Hope this post finds you well.
I got into an interesting conversation recently with an acquaintance on social media recently. We were talking about movies that had moved us so deeply, we had to struggle to keep our emotions in check. I was the first to admit that although my list of such films is kinda shorter then maybe it should be, there were some scenes in movies that I have seen that truly rocked my soul and others that had me crying either tears of hurt, anger or sheer joy.
Movies, much like comics and music, have the ability to take me back to very specific moments within my life. Good times or bad times, movies will always evoke strong memories with me and leave lasting impressions on my personality. So after our discussion, I thought, what better way to get you all interested in the blog than to pour my heart out to a bunch of strangers?? Now a couple of points before I begin with my list. 1) This was actually a lot harder to do then I first thought it would be. As much as movies always evoke strong feelings within me, I rarely seem to cry at movies. 2) I’m opening myself up to you amigos, so gentle mockery is acceptable, but my choices are exactly that, My choices. I’ll try my best to explain why they have made my list, but if you don’t agree with me, when not sound off in the comments section below?
Now, let’s get started..
- The Champ (1979)
Directed by Franco Zeffirelli, this 1970’s weepy is probably one of the more memorable dramas from that era that tugged on the heartstrings and didn’t stop tugging until it had wrung every last drop of salty tears out of you.
The Champ tells the dramatic story of of Billy Flynn(Jon Voight), an ex boxing champion who has now retired and trains horses alongside his young son T.J.(Ricky Schroder) The two have a very close bond as Billy has raised the boy alone after his wife Annie (Faye Dunaway) walked out on them seven years ago, and now she wants to be a part of T.J’s life once again. Her timing couldn’t have been more awkward, as Billy has decided to get back into the ring once last time to pay off a series of gambling debts and offer T.J the chance at a brighter future. However, things don’t go to plan and Billy makes a fateful decision to enter into a bout in spite of the massive risks to his health. Inevitably, this final fight means it’s curtains for Billy, and as his lifeless body rest on a table backstage, poor little T.J is left to deal with the tragedy.
I remember first seeing this film on television when I was 10 years old. It was showing during the Easter holidays, so I was off school and channel surfing as I often did back then. Mind you, back then (1988) we had just 4 terrestrial TV channels in the UK, so ‘surfing’ really was more a case of just flicking back and forth between them and hoping some cartoons jumped out at you from somewhere. Anyway, I found something compelling in watching little T.J and his dad battle against everything life seemed to throw at them, so I settled down to see where this was all going. In my emotional naivety, I assumed that this would be the typical Hollywood story, you all know the type I’m talking about. Underdog hero triumphs over adversity and walks off into the sunset to live happily ever after, the end. Well, you can imagine my horror when I was greeted with one of the most heartbreaking movie scenes my young eyes had ever seen. When T.J tries to get everyone in the room to revive his father, seemingly unwilling or unable to accept or understand his tragic passing, I bawled my eyes out like I had just been told Thundercats had been cancelled indefinitely and in fact all cartoons had been cancelled forever. And it seems it’s not just me that found that scene so harrowing, according to Wikipedia (yes, I know), the film and that scene in particular have been used to conduct psychological experiments into humans emotional responses to stimulation. Now if that isnt enough to convince you of how emotional the scene is, you can find it here in all it’s tear-soaked glory on Youtube. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.
4. Glory (1989)
Another film that I didn’t actually see until well after it’s release date, I actually first saw this when I was studying Film Studies at sixth form college. As an example of classic war movie storytelling, Glory ranks pretty highly in my opinion. I won’t go into a plot summary here, as i’m sure most of you reading this are familiar with the general gist of the story, but if you aren’t, I do recommend you look it up.
The scene in question that had me and the other students dabbing at our eyes was the well known scene in which runaway slave Silas Trip (Denzel Washington) is flogged at the command of his superior officer Colonel Robert Shaw (Matthew Broderick). Trip had gone A.W.O.L, a serious offense to commit. Unbeknown to Shaw, Trip had done this because his battered shoes were completely useless and needed replacing, but the racist quartermaster refused to replace them. Trip is dragged in front of a wagon wheel and tied to it. When his shirt is removed, a collective gasp went up in my classroom, as Trip’s back is a horrible mesh of scarred tissue. A damning indictment and permanent legacy of his time as a slave in the brutal institution of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. As Trip receives his punishment, he begins with a smirk of defiance, but as it continues and his resistance wavers, the pain, anguish, and psychological damage slowly begins to emerge. In a moment of complete vulnerability, and as the camera slowly pans into his face, a single tear rolls gently down his cheek, a final reminder that no human should ever be forced to suffer such cruelty and indignity. As Denzel treated us to an acting masterclass, I can remember the exact moment that I realised I was in tears. I felt something wet dripping onto my hand and realised that the scene had rocked me to my core. I quickly wiped the tears away and looked up from my desk, half expecting to find the rest of the class sniggering at me, but everyone else was in the same state of disarray I was. Even the lecturer whipped out his dirty handkerchief and gave his eyes a discreet wipe. To this day I struggle with watching this scene, partly because of the emotive subject matter, but also because of the stunning acting by Denzel and Matthew Broderick. You can feel the pain and emotion palpably as you watch, you have to be some kind of zombie if you don’t feel anything watching this.
3. UP (2009)
The next one on the list is a really personal choice for me. Disney/Pixar are absolute masters when it comes to highly effective storytelling. The Toy Story trilogy are fantastic films in their own right, that have their fair share of moments that tug on the heartstrings. I was also close to including Disney’s The Lion King on this list for its masterful handling of the death of Mufasa, but Pixar’s UP just pips it for me.
Again, this is another movie i’m sure you are all familiar with, so i’ll dive straight into the scene in question, the opening 5 minute montage. I have very personal experience of the subject matter, and speaking to others who have and even those that haven’t, it ranks very highly as a sequence that elicits such strong emotions, it puts most live action films far in the shade. For those that don’t know the film that well, I will briefly summarize what happens; We are introduced to Carl (Ed Asner) and his wife Ellie. The two meet as young children for the first time, and we are treated to their sweet and good natured courtship. As the scene continues, the two are shown growing older and getting married. They seem to have a totally idyllic lifestyle until tragedy strikes as it sadly does in our lives. Ellie and Carl discover that she has had a miscarriage and she cannot have children. The devastation that they both feel is gut wrenchingly realistic, and it’s the first time that I can recall a ‘kids’ movie (come on, we all know they are not for kids really) broaching a subject this emotive and misunderstood. The way in which the writers and animators have been able to recreate the loneliness and pain of going through miscarriage is as breathtaking as it is heartbreaking. As I said, I have personal experience of this and damage it causes. The fact that an animated movie could so accurately reflect almost exactly what I had experienced was deeply moving. But the storytellers weren’t finished with us yet. Carl and Ellie are able to rebuild their lives, they begin to save for a dream trip to Paradise Falls, the last known location of their childhood hero Charles Muntz. Just as they have managed to save enough money to travel, Ellie suddenly falls ill and dies. It’s at this point that I lost my shit, pardon my French. Here were two good people who had overcome a horrible set of circumstances to finally be so close to achieving their dream, only for life to come along and break them once again. I saw this when it was released on Blu-Ray the following year after it’s cinema release and have no shame at all in telling you that I wept. Once again, life had found a way to test two good people who simply wanted to enjoy themselves. I don’t think I can bring myself to send you to the full montage as it is likely to have me blubbering, but i’m sure you’ll find it on YouTube if you have the desire to see it once more and a strong constitution.
2. Fruitvale Station (2013)
When this powerful drama based on the tragic case of Oscar Grant first came to my awareness, I was reluctant to watch it. The subject matter, involving a young black man’s death at the hands of police officers felt a little too close to home for me to be able to objectively watch it, particularly with the increasing number of high profile instances of a similar type that seemed to be on our television screens with alarming regularity.
After the film was continuously recommended to me by my friends, I decided to stop being a coward and actually sit down and watch the film. I can’t tell you how glad I am that I did. First time writer/director Ryan Coogler does a fantastic job of dropping us into Oscar Grant’s world, and you are immediately aware of how skilled a filmmaker he is. I wrote about how much I enjoyed his Rocky reboot Creed here, but the scene that really had me reaching for the box of Kleenex was Oscar’s death.
Once Oscar and his friends are detained by police on the train platform, the scene of dread and fear permeates the screen. The officers seem panicked and unable to control the situation, whilst Oscar does what any of us would do in his position and tries to reason with them. As the tension rises even further, I had a that terrible knotting sensation in my stomach that something awful was about to happen, and before we can even figure out what is actually going on, Oscar has been shot. It wasn’t the shooting itself that moved me so deeply. It was more the few words he spoke directly after the incident. With blood pouring from his mouth, the dying Oscar mumbles in incredulity “You shot me! I have a daughter!”. It was the sense that another youthful life had been extinguished in violent circumstances, something that happen all too often in the U.S, it was the fact that his daughter would grow up never having her father drive her to her first prom, never be there when she graduated from high school, never support her in whatever endeavours she chose in life. That completely unnecessary severing of a relationship before it has even had a chance to blossom was just very painful for me. But aside from that, the main reason my tears began to flow was a selfish one; because when I thought about it, Oscar Grant could so easily have been me, one of my friends, in fact anyone of us. It reminds me of just how painful and cruel life can be when we have the misfortune to cross paths with the wrong people at the wrong time.
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
Now, I’m aware i’ve gone on quite a bit in this post, so i’m going to keep this one short and sweet. This movie makes my list because, god damn it I FRICKIN LOVE STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS! There was no specific moments that caused me to cry, the whole bloody thing just left we with tears of sheer joy. Why? Because I FRICKIN LOVE STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS! I haven’t written a review for the film simply because whenever I think of it I can’t keep my emotions in check. I would likely just start babbling like a crazy person and crying uncontrollably. There’s far too many reasons for me to start listing them here, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that the whole damn movie had me turning on the water works. I promise I will write more about this cathartic experience soon.
Right, that’s it from me. What movies have you feeling all emotional? Let me know what you think in the comments below!