Deep beneath this rugged, snobby exterior lives a gentile, emotional, nuggety core ripe with feelings. Feelings and other icky things like love, and empathy – you know those types of things that lead to tears that run down your face and ruin your makeup make you look sunburned. Although rare, there is the occasional moment in a film, or a show, or even a game where something about the story is written so perfectly that I connect with it deep within said nuggety core – and the tears flow. Here I will examine those moments, and train you to force me to connect with my feminine side more often. Oh ya, and spoilers!

Benjamin Button

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Benny Button is one of those movies that has a deeply ingrained theme stretching the entire length of the movie. From beginning to end this film is attempting to drive home a specific idea. While I think the intention of screenwriter Eric Roth was to give an uplifting perspective on a rather distressing subject I could not help but come away with the thought that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button connects the viewer with one of the most tragic aspects of life here on earth. The moment that really got me was at the very end, when the water begins to wash over the clock. While the whole film had worked to say the same thing the visual symbol of nature destroying time itself forced me to accept that everything is temporary, that life is but a transient existence and that ultimately there is no escape. While I believe we all understand that idea, it is another thing to see it personified in every aspect of a characters life over the course of nearly three hours.

Metal Gear Solid 3

Metal Gear Solid 3

Some may doubt the power of videogames, but anyone who does obviously never played the third Metal Gear Solid game. The story features a hell of a powerful twist and arguably the most artistically amazing boss battle of all time. Snake, tasked with a top secret, super critical mission, must assassinate his mentor – The Boss, a woman who has been like a mother to him. Along the way he begins to fall in love with a beautiful spy who is helping him to accomplish his mission. The game culminates with Snake battling The Boss in a field of flowers, with the girl waiting to get away with him in a nearby plane. The way the game forces you to pull the trigger and end The Boss’ life is an experience film alone cannot match. Where the story finally overflows is in the closing cinematic, where Snake sits alone in a cabin listening to a tape left for him. This is the one item on the list I cannot bring myself to spoil. It is just too good, and attempting to describe it does not do it justice… Just go look it up on youtube if you are lame and refuse to play it – I’m sorry I get a tad angry when emotional :’-(

The Wrestler

The Wrestler

I am a sucker for familial drama’s – a genre my own writing tends towards – and The Wrestler is one of the all time bests. Mickey Rourke makes the character of ‘The Ram’ come to life in ways few actors ever have. There is something insanely authentic about The Ram’s scene with his daughter where he asks for one more chance at being a good father. The recognition of his failings and the honest desire to be better is powerful. Watching Randy and seeing how badly he wants to reconnect, to be given a second chance and to know that he is physically incapable of following through is like watching a brutal slow motion train wreck where director Darren Aronofski has given you a personal connection with every passenger inside.

The Fountain / Requiem For A Dream / Anything that Darren Aronofsky does apparently

Requiem For A DreamAfter writing about The Wrestler I could not help but think of a couple of other insanely powerful moments in two other Aronofsky films. While I specifically want to discuss ‘The Fountain,’ ‘Requiem’ is just about the biggest kick in the nuts ever put to film and deserves mention too. I am specifically referring to the additional scene near the end where Jared Letto’s character calls Jennifer Connelly’s character on the phone, which is like the worlds harshest break up scene of all time. The two characters are now thousands of miles apart physically, and both on the verge of a self-destruction only the other can save them from. All she wants is for him to come home, all he wants is to go home to her. He promises he is on his way – he will be there soon, he’s coming as fast as he can. But he has no way to get to her, he can never leave, he likely will never see her again and he knows it. The scene with Ellen Burstyn where Jared Letto tells her that he bought her a tv is also one of the greatest scenes in movie history. Now that’s a scene that forced a generation of adults to go and visit their parents.

The Fountain

The Fountain is a love it or hate it movie apparently and I think a lot of that has to do with the life experiences you have going into the film. The subject of the film is death; specifically how much we struggle to come to terms with death being a fundamental aspect of life. Ultimately, the movie is one of the all time most uplifting depiction of death ever put to the screen and Tommy’s journey towards that realization is powerful. Tommy fights to save his dying wife for years only to discover a cure moments after her death. The cure enables him to live forever – an existence he spends trying to find a way to bring her back. His journey to her, be it literal or allegorical, impresses upon him the idea that only through death can one reach immortality, that only through dying can life find meaning and that only through death can he ever be with her again. His embracing death in the presence of his long dead wife is raw emotion on display. The moment recalled another great scifi film ‘Solaris’ which has a similar moment where George Clooney’s character is told “maybe there is a place we can be together, but it’s not on Earth, and it’s not on this ship.” I think there is just something touching about characters being able to face their ultimate fears through faith alone.

Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica Adama final shot

So maybe when you spend years and years with certain characters you become super invested in their lives – as if they were real people. This is the true strength of shows on television and ‘Battlestar Galactica’ is just one example. While the show is generally dark there are these few moments of light that pour through at certain stages. Contrasted with the darkness these glimmers of hope become so much stronger and so much more tragic. The most glaring moment is the ‘missing year’ spent on New Caprica and the beginning of the Baltar presidency. This was the sole period of hope on the show and this was best shown through the relationship of Bill Adama and Laura Roslin, specifically in Laura’s plan to lay down the burdens that had been placed on her shoulders, build a cabin and live near a lake. These are the hopes and dreams of a couple that they allow themselves to live in for just a brief moment, knowing deep down that they will never be realized, yet they hope for it still. While this moment is sad in and of itself it did not really hit me until the very end of the very last episode, where Adama takes Laura off in the raptor and they start scouting out a place to build that cabin. The voice over that Bill gives at the end and the crane shot of him sitting at the top of a hill, next to her grave, telling her that he finally finished the cabin is enough to make me tear up again even as I write this. These are just absolutely fantastic characters.

I’ve Loved You So Long

I've love You So Long

While I would not describe “I’ve Loved You So Long” as an amazing or ridiculously powerful film it really hit home in a few places, particularly one specific scene that is so perfectly understated that it just blows me away. The basic set up is that a woman – played by Kristin Scott Thomas – has just been released from prison after having spent ten years behind bars for murdering her young child. As a result her family has disowned her, with the exception of her young sister, now married with her own family, who takes her in. The scene in question is where her sister decides to take her along on a visit to see their mother who lives in a home for elderly people suffering with dementia. She is hesitant to go, considering that her mother had disowned her long ago and they had not spoken since. Her sister informs her that it does not matter because their mom no longer knows who anyone is. She sees her own daughter as a paid caretaker and is constantly berating her. When the two walk into her room their mother greets the younger sister as she would greet a nurse who had not be responding to her constant paging. The brilliance in the scene is when Kristin Scott Thomas’ character is left alone with her mother. Rather than yell and scream she becomes calm, she recognizes her daughter, and rather than shunning her for the things she had done as an adult she asks her what took her so long coming home from school. She has forgotten everything – everything except for her core instinct to love and worry for her daughter. The tragedy of her illness becomes a miracle allowing for a brief moment of reconciliation that otherwise would never be possible. This is a scene that gets me every time and is likely the most powerful on the list.

Honorable Mention

Honorable mention goes to these films that made my cry as a child. It was not a fair fight, as my hormonal defense mechanisms had not developed yet – still why fight fair?

The Land Before Time

Land Before Time

For parents, children’s films are often times seen as babysitters for their kids – a way to make sure their child is not getting into any trouble while the ‘grown ups’ can have their ‘grown up time’ in the other room. For my parents and myself ‘The Land Before Time’ was that movie, and why not choose this film? I mean it has cute little cuddly baby dinosaurs and it is animated with pretty colors! Never mind that the story is about the end of the fricken world! How could my parents ever suspect that I – as a child – might identify with the humanized baby dinosaur protagonist? The untimely death of Littlefoot’s mother and the prospects of trying to survive in a world that is literally collapsing around them is the stuff nightmares are made of. If the world could end for poor unsuspecting Littlefoot then maybe it could end for me too. The Land Before Time was enough to get my parents in from the other room to find out if I was OK… I wasn’t.


You all know this one already. You probably were all crying along with me. I think I just figured out the key to making me cry. All you have to do is kill the mother. Wow. I think I’ll do that in every story I write from now on. Watch out mothers.

The Bridge to Terabithia

Bridge To Terabithia Artwork

Not that recent cgi infused film put out by Buena Vista a few years back. I’m talking about some weird, low budget production that I saw in first grade, or some time forever ago. It might be the Canadian version listed on IMDb, but everyone there says that the film sucked, and all I remember is that it made me cry. I was ducking down in my desk in the back after finding out that the girl – aka the poor boys only friend – went splat on some rocks after trying to cross the bridge. I really think children’s films emotionally destroyed my generation. Haha

Ok, hopefully you made it this far, and hopefully you are not crying like I was. I really recommend checking out every item on this list and experiencing them for yourself. One thing I think you will discover is that all of these stories built up authentic characters. Without authentic characters the audience will not care about all the terrible, traumatic things that happen to them. Hopefully this article and these stories can help you to write better, more emotionally engaging tales. At the very least you should have learned that if you are searching for a way to make the audience feel bad you can always kill the mother.