Saturday, April 23, 2011

10 Things: Tearjerking Fictional Moments

We've all cried at fiction at some point or another, right?  Whether it be a single tear gracefully cascading down our cheeks in the comfort of our own homes or the significantly more embarrassing movie theater sobbing that results in neck tears and concerned looks from strangers as you fruitlessly try to not squelch and sniffle and disturb fellow theatergoers, it's safe to say we've all been there.  

If you haven't cried at a movie or TV show, then... actually, I commend you.  You've saved yourself a lot of embarrassment, and clearly have great emotional resolve.  Alas, I am no such person.  So, I present you with my Top 10 Tearjerking Fictional Moments.  And, heads up - spoilers abound!  No one cries over insignificant plot points.

X. "The Book of Love" Montage, the Scrubs Finale

Okay, we're starting small here.  I didn't expect to get teary-eyed at this final episode, especially considering I had more or less tapered off in my Scrubs-watching consistency as the show wound down.  But I watched the finale, and was surprised to find myself sniffling at this montage, which gives perfect emotional resolution to the show's characters.  Take note - this is the only "happy tears" moment on this list!

IX.  Sad moment with dog, My Dog Skip

Okay, I haven't seen this movie since it first came out.  And I don't really remember what happened in the plot, or why I watched it.  All I know is that the damn dog had to go the hospital because it was sick or dying or something, and Frankie Muniz had treated him like crap earlier in the day so boy, did he feel like a dick when Skip turned up in dire condition at the vet's office.  And he tearfully pleaded with Skip to live or something and apologized for being such a bad owner.  Truthfully, as a viewer in my early teens, I felt rather emotionally manipulated by the filmmakers, and cursed the fact that I was weeping so easily at a dog movie with Frankie Muniz.  I still haven't lived this down.  (And I refuse to watch Old Yeller.  Or Charlotte's Web.  Animals dying?  No, thank you.)

VIII. First Christmas without Sybil, The Family Stone

If you thought this movie was a comedy, you would not be more wrong.  You'd be completely justified, because every single piece of promotional material released for it seemed to indicate that you'd be in for a jolly good holiday movie - but you'd still be wrong.  The truth is, The Family Stone is actually a sneaky tearjerker, wherein the matriarch of the family loses a battle to cancer.  The saddest part of all of it is that the movie constructs a parallel between mother (Diane Keaton) and daughter (Rachel McAdams) that hits us right in the gut when they show the family coming together again for their first Christmas without their mom, and decorating the tree.  Sybil may have died, but her traditions live on - right down to the bauble ring Amy wears on her index finger.  Oh, it gets me every time.

VII. Near-deaths in Crash
It's been years since I've seen Crash, but I distinctly remember having two very strong, tear-inducing gut reactions to the film.  The first of which is in the car crash scene where Matt Dillon's character saves the life of a woman he molested earlier in the film.  Like much of the movie, it's an intense scene, and I just remember being unable to keep from crying during it.  Of course, the second moment of tears is when Daniel's being held at gunpoint, only to have his daughter leap into his arms when the gun fires.  Instant.  Tears.  I still don't exactly understand the miracle of her not actually being shot, but I don't care.  The anguish on that father's face when he thinks his little girl was just killed in his arms... ugh.  Like I said, instant, unstoppable tears.

VI. Titanic

Yeah, I'll admit it: I cry at Titanic.  I don't know how you can't!  The events of that movie are seriously horrifying, and it's a well-done, emotionally exhausting film.  If you weren't crying at the part where the elderly couple tuck themselves into bed as the water rushes in around them, or at the "I'll never let go" scene, I guarantee you'll be weepy in the film's final moments: where the Titanic and its passengers are all resurrected to watch Jack take Rose by the hand and kiss her, one last time.

V.  Dobby's death, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1

"Dobby is with friends."  Do I need to say more?  This was the death scene that just kept on going.  I shed one of those graceful tears at first and was immediately relieved that I wasn't going to break down completely.  Oh, but I was apparently just getting started.  By the end of the scene, I was in full-on blubber mode, with tears streaming down my cheeks and into my shirt.  Dobby is a free elf, indeed.

IV.  Satine's death, Moulin Rouge 

I defy anyone to watch this movie, fully engrossed in the emotional highs and lows, and not cry when it suddenly slams into its final moments.  Christian and Satine overcame insurmountable obstacles, only to be trumped by the inevitability of natural death.  So much of the film is spent in exuberance, with heightened situations and vibrant characters - and to have it all come crashing down my something so small and organic just makes it all extremely painful.  As such, I'm usually dissolving into tears somewhere around the point where Satine starts singing "Come What May" to Christian as a last-ditch attempt to get him to stay, and completely losing it when he cries out in pain at her death. 

III.  Sun and Jin's deaths, Lost 

There came a point, while watching Lost, that I realized I cared so much more deeply about Sun and Jin than almost any other characters.  I think it happened somewhere around the time Jin was held captive and being shot at, and I screamed.  From that point forward, I pretty much knew that when it came to those two characters' combined happiness, I was somewhat fragile in my emotions.

So, imagine my reaction when the writers decided to drown them together in the show's last season.  It was bad.  You'd think that my tears were what was filling up that sinking submarine, because I was bawling like there was no tomorrow.  The idea that she was trapped and that he refused to leave her because his arc was about penance for being a bad husband to her and so he was never going to leave her again... oh goodness.  I have never cried at a television show like that before, and I don't think I ever will again.

II.  Maggie's paralysis and death, Million Dollar Baby 

I saw Million Dollar Baby in theaters, which was unfortunate, because I think my best friend thought something was wrong with me when I started machine-gun sobbing at some point in the third act.  Literally everything from Maggie's fall until the end of the movie causes me great pain - "fly there, drive back," Maggie biting her tongue, Frankie reading to Maggie, Maggie losing a leg, Maggie telling Frankie she doesn't want to forget what it sounded like to have a crowd cheering for her - seriously, everything.  And then Frankie finally tells her that the nickname he gave her means "my darling," and I'm basically in hysterics.  Usually after I finish watching this movie, I have to sit in silence for awhile and try to mop up the flood of tears that have run down my face and soaked my shirt collar.  Needless to say, I was the last one in the theater after it finished.

I.  the entirety of Steel Magnolias

Here's the thing.  Steel Magnolias may be the saddest movie you'll ever watch.  I mean, the entire third act is devoted to the dwindling life of the brightest little main character, whom we love and have spent the whole movie rooting for.  A few months ago, I woke up at 2 AM and couldn't sleep, so I turned on the TV.  Steel Magnolias was on, and it was right at the funeral scene where Sally Field has her emotional breakdown.  And I thought, "Oh, I'm not going to cry, because it's 2 AM and I have insomnia and so I'm a little cranky, and plus I didn't go on the full emotional journey of the movie; I just turned it on right now.  I'll be fine!"

Ha.  No, as soon as Sally Field opened her mouth, I dissolved into a puddle of wracking sobs and I bawled all the way until the Easter party, where I just hiccuped pathetically, trying to recompose myself and my erratic breathing.

I have since learned that the point at which you begin crying in Steel Magnolias will consistently move forward in the film until you're basically crying at the opening credits.  On repeat viewings, I don't just cry at Shelby's death.  I cry when Shelby and M'Lynn fight.  I cry when Shelby gets her bad haircut.  I cry when Shelby won't drink her juice.  Hell, I cry when Annelle is rolling into town for her first day at Truvy's, before the title card even shows up. 

In short: this movie will make you bawl, and the times you won't be crying, you'll be laughing at Ouiser and Clairee.  It's actually pretty perfect.  Just have a box of tissues handy - even if it's 2 AM and you can't sleep.


There you have it!  The pattern seems to be that character death, and/or drowning = eternal crying.  Let me hear it: what movies get you bawling like a baby?


  1. The deaths of Sun/Jin made me cry so much.

  2. Grave of the Fireflies. Watched it once and was sobbing on and off for two days.

  3. The only part of Titanic that gets me now is the mother reading to her kids as the ship sinks.

    Dobby and Satine always get me.

    And the whole back half of Million Dollar baby upset me so much that I refused to buy it when it came out on DVD, and haven't watched it since I saw it in the theaters.

  4. Dawn - I was damn mess during that scene. Not even an understatement!

    Anon - I have never seen that, but anything with the word "grave" already in the title is bound to make me cry!

    Sauntering - Ohhhh, that part too, yeah. That whole sequence is tear-inducing.

    I actually rewatched Million Dollar Baby the other day because it was the only thing on TV and I thought maybe I wouldn't bawl so much - no such luck. I was lucky I had the commercial breaks to recompose myself, because I cried like a baby. Aaaaaagain. The whole thing is just extremely upsetting.

  5. I know you said you don't care about the miracle in Crash but I think it's actually really important and gives that whole storyline a different perspective. The thing is, the shop keeper's daughter way back in the beginning knowingly bought blanks for her father's gun. She is his real angel. It's the parallel of the two fathers being protected and loved by their daughters when it's supposed to be the other way around. I don't know, the shopkeeper's daughter was my favorite character because of this scene but it's been a long time since I've watched the movie.

    Also, Toy Story 3 when they're all holding hands waiting to be incinerated together and of course the end when Andy tears up. And The Namesake when the father dies and Kal Penn walks into his empty room and puts on his dad's shoes like his mom did when she first met him. But I've cried at the Olympics before so...

  6. Dobbbbyyyyyyy.

    Based on how much I cried in Part One--which was basically any time anything remotely sad happened--I will literally be crying throughout all of Part Two.

  7. Re: Moulin Rouge... no word of a lie, I didn't want to see that movie when it first came out. It took my boyfriend's father's girlfriend recommending it for me to finally watch it - and although I initially scoffed and mocked the film for telling us the ending in the first five minutes.... I literally SOBBED when Satine died. I knew it was coming, and it still hit me like a ton of bricks.

    Re: Deathly Hallows Part 1... I've seen this movie three times now, twice in theaters, once on DVD. I cried during Dobby's death the first time, but not the other two (I DID tear up the third time, though). What DID make me cry all three times so far, though, was the opening scene with the trio... but mostly Hermione Obliviating herself from her parents' memories and watching her fade from the pictures. Absolutely HEARTBREAKING - and I don't even LIKE Hermione much in the movies, so A+++ direction/editing on their part!


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