Men and women typically react to highly emotional situations in different ways; whether it’s a societal trend or a biological inclination isn’t clear. What is clear is that women are more comfortable displaying and embracing their emotions, including during the movie-watching process. It doesn’t matter what happens during a movie, happy or sad. A dog lost over cliff? Sniff. A couple getting married? Tears. The city of London burning to the ground? Wailing. Yes, women enjoy a good tear-jerker.
If men are moved by a movie, they’re more likely to find a tear welling up and eyeballs that are a bit damper than usual. You know, the type of tearing up that accompanies mistakenly chopping your leg off because your lumberjack swing was a bit wobbly due to an eagle having landed on your head. Because those sorts of tears are for manly men.
The following are movies that elicit that same leg lopping, talon gouging teary-eyed response, but due to more emotional responses. Read on – and if you break down just thinking about these, you might think about handing in your man card to the nearest Department of Manliness office as soon as possible.
10. Forrest Gump
This comedy/drama follows the life of a mentally challenged individual, Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) from his upbringing in Greenbow, Alabama, USA through his friendship with the love of his life, Jenny Curran (Robin Wright).
Forrest finds himself swept up in some pivotal – and some not so pivotal – moments in US history all the while pining for the love of his life, Jenny.
Jenny, on the other hand, is fumbling her way through the years in a drug fueled orgy of self-loathing and dodgy hairstyles, not thinking about Forrest at all until she wants to get clean of drugs. Yup, she’s that kind of lady.
They hook up, but she disappears again – only to reappear years later with their child and the news that she’s dying of AIDS. Jenny dies and Forrest is left to raise his son.
Forrest not getting to spend his whole life with the woman he loves and being the guy who always does the right is what brings a tear to men’s eyes.
This movie is a black comedy set within a dystopian society. Contrary to the title, it’s not set in Brazil but rather a fantastical facsimile of the UK… here again if you had experienced the council services I have in the UK in recent years the words dystopian and fantastical wouldn’t be too far from the truth.
The story follows Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce), a dreamer in a lowly bureaucratic job who has recurring visions of a beautiful woman in his sleep. During his attempts at correcting a bureaucratic mistake he meets a woman, Jill Layton (Kim Greist), who resembles his fantasy and the two of them become lovers.
The aforementioned bureaucratic error leads to Jill being labeled a terrorist. Sam is also categorized a terrorist due to his dealings with a rouge heating engineer, Archibald Tuttle (Robert De Niro).
Sam and Jill are caught, but are then rescued by a whole squad of rogue heating engineers, led by Archibald in a SWAT style operation. Thing is though, they weren’t really rescued; that bit was in Sam’s mind. In fact, Jill’s dead and he’s been lobotomized.
Sam finding love and then losing it all is what brings a tear to our eye.
‘Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.’ Now that’s an introduction!
Maximus (Russell Crowe) is a General who’s betrayed by his friend, and heir to the Roman throne, Commodus. Commodus also has Maximus’s wife and son killed. Maximus becomes a slave and, shortly thereafter, a gladiator. Who says there wasn’t rapid promotion in the ancient roman world?
Maximus finds himself fighting in the Roman Colosseum. After his first victory, while wearing a helmet/mask combo, he is introduced to the new emperor, Commodus – then, he utters those infamous words.
Throughout the ensuing gladiatorial combats in the arena, Commodus tries to have him killed by nefarious means, unsuccessfully, and the public grows to love Maximus.
In the end, Commodus faces him in open combat in the arena – only after stabbing him in the armpit before the fight to gain an advantage. Commodus is no match for Maximus, though, and gets a dagger under the chin and in the base of the skull.
Commodus drops dead, and then so does Maximus. Afterwards, the Roman elite eulogize Maximus, release political prisoners and declare a Republic. Their sense of timing was pretty terrible in those days; maybe an hour earlier and Maximus could have been quaffing wine instead of eating dirt.
Maximus’s betrayal by his friend, loss of his loved ones and his yearning to be with them, all the while standing up for what is right and good, really tugs at even the toughest heartstrings.
7: A Beautiful Mind
John Nash (Russell Crow) is a US mathematician who sees people who aren’t there.
During Nash’s time as a graduate student at Princeton, we see him develop the mathematical principles of game theory. After that it’s kind of downhill: lots of people who are imaginary, heavy quantities of electric shock therapy, and some very strong prescription drugs.
To stay sane he takes a job at Princeton marking papers and is allowed, after a while, to teach again. Later on in life – much later on – he wins the Nobel Prize in economics for his game theory.
The pivotal scene is set in the Princeton canteen, with Nash surrounded by his peers; they proceed to give him a pen each. This may sound odd, and on most levels it is, but in one of the early scenes of the film we see the very same thing happening to someone else; it’s an informal ceremony that demonstrates the utmost sign of respect from your peers.
The respect of his peers and acceptance by the establishment is a heart-rending scene in a movie already packed full of emotion.
6: The Green Mile
John Coffey (Michael Clark Duncan) is a very large African American gentleman with a trusting and naive nature who’s on death row for a crime he didn’t commit. What sets Coffey apart from his fellow man, apart from having biceps the size of my head, is that he can heal with his hands.
He heals the prison warden’s wife, who is dying of cancer, and also cures head guard Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) of a bladder infection. He’s a good, innocent and gifted man who is ultimately put to death by electrocution, despite the late efforts of his jailers to prove his innocence.
The injustice of the situation and helplessness of the guards brings a tear to every viewers’ eye, male or female.
5. St Vincent
Bill Murray plays Vincent MacKenna, an alcoholic Vietnam vet whose only goals in life are to fund the very expensive care home that his Alzheimer-suffering wife is resident in, and drinking and having sex with a pregnant pole dancer Daka (Naomi Watts).
Vincent agrees, under duress initially, to look after the son of his neighbour Maggie Bronstein (Melissa McCarthy) after school each day. During their time together they become friends, and Vincent shows the young Oliver the real things he needs to know in life: how to fight and how to bet on horse races.
Their relationship is interrupted by Oliver’s mother, when she is defeated in a custody battle with her former husband because of Vincent’s activities with her son.
In a school project, Oliver picks Vincent as a modern day saint because of the good things he has done for other people, including saving his comrades in the Vietnam War and religiously visiting, and doing the laundry for, his wife. Oliver presents his project to a packed auditorium of his classes family and friends where Vincent receives a standing ovation.
Doing the right thing, in his own way, and being recognized as an ultimately good man, regardless of his faults, is a highly emotional moment that most men can’t help but get a bit teary over.
4. Good Will Hunting
Will Hunting (Matt Damon) is a young man from South Boston, USA with an eidetic memory who devours books. He could become a world leading mathematician or physicist, but he doesn’t want to do those things; what he wants to do is work in construction with his best friend Chuckie (Ben Affleck), drink and fight.
This latter preference lands him in court, and ultimately under the court ordered guidance of Dr Sean Maguire (Robin Williams), a widowed therapist whose wife was the center of his life.
Throughout the film, Chuckie tries to persuade Will to embrace his gift and do something great with his life. Will and Sean have a few male bonding moments, ultimately leading to the good doctor breaking through to Will, making him break down in helpless tears.
In the end, Will finds his ambition and leaves without saying goodbye to anyone, driving off to be with his newfound Harvard-educated love.
Chuckie arriving at Will’s apartment and finding him gone is what brings a tear to our eye, as Chuckie knows his friend has left to pursue a better life and is selflessly happy for Will.
3. The Deerhunter
This story revolves around three friends from Pennsylvania: Mike Vronsky (Robert De Niro), Steven Pushkov (John Savage) and Nick Chevotarevich (Christopher Walken) who ship off to Vietnam as part of the US war effort in the 70s.
While fighting the NVA, they’re captured and forced to play Russian Roulette for the benefit of their captor’s betting urges.
During an escape, they are split up and Nick finds himself back in the USA alone. There, he finds himself drawn into an underground Russian Roulette playing ring. Over time, he loses his mind and is found by Mike playing Russian Roulette in a club. Nick doesn’t recognize Mike, and Mike decides to play in the game hoping to jog Nick’s memory. Sadly, Nick does indeed remember his friend but he also loses at the game and a bullet passes through his brain.
Losing a friend, especially a fellow soldier who you trusted with your life, is what brings a tear to most men’s eyes.
2. Saving Private Ryan
This film has Vin Diesel, Alfred Tennyson poetry quotes, Nazis, lots of explosions and probably the best opening scene of any war movie.
A platoon of US soldiers are given a mission, just after the WW2 Normandy invasion, to find the last Ryan brother (Matt Damon) and get him home.
The platoon, commanded by John Miller (Tom Hanks), travels across Normandy towards the last known position of Ryan’s airborne platoon, all the while fighting Germans and losing men.
They end up at Ramelle, where they find Ryan. Together, they put up a last stand against a German mini offensive. Only three, including Ryan, survive relatively unscathed. Miller is propped up against a motorcycle and, dying from his wounds, tells Ryan to “Earn this”.
Having your friends die in battle, leaving you alive and responsible for living a life that they would be proud of, is a thought that’s enough to make any man cry.
1. The Shawshank Redemption
Based on a short story by Stephen King entitled Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, this movie tells the story of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) who is jailed for life for murdering his wife, although we don’t really know if he’s guilty or innocent.
Andy spends nineteen years in Shawshank Prison, being regularly assaulted by a gang called the sisters and being befriended by a group of individuals, nominally lead by Red Redding (Morgan Freeman). Over the years, Andy digs a hole in his prison cell wall, covered and disguised by posters of Rita Hayworth and then Raquel Welch. The hole breaks out into the utility corridors of the prison and Andy escapes through the sewer system to freedom and then to Mexico. Red is released on parole and joins him in Mexico.
It’s not the ending that deserves the number 1 spot on this list, however, but a scene in the middle of the movie when the elderly prison librarian, Brooks Hatlen (James Whitmore) is released into society and forced to work as a bag boy at a grocery store. Brooks has spent so long in prison that he can’t cope with the outside world and so, while in a halfway house, he dresses up smartly – and hangs himself.
His cell mates who were, to all intents and purposes, his family have been removed from him; he is suffering from a shocking lack of respect and he is left frightened in an unrecognisable society. His heartbreaking decision to leave the harsh outside world in the style of his choosing has brought tears to the eyes of countless male viewers the world over.