Home > Lists > 10 Movies That Have Made Me Cry (…or at Least Tear Up): 5 – 1

10 Movies That Have Made Me Cry (…or at Least Tear Up): 5 – 1

<< PART I – Entries 10 – 6

Here I continue to explore the final five of ten films that have made me cry… or at least tear up at certain points. While I cannot guarantee that they will make you cry, these have and definitely will continue to have the same effect on me that they did the first time around. And while this is not a definitive list, this half of the list does contain the one definitive film that will always get me choked up whenever I sit down to watch it, so read on through if you’re looking to see a grown man cry. That is, if you can see through your own tears, of course.

List is not necessarily in any particular order. Aside from the top film, these are just the last 5 entries. Spoilers Inbound! 

Grave of the Fireflies

This animated film has been compared to Schindler’s List in terms of its unrelenting depiction of the horrors of war on non-combatants, and Roger Ebert has distinguished it as “an emotional experience so powerful that it forces a rethinking of animation.”

An adaptation of the semi-autobiographical account of Akiyuki Nosaka’s experiences as a Japanese civilian during World War II, Grave of the Fireflies is absolutely not to be taken lightly based solely on the medium its creators chose. There are few moments of humor, if any, and in their place is a startlingly beautiful but tragic tale of extreme hardship and sibling bond. The film begins with death, as the older brother, Seita, lies motionless from starvation as a janitor picks through his possessions.

Seita stands in for Nosaka as the older brother of the very young Setsuko, who takes the place of Nosaka’s sisters. The two of them are orphaned when bombs are dropped on their hometown. When the aunt they’re staying with begins to resent their presence in her home and starts selling off their only possessions as compensation, Seita decides to take Setsuko and move out of the house. The two live out the rest of their very short lives in an abandoned bomb shelter, slowly but surely running out of food, but growing closer together as they struggle onward.

Nosaka had written his book in order to cope with the grief he felt over his own sisters’ deaths. Seita’s death in the story was his expression of grief and longing to be reunited with them once again. This 1988 adaptation by the famed Studio Ghibli (Spirited AwayPrincess Mononoke) maintains this tone, and, in so doing, becomes an artful, completely beautiful emotional experience. There is no one scene for me to point out here. The entire movie has scenes that will bring tears to your eyes.

The Passion of the Christ

This is probably the first film to make me cry in theatres. As a Christian, I would like to say that it solidified the profound sacrifice Jesus made for everyone in my heart, but that was already pretty well cemented in me by the time I saw it.

If anything it was the humanization of Christ that made me tear up. One of the more profound things about Christianity’s beliefs about Him is that He was sent to us in human form. What The Passion of the Christ does beautifully is illustrate this. People often have this strange view of Jesus as an emotionless android or something that, and we should really feel ashamed of that, especially Christians.

Jesus in this film is shown having pride in His work as a carpenter, showing off his work to His mother, and teasingly splashing His mother with water as they bond. The part that made me tear up the most, however, was when Christ is shown falling down, carrying the heavy cross, and we are shown a similar flashback of Him as a little boy, running down the road, tripping, and falling. His mother, Mary, runs over to Him to console Him. Jesus, a helpless child and yet the Savior of the world, has tears in his eyes and needs His mother to make Him feel better.

Ignore the Mel Gibson aspect of the film and whether or not you believe in it as truth — I obviously believe this story to be true, but I don’t think you can ignore the profoundly different element of this story from all other stories about saviors and deities, who are often shown as being misunderstood, self-centered, or, like I said, androids. If anything, everyone can see just how incredibly moving these humanizations of a Savior  is.

Star Trek

Already one of my favorite films of all time, if only for the pure enjoyment I get from the film, there’s still one moment in it that makes me tear up every single time, and of course, it’s at the very beginning.

The masterful handling of George Kirk (Chris Hemsworth, Thor) and his sacrifice for the crew of the USS Kelvin and, more personally, his wife and soon-to-be-born son, future Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise, is one of the most moving scenes I’ve seen.

It’s a perfect opening to a franchise that had grown stagnant. It grabs your attention. And, more importantly, it lets you know that this movie is serious about what it set out to do: create an all new, completely amazing reboot of one of the greatest and most influential sci-fi franchises in history.

George’s part in the story is small, but its impact is felt throughout and in the life of his reimagined son. His interactions with his wife (Jennifer Morrison, House) is astoundingly touching. As he distracts the attacking Romulan ship and pilots the Kelvin into its depths, his wife speaks to him over the comlink as she gives birth.

With only seconds to spare, George and his wife bond as much as they can, discussing his newborn son’s name and how much he loves them both. His wife pleads with him to find a way out, but George knows that his escape could mean their death, and so he stays, telling her one last time “I love you,” before the Kelvin plunges into the ship, destroying its weapons and allowing his family to safely escape.

Cue the film’s absolutely fantastic theme and title card, composed by longtime J.J. Abrams composer, Michael Giacchino (who will make another appearance on this list), and you have one of the greatest and most dramatically moving scenes of self sacrifice in all of sci-fi and, possibly, film. … Yes, I think it even tops Spock’s death in Wrath of Khan! *dodges random thrown objects*

The Pursuit of Happyness

This is a film that has alternately made me cry tears of sorrow and tears of “happyness,” so it’s going to be a bit longer.

Will Smith, in his second appearance on this list no less, and his son, Jaden Smith, play a father and son in this “based on a true story” film set in 1981. Chris Gardner (Will), after taking a risky chance at pouring all of his family’s wealth into selling portable bone density monitors, loses his wife when she gets frightened about his ability to keep her secure in finances. Worse still, she leaves him with their very young son, Christopher, Jr. (Jaden, proving to be a gifted actor even in his first role), who unknowingly and unintentionally wears down his father with questions about when his mother will be coming back and why their lives have changed.

The most tear-jerking moment has to be when Chris, now a homeless father with a very young son, nowhere to go, and everything to lose, decides to take up shelter with Chris, Jr. in a subway restroom, sobbing to himself after having convinced his son that it’s all a game. It’s one of the reasons why Will Smith, despite his bad wrap for having such huge commercial appeal and his nepotism, is one of the better bankable actors out there, and reason enough for him to get his second Oscar-nomination. There’s a palpable sense of fear and humiliation in his performance, and you can’t help but feel awful for him.

But then, of course, throughout living through separation, poverty, and homelessness, Chris continues to pursue a position at a major stock brokerage company, learning the trade as he goes and learning strategies to maximize his clientele all without letting it be known what he’s been going through and earning his favor through hard work and character, rather than charity. Hollywood couldn’t have thought up a more contrived ending than what we get, but, because this film’s outcome is actually what happened and, thanks again to Will Smith’s performance, the ending is truly worthy of the tears of joy I shed for it. Chris is called into a meeting by his superiors and learns that, yes, he has won them over for the job position. Chris politely though barely discreetly asks to be dismissed and, tears streaming from his face, goes to his son’s day care and tells him of the good news. It’s more than just good fortune or luck that got him his position. It was hard work and long suffering that has been duly paid off for a father who wanted nothing more than to pursue his family’s happiness.


And here we are. The final film on this list. While nothing up to this point has been in any particular order, this movie — this wonderfully animated, wonderfully scripted, 100% pure magic film — is the top movie to have ever made me cry, and it’s largely because, once again, Pixar and Michael Giacchino were involved.

The film starts out with the film’s protagonist, Carl (Ed Asner), as a young boy. Shy, stubby looking, but in love with adventure, Carl encounters Ellie, a rambunctious tomboy who takes an immediate liking to her new best friend. As the years go by, Carl and Ellie, of course, fall in love and marry. The film takes us through their years together, with Giacchino’s magnificent score playing over this dialogue-free montage.

The couple gets a new home. Then, of course, babies are on Ellie’s mind. Sadly, we are shown that she cannot have children. They gradually recover, though, and set their sites on a new goal: going on an adventure to Paradise Falls, the land of wonder from their shared childhood. They set up a fund, but, of course, incident after incident chips away at their funding. Lost jobs, repairs, and, yes, hospital fees. The years keep passing, and the couple grows old but happy in each other’s company. But Ellie’s health begins to fade, and she’s not able to do all the things the couple wanted to anymore. Eventually, the bills and time become too much, and their plans to visit Paradise Falls are abandoned. And, then, one day, Carl has to give up Ellie, too…

While Up is, as a whole, a truly great film and is, in fact, the first animated film since 1991’s Beauty and the Beast to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, the opening scenes themselves, if they were just an animated short, would be Oscar-worthy, too. The animation is gorgeous, lending just the right amount of stylization in the people’s designs and realism in their features and surroundings that Pixar does so well, and the emotions that run through it are so resonant and true that you can’t help but feel them, too. But personally, the time that I realized that this sequence was my number one tear-jerker came at the 2010 Oscar ceremonies, where the film was nominated for Best Score, Best Picture, and Best Animated Feature. The interpretive dance number for the Best Score nominees:

They’re all undoubtedly great soundtracks, but when they got to the part for Giacchino’s Up, I realized afterward that… I was crying! the music alone brought back every memory of every moment I felt at the film’s opening, and I had tears literally dripping from my eyes. I couldn’t believe it. It was… profound. For the first time ever, a piece of music had brought me to tears! I don’t know much about music beyond what I like, but Giacchino’s score is an exercise in themes.

It’s basically the same song, played differently. At one moment, it’s cheerful and silly, another moment it’s romantic and hopeful, and as Carl and Ellie begin to grow old, the music adds horns, giving it an old timey feel. Of course, when he switches to a slow, solo piano, the music then becomes sombre and sorrowful. And yet, despite the changes in tone, they all work together beautifully, a perfect audio illustration of the film’s scenes. It’s gotten to the point where just hearing or even thinking about this music brings tears to my eyes, but, paired with the film scenes, I don’t know how you can last through without having to dab at your eyes! This is truly the one film that I will guarantee you I will get, at the very least, quite choked up about each time I watch it.

  1. Anonymous
    June 14, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    where is radio

    • CJ Stewart
      June 17, 2014 at 9:51 pm

      Sorry, man, but… I didn’t really like “Radio.” It tried TOO hard…

  2. June 14, 2015 at 2:47 am

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  1. December 21, 2011 at 8:23 am
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