(NOTE: This blog was originally posted on Myspace, on February 28, 2008. I made some small edits to it on August 12, 2012, but in no way changed the list as it was originally posted. I still stand by everything I wrote here. I would add one movie to the list, and that is Lasse Hallström’s 2009 film, Hachi: A Dog’s Tale.)
Sometimes other guys accuse me of not being guy enough, cuz I don’t dig on football and cars. I usually retort by stating that I may not be into cars and sports, but I love women and beer, so that makes me plenty guy!
Anyway. I also have no problem admitting it when I cry at a movie. I mean, if a movie makes me laugh, I admit it; if one makes me scared, I admit. So why feel ashamed if a movie, you know, does its job. If it works, it works.
So go ahead and give me shit if you want to, I can’t take it. But I’m proud to say I cried at all the films listed below.
THE MOVIES THAT MAKE RYAN LIESKE CRY (in order of importance):
The Iron Giant (1999)
I know a lot of women who have seen this movie and they just don’t see why it would make me cry. I can’t explain it. Although I think maybe it is a guy thing. Most of us grew up fantasizing about befriending strange creatures, or aliens. We can probably blame E.T. for that, but more on that later. Iron Giant totally tapped into my inner-8-year-old-child. The relationship between Iron Giant and Hogarth was like something out of my childhood, from those long Saturday afternoons when I would pretend my R2-D2 was exploring the woods with me, and advising me on how to slay the deadIly beasts who would cross our paths. I so identified with this movie that by the time the climax came, there was no way my eyes were going to stay dry.
The moment that gets me: one word: “Superman.”
Cinema Paradiso (1988)
If you grew up loving movies, then there’s no way this movie won’t touch you. For me it encapsulates everything there was to being a child in love with all facets of cinema, but it also illustrates how that love doesn’t die with the onset of adulthood. It’s a beautiful, entirely perfect movie that will leave you smiling through your tears.
The moment that gets me: Salvatore returns to his hometown after hearing that his childhood friend, Alfredo, has died. Alfredo was the projectionist at the movie-house Salvatore spent a great deal of his youth frequenting. Upon returning, Salvatore discovers that Alfredo has left him a gift: a movie. And once the movie Alfredo left behind unspools on the screen for Salvatore … well, if you love the magic of movies as much as me, you’ll be as teary-eyed as I was.
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
This is one of those movies that people seem to either really love, or really loathe. Personally, I love it. I think it’s one of Spielberg’s best films, and maybe, 15 years from now everyone might realize what a brilliant, multi-layered piece of work it is. There are so many emotionally moving moments in this movie, that sometimes even just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. Maybe it’s just the film’s themes of wanting to belong, of wanting to find pure love even when one feels they are incapable of it. I don’t know. There’s magic in this movie, and it just nails me every time.
The moment that gets me: Well, there’s that whole scene where the mom abandons the robot-child in the woods. God, that’s a gut-wrencher. But the biggest part that gets me is at the very end, when Danny lies down with his mom, whom he knows will never wake up again, and the camera slowly zooms out. And then Teddy jumps up on the bed and just sits down. Every time, man. That little bear kills me.
The Green Mile (1999)
Ok, I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for a well-told “martyr story.” And maybe that’s why this film is so powerful to me. John Coffey does not deserve to die, and yet society dictates that he must. Even those in charge of carrying out his execution know that they are killing an innocent, gentle man. Yet they are honor-bound to carry out their duties. It just kills me. Shawshank Redemption gets all the ink, but I think Green Mile might be the better film in Darabont’s filmography. He just nails King’s story, pitch-perfectly.
The moment that gets me: Well, that scene above, where Coffey gets to watch his first movie, that one’s pretty moving. However, it’s the ending that seals the deal. When Paul Edgecomb goes to shake Coffey’s hand before the switch is pulled … man, I get chills … and tears.
Moulin Rouge (2001)
I’m sure there are a couple of ex-girlfriends out there who would tell you that I don’t have a single romantic bone in my body, but truth is, I am a total sap when it comes to love stories. Pretty much every story I have ever written in the last 20 years (since I decided to be a writer) has been a love story of some kind or other. This movie is, bar-none, the most tragically moving love story ever put on film. Well, maybe not, but in my teary eyes, it’s hard to beat. I know the story is somewhat trite, and the musical numbers can be a bit much at the beginning of the film, but this movie totally sucks me in from the opening frame. I buy every minute of the love between Christian and Satine. I even love all the songs. You want to see my “inner chick” come out, then watch this one with me.
The moment that gets me: This one’s full of tear-jerky moments, not the least of which is the ending. Yeah, sure, it’s predictable, but so what? Just cuz I know it’s coming doesn’t mean I’m gonna be happy about it! Besides, there’s that cutaway of Ewan McGregor crying …
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
This is the one that gets all of us geeks, whether we admit it or not. Spock saves the day, after one of the fiercest space-battles ever! And what a price to pay for saving the lives of all his comrades! Now, remember, back when this came out, this was a shocker for us who were lucky enough to see it in the theater. Two years later, The Search for Spock was released and everyone’s favorite Vulcan was brought back to us. But when this came out, we had no idea! How could Spock die? we screamed. Watching it now, I still get all weepy over it, even though I know full well that it isn’t the end. Director Nicholas Meyer, and William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, just nailed the scene so well that nothing can ruin it.
The moment that gets me: The picture above says it all.
E.T. – The Extra Terrestrial (1982)
Go ahead. Try and tell me that this movie doesn’t get you. I dare you. Again, going back to what I said about Iron Giant, this one taps into that same childish fantasy of otherworldly friendship, although I think E.T. is a movie about real friendship, of any kind, period. The entire film is unforgettable, moving, and breathtaking. I don’t honestly think there’s been anything like it since, and there probably won’t be. This is a children’s movie that never talks down to its audience. It earns all your emotions through legimate, smart storytelling. And if your heart isn’t racing as E.T. makes those bikes take off into the sky near the end of the movie, then you’re probably dead.
The moment that gets me: Well, it’s a toss up. When E.T. is left dying and crying and reaching out on the bathroom floor, my heart just breaks. Every time. But there’s that moment when Elliot is standing over his friend’s lifeless body and he’s saying his goodbyes. And then that plant starts to grow again. John Williams’s score starts to swell. And that raspy voice we thought was vanquished suddenly says “E.T. phone home …”
Superman: The Movie (1978)
This is sort of legendary amongst my inner circle of friends, how I cried at the first Superman movie when I was a kid. It’s the part where Clark Kent decides he has to leave home and seek out his destiny. There’s a part where Mrs. Kent is seen in her kitchen, getting ready for breakfast. She pulls out a box of Cheerios and sits it down on the table, when she looks up and notices Clark is standing out in the field. As a kid, this troubled me to no end. Thinking that his kindly, old, recently widowed, mother was preparing a nice, healthy breakfast for Clark, not knowing he was about to leave her. I know, it’s silly. But my mom always had breakfast waiting for me when I was a kid, and it bothered me that Clark never comes in and eats the cereal she took out for him. I vowed, as a child, that I would never leave my house without eating my breakfast first, simply because my mom had taken the time to prepare it for me. Anyway, Superman is a great fucking movie, and there are a ton of great moments in it. But this is the part that made me cry, and kinda still does.
The moment that gets me: I kinda described it already, but now, as an adult, it’s the scene after this that holds more impact: Where Clark and his mom stand in the field, and he tells her he has to leave. Phyllis Thaxter, as Clark’s mom, just totally delivers in this scene, and she absolutely breaks my heart.
Schindler’s List (1993)
This movie is a masterpiece. And the only way you can not be moved by it, from its opening frames all the way to the end, is if you are an inhuman monster. And yes, that little girl in the red coat makes it all the more rough to watch.
The moment that gets me: Yeah, it’s the end, when Schindler is standing by all the people he has helped saved and he laments that he could’ve done more. When I saw this at the theater, I was sitting there with tears on my cheeks and some dipshit teeny-bopper chick sitting behind me had the gall to start laughing when Schindler drops the ring he’s holding. I could’ve killed her.
Dancer In the Dark (2000)
In my opinion, this is one of the most difficult films to set through, ever. And I don’t mean that because it’s boring or poorly-made. On the contrary, I think it’s quite brilliant. But when it comes to totally immersing yourself, via the cinematic experience, in the plight of another human being, this one is hard to beat. And hard to take. You feel every second of every tribulation Selma goes through, right up until the ending that just tears your heart right up through your throat. I literally came very close to shutting this off towards the end when I initially saw it, that was how hard it was on me. Kudos to Bjork, who manages to go beyond mere acting, into the realm of simply being. That’s the only way I can think to describe her performance. If you find any pleasure in this movie at all, then you’re some sort of sadist, because I can’t imagine anyone having a good time with Dancer In the Dark. And I mean that as a compliment.
The moment that gets me: The last fifteen minutes of this movie. I was crying for that long when I first watched it. And well past the end credits.
The Passion of the Christ (2004)
Forget about the religious aspects of this movie. It may be weird for me to say this, but I don’t think that’s really the point of the whole thing. What this movie is about, to me at least, is suffering. And you may say, “Well, Ryan, why would I want to watch that?” And you may have a point. But I am a person who believes that art is here to show us all facets of our condition, even the brutal and ugly. And this film is a brilliant showcase for not only the horror of true, physical suffering, but also as a showcase for unconditional love. Whether you believe in Jesus Christ or not, that’s not important. But what is important is that you bear witness to the most unspeakable, and misguided of human behavior. And, just as importantly, how that behavior can be forgiven. This will always be a misunderstood and unjustly malingned film. But I believe it to be a film that will stay with us for years to come. Not for any religious connotations (although I don’t deny that those are there), but for how graphically honest it is, both physically and emotionally.
The moment that gets me: I pretty much have tears in my eyes from the opening scene. In fact, I watch this movie whenever life seems truly unbearable to me. And it helps, it truly does. However, if I had to pinpoint one scene, it’s the one where Mary sees Jesus fall while carrying the cross, and she flashes back to a time she saw him fall as a child. But the whole movie is rough.
Dead Poets Society (1989)
This simple movie is such a perfect encapsulation of how I feel about the freedom of expression, and of thought. By now, it may seem trite, but I don’t care. I still think this is a perfect little movie. It’s also a movie that I have a hard time sitting through, at the end. God, it just makes me so mad! But free-thinkers have always had to struggle against the status quo, and they always will. My tears during this movie are tears of hope, that this struggle will always wage on.
The moment that gets me: It’s all right there in that picture above. That scene will never cease to give me goosebumps, and make my eyes dribble.
As much as I worship and adore Night of the Living Dead, there’s a part of me that thinks this is really George A. Romero’s best film. And it’s a tough sell to a lot of people. Most people look at that cover, or hear that the movie’s about a bunch of bikers who adhere to the laws of Camelot, and they dismiss it as stupid. But anyone dismissing this movie over surface judgements is sorely wrong, and mising out on a truly moving experience. This movie speaks so much to me, and moves my soul in so many ways, that it’s difficult to even explain why. I suppose the best way of explaining it could be to say that to really know and understand me, is to understand why this film makes me cry. And I don’t mean that in some egotistical, elitist way. It’s just beyond words, really.
The moment that gets me: All of it. But especially the ending, and the simple mantra: “Chase the dragon.”