10 Tearjerker Films That Will Have You Sobbing In No Time
Cause sometimes you just need a good cry going.
Blue Valentine (2010)
You know, there's something about stories that depict the raw, unfiltered reality of relationships, stripped of any Hollywood glamour, that strikes a chord. Blue Valentine is one such film that traces the intimate journey of a couple, Dean and Cindy, played brilliantly by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, from their passionate courtship to their eventual painful dissolution.
The narrative structure of the film is a dance between past and present, a juxtaposition that painfully highlights the stark contrast between initial romantic bliss and the bitter disillusionment that follows. Gosling and Williams lived together for a month, with their on-screen daughter, to build an authentic familial rapport.
My Sister's Keeper (2009)
My Sister's Keeper is a movie that poses moral questions while also being an unrelenting tearjerker. The film centers around Anna, a young girl who was genetically engineered to be a bone marrow donor for her sister, Kate, who's suffering from leukemia. The story takes a turn when Anna sues her parents for medical emancipation, not wanting to donate her kidney to Kate. Throughout the narrative, the line between right and wrong blurs, and you're left grappling with the question of how far one should go for family.
Adding a layer of complexity to the storyline is the movie's deviation from Jodi Picoult's novel, where Kate dies. However, in the film, the roles are reversed, leading to Anna's tragic death in a car accident. This change sparked quite a controversy among fans of the book. The film, however, did manage to pull in a commendable $95 million worldwide, an indication of its gripping plot and the universal appeal of familial ties.
The Notebook (2004)
Imagine, if you will, an epic tale of love and sacrifice, intertwined with a tragic sense of reality; The Notebook is precisely that film. Set in the nostalgic landscape of 1940s South Carolina, the film, directed by Nick Cassavetes, is the emotional epitome of a love story. It's the tale of Allie and Noah, two young individuals who fall in love one fateful summer, only to be pulled apart by class prejudice and the socio-economic realities of the time.
It's heart-rending, emotionally raw, and wonderfully poignant, with the palpable chemistry between Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling as the cherry on top. In a twist of fate, though, Gosling almost wasn't cast; Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, and Reese Witherspoon were all considered for the lead roles at some point. The film may have been a slow-burner at the box office, pulling in a modest $115 million globally, but its tear-jerking appeal has endured over time, like Noah's love for Allie.
A Walk to Remember (2002)
While The Notebook might tug at the heartstrings, A Walk to Remember will downright yank at them. With a commendable 27% Rotten Tomatoes rating, it's the adaptation of Nicholas Sparks' novel, led by Mandy Moore and Shane West. Their characters, Jamie and Landon, are polar opposites who find themselves drawn to one another after a series of life-altering circumstances, ultimately leading to a story that is as tragic as it is romantic.
Off-screen, the casting could not have been more perfect, as Moore and West formed a deep friendship while filming, even keeping mementos from the set, like the classic car West's character drove. Although it garnered mixed reviews, the film went on to generate a box office revenue of over $47 million, a solid return for a movie with a budget of only $11 million.
When it comes to tearjerkers, few films rival Titanic. The love story between Jack Dawson, a charming but impoverished artist, and Rose DeWitt Bukater, a wealthy upper-class lady, is bound to evoke emotions with its tragic ending. From its gripping narrative to the spectacular visual effects, Titanic, directed by James Cameron, swept the 1998 Oscars, winning an impressive 11 awards, including Best Picture.
Interestingly, the heart-wrenching drawing scene, a pivotal moment in the film, featured James Cameron's own hands as he sketched Rose. Titanic, buoyed by the charisma of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, raked in an astronomical $2.2 billion at the box office.
Schindler's List (1993)
Riding on the wave of tragedy, it would be remiss to leave out Schindler's List. Steven Spielberg's magnum opus is not just a film; it's a heart-wrenching, gut-punching experience that brings the atrocities of the Holocaust into brutal focus. It's the story of Oskar Schindler, a businessman who uses his factory to save the lives of over 1000 Jews during World War II.
The real Schindler's List, filled with the names of those he saved, is housed in the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem. The film's powerful narrative combined with haunting performances led it to win seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Marley & Me (2008)
Dogs have a knack for leaving paw prints on our hearts, and this film is the embodiment of that sentiment. Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson star as a couple who adopt a mischievous and lovable Labrador Retriever, Marley, who teaches them invaluable lessons about life, love, and family.
It's a rollercoaster of laughter, joy, and ultimately, profound sorrow that will have you reaching for tissues. Strangely enough, 22 (!) different dogs were used to portray Marley throughout the film. Grossing over $247 million worldwide, the film struck a chord with animal lovers everywhere – understandably so.
Manchester by the Sea (2016)
You know, sometimes a film doesn't just tell you a story, it immerses you in it, it engulfs you in its world and, before you know it, you're living and breathing its characters' lives. That's the enchanting power of Manchester by the Sea. Here's a film that invites you to walk in the shoes of Lee Chandler, a man haunted by a past tragedy who, in the wake of his brother's death, is thrust into the role of legal guardian for his nephew.
The tapestry of this story is woven with threads of loss, guilt, redemption, and the everyday struggle of just being human. There's a certain charm in the mundanity of life that director Kenneth Lonergan captures so accurately; Lee's journey through grief is heartrendingly genuine, his silent suffering echoed by the cold, dreary town of Manchester. This film isn't about massive box office figures, but it did manage to rake in a respectable $79 million worldwide.
Hachi: A Dog's Tale (2009)
There are those stories that just grip you, you know, ones that you stumble upon, not really expecting much, but they end up leaving a profound impact. Hachi: A Dog's Tale is a film that transcends the boundary of man and animal, delving into a depth of loyalty and love seldom explored. Based on a true story, it revolves around Hachiko, a dog in Japan who waited for his deceased owner at a train station every day for nearly a decade.
In the film version, the story is transported to the U.S., with Richard Gere portraying the dog's devoted owner. The relationship that unfolds between Hachi and his master is profoundly moving, the kind of story that quietly breaks your heart while reminding you of the often-underestimated capacity of animals for loyalty and love.
Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
Now here's a tale that'll rip your heart out and step on it, but in a strangely beautiful way. Grave of the Fireflies, an anime feature produced by Studio Ghibli, presents a hauntingly poignant depiction of the horrors of war, as seen through the eyes of two young siblings, Seita and Setsuko. Set in Japan during World War II, the film chronicles their desperate struggle for survival amidst bombings, starvation, and the cruel indifference of adults.
This isn't a movie about grand heroics or epic battles; instead, it highlights the human collateral of war, the innocent lives fractured in its wake. Despite being an animated feature, it's laden with profound realism that makes it a tough, yet rewarding watch. Interestingly, Grave of the Fireflies was initially released as a double feature with My Neighbor Totoro, a starkly contrasting light-hearted film.