So far, 2013 has fared pleasantly in the middle. Moments from Short Term 12 and Upstream Color caused me to get a little emotional, while Fruitvale Station and Captain Phillips had me bawling. Below are 10 films that get tears out of me everytime I watch them. For a nice change of pace, I’ve split the tears into two categories: films that make me cry because of their sadness, and others because of the happiness they evoke.
Please be forewarned that this post contains many spoilers. I hope you enjoy the list, and please do feel free to share the films that get you watery eyed.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1994)
Late in John Singleton’s urban masterpiece, Boyz n the Hood, college football prospect Ricky (Morris Chestnut) is senselessly gunned down in front of his best friend, Tre (Cuba Gooding, Jr.). The reason Ricky is killed is heartbreakingly trivial, and Tre’s helpless warning, and subsequent reaction, is simply ruinous.
In Philadelphia, Tom Hanks’ Andy Beckett brings a wrongful termination suit against the partners of the law firm who just fired him. Andy says he was fired because he is gay and has AIDS, the partners say he was canned due to incompetence. The law partners, led by a vicious Jason Robards, are all incredibly unforgiving. They don’t give a shit that Andy is dying, and want nothing more than to embarrass him in court.
Except Bob Seidman.
Bob Seidman (played by Ron Vawter) is the only partner at the firm who apparently has a conscience. That picture above is Bob on the stand, testifying that he thought Andy had AIDS, and regretting that he never mentioned it to his partners, or Andy himself. After Andy dies, the film closes with the warm reception for Andy in his apartment. There’s Andy’s lover, Miguel (Antonio Banderas), embracing his parents. There’s Andy’s sister, caring to her newborn. Andy’s mom stands complacent but saddened in the middle of the room. And there’s Bob Seidman, having a pleasant conversation with Andy’s older brother.
(It’s worth noting that Ron Vawter had AIDS while filming this movie, and died less than four months after the film was released. I didn’t know that before researching this post. Now that scene has so much more weight to it.)
Antwone Fisher is filled with many gut-wrenching moments, but none hit me harder than Antwone (Derek Luke) literally crying out for help in the middle of his psychiatrist’s office. After embarrassing his doctor (Denzel Washington), the two go behind closed doors and have it out. The doctor screams at Antwone for insubordination and Antwone stands defeated while admitting, “I don’t know what to do,” before exiting the room.
Most of us have been where Antwone is during this scene, but I was actually there at the exact moment when I saw this film for the first time. Because of that, this scene will always knock the wind out of me.
An animalistic Sean Penn screaming “IS THAT MY DAUGHTER IN THERE?!,” a question he already knows the answer to, will never fail to shake me.
I was hesitant to include such a recent film on this list, but my first viewing of Fruitvale Station was one of the most intense movie going experiences I’ve ever had. I had no idea the film was based on a true story, and once the film’s epilogue informed me of that, I sat stunned, sobbing, unable to move. This one is still hard to talk about.
“You can see now?”
“Yes, I can see now.”
Tears of joy.
As the cops swarm in to trap Elliot and his friends, the film double jump cuts to Elliot’s horrified face. We cut to a close-up of E.T., who gives an impassioned look of hope. Cut to wide shot of Elliot, E.T. and the rest of the gang as they take off, flying high above the officers waiting for them. And suddenly, I’m a kid again, screaming with joy at the television, tears streaming down my face.
I’m telling you, this film just kills me. After the bruised and battered Antwone finally reconnects with his real family, including a devastating encounter with his birth mother, he returns to his aunt’s house to find his entire extended family waiting for him. He silently walks through the house before being instructed to sit at the head of the table, directly next to the family’s eldest member. She gently caresses Antwone’s face then, through tears, forces out a heartbreaking, “Welcome.”
This isn’t exactly a “happy” cry, because very few “happy” things occur in Babel, but there’s a scene late in this film that speaks to the best of humanity in the most satisfying way possible.
As a medevac comes in to rescue a nearly dead woman (Cate Blanchett), her husband (Brad Pitt) attempts to give money to the village man (Mohamed Akhzam) who selflessly helped saved the woman’s life. The man thoughtfully denies the money, which leaves Pitt stunned and speechless. Pitt eventually forces out a “Thank you,” which is silenced by Gustavo Santaolalla’s gorgeous track “Endless Flight.” A beautiful and tender moment in a beautiful and haunting film.
The conclusion of this masterful film makes me emotional because it reminds me of my brother. And that’s all I have to say about that.