10 Movies that Tried Way Too Hard to Make Us Cry
Getting a good cry on can be cathartic, just don't try to manipulate us into feeling things, okay?
1. The Notebook (2004)
Based on Nicholas Sparks' novel, it's a romantic drama starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams as star-crossed lovers navigating societal expectations, personal dreams, and memory loss. Every moment, every glance, every line of dialogue seems meticulously crafted to wring tears from the audience. Even Gosling's rain-soaked shirt appeared to be bidding for a Best Supporting Actor nomination.
The film's final scene is like a waterworks grand finale. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a respectable 53% critic rating but a 85% audience score, revealing the divide between professional cynics and hopeless romantics. Despite all this, the film snagged eight Teen Choice Awards because, apparently, teenagers enjoy crying. Who knew.
2. Marley & Me (2008)
Who would've thought a movie about a mischievous Labrador retriever could bring audiences to their knees? In Marley & Me, Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson play a couple who adopt an adorable, yet hyperactive, puppy named Marley. The film presents itself as a comedy, with Marley's antics providing much laughter, only to sucker punch us in the third act with Marley's aging and eventual death.
The transformation from comedy to tragedy was so abrupt, it was as if the director secretly swapped scripts halfway through filming. Despite its blatant emotional manipulation, the film was a commercial success, earning $242.7 million worldwide, and a 63% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
3. Pearl Harbor (2001)
Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor, a love-triangle set against the backdrop of the infamous attack, pulled out all the stops in its quest for tears. With a run time of 183 minutes, it's as if Bay was certain that if he threw enough sad scenes at us, we'd eventually break. However, critics weren't too pleased, with the film holding a 24% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Audience reactions were split, with some appreciating the melodramatic love story and others criticizing the film's historical inaccuracies.
The film received four Golden Globe nominations but only secured an Oscar for Best Sound Editing. The high-budget film seemed more intent on triggering a tear tsunami than focusing on the historical events that it was based upon.
4. The Fault in Our Stars (2014)
Adapted from John Green's novel, The Fault in Our Stars features two teenagers, Hazel and Gus, played by Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, who fall in love while battling cancer. The film, which was practically a factory of quotable lines, seems like it was scientifically engineered to extract tears.
Yet, it scored a surprising 81% on Rotten Tomatoes, suggesting that audiences were more than willing to sign up for this emotional roller coaster. The film was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Original Song but didn't win. However, it did win the hearts of its teenage target audience, which is arguably a greater feat.
5. Hachi: A Dog's Tale (2009)
Well, we just couldn't resist, could we? A remake of the 1987 Japanese film Hachiko Monogatari, this film told the true story of Hachiko, an Akita dog who waited for his deceased owner at a train station every day for nearly ten years. Richard Gere played the dog's owner, and you better believe that the filmmakers did everything they could to pull at your heartstrings. A cute dog, a loyal friendship, and a tragic ending? Check, check, and check.
However, the film wasn't as successful at the box office as it hoped, grossing just $46.7 million worldwide and holding a 63% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film did get a direct-to-DVD release in the US, making it a hit amongst dog lovers who prefer crying in the comfort of their own homes.
6. Titanic (1997)
There's no list of tearjerkers complete without Titanic. James Cameron's tale of a doomed romance aboard the ill-fated ship tried hard to stir up emotions, with both its tragic storyline and Celine Dion's hauntingly beautiful My Heart Will Go On. From the moment Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) declares, 'I'm the king of the world,' to Rose's (Kate Winslet) tearful goodbye, the film seemed to be an experiment in how many tears a human body can produce. And it worked!
The film grossed over $2 billion worldwide and won 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Still, for all its success, it also sparked a decades-long debate about whether Jack could've fit on that floating door. Let's just… not go there again.
7. Seven Pounds (2008)
Will Smith's Seven Pounds was a film that was so determined to get its audience crying that it bordered on the masochistic. Smith plays a man seeking redemption by dramatically changing the lives of seven strangers. However, the reveal of his final act of redemption — donating his own vital organs — felt more like a manipulative twist than an emotional climax.
Despite the heavy-handed sentimentality, the film wasn't entirely unsuccessful, earning a box office total of $168 million. Still, its critical reception was lukewarm at best, holding a 27% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
8. Pay It Forward (2000)
Pay It Forward tells the story of a young boy who creates a system where good deeds are repaid by doing other good deeds. The film is filled with moving moments, but the ending, where the boy dies trying to stop a friend from being bullied, felt like it was trying way too hard to generate tears. Critics on Rotten Tomatoes, where it holds a 40% rating, called out the film for its emotional manipulation. Despite its intentions, the film was unable to stir up even a single Oscar nomination.
9. My Sister's Keeper (2009)
In My Sister's Keeper, Abigail Breslin plays a young girl conceived to be a bone marrow donor for her older sister, who suffers from leukemia. It's a film that takes every opportunity to pull at your heartstrings, with one tragic event after another.
Despite the extraordinary performances of its cast, some critics felt that the movie tried just way too hard to be a tearjerker, ultimately detracting from its overall impact. It earned a mixed critical response, with a 49% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. However, it found more success at the box office, grossing over $95 million worldwide.
10. A Walk to Remember (2002)
Last but not least, we have another Nicholas Sparks adaptation. A Walk to Remember tells the story of a high school bad boy falling in love with a minister's daughter, who's hiding a tragic secret. As with most Sparks adaptations, this film seems committed to ensuring the audience uses up their supply of tissues. However, its unabashed sentimentality won over the target audience, grossing $47 million against a $11.8 million budget. Critics were less impressed, though, with the film holding a 27% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.