MoviefiedNYC’s Top Ten Movies that make you Ugly Cry (Part 1)

The end of the year always brings a plethora of very interesting films looking to nab an Oscar nomination.  Typically, these films tend to play on your emotions.  For instance, I saw 12 Years a Slave six weeks ago; I have still not recovered enough to write a review of it.  Too soon.

During the last ten minutes of Saving Mr. Banks, Emma Thompson begins to cry during her viewing of Mary Poppins.  No, I did not say “spoiler alert”.  If you didn’t know that Walt Disney was able to make Mary Poppins into a film, I am very sorry for your lost childhood.  This prompted me to think of the movies which have made me cry.

For the record, I am kind of a sap.  I cry during most Pixar movies and I also teared up during Deep Impact.  Oh, the shame!  However, this list is not merely of films which make me cry, but films that made fat tears roll down my cheeks, made my mascara run, and sob uncontrollably before I turned to my movie-going partner and cried, “Oh, WHYYYYY?????”  This is known as the “ugly cry”.  I dare you not to tear up a little reading this list.

***THIS LIST CONTAINS SPOILERS!  If you do not want to know how the movie ends and what made me lose it in a movie theater, then do not read further!!***

1.) Finding Neverland (2003)
Johnny Depp and Freddie Highmore, Finding Neverland
Similar to this year’s Saving Mr. Banks, this is the story of how J. M. Barrie was inspired to write Peter Pan.  Barrie (Johnny Depp) meets widow Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet) and her four sons in a London park on a sunny summer day.  Due to this chance meeting, Barrie is inspired by the Llewelyn Davies family to write the story of the boy who never grew up.  Towards the end of the film, Barrie brings the cast of Peter Pan to Sylvia’s deathbed so that she can see what she and her family inspired.  After her death, Peter Llewelyn Davis (Freddie Highmore) tearfully asks Barrie why his mother had to die.  Watching this young child experience the death of his mother makes your face crumple and heart ache.

2.) It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

James Stewart, It’s a Wonderful Life
This classic Christmas film has many beautiful moments.  However, this film is in the category of films that not only make me ugly cry, but make me ugly cry in the first 15 minutes.  Early in the film, George Bailey (Robert J. Anderson) is working for the druggist, Mr. Gower (H. B. Warner).  Gower receives a telegram telling him that his son has died.  Driven by intense grief, Gower gets drunk and decides that the best way to end the ache in his soul is to commit suicide.  He fills several capsules with cyanide and, accidentally, puts them in a prescription for a sick patient.  Realizing the mistake, George does not make the delivery and confronts Mr. Gower.  Before he can speak, Gower starts slapping George in his deaf ear.  A tearful George begs him to stop and tells him of the mistake.  The look on Gower’s face as he realizes what he almost did and how this young boy stopped a greater tragedy is one of the sweetest and saddest moments of the film.  This coupled with James Stewart’s impassioned “I want to live again,” speech on the bridge make this one of those movies that make even men cry, though they are loathe to admit it. 

3.) Imitation of Life (1959)

Lana Turner and Juanita Moore, Imitation of Life
This classic melodrama stars Lana Turner as Lora and Juanita Moore as Annie, two struggling single mothers whose relationships with their daughters parallel one another.  It is not the relationship of Lora and her daughter, Sandra Dee, that cause my ridiculous sob fest; that honor goes to Annie and her daughter, Sarah Jane (Susan Kohner).  Annie is a black housekeeper and Sarah Jane has such fair skin that she can pass for white (which she often does).  Sarah Jane runs away to live a life of more opportunity, and Annie hires a detective to find her.  She finds her daughter working as a chorus girl in a sleazy review, but Sarah Jane would rather do that then return to a life where she does not fit in.  Annie absolves her daughter, telling her that she only wishes her happiness.  As Annie turns to leave, she runs into one of the other chorus girls and plays along by saying that she was Sarah Jane’s nanny.  The resignation of a mother realizing that her very existence causes her daughter pain and shame is palpable in this scene.  While this scene makes me start crying, it just primes me for the sucker punch at the end of the film.  Annie dies and at her funeral Sarah Jane runs to her mother’s coffin, flinging herself on it, sobbing, saying that she always loved her mother.  While I am a quivering mass of snot and tears, I usually pick up the phone, call my mother, and, incoherently, try to tell her that I love her through my sobs.  She usually asks me if I have been watching Imitation of Life again.  Touché.

4.) The Color Purple (1986)

Whoopie Goldberg, The Color Purple
This is the other movie that makes me start the ugly cry in the first fifteen minutes.  After stopping her abusive and boorish brother-in-law’s (Danny Glover) attempted rape, Nettie (Akosua Busia) and her sister, Celie (Desreta Jackson), are physically forced apart.  Glover’s character, Albert, pulls them off of the fence posts that they are clinging to, throwing Nettie off of the property.  Nettie screams, “WHYYYY?!”, and Celie, through her tears, begs Nettie to write.  As they separate, they recite the words to a game they used to play together, “You and me must never part.”  Yeah, there is no way I am not bawling through this scene and their reunion at the end of the film. I am basically rocking myself back and forth in the fetal position.

5.) Titanic (1953)

Let me preface by saying that I have seen this movie one time, because this ugly cry lasted for two days.  Hey, give me a break, I was seven years old!  Knowing that my brother and I like history, my mother decided that it would be ok if we watched this film about the doomed ocean liner.  After all, we knew how it ended.  Married couple Clifton Webb and Barbara Stanwyck say good bye to each other as she boards the life boat with her teenage son and daughter.  The son is seated a bit away from his mother and sister and hears a woman being turned away from the lifeboat because it is full.  The young man gets up and says, “She can have my seat,” and gets off of the lifeboat.  After the boat is lowered, his mother realizes that he has gotten off the boat and issues forth a wail of unbridled anguish.  The son stands with his father as the boat goes down, singing “Nearer my God to Thee”.  As she weeps, the people on the lifeboat pass over the gloves that the son left behind.  To say that my brother and I were inconsolable is an understatement.  We were both a mess for a few days.  Needless to say, my mother only watches comedies with us now.

Now I need to go find some Kleenex.  Stay tuned for part two…

-Ariadne Ansbro

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