back, but she’s still talking about her feelings for him in general ways. He knows that she doesn’t love him the way he loves her, so he simply expresses his joy at having her back before he dies. This scene tears at my heartstrings in a deeply personal way because of the three women who left, the third eventually returned and we are now happily married. I completely understand the Beast’s inexpressible joy and anguish at having the woman of his dreams return and yet still not truly love him. It took a while for my future wife and me to figure out our feelings for each other after she started talking to me again, but we did figure it out. It’s just so touching to see the Beast die knowing he is not loved and then return to life knowing he is loved.
My parents edited a lot of the movies I saw as a kid, so for a long time I didn’t realize that in 1988’s Big a 13-year-old in an adult body wound up having intimate relations with a woman twice his age. That’s actually pretty wrong when I think about it. Other than that big problem, this movie is a delight. So many times it takes complex emotions and brings them down to the level of a child. Grownups make life so complicated with their office politics, relationship problems, etc. Children have to deal with unpopularity, bullies, height deficiency, and other issues that seem huge to them. But there’s one moment where all of these conflicts collide, and it’s absolutely stunning.
Josh Baskins, after living for a few weeks as a 30-year-old, makes a deal with a creepy Zoltar machine to change back into his true child form just before his girlfriend can stop him. She drives him to his real home and he starts to walk away from her. Suddenly, he transforms into a child, still wearing his big clothes, which no longer fit him. He looks longingly back at the woman he loves before turning and running into his house to his shocked mother. It’s difficult for me to pinpoint exactly what it is about this scene that makes me cry. I think it’s a combination of the little boy leaving one woman and running back to his mother at the same time that gets to me, but I’m not sure. It’s so sad to see how much this child has had to grow up only to go back to being a child. What kind of emotional scars will he have to deal with the rest of his life? I’m glad this film took the approach of leaving the adult woman out of the 13-year-old’s life in the end. It’s both more fulfilling and more devastating.
3. Deep Impact
This is one of the best disaster movies I’ve ever seen. I don’t know why it doesn’t get more respect. It’s way better than Armageddon, and it doesn’t insult the audience’s intelligence as much as other global-destruction movies. There are plenty of moments in this movie that try to get me to cry: when the reporter finally comes to terms with his father, and they hold each other as a giant wave instantly kills them; when a young woman’s parents give their baby to their daughter and her husband for safe-keeping while they stay behind to die, among others. But for some reason, the only one that really gets to me is when the blind astronaut’s wife runs into the mission control room with her newborn baby just before the astronaut’s spaceship is about collide with a giant comet. Everyone else onboard has been able to say goodbye to their loved ones, except this man who was blinded during their mission. Hearing him ask his wife to describe their baby to him is so emotionally charged that I can’t help but cry every time I see that scene. There’s also a similar scene in Star Trek (2009), and that one is almost as good as this.
4. The Elephant Man
Every single scene in this movie is designed to elicit a powerful emotional response. My goodness, this movie is draining to watch. And yet I love it. This movie deals a lot with injustice. At first, it only gives tantalizing hints as to how ugly the Elephant Man is, but as time goes by we start to focus more on the man and less on the hideous form of his body. We discover that John (or Joseph, his real name) Merrick is a beautiful man. He’s cultured, polite and graceful when he’s allowed to be. But there are so many people who want to take advantage of him, and they do so frequently.
It is devastating to see him beaten, ripped from his friends, ridiculed, and chased by morbidly curious spectators. However, probably the most deeply affecting scenes are the ones in which people are treating him kindly. After speaking with a doctor’s wife for a short time, Merrick weeps because this is the first time a beautiful woman has treated him so well. The scenes where Merrick is among friends makes the scenes where he’s being exploited so much harder to watch. He doesn’t deserve such terrible treatment! You will not be able to stop crying during the final scene in which Merrick, knowing that he is dying, decides to make a final statement about his life by going to sleep like a regular person. Because of his condition, he must sleep sitting up or he will die. But he refuses to die like an animal. He prefers to choose a death that embraces his humanity and disregards his infirmities. Rest well, Mr. Merrick. You are probably one of the most beautiful souls in heaven.
5. Garfield: His 9 Lives
I loved the Garfield comic strip growing up. It was always simple and fun. It was never as clever as Calvin and Hobbes, but it did have one thing that Calvin and Hobbes didn’t – an animated TV show and several TV movies! And those are a big deal to an impressionable kid. And the best TV movie he starred in was Garfield: His 9 Lives. This film’s gimmick is that Garfield spends all of his cat lives in different time periods and even different bodies. He lives in prehistoric times, ancient Egypt, modern times, a fairy tale land, and more. The one that really made an impression on me is Diana’s Piano.
Watching it as an adult gave me a completely new perspective on it from when I watched it as a child. It begins with a little girl who gets a kitten for her birthday. She names the kitten Diana. At the same time, she also learns how to play the piano, and her love for her cat and her music become intertwined. Diana climbs up on the piano and sleeps there while the girl learns how to play better and better. Soon, she’s a master and she’s grown to love Diana more than ever. She leaves for college and returns home a few years later with a fiancé. Diana doesn’t like the fact that she’s not the only one in her friend’s life anymore, but she deals with it as best she can. One night, Diana is feeling very sick. She has become so old that she can’t get to the top of the piano, so her friend has to lift her up to her favorite spot. Then she plays an amazing concert all for Diana. This is such a moving display of love. When the music is finished, Diana doesn’t want to leave her spot. The girl bids her a final farewell and goes to sleep. Sometime in the night, Diana – despite her terrible pain – gets down onto the keyboard, lies down, and silently dies. I couldn’t help crying while I wrote this paragraph. It’s just so beautiful. Anyone who has had a pet and seen them die can relate to this story. I remember finding one of my cats that I grew up with lying dead in her sleep. It was sad, but it allowed me to grow up a bit.
6. The Land Before Time
Someday I need to do a Movie Matchup of Disney’s 2000 film Dinosaur and Don Bluth’s 1988 film The Land Before Time. They are worlds apart, despite their identical plot. The main difference is their emotional resonance (Dinosaur has none while The Land Before Time is constantly able to make you cry). How do you make a movie about a bunch of killer dinosaurs cute? By focusing on baby dinosaurs, of course. And not just any baby dinosaurs – ones who are separated from their parents and in constant danger of being eaten or starving to death. Littlefoot is the main character. He’s a “long neck” (Brontosaurus), and he has to team up with a Triceratops, pterodactyl, duck-billed platypus and Spike (I have no idea what he’s supposed to be) to make it to the Great Valley where they’ll be safe and have plenty of grass and water.
The part that everyone remembers crying at is when Littlefoot’s mother dies. Not only is the dialogue beautifully written and the animation spot on, but the music by James Horner is what really sells this scene. I mean, gosh. It’s reverent and perfectly tailored to tug every heartstring you have. It’s unbearable to see Littlefoot begging his mother to get up and then to see her struggle and fail to do so. She reminds him how to get to the Great Valley, but he fearfully asks why he should need to know because she’ll be with him on his journey. She promises she’ll be with him, even if he can’t see her. There are many other parts that make me cry in this movie, but that is definitely the best.
7. A League of Their Own
Do you remember 1992’s A League of Their Own? This simultaneously marked the beginning of Tom Hanks’ decade-long ascent to box-office king, and Madonna’s decade-long descent to box-office pariah. It’s a fun, little film that has plenty of comedy and touching drama. It tells the story of two competitive sisters who join an All-Girls Baseball League during World War II while many of the Major League Baseball players were off fighting in the war. They have all sorts of crazy adventures, the most entertaining of which involve their obscene but wonderful coach, played by Hanks. The sisters’ competition eventually comes to a head when the younger sister is traded to another team and they’re forced to face off in the final game of the season. The older sister is more mature, and she decides to give up the game after seeing the toll it takes on her personal life.
Years later, she goes to the grand opening of a museum honoring the men and women who made the All-Girls Baseball League possible. This scene is where the tears finally start to flow. We see all of the characters we grew to love over the course of the film as old people. There’s one woman who was considered almost too ugly to play who is now such a beautiful old woman that we feel ashamed for thinking she was unattractive compared to all of the supermodels surrounding her earlier. We see that Hanks’ character died years ago, so we can only remember him in photos from the past. He’s immortalized while all the other people are completely different than the last time we saw them. And, finally, the two sisters are reunited and reconciled. After watching this movie, you’ll want to call up old friends and even enemies, and try to work out anything that might have come between you because life is just too short to carry grudges.
8. My Girl
I had forgotten how much this film focuses on death until I re-watched it recently. Anna Chlumsky and Macaulay Culkin play two kids on the verge of puberty learning about their feelings and other parts of life one summer in the 1960s. Chlumsky is convinced she’s dying and she’s also convinced she’s in love with a much older man. Both of these lead to major complications in her life. Culkin is a sweet kid who is always trying to be helpful, but he has a lot of ailments that make us worried about him. Unfortunately, while trying to help Chlumsky, Culkin gets stung by a swarm of bees and he dies.
The funeral scene always brings tears to my eyes. There hasn’t been enough time to process that a main character (especially the untouchable hero of Home Alone) is dead. When Chlumsky rushes in and finds her best friend lying in a coffin, her reaction is brutally touching. She cries out for someone to put his glasses on because he can’t see without his glasses, and then she laments that he was going to be an astronaut. All this time, she’s been so focused on her own death that she’s completely unprepared to deal with someone else’s death. Someone who had dreams and hopes. All she has is bitterness. Realizing this, she suddenly has to change her life. It’s too bad it took the death of a friend to make her see the error of her ways.
John Travolta is a good actor. In each of his movies, I don’t feel like I’m watching an actor at work; I feel like I’m watching a totally distinct character. This is definitely true of his character in 1996’s Phenomenon. He plays a simple, small-town man, who’s never been anything special his whole life until he suddenly sees a flash of light one night and everything changes. He starts becoming super intelligent, reading a whole book in a few hours, solving complex problems, and even predicting earthquakes.
However, his newfound gifts come with a terrible price. He’s dying. The government wants to study his brain under a microscope before he dies, but he wants to spend his last few days with the girl of his dreams. He uses his supreme intelligence to trick his captors and make his way back to his girlfriend. They spend a few wonderful hours together before he finally passes away. The scene where he dies next to her in bed is both sad and happy. Even though these two people didn’t get nearly enough time together, they appreciated all the time they got.
10. Untamed Heart
Speaking of movies where two characters don’t get nearly as much time together as they deserve, it’s time to talk about Untamed Heart. I fully intend to do a full Forgotten Film Gems review of this film. For now, I’ll just talk about how much it makes me cry. It’s really hard to make a good romantic film. A lot of movies take the romantic comedy approach and end up with farce. Others try to be dramatic and wind up with melodrama. Untamed Heart is something else entirely. It seems like it’s going to be a sappy melodrama, but it’s so sincere and gut-wrenching that it elevates its material into a whole different stratosphere from other romances.
The film is completely gripping after an attempted rape scene early on. Up to that point we’ve seen a young woman named Caroline failing at multiple relationships and a mysterious young man named Adam who has a heart problem. Caroline walks home one night after a long shift at a diner and she’s followed by two menacing diner patrons. They don’t take no for an answer and pretty soon they’re chasing after Caroline and threatening her life. They knock her out but are stopped from doing any more damage to her by Adam. He beats them to a pulp and then carries Caroline home. Thus begins one of the most unlikely and yet most beautiful love stories I have ever seen.
At first, Caroline is an emotional wreck, which is perfectly understandable under the circumstances. But she slowly starts to talk to Adam and they both let each other into their lives. There is so much to say about this film. I don’t have enough time to go into everything I love about it. Suffice to say, they share many touching conversations and experiences along the way to falling in love. One day, Adam falls asleep next to Caroline in her car. She tries to wake him up, but he won’t budge. She soon realizes that his weak heart stopped beating. This is truly awful. But after the funeral, Caroline visits his apartment and finds a gift waiting for her. You’ll need to watch the movie to find out what he left for her, but I must warn you to have a box of tissues close at hand when you do.
It’s My Article, and I’ll Cry If I Want to
There you have it. I hope you’ve enjoyed my list of 10 sad yet entertaining movies. If you haven’t seen one or more of the movies I mentioned, please check them out and let me know your reaction to them. I’ve got a shoulder right here to cry on.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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Great list. I agree with you, very emotionally moving films. For me the most depressing films are the ones that I am capable of crying my heart out to heh) such as ‘Requiem for a Dream’ and ’21 Grams’. ‘Head in the Clouds’ is a very sad film, and I admit I cry every time I watch the ending.
Thanks for sharing. I have to admit I haven’t seen any of those films. Maybe I’ll have to check them out.
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