People who know me well know that beneath my thin veneer of cynicism lurks a person who cries easily. I’m talking bursting into tears when a female vice president is sworn in, when finding out that the very first Hmong American gymnast wins the all-around in gymnastics, or when she finds out that her favorite Chicago Cub is going to play for the loathed Yankees (all true stories – there are witnesses). But sometimes, when the tears won’t flow and I know what I really need is a good cry, I turn to the movies.
Now I could fill this list of recommendations with movies that might make you want to eat an entire pint of non-dairy Americone Dream® and hide in bed for a few hours but I’m not going to do that to you. Instead, I’ve populated this list with movies that are guaranteed to make you “pretty cry” instead of “ugly cry” and should leave you with a sense of hope, optimism, and inspiration to dream big and keep trying.
1 Hoosiers (1986) Outside of Bambi, this is the first movie I recall bringing me to tears in the theatre. Just hearing the synthesized (check the production date) soundtrack makes my tears well up. It’s all about forgiveness and second chances. Oh, and it has a bit of Indiana basketball thrown in for good measure.
Tearjerker moment: Shooter (one of Dennis Hopper’s best performances) talking to his son about drying up in the rehab facility.
2 Breaking Away (1979) This gem about the big dreams of a young cyclist in Bloomington, IN won for “Best Writing, Screenplay: Written Directly for the Screen” in 1980. This is another underdog movie (see no. 1) that features a young Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern, and Jackie Earle Haley as a misfit group of townies, or “Cutters,” seeking to find their place in the community.
Tearjerker moment: When the Italians put a bar in Dave’s spokes.
3 Billy Elliot (2000) A young boy from County Durham, which is deep in the violent coal mine strike of 1984, discovers his passion for ballet. The honesty of the characters drive this coming-of-age tale as they struggle with scarcity and emotional growth.
Tearjerker moment: When the father breaks down to return to the mine and the older brother stops him.
4 Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) How many Nicolas Cage movies can you name that have made you cry? (Aside from Leaving Las Vegas, which is definitely an “ugly cry” movie). Anyway, this movie has yet another soundtrack with songs that make me tear up after hearing just a phrase. When Peggy Sue faints at her high school reunion, she wakes up to find herself back in her senior year of high school and is given a second chance to evaluate some of her choices.
Tearjerker moment: When Peggy answers the phone and her grandmother is on the other end.
5 Coco (2017) I love Pixar’s depiction of the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) traditions in this Oscar winner for “Best Animated Feature Film” and “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song)” for “Remember Me.” This very colorful ode to Mexican culture and family values is heartbreakingly delightful and a definite “must see.”
Tearjerker moment: Miguel whisper singing to Coco.
Granted, there is plenty to cry about right now, but when the tears won’t flow or you’ve been holding them back because you’ve been told they are a sign of weakness, or you don’t want to cry in front of the kids or your partner or at work, OR because there’s no crying in baseball, give one of these celluloid tear releasers a try. If you have any suggestions of your own for films that guarantee a cathartic release, please share in the comments below!