Monday, March 18, 2013

Power Rankings: Top 10 Tears (Most Emotional Movie Experiences)

---Recently, Zach told me that he had revamped his all time top 10 list, which got me thinking about doing the same. Mine is always fluctuating, so I came up with the idea of doing a series of power rankings of AFI categories (as well as some of my own) leading up to the unveiling of my all time list. These lists will include Cheers (inspiring), Peers (on-screen couples), Fears (scariest), Tears (emotional), Jeers (worst), Thrills, Laughs, and finally my top 10 films of all time. Note: My lists are not going to be even a fraction as objective as AFI’s lists. They are solely my personal preferences and experiences. Enjoy!---

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.

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Coming up: Top 10 Jeers, the worst movies I have ever seen! Stay tuned.



  1. Top ten most emotional movies...(10) King Kong...What man does to Kong is heartbreaking,and then there's Fay Wray.(9)Random Harvest...A WW1 gassed and shellshocked British Officer wanders away from an asylum with no memory of his previous life...(8) death really the end?..maybe,maybe not...(7)Dumbo...Disney's cleverly done animated film depicting the deplorable treatment circus animals endure...(6)Easy Rider...This movie is sad on many levels...two men chase the Will-O-the-wisp of "freedom" but instead find themselves being led deeper and deeper into the lost...(5)Deliverance...Hate,Racism,Paranoia,Vengeance...this emotionally tense journey never lets up...(4)Precious...difficult film to watch...many come from this world...(3)Harry and elderly man and his cat take a strange journey...(2)The Door...A man gets a chance to travel back in time and set things right after his daughter drowns in the family pool...(1)Walkabout...Two young children stranded in the Australian outback meet an aborigine on "walkabout" a ritualistic separation from his tribe...These are my choices hope you like them...and speaking of sad...this will be my last post(my time off is up)..I've thoroughly enjoyed all the back and forth.....Keep up the great work and all the best to everyone, especially you Todd.

    1. I have only seen half of these. "Deliverance" is one that I have always meant to watch, but haven't gotten to it yet. I wasn't quite as taken by "King Kong" as you were, but I respect that choice. "Dumbo" is an interesting pick. I would have taken the likes of "The Lion King" and "Bambi" before "Dumbo" in terms of emotional Disney flicks. I don't necessarily consider "Easy Rider" emotional, but it is a great film nonetheless. "Precious" ripped my heart out like it did to everyone else. The Mariah Carey scene in particular was extremely emotional. Great pick. The only other one I watched was "Harry and Tonto", which was slightly corny for me, but I can see how it cold really affect someone. I will get on "Walkabout", "Deliverance", and the few others I am not familiar with soon.

      I appreciate all our posts. It has been nice having a semi-consistent collaborator recently. Come back whenever you have free time, if you choose. We all love hearing from one of our loyal readers.

  2. I'd put Dances with the Wolves and My Girl

    1. I have actually never seen "My Girl", but I know Zach is a big fan of the movie and has it in his top 100. I will see it eventually. Great choice with "Dances with Wolves", though. It is definitely one of the more sincere and emotional films of the '90s.