If a movie can truly move me to the point that I am nearing tears, then that is truly something special. An emotional connection to movies is critical for them to be effective. This is a list of my most emotional movie-watching experiences, whether that emotion is being depressed, heartbroken, or whatever. This is obviously a very personal list, but I am sure that I am not alone on most of these. Check it out!
Others receiving votes: The Elephant Man (1980), Good Will Hunting (1997), The Messenger (2009), On Golden Pond (1981), The War Zone (1999)
10. Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich, 2010)
This is one of the most heartfelt and beautiful conclusions to any story. Any remote fan of the series will be in tears by the end. Kudos to Michael Arndt for using just enough nostalgic content from the series and mixing it with something that made the film completely current and genuine. The final act is absolutely brilliant, yet the movie does not ask for your tears. It just pulls them out because of our incredible fondness for the material.
9. The Passion of the Christ (Mel Gibson, 2004)
This is probably the most overpowering emotional movie experience I have ever had. It doesn’t matter what anyone believes; this movie will win over any audience with its incredible and unflinching vision. There is no way to get around the swell of emotion and power that the movie creates. I cannot see any movie really rivaling this in terms of appeal and affection toward such a brutal film.
8. 21 Grams (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, 2003)
Of all Inarritu’s films, this is the one that sticks out as being his most haunting effort. It may not be his best film (or even his second best), but it packs a punch that is rare in modern movies. It is stocked with pain, grief, and powerful acting to bring about such a bleak and raw experience. It is a fascinating and at times excruciating watch, but there is no denying its power. It has an effect on the audience that is impossible to shrug off.
7. Nights of Cabiria (Federico Fellini, 1957)
This is a movie that really caught me off guard when I saw it. I was completely sucked in to this mildly depressing emotional journey. It may be dreary in nature, but it is so precise and full of life that it lingers around in the mind for long after the credits. It is like any great road trip-type movie that is a discovery of a character that is just dumped on at every turn. It makes for one of the more unforgettable movie experiences without really seeming to try too hard at it. It is a special film and arguably Fellini’s finest hour.
6. The Wrestler (Darren Aronosky, 2008)
In terms of a movie that was just made by the right person with the right star at the right time, this movie is and always will be unmatched. Knowing the back-story of Mickey Rourke and how it relates to Randy “The Ram” makes this something truly extraordinary. It isn’t even the poignant story about him trying to reconnect with his daughter. It is everything with Cassidy that makes the movie such a wonder. The final scenes are as perfect as anything in the last decade. “I’m here…I’m really here.” That was as affecting and effective of a line that I have ever heard at the cinema.
5. Far from Heaven (Todd Haynes, 2002)
If I were making a list of movies that are closest to perfect, then this would have to be right at or near the top. Never has a movie so seamlessly taken the audience out of the present day and into another era. Watching everything unfold (I won’t spoil anything) is one of the most beautiful and lasting experiences you will ever have. If you are not in or nearing tears in the end, then I don’t even know what to say.
4. Monster (Patty Jenkins, 2003)
Again, I do not know what it is about this movie. Aside from a few films with twist endings, this is the most haunted I have ever been by a movie. Watching Charlize Theron and Christina Ricci giving career-defining performances in such a bleak story is something truly unforgettable. The movie gets more and more unsettling as it goes along. The audience cares more and more about the characters. By the time the gut-punch of an ending comes along, we cannot get the movie or the performances out of our heads. The phone call, the courtroom, the eerie final shot…those are things that will never leave my mind.
3. Tae Guk Gi (Je-kyu Kang, 2004)
There is really nothing like this movie anywhere. The Korean War is rarely touched in movies, but this is a top 5 military film of all time. Its story may be a bit typical, but the care and feeling that the filmmakers use makes this one something that is impossible to shake. The lightness of the first act followed by the brilliance of the second act make the final scenes just a devastating and heartbreaking wallop. The confrontations and climaxes do not even need words to make them effective. The atmosphere is so well established and precise that we feel it regardless. After watching this, I felt like I got slugged in the face. For a movie to mess me up like Tae Guk Gi did, that is the mark of greatness.
2. Leaving Las Vegas (Mike Figgis, 1995)
This movie is one that is so in touch with its tone and characters that it doesn’t even matter what format the story takes. Watching the slow, agonizing decline of such an interesting character makes for a gut-punch for the ages. It is a lyrical and incredibly depressing portrayal of a terrific story. This is not the type of movie that is really made to bring about tears from the audience, but more of one that aims to make the audience connect with a couple characters and tell an honest and slightly romantic story. It is perhaps the silence and confusing actions of the characters that makes the movie so compelling and that leaves the audience so down and broken-hearted.
1. The Deer Hunter (Michael Cimino, 1978)
I have never had an emotional experience watching a movie than when I first saw The Deer Hunter. I watched it in its full four-hour, commercial-interrupted version and it still got to me more than any movie ever. The movie is an emotional rollercoaster. The first hour establishes the characters as being very likable s they almost become friends of the audience by the time they are shipped out. From that point on, we are left shocked, depressed, and frustrated as we are strung along this journey with some of the finest characters ever put on screen. In particular, both roulette scenes, the homecoming scene, the hospital scenes, the final scene…oh forget it. The entire second half of the movie is the most emotional experience in all of film. It is an experience that I will never forget. All it takes is to see a clip of the film, and all of those feelings come rushing back. There was absolutely no hesitation in putting this movie at the top this list.
So, what is on your list of emotional movie-going experiences? Thoughts and comments on mine? Hit me up below.
Coming up: Top 10 Jeers, the worst movies I have ever seen! Stay tuned.