Movies That Make Me Cry (and They’re Not What You Think)

There’s kind of a theme here as you’ll see that I tend to tear up at happy movies much more than sad ones, especially films that involve a dream coming true.

COOL RUNNINGS: Feel the rhythm! Feel the rhyme! Get on up! It’s BOBSLED TIME! The ultimate underdog story about a group of misfits way out of their league, this is a feel-good movie all the way. As wannabes, we all know what it’s like to try, to fail, and to somehow gather up the courage to try again. After many failures, the Jamaican bobsled team finally begins to prove themselves as real competition, only to have their sled break apart during a critical run. Rather than give up, they hoist their sled up and walk to the finish line. That moment is so much more powerful, more inspiring, than if they had actually won the race. Gets me every time I watch it. And at the end of the film, these words appear:

The Jamaican Bobsled team returned to their native country as heroes.

Four years later, they returned to the Olympics….as equals.

Forget it. I’m tearing up as I write this.

BACK TO THE FUTURE – I know this one seems like an odd choice, but anyone who knows me personally knows where I’m going with this. Seeing this film when I was 10 years old is what inspired me to become a screenwriter.  My Love Letter to Back to the Future on it’s 25th Anniversary

Back to the Future is one of the most perfectly written films of all time, and even as a 10-year-old, I was able to see that. Everything that happens in the film is set up and paid off beautifully. Biff the bully ends up working for George McFly. George confesses his writing dreams to Marty and has a published book at the end. Marty writes his girlfriend’s phone number on the Save the Clock Tower flyer, only to have the clock become vital to his survival when it is struck by lightning.

Sure, it’s mainly sentimentality that causes my reaction to this film, but the effect is still powerful after all these years. The part that gets me is when Marty is playing guitar at The Enchantment Under the Sea Dance and is literally beginning to disappear from existence. Marty’s parents finally kiss on the dance floor, thus setting in motion the events that will lead to his birth. Specifically, I love the moment when the photograph of Marty, his brother, and his sister reappear. Marty sits straight up, flexes his hand, and the music swells. Perfection.  

THAT THING YOU DO! – I absolutely love the part where The Wonders hear their song played on the radio for the first time. They start screaming and hugging and running through the streets of Erie, PA. Anybody who’s ever had a dream fantasizes about that amazing moment in time when it comes true. That Thing You Do! captures that moment beautifully.

HAIRSPRAY  (2007 version ) – John Travolta gets me twice in this one. Travolta plays Edna Turnblad who is married to Wilbur (Christopher Walken). Together, they make an adorable and surprisingly believable couple. When Wilbur bails out his daughter’s friends from jail after they are arrested at a pro-integration rally, Edna says “Knights in Shining armor don’t come any shinier than you, Wilbur.” It’s just such a sweet moment and it makes me tear up. The second time in the film that makes me cry is at the end during the big dance number. Obese Edna is tempted to get up and dance but isn’t sure. Her husband shouts “Do it, now! Or forever wish you had!” And Edna just gets out there in front of all the skinny people and the studio and television audience and just lets loose. It’s just such a joyful moment. As a Wannabe, sometimes I feel like a huge fat girl trying to dance. Sometimes you fail, sometimes you succeed, but as the saying goes, sometimes you have to dance like nobody’s watching.

THE MUPPETS– This is the best movie I’ve seen in the theater in a long time. Funny, heartwarming, and upbeat, it’s a great film for any Wannabe as it follows the Muppets in their quest to save the Muppet studio and to become relevant in a world that’s forgotten them. Hearing the Rainbow Connection, the song that I sing to my son every night, is certainly enough to reduce me to tears, but there’s another scene that gets to me as well. The Muppets perform a telethon to help save their studio, all the while convinced that no one cares about them. Almost out of hope, they leave the theater, only to find thousands and thousands of fans filling the streets, cheering for them. There’s an amazing aeriel shot of all the people and, when combined with the music, it makes for a lovely, triumphant moment. Cue the tears of joy.

THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION – After spending decades in prison, Morgan Freeman’s character is on the bus to freedom. After spending much of his life expounding on the dangers of hope, he says “I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope…” Hope. The lifeblood of any Wannabe…

THE HUDSUCKER PROXY: This is a great movie about trying, failing, succeeding, failing again, and not giving up. I love the part near the end where Norville is reading Mr. Hudsucker’s will and he practically whispers the last part “Hudsucker hereby bequeaths….his second chance…” As Wannabes, we always have to believe in that second chance.

AIRPLANE – Just kidding on that one.

What movies and/or books make you cry?