List o’ the Week: Movies That Make Me Cry
There aren’t too many things in life that are as satisfying as having a good cry while watching a movie. In fact, when a movie makes me cry, it’s elevated into an entire different category in my mind and heart.
In celebration of these heart-tugging, soul-wrenching features, today’s List o’ the Week is devoted to the top 12 movies that make me cry.
In order to make my list, it had to be a film that I’ve seen numerous times and that makes me cry every single time I see it, and I had to be able to identify the precise point in the film that the waterworks begin. This stringent criteria certainly narrowed my list, as it eliminated any films – like Brief Encounter (1945), for instance – that left me drowning in salty tears, but that I’ve only seen once. (To be honest, I don’t even WANT to see that one again. Yeesh.) Similarly, there are a number of films that make me cry, like I Remember Mama (1948), Brian’s Song (1971), and the 1979 documentary Best Boy, but I can’t exactly identify when the tears begin. In any event, here goes!
1. Imitation of Life (1959)
Always the first film that comes to mind when I think of films that make me cry. I start crying during Annie’s death scene. By the time Sarah Jane (Susan Kohner) makes her way through the crowd (“But it’s my MOTHER!!!”), I’m wailing. The blubbering doesn’t stop until the credits roll.
2. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Overall, The Wizard of Oz is a fairly upbeat musical, and it’s been a favorite of my family’s since I was a child. But the tears start welling every time Judy Garland’s Dorothy is saying goodbye to her pals in Oz and whispers to the Scarecrow that she’s going to miss him most of all.
3. Gone With the Wind (1939)
Mammy and Melanie. Climbing the shadowy stairs to the room where Capt. Butler has been locked for three days with the corpse of his beloved daughter, Bonnie Blue. Hysterics.
4. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
When Fredric March’s character arrives home from war, and he silently embraces his wife for the first time, their daughter (Teresa Wright) looks on, and sheds a tear. Me, too.
5. Wuthering Heights (1939)
I wait with great anticipation for the part of the movie where Lawrence Olivier’s Heathcliff stands at the side of the dying Cathy’s bed and implores her to haunt him after she passes to the Great Beyond. (“Take any form, drive me mad, only do not leave me here in this dark alone where I cannot find you!”) Boo. And also, hoo.
6. A Little Princess (1939)
I’ve loved this movie for many, many (many) years. And every time I’ve seen it in all those many years, I cry right along with Shirley Temple when first she finds her long-lost father, then realizes that he doesn’t recognize her, and finally gets through to him and enjoys a joyful reunion. So satisfying.
7. Alice Adams (1935)
Alice (Katharine Hepburn) has a disastrous experience at a dance given by a wealthy school chum – her ignominious evening includes realizing that her hand-picked violets have wilted, dancing with the most undesirable guest at the party, and having her brother discovered shooting dice with a group of black (gasp!) musicians. She ends the evening crying in her bedroom, directing her sobs toward the rain outside so no one can hear. And I’m crying right along with her.
8. All This, and Heaven Too (1940)
I save my tears in this feature for the last few minutes when, after telling her life story to a classroom full of snarky, judgmental teenage girls, Mme. Deluzy-Desportes (Bette Davis) is smothered by the heartfelt apologies of those same girls, who feel like shit once they realize how much their new teacher has suffered.
9. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
I start welling up right about the time George Bailey (the wonderful James Stewart) starts praying to God to let him live again. The tears don’t stop until Zuzu informs us that “every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.”
10. The Miracle Worker (1962)
Helen Keller’s teacher, Annie Sullivan (Anne Bancroft), spends the entire movie trying to get her charge to grasp the connection between words and the formations she’s making with her fingers. When the light bulb goes off and it finally becomes clear to Helen that she is learning a language, my tears are flowing as freely as the water that triggers her understanding.
11. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
The part that always gets me is after Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) fails to earn a not guilty verdict for his obviously not guilty client, a black man accused of attacking a white woman. As Atticus gathers his paperwork and prepares to leave the courtroom, the black observers in the balcony all rise to their feet in silent homage. The local preacher gently nudges Atticus’s daughter, Scout, telling her to stand up as well. “Your father’s passing,” he says. (I swear, y’all – I am tearing up just WRITING about this scene. Whew.).
12. The China Syndrome (1979)
I just saw this movie again at the 2017 TCM Film Festival (more on that to come!), so its inclusion on this list was an absolute must. If you’ve never seen this one and you plan to, I’m issuing an official spoiler alert here. In this thriller about an accident at a nuclear plant, plant supervisor Jack Godell (Jack Lemmon) works with local TV reporter Kimberly Wells (Jane Fonda) in an effort to expose the ensuing cover-up. For his troubles, he’s shot to death, and at the film’s end, Kimberly Wells struggles to reign in her emotions in order to broadcast the story. She’s ultimately successful in her determination to hold back the tears. I, on the other hand, am not.
And that’s my list! What about you? What movies make you cry?