Gents, it is our lucky day! Film connoisseur Gemma Hurst, better known as Popcorn Heart, has taken time out of her busy schedule to take us through ten unexpected flicks that will have even the most stoic of gents welling up and reaching for the nearest handkerchief.

I’m Not Crying – I’ve Just Been Chopping Onions: When Cinema Gets Sad

By Gemma Hurst 

We’ve all been in that situation – you’re courting a potential companion of love, things are going splendidly and they consider you to be considerably normal. Then one of you makes a suggestion, “Let’s go watch a film”. It could be a picturehouse, it could be in the comforts of home – depending if you can tolerate the youths that seem to rule the concession stand. You’re politely shovelling popcorn into your mouth and enjoying the evening’s entertainment until – what’s this? A scene played out on the screen has suddenly shattered your heart into pieces. The overwhelming tide of emotion is washing over you and to top it all off, your eyes are leaking to an unprecedented degree. For those whose hearts are made of stone (or indeed a robot),
these are called tears.

Whether you are ultimately moved by an act of heroism, tragedy or real feel-good moments, we as a film-goer will feel the desire to “well up” and let the scene take us. You can try and keep it together, but the gates are wide open like a canal barge. Let it go. We’re all in the same boat. It’s a great way of truly appreciating the film you are watching. You’re saying, “Yes – I’ve bought my ticket and in return, you may have my heart”. Or money – depending how you feel once the movie has finished.

I wanted to explore the films that contain sad sentimental moments, but really focus on the films that you were not expecting to pull such an impassioned response. This has most recently been seen in Fast and Furious 7, coinciding with the death of Paul Walker during filming. Perhaps a film you were going with a group of friends, only to quickly come up with an excuse to try and save a tear-laden face. Be warned – I may be unearthing some deep heart-wrenching memories you may have forgotten about. And I’m not sorry. WARNING: there will be spoilers ahead, so be warned should you still read on.

I Am Legend (2007)

Many people who watched this were upset, but more for the reason that it wasn’t faithful to the book. But that gripe is for another blog and another time. I want to pull on the heartstrings, so you have to start off with a good old fashioned death of a  loyal canine companion.

I am legend Will and Sam

It’s not just the fact that Robert Meville (Will Smith) has to watch his beloved friend Sam die in his arms thanks to some pesky vampire monsters. Oh no – apparently that’s not raw enough. Or that he has to mercy-kill the canine to put it out of its misery. Oh no no no. The bit that REALLY gets the lump in the throat was finding out that the dog was a girl. Yep – this was the coup de grace in piercing any toughened heart. Repeatedly calling the dog Samantha was too much to take and makes this more upsetting than notorious tear thief Marley and Me.

Captain Phillips (2013)

Tom Hanks is always an easy choice for an actor to make you dab your eyes of emotion. There were a lot of obvious choices – Forrest Gump, Cast Away, The Terminal. But NO! Because in my opinion, nothing has been as powerful as the closing scene of Captain Phillips. And no one expected to get so choked up.

Captain Phillips Tom Hanks

After the awful events of his boat being hijacked, held hostage and having a gun to his head for the majority of the film, Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks) is being assessed and checked over for any injuries. Then slowly it dawns on Phillips as to what has happened to him. The breaking of his voice, the realisation of the trauma he has survived, the horror of the experience – you had gone through all of this with him. And it destroys you to see the once strong and level-headed Captain realise that he is human after all.

The Wrestler (2008)

Darren Aronofsky’s tribute to the fallen life of a beloved athlete chimed with anyone who used to watch wrestling in the 80’s and 90’s. The once invincible warrior of the ring Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson (Mickey Rourke) is reduced to exhibition shows and working at a delicatessen to make ends meet. He is a shell of his glory days. In my opinion, there are so many crushing moments to the heart. The loneliness of his personal life, his own family members cutting all ties of association, knowing that the only people who truly love him are fans who, let’s face it, don’t really know him at all. But the scene that will always crush the iron-hearted of us is Randy attending a meet and greet for fans of the old wrestling days.

The Wrestler Rouke

Randy’s fellow stars around him are now reduced to wheelchairs, missing limbs or shellshocked veterans of the sport. It’s at this point you realise the eventual fate of this old dog – a life of dehabilitation or much worse. Awfully upsetting.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)

Jon Hughes was a directorial genius at crafting comedies – the likes of which is often hard to be seen again. Hughes struck gold by pairing Steve Martin and the late John Candy as an odd-couple forced to travel together in various forms of transportation, resulting in hilarious consequences.

Lanes Trains Automobiles

However with great comedy comes an even greater sadness. The gut-wrenching moment comes via loveable loser Del Griffith (Candy). He discusses his wife to Neal Page (Martin) with love and mentions how he hasn’t seen her for a while. Is this all due to him being a travelling shower curtain ring salesman? Nope – it’s because he fails to mentions that his adored wife passed away a while ago. And when Page starts putting the pieces together as they make their separate journeys back home, the tears swell like a John Williams score. Playing the comedic fool to the heartbroken husband, Candy was a beautiful choice for this scene.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

A misfit superhero film that many thought wouldn’t cut it ended up being glorious. It had everything – gags galore, action a go-go and a soundtrack that sweated sweet songs of the seventies. It was another hit for Marvel and was on nearly everyone’s top five films of last year. The pinnacle of the tearfall concerned one fifth of the Guardians – tree-hulk Groot. A behemoth of a beast who simply uttered three words whenever conversing with an individual – “I am Groot”.

The Guardians of the Galaxy

Yet we all still had a soft spot for the vocabulary-challenged superhero. The ultimate chinwobbling moment came when the crew are plummeting to the ground in a great big spaceship, almost certain death impending. Until Groot makes the ultimate sacrifice and forms a giant twig nest to protect his friends from the impact of the crash. Rocket (who is a racoon and is the catalyst to this sad scene) asks what Groot is doing. His reply? “We are Groot”. Stifled sob.

Senna (2010)

In my opinion, one of the best sports documentaries which casts a spotlight on perhaps the greatest driver that graced Formula 1 – Ayrton Senna. Asif Kapadia unsurprisingly won the BAFTA for Best Documentary and it’s easy to see why. The entire film is spliced with personal home videos from the Senna family archives, Formula 1 race footage, news clips and television appearances. No talking heads involved, so it immerses the viewer into the story as it happens.

Senna Documentary

Sadly, we know how the story of Ayrton Senna ends. He passed away following an accident at the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994 and despite this occurring 21 years ago, it is still painfully hard to watch. Kapadia included the footage from Senna’s helmet moments before the crash, so it throws the viewer in the moment of that fateful day. We then see Senna’s funeral intercut with scenes of happier times with his family, friends and colleagues. It is truly heart-breaking to watch, especially knowing that this is no work of a scriptwriter.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

Arguably one of the best films where it rules over its predecessor, Terminator 2 is an all round classic. Plus, it has the amazing catchphrase stylings of Arnold Schwarzeneggar. I mean, take your pick. Now try imagining someone else filling in the role of the Terminator… Kevin Costner? Val Kilmer? Bill Murray? (Actually, that would be the greatest decision ever). Despite having a go at being the Governer of California, Arnie STILL used the iconic “I’ll Be Back” for his campaign. Obsessed much?

The Terminator 2 Arnie

But we’re not here to talk politics – I want to talk about the moment that is still a bit hard to sit through without pretending to rub your eye of grit. After an epic battle with the mighty morphing T-1000 (Robert Patrick), understandably the Terminator (you know who plays that one) is looking a bit battered. Because of going back in time and technical space time gubbins, he needed to “terminate” himself to stop any damage in the future. So off he pops to a vat of molten metal and gets the job done. However, that thumbs up as he meets his fate can melt even the hardest of hearts. “I know now why you cry”. You do, Mr Schwarzeneggar. You really do.

The Champ (1979)

Oh gosh… You can pretty much tell by the picture that this will tug on your heartstrings. Look at the boy’s face ¬ ouch. And rightfully so. Jon Voight stars in the 1931 remake as ex-boxer Billy Flynn who trains horses and raises his little boy TJ after a custody battle with his wife. Thanks to some gambling debts, he needs to get some moolah for him and his son, so is returning back to the ring. However the estranged woman returns back in their lives, which unleashes a whole can of sentiment.

The Champ

Watching this the first time, I needed to be alone for a while to compose and return to normality. But my goodness it packs a punch (pun completely intended). If you can’t produce ugly crying tears, then you are more than likely some kind of Disney villain. Flynn pretty much gets seven bells knocked out of him, but emerges victorious. However, Flynn succumbs to his injuries and dies in front of his son. The way how that kid pours his heart over the loss of his father… One of the hardest scenes to watch in film history. Give yourself at least 20 minutes after watching this – it may also want to make you call your family as well to tell them you love them.

It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

The ultimate Christmas film that originally bombed at the box office. A loophole in televised showings eventually got the film the plaudits it has today. You cannot get more 40’s than this film (especially the scene where James Stewart and Donna Reed are cutting a rug with some Charleston moves).

It's a wonderful life 40s

To get the real effect of waterfall tears, you go on a journey with George Bailey (Stewart) and learn his self-worth is slowly being chipped away from numerous and unintentional setbacks. Eventually, with money problems looming over his head, he wishes he was never born. We go and see what life would truly be like if he had never existed and the results… wow. Bailey’s guardian angel Clarence shows George that he does matter in the world, which culminates in him rushing to his adoring family and finding out the townspeople have chipped in to help with their financial woes. It is incredibly powerful as not only is it a happy ending, but it shows that we are all important to each other. Try explaining that torrential rain has hit your face… indoors.

The Green Mile (1999)

Tear-botherer Tom Hanks crops up again in a mighty tearjerker involving prison, wrongful conviction and a mouse that has more lives that a Super Mario game. The source of all the poignancy is down to the late Michael Clarke Duncan playing gentle giant John Coffey. You know, like the drink (*starts to well up*). I’m fine, really.

The Green Mile

There were many moments to choose from, and is an all out bawl bonanza. But I had to select the moment that just pains me every time I see it and reduces me to a rubble of ruin. As the audience has discovered, Coffey never killed the two little girls he was accused of. Instead, it was a dastardly inmate on the same row who was really not a nice individual. But with the gift of healing that Coffey possess, he can feel the pain of those around him and would rather go ahead and be executed. The guards cry, I cry, you cry – pretty much everyone has lost it at this point. And still every time I watch it, I always hope that Coffey might change his mind. And he never does.

So there you have it. Hopefully you’ve had a chance to brush away those cascading tear droplets. This is the beauty of film – when a movie makes you feel that raw enthusiasm, it’s more than OK. It’s a great way of showing your appreciation for what you have just seen (even if it relies on a dog death to turn the waterworks on). So stop with the excuses and free the feels!

There you have it gents; you can now prepare for when one of these emotional freight-trains plough into you – although there is a good chance that you will be wiping at bloodshot eyes anyway.

For all of you gents fond the silver screen, we highly recommend ‘popping over’ (yep, completely intentional) to Popcorn Hearts blog for the latest reviews and views on everything film!

Gemma (aka Popcorn Heart)
Twitter: @Popcorn_Heart_

Have you got any favourite flicks that caught you out by surprise and scrambling around for the Kleenex? Let us know below…