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20 Movies that Make Men Cry

February 26, 2009

I recently ran across this on As a guy who is not afraid to admit that he’s cried a few times while watching a movie… ok, more like twenty… I found this list to be interesting. Some of the movies on this list baffle me, some are obvious to me. Each movie is followed by the original commentary in the article and I’ll add my own two cents in italics.

1. Brian’s Song (1971)

This Emmy-winning movie of the week focuses on Chicago Bears running back Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams) and his friendship with fullback Brian Piccolo (James Caan). Coach George Halas (Jack Warden) encourages Piccolo to be Sayers’s roommate during the season — the first white-black pairing of its kind in professional sports. When Piccolo develops cancer, Sayers stands by his pal. Perfect for all ages.

This is an obvious one for me… I was named after Brian Piccolo. I’ve never known a guy named Gayle, though. 

2. Rudy (1993)

In this fact-based drama about the triumph of the human spirit, scrawny high schooler Rudy Ruettiger (Sean Astin) dreams of playing football at Notre Dame. But his father (Ned Beatty) can’t afford to send him, and his mediocre grades don’t cut it, so he ends up at a college across the street instead. Undaunted, Rudy eventually transfers to Notre Dame, where he begins assisting the groundskeeper (Charles S. Dutton) and joins the practice squad.

“Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!”  You’re crying just reading this. Don’t lie. 

3. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

As U.S. troops storm the beaches of Normandy, three brothers lie dead on the battlefield, with a fourth trapped behind enemy lines. Ranger captain Tom Hanks and seven men are tasked with penetrating German-held territory and bringing the boy home. Steven Spielberg and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski paint a harrowing picture of the price of war and heroism — one that netted them Oscars for Best Director and Best Cinematography, respectively.

To be honest, I’m not sure I cried. I was in too much shock. What a brutal movie. I still have refused to see it since I watched it at the theatre.

4. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

The first movie since It Happened One Night to win all five major Academy Awards (picture, director, actor, actress, screenplay), Cuckoo’s Nest still has the ability to entertain and inspire. Implacable rabble-rouser Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) is committed to an asylum and inspires his fellow patients to rebel against the authoritarian rule of head nurse Mildred Ratched (Louise Fletcher).

????? I saw it. I did not cry. I did laugh though. 

5. The Natural (1984)

A bat made from a tree struck by lightning and a passion for baseball define Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford). But when he’s shot and severely wounded, his career gets cut short. Years later, Hobbs tries out for a struggling team. He steps to the plate and knocks the ball out of the park in this mythic film that’s as epic as America’s national pastime.

I hate to be mean but the saddest part of the movie is the realization that his girlfriend is Glenn Close. I would cry. 

6. Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Upstanding banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is framed for a double murder in the 1940s and begins a life sentence at the Shawshank prison, where he’s befriended by an older inmate named Red (Morgan Freeman). During his long stretch in prison, Dufresne comes to be admired by the other inmates for his upstanding moral code and unquenchable sense of hope. Co-stars Gil Bellows and Bob Gunton (who’s memorable as the amoral prison warden).

 Prison rape always draws a tear or two out of me. Seriously, I’m sure the moment when most guys cried was when the old guy hung himself after he couldn’t acclimate himself to the outside world. That was sad, but I probably cried at the end when Andy and Red are reunited as free men. 

7. Schindler’s List (1993)

Steven Spielberg’s Holocaust epic won seven Academy Awards (including Best Picture) and is an unforgettable testament to the possibility of human goodness. Greedy factory owner Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) was exploiting cheap Jewish labor, but in the midst of WWII became an unlikely humanitarian, losing his fortune by helping to save 1,100 Jews from Auschwitz.

Another movie that I have refused to watch since watching it at the theatre. I’m sure I cried, but I was probably in shock. I did like this better than Saving Private Ryan. 

8. Old Yeller (1957)

Disney’s heartwarming family classic Old Yeller tells the tale of young farm boy Travis Coates (Tommy Kirk), who learns valuable lessons of courage, loyalty and trust from an adopted yellow mongrel.

I watched this as a little boy. I cried. I haven’t seen it since. Another movie that is in the same genre, and one that I liked better is “Where the Red Fern Grows.” I definately cried in that one. 

9. The Pride of the Yankees (1942)

This is one of the greatest American stories about one of the greatest American heroes: baseball phenomenon Lou Gehrig. The film follows the Iron Horse (Gary Cooper) from childhood to his later glory on the diamond. Gehrig embodied the American ethic of humility and hard work, playing in 2,130 consecutive games until he was forced to retire because of the disease that now bears his name.

Never saw it.

10. Terms of Endearment (1983)

Mothers are from Mars, and daughters are from Venus in this warm, offbeat story adapted from Larry McMurtry’s novel. Director James L. Brooks seamlessly tells the story of a mother and daughter whose lives are changed by the men they love and their abiding love for each other. Terms of Endearment won five Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actress (MacLaine), Best Supporting Actor (Jack Nicholson), Best Director and Best Screenplay.

I’ve never seen this one either. I do remember playing in my room as a young ‘un while my mom and aunts watched it on t.v. and hearing them cry. I’m not sure why this is on a list of movies that make GUYS cry, though. 

11. The Iron Giant (1999)

In rustic 1957 Maine, 9-year-old Hogarth finds a colossal but disoriented robot (of unknown origin), and the two form a strong bond of friendship. Before long, however, a government agent is on their trail — and he’s intent on destroying the automaton. This beautifully rendered parable based on British poet Ted Hughes’ feted short story features the voices of Jennifer Aniston, Vin Diesel, Harry Connick Jr. and Cloris Leachman.

Denise and I rented this about two years ago. I had heard really good things about it – it’s directed by the same guy that did “The Incredibles” which I love. We were quite disappointed. I did not cry. 

12. Philadelphia (1993)

When attorney Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) reveals his HIV-positive status — and his homosexuality — to his co-workers, he soon finds himself unemployed. Seeking to sue for wrongful termination, Hanks works with the only lawyer who’ll take the case: ambulance-chasing, homophobic Joe Miller (Denzel Washington). Hanks received an Oscar for his work in this Jonathan Demme-directed film — the first major-studio picture to tackle the topic of AIDS.

Uh, no. I did think it was a good movie, though. 

13. Big Fish (2003)

William Bloom (Billy Crudup) tries to learn more about his dying father, Edward (Albert Finney), by piecing together the facts out of the various fantastic tales and legends of epic proportions he’s been told over the years. Edward was a traveling salesman, and his journeys throughout the South are the seed of the tales. Directed by Tim Burton, the movie co-stars Ewan McGregor (as the young Edward), Helena Bonham-Carter and Steve Buscemi.

I have seen this, but I don’t remember crying. In fact, it was quite forgettable.

14. Million Dollar Baby (2004)

This multiple Oscar winner follows a determined young athlete who, through her sheer determination, awakens a long-lost fire within two aging boxers. Despondent over a painful estrangement from his daughter, trainer Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) isn’t prepared for boxer Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) to enter his life. Maggie’s determined to go pro, and she eventually convinces Dunn and his cohort (Morgan Freeman) to help her get to the top.

One of my all time favorite movies. I absolutely cry every time I watch it… which is frequently.

15. Life is Beautiful (1997)

In this poignant tragicomedy, a clever Jewish-Italian waiter named Guido (Roberto Benigni, who won an Oscar for his role) is sent to a Nazi concentration camp during World War II, along with his wife (Nicoletta Braschi) and their young son (Giorgio Cantarini). Refusing to give up hope, Guido tries to protect his son’s innocence by pretending that their imprisonment is an elaborate game, with the grand prize being a tank.

I have never seen this, but would like to. It seems like I would cry from the synopsis.

16. Love Actually (2003)

An ensemble comedy that tells 10 separate (but intertwining) London love stories, leading to a big climax on Christmas Eve. One of the threads follows the brand-new, unmarried Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) of the United Kingdom, who, on his first day in 10 Downing Street, falls in love with the girl (Martine McCutcheon) who brings him his tea. Denise Richards, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley and Rowan Atkinson co-star.


17. Rocky (1976)

Gritty, grim and epic, Rocky is the real deal, a crowd pleaser with a less-than-storybook ending. When Muhammad Ali-esque boxing champ Carl Weathers wants to give a nobody a shot at the title as a publicity stunt, his handlers pick palooka Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). Rocky won the 1976 Best Picture Oscar thanks to John Avildsen’s solid direction and Stallone’s root-for-the-underdog script.

Great movie. Not sure that I’ve cried though. 

18. The Pianist (2002)

Famed Polish concert pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody, who won an Oscar for the role) struggles to survive the onslaught of Nazi tyranny during World War II in this autobiographical film. Already lauded at the time for his talents as a musician, Szpilman spent those years holed up in Warsaw, subsisting on scraps of food and barely able to stay alive. Grace comes in the form of a second chance — at music, at freedom, at life.

Another one I haven’t seen. I would like to.

19. Mystic River (2003)

Three childhood friends, Sean (Kevin Bacon), Dave (Tim Robbins) and Jimmy (Sean Penn) are reunited in Boston 25 years later when they are linked together in the murder investigation of Jimmy’s daughter. This taut thriller from director Clint Eastwood won two acting Oscars (for Robbins and Penn) and was nominated for several more in its exploration of human behavior when faced with pain just beneath the surface, justified rage and scars that never heal.

I just bought this movie. I saw it at the theatre, but I don’t remember crying. I’ll let you know when I watch it again. 

20. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Southern comforts abound in this classic adaptation of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Gregory Peck won an Oscar for his role as Atticus Finch, a widowed lawyer who takes on the task of defending an innocent black man (Brock Peters) against rape charges, only to wind up in a maelstrom of hate and prejudice that threatens to invade the lives of his children, Jem and Scout (Phillip Alford and Mary Badham).

Another wonderful movie adapted from a wonderful book. I didn’t cry though. 

Here’s my list of movies that made me cry that did not appear in the above list… in no particular order:

1. Frequency – the end of the movie where father, son, and grandson are playing softball – couple with that song – gets me every time. 

2. Where the Red Fern Grows – my Ol’ Yeller alternative.

3. The Sixth Sense – when the boy and his mom are sitting in traffic because of the accident and he tells her his “secret” and proves it by telling the story about her and her mother.

4. Steel Magnolias – hey, if Love Actually and Terms of Endearment can be in the above list… When Sally Field comes home from the hospital after her daughter dies and her grandson comes running up the driveway to greet her… wow, I’m tearing up now just thinking about it.

5. Lars and the Real Girl – I absolutely love this movie. There are a number of misty moments for me, but a highlight is when Lars’ brother apologized for abandoning him when he was younger.

6. Reign Over Me – Man, there are at least three scenes that make me cry.

7. An American Tail – I still cry when I hear “Somewhere, Out There”…. not the radio version, the movie version where the mice sing. 

8. In America – a number of scenes. Mostly tears of joy and hope. I love the portrayal of family in this movie.

9. Return of the King – after 9 hours, there better be some emotional payoff!

10. Children of Men – in the midst of war, the cry of a baby brings everything to a halt. That scene is so beautiful and powerful.

Ok, your turn. 

15 Comments leave one →
  1. February 28, 2009 11:56 am

    Found your blog…I would add to the list the last scene in that one Jack Nicholson movie ABOUT SCHMIDT where, after being totally defeated by life, he receives the thank you letter from the nun. You can literally see his heart break with joy when he reads the letter.

    It’s too bad you haven’t watched SAVING PRIVATE RYAN since the first time you saw it in theaters. Still love that one, and tear up at both the beginning and the end.

    The actual Sporting News list is pretty lame though. They picked a bunch of movies that totally don’t make dudes cry. I gotta give you props for picking STEEL MAGNOLIAS though. Eternally my favorite chick flick, this one’s really doesn’t deserve the “Chick flick” classication it gets, since there are some really great dudes who aren’t “female-fantasized” in the movie (like Tom Skerrit’s character). Here’s a few others that make me tear up:

    5) ABOUT A BOY – Just a great and enjoyable movie. Really great happy ending.
    4) HOOSIERS – Why didn’t this one make the Sporting News list. Better than Rudy in my opinion. A beautiful, understated film with a lot of heart.
    3) THE KARATE KID – That final scene – the music, the tension, “FINISH HIM!!!”, Elizabeth Shue’s scream, Mr. Miyagi’s proud smile – HOW CAN ANYONE NOT TEAR UP???
    2) RAISING ARIZONA – The end sequence when HI has the dream sequence about the future, with the gothic lullabye playing in the background, it’s just such a beautiful way of summarizing all the mistakes that were made and still believing that the future will be brighter in spite of them.
    1) RETURN OF THE JEDI – The original ending with the apparently “un-PC” music and the old fogey spirit apparitions. I’ve never experienced a better visual/musical representation of “And they lived happily ever after…”

    THE PRINCESS BRIDE – “As you wish.” Just a great fatherly moment.

  2. February 28, 2009 7:06 pm

    Oh Yeah, Steel Magnolia’s is my favorite “chick flick.” So many great scenes… Tom Skerrit’s character going deaf, the ending with Shirley MacLaine getting hit by the grandson after Olympia Dukakis told him the story where Shirley is the evil witch. I also love Dolly… she’s great.
    Raising Arizona is one of my all-time favorite movies.
    I almost put Hoosiers on there… I like it better than Rudy, too.
    I’m not sure what you mean by the un-PC music in ROTJ… I knew Lucas had remade the ending but I didn’t know the music was changed.
    I would probably replace Rocky with Karate Kid, now that you mention it.

  3. Cody Taylor permalink
    April 16, 2009 12:13 pm

    1. Ladder 49
    2. The Guardian
    3. We Were Soldiers
    4. Braveheart
    5. Saving Private Ryan

  4. jerryk permalink
    May 9, 2009 3:50 pm


  5. Nith permalink
    July 3, 2009 5:07 am

    Marley & Me 😦

  6. Woz permalink
    December 11, 2009 1:11 pm

    Seriously, no one mentioned The Green Mile!! As soon as that old mouse climbs out of the cigar box at the end I’m done. And as mentioned before, Saving Private Ryan, especially the cemetery scenes are amazing how they pull the emotion out of you.

    • December 14, 2009 7:24 pm

      The Green Mile is a pretty good one. I also get a little misty when the cajun gets executed – he was my favorite character. I was thinking the other day about how important the cemetery ending is to Saving Private Ryan. If it had ended with the final death scene it would have been pretty disappointing. The viewer needed that quiet, emotional, hopeful ending after all the brutality.

  7. February 9, 2010 11:01 am

    Hey mate. Stumbled across your blog and thought I’d leave my two cents regarding the whole crying during movies. I don’t cry a lot to be honest (especially not in response to movies) but there are definitely some that make my eyes water.

    In no particular order:

    – The Iron Giant – Dude, I can’t believe you didn’t tear up at that final scene where he sacrifices himself for the greater good saying “I am Superman”. Great stuff.
    – Friday Night Lights – The scene where Booby Miles’ sporting career and indeed ticket out of his mediocre life in Odessa, Texas is cut short by a crippling knee ligament injury. He pretends to be proud in the locker room before breaking down in his uncle’s car outside the stadium. Still gets me.
    – Terminator 2 – Arnie, the Terminator, the surrogate father to John Connor, being slowly dipped into molten metal, with the thumbs up. Come on, man, do you not have a heart?

    Can’t really think of any others. Thought I’d just throw it out there.

    Have a good one.

  8. Kait permalink
    April 20, 2010 6:37 pm

    Field of Dreams. Last scene. Catch with his dad.

  9. bryan permalink
    November 30, 2010 10:57 pm

    Field of Dreams for sure. Moonlight Graham giving up his “youth” to save the little girl, ending playing catch with dad, and Im sure there are others im forgetting.

  10. Marko permalink
    January 26, 2011 9:27 am

    I was searching around the internet this morning for someone saying that Children of Men made them cry too, and lo and behold! I am not alone. It was the same scene that did it for me, with the baby being carried down the hallway and the soldiers kneeling in reverence to the very existence of an infant person.

    What is unique and what took me a few years to realize about WHY I cried during that scene was that it was a “happy cry”, a cry of pure joyous catharsis,because as the viewer you partake in the unadulterated RELIEF of the moment. The feeling that everything will be okay, that the nightmare is over, all heralded by an infants cries.

    Also, Artificial Intelligence


    Never Let Me Go

  11. Jesse permalink
    January 11, 2012 3:25 pm

    Wow, what a complete list! I was trying to prove a point to my hubby about crying during movies (we watched The Help) that it’s OK and all men do it. I was trying to come up with other movies that were instant tearjerkers and I found another list ( but this is fantastic too. Thanks much!

  12. Frank permalink
    March 28, 2012 10:17 am

    Dude, no Field of Dreams? Seriously?!

  13. Larona permalink
    June 18, 2012 7:55 pm

    A walk to remember.. This movie always gets me

  14. Piyush permalink
    April 16, 2013 11:00 am

    Funny no one mentioned Black Hawk Down..I and my mates were in tears after Sgt Eversmann’s monologue(last scene).

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