Nine Tearjerker Movies Guaranteed to Leave You Bawling

Iana Murray

Self-isolation inevitably provokes an array of emotions: loneliness and frustration, occasional hits of hope, waves of sadness. There’s nothing wrong with shedding a tear or 20 from time to time—and is there any better place to turn to for a much-needed cry than the movies? To help, GQ staffers have assembled a list of their favorite weepies, the films practically guaranteed to make you bawl, blubber and wail, possibly all at once. (And if you really want to cry, do so over the ones we left out: here's looking at you, Call Me By Your Name and Hardball.) Here are some sob-worthy classics, plus a few deeper cuts that are perfect for getting in touch with your feelings. —Iana Murray

Arrival

<h1 class="title">ARRIVAL, from left: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, 2016. ph: Jan Thijs /© Paramount Pictures /Courtesy</h1> <cite class="credit">Everett Collection</cite>

ARRIVAL, from left: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, 2016. ph: Jan Thijs /© Paramount Pictures /Courtesy

Everett Collection

One of the scariest parts about our current pandemic situation is that we don’t know what’s next. Sure, tomorrow will probably be just like today. But long-term? What happens? How bad will it be? Arrival, a gorgeous, thoughtful sci-fi film that would have won Amy Adams an Oscar in a just world, offers a different scenario: What if you knew, for a fact, that your choices would end in tragedy? Would you still make them, for the sake of all the joy and beauty that will come before the heartbreak? The ending of Arrival, when the entire story literally comes full circle as Max Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight” plays, says the answer is yes. In the face of fatalism, Arrival chooses hope and affirmation, a complicated combination of emotions that always gets me crying. I’m not always sure if they’re happy tears or sad ones, but lean towards the former. Recently rewatching Arrival, that encouragement to embracing the moment in the face of a darker future, hits harder than ever. —James Grebey

Manchester By The Sea

<h1 class="title">MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, from left, Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, 2016. ph: Claire Folger. © Roadside</h1> <cite class="credit">Everett Collection</cite>

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, from left, Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, 2016. ph: Claire Folger. © Roadside

Everett Collection

Never have I cried so much in public—and I experienced my early twenties in New York City, where all crying is essentially public—than I did while watching this movie in the theater. After living through what can only be described as a parent’s darkest nightmare, Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) moves away from his hometown for years, but reluctantly returns when his brother passes away to care for his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Being back in the place he associates with the incident causes Lee’s barely-repressed guilt to overwhelm him—especially after a brutally painful run-in with his ex wife Randi (Michelle Williams)—to the point where he’s incapable of caring for his grieving nephew. I mean, if you don’t lose it when Williams, through blubbering sobs, says, “My heart was broken; it’s always gonna be broken, and I know yours is broken too,” your tear ducts must be permanently sealed. —Stephanie Talmadge

Coco

<h1 class="title">COCO</h1> <cite class="credit">Everett Collection</cite>

COCO

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Quarantine has made time feel all funky. There's nothing to look forward to, no tomorrows. Just one, yawning "infinite present" as the writer Helen Rosner put it. It's just one reason to re-watch Coco, a perfect movie as far as perfect movies go, and one that distends time and space and spiritual geography in service of teaching kids about death and loss. About making the most of now—but in a non-corny way and with some hot songs. At its heart, Coco is about the gaping distinction between being alive and feeling alive. It's a film that's hard to consume and still feel numb. –Chris Gayomali

Lean on Pete

<h1 class="title">Lean on Pete</h1> <cite class="credit">Everett Collection</cite>

Lean on Pete

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When teenager Charley (Charlie Plummer) moves to Oregon with his struggling father, he picks up an odd job at a stable and befriends a racehorse past his prime—the titular Lean on Pete. Struck by a tragedy that could place him into foster care, Charley decides to run away to find a new home for him and his beloved steed. By steering clear of melodrama, the film is more devastating in its quieter moments—the ones where all you get is the quivering, soft lilt of Plummer’s voice and the unbearable silence of the American frontier. Watching the film for the first time a few years ago, I remember my neck feeling damp because the collar of my sweater was drenched in tears. Lean on Pete turned me into a horse girl. —Iana Murray

Remember the Titans

<h1 class="title">REMEMBER THE TITANS, Will Patton, Denzel Washington, 2000</h1> <div class="caption"> REMEMBER THE TITANS, Will Patton, Denzel Washington, 2000 </div> <cite class="credit">Everett Collection</cite>

REMEMBER THE TITANS, Will Patton, Denzel Washington, 2000

REMEMBER THE TITANS, Will Patton, Denzel Washington, 2000
Everett Collection

There is a long, rich tradition of sports movies precision-engineered to make you weep. Brian's Song. This year's Affleck redemption vehicle The Way Back. Million Dollar Baby. (Spoiler alert.) Hardball! Remember Hardball? But there's no sports film that activates my tear ducts quite like Remember the Titans, the Denzel Washington-starring film about the trials, tribulations, and heart-melting joys of the football team at an integrating high school in Virginia in the '60s. And if the stirring tale of a team coming together to, uh, defeat racism doesn't move you to tears, the film's final sequence—among the most maudlin bits ever committed to celluloid, featuring a group of grown men standing around a grave delivering a dirge-ified version of "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye"—is guaranteed to wreck you. —Sam Schube

Love, Simon

<h1 class="title">LOVE, SIMON, from left: Nick Robinson, Katherine Langford, 2018. ph: Ben Rothstein /TM & copyright</h1> <cite class="credit">Everett Collection</cite>

LOVE, SIMON, from left: Nick Robinson, Katherine Langford, 2018. ph: Ben Rothstein /TM & copyright

Everett Collection

There are countless little moments throughout 2018’s Love, Simon that will tug at your heartstrings, but the biggest emotional payoff comes in the final act, as the titular Simon boards a Ferris wheel—and in doing so, gives the viewer a quiet moment to reflect on the fact that an unabashedly queer teen movie like this exists in the first place, with the weight of a major production company and worldwide release behind it. The film's critical and commercial success only heightens the emotional impact upon rewatch. —Mick Rouse

Invisible Life

<h1 class="title">MCDINLI ZU002</h1> <cite class="credit">Everett Collection</cite>

MCDINLI ZU002

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Invisible Life, the Brazilian entry to this year's Academy Awards, now streaming on Amazon, manages the feat of being as vivid and gorgeous as it is relentlessly bleak. Set in lush 1950s Rio de Janeiro, it follows two sisters—played by the endlessly magnetic Julia Stockler and Carol Duarte—who are separated by their father and forced to unknowingly live parallel existences in the same sprawling city, each grappling with their own miseries. Cut to me and a friend watching it in the movie theater, having parallel cries for the last 30 minutes straight. —Gabriella Paiella

Good Will Hunting

I know, I know: it's not my fault. But golly does it make me cry. —Sam Schube

Titanic

<h1 class="title">MSDTITA FE007</h1> <cite class="credit">Everett Collection</cite>

MSDTITA FE007

Everett Collection

Titanic might be better known as a meme-generator these days (the hand on a steaming window, the door that could've fit two people etc.), but there's a reason why James Cameron's modern classic was at one point the highest grossing film of all time. It's a sweeping epic of, well, Titanic proportions—full of melodrama, tragedy, and heartbreak that was capable of making packed theaters sob hysterically—this writer included. If nothing else, Titanic is a film that strangely resonates no matter when you revisit it. In 2020, for example, I feel like a violinist serenading passengers on a sinking ship. —Iana Murray

Originally Appeared on GQ