Why do we torture ourselves with movies that rip our hearts out? I don’t know, but I love them. From films that punch you in the gut to movies that make you cry your eyeballs out, here are 25 of my all-time favorite films for feeling things.
1. Beaches (1988)
Seinfeld had a funny bit where Jerry was uncertain whether he should console his girlfriend when she started crying while watching Beaches. However, anyone who has seen the film would be crying too. It’s a beautiful story about lifelong friendship, love, and loss. It has an amazing soundtrack and stars Bette Midler, Barbara Hershey, and Mayim Bialik.
2. A Star Is Born (2018)
A Star Is Born with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga is the fourth adaptation of the story and the one I’ve seen and felt in my core. Although, I’ve heard Barabra Streisand (1976) also nailed it with her portrayal of a young singer who is discovered by an alcoholic musician who falls in love with her.
The music is incredible, and because alcoholism is something many people have battled or dealt with in loved ones, the story is relatable to nearly all viewers.
3. Steel Magnolias (1989)
I wouldn’t trust anyone who can make it through Sally Field’s emotional performance near the end of Steel Magnolias with a dry eye. The film stars an ensemble cast of women bonding in a small Southern town, including Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis, Dolly Parton, Daryl Hannah, and Julia Roberts. Tom Skerritt and Dylan McDermott also star.
4. The Joy Luck Club (1993)
The Joy Luck Club is one of my all-time favorite films I rarely watch. The stories surrounding the relationships between Chinese-American women and their Chinese immigrant mothers punch you in the chest. While each story within the movie requires tissue, the infant in the bathtub and June meeting her sisters comes with full-on chest sobbing and weeping.
5. Anna and the King (1999)
Anna and the King is another movie with multiple stories within. The love between the King of Siam and an English schoolteacher Anna Leonowens is captivating. However, the side stories with Princess Fa-Ying and Lady Tuptim are some of the most gut-wrenching stories in cinematic history. The music and costumery are magnificent. It stars Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-fat.
6. Eat Pray Love (2010)
Eat Pray Love is a biographical romance based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2006 memoir of the same name. Julia Roberts shines (per usual) as Liz, a modern-day woman who travels to Italy, India, and Bali on a soul-searching journey. While I tear up multiple times throughout the film, Richard’s (Richard Jenkins) story in India is sure to touch anyone.
7. A Walk To Remember (2002)
A Walk To Remember is a film that will rip your heart right out of your chest, despite the somewhat mediocre acting portrayals by Mandy Moore and Shane West. It follows a young girl with leukemia navigating life as an outcasted pastor’s daughter.
8. Selena (1997)
Say what you will about Jennifer Lopez, but she absolutely nailed her role as American Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla Pérez. The film tells the story of the pop singer’s rise to stardom and the unfortunate event that ended her life.
Her former manager and friend, Yolanda Saldívar, shot and killed her after Selena discovered she had embezzled more than $30,000 via forged checks from the fan club and the boutiques.
9. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind shows an entirely different side of Jim Carrey as he moves into a more serious role starring opposite Kate Winslet.
After she has a procedure to erase him from her memories after breaking up, he undergoes the same process. However, part way through, he has a change of heart and tries to hide their memories in the corners of his mind before being entirely erased.
10. Brokedown Palace (1999)
Brokedown Palace is a film I rarely, if ever, see discussed, and I don’t know why. It’s an incredible story of two American friends (Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale) imprisoned in Thailand for alleged drug smuggling.
11. Armageddon (1998)
The apocalyptic film Armageddon is a tearjerker that is also packed with fun-filled action and laughter. It stars an ensemble cast, including Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Ben Affleck, Michael Clarke Duncan, Peter Stormare, and Steve Buscemi.
12. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
You won’t make it five minutes into Saving Private Ryan without tears welling up. The opening scene on Normandy Beach is one of the more accurately traumatizing scenes in cinematic history. However, it’s not the only part of the story to pull on your heartstrings.
I’ll never forget walking out of the theater and seeing the faces of all those who watched it with me. My father ran into an older man in the men’s room who had been on the beach in Normandy, weeping inconsolably about the film’s accuracy. It forever left an impression.
13. Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)
Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey is the tale of three lost pets who break free from the farm they were supposed to stay at to cross the wilderness of California to find their way home. Multiple moments in the film have me reaching for tissues, but that final scene, when they make their way into the family’s sight, causes a complete meltdown of joyous tears.
14. 28 Days (2000)
Another film that doesn’t get the credit it deserves is 28 Days with Sandra Bullock. Bullock plays an alcoholic who goes to rehab after being court-ordered for driving a limo into someone’s front porch. She finds herself among a group of eccentric people with substance abuse disorders. It’s a touching story with heartbreaking and happy tear moments too.
15. Ghost (1990)
The Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore classic Ghost is a film that requires tissues. After Sam Wheat is murdered (Swayze), his ghost chooses to remain on earth, unravel the mystery of his death, and protect his girlfriend, Molly (Moore). However, Whoopi Goldberg, as a physic named Oda Mae Brown, is a great comedic relief between heartfelt moments throughout the film.
16. Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
Fried Green Tomatoes will forever be one of those films where it doesn’t matter what part of the story is playing; if it is on, I’ll get sucked right into it again.
It tells the story of an unhappy housewife (Kathy Bates) who befriends an elderly lady (Jessica Tandy) in a nursing home and is captivated by the tales she tells of people she used to know ( Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary-Louise Parker). The stories will equally grip you and are sure to produce tears.
17. P.S. I Love You (2007)
P.S. I Love You is a film that reduced me to a puddle on the floor. Unlike the other movies on this list, I’ve never revisited it because I’m unsure about putting myself through the beautifully tragic story again.
It follows a widow who receives a series of messages in death from her husband, as he arranged it with her friends before dying of a brain tumor. Right? Do I really need to say anything more? Grab tissues if you dare. It stars Hilary Swank and Gerald Butler.
18. Crash (2004)
Crash stars an ensemble cast and interweaves several stories of racial and social tensions in Los Angeles, California citizens. While many moments produce tears, the story of the little girl wearing the invisible cloak and the silent scream her father lets out as the music grabs your soul in one of the most challenging spots of the film is unmatchable.
I can’t get through it without sobbing. Can you?
19. The Green Mile (1999)
The Green Mile is one of the greatest Stephen King stories ever told, and the horror in the story is not what you’d expect with his name attached. It follows a death row correctional officer (Tom Hanks) during the Great Depression.
He witnesses supernatural events following the arrival of an enigmatic convict (Michael Clarke Duncan) sent there for an unspeakable crime. But things aren’t what they seem, and it guarantees to reduce even the hardest souls to their knees.
20. The Perfect Storm (2000)
The Perfect Storm tells the story of a commercial swordfishing vessel, the Andrea Gail, that was lost at sea with all hands after being caught in the Perfect Storm of 1991 off the coast of Gloucester, Massachusetts. It stars an ensemble cast, including George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Diane Lane, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and John C. Reilly.
21. Titanic (1997)
Speaking of ships going down in the night, James Cameron’s Titanic is a beautiful film that gets me every time. The attention to detail Cameron put into ensuring that everything surrounding Jack and Rose was historically accurate is hauntingly impressive.
While many viewers cry when Rose announces she will “never let go,” I lose it when the dad says goodbye to his children, stating, “It’s goodbye for a little while; only for a little while. There’ll be another boat for the daddies. This boat is for the mummies and the children.”
22. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
The Shawshank Redemption is another phenomenal story by Stephen King and one of the greatest movies ever. It follows Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), a banker wrongly imprisoned for life in Shawshank State Penitentiary for the murders of his wife and her lover.
Over the decades, he develops a kindred friendship with Red (Morgan Freeman), who knows how to get things. The film tells stories of many inmates and reduces me to tears multiple times. It’s sure to get you too.
23. Up (2009)
Several animated films have reduced me to tears, including Toy Story 3, Upside Down, The Lion King, and The Fox and the Hound. However, Disney-Pixar’s animated masterpiece Up takes the cake.
The short story of Carl Fredricksen (Ed Asner) and Ellie falling in love and staying together in life before she passes is one of the most impossible scenes to watch without weeping. I’m talking full-on ugly crying. The music is perfect, and I don’t know anyone who has watched it that didn’t cry.
24. The Hate U Give (2018)
The Hate U Give is one of the most important and challenging films on this cry fest film list. It follows the fallout after high school student Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg) witnesses a police shooting that kills her friend.
The film shines a light on the dark reality facing the Black population in America with police brutality and racism and advocates against police violence by “any means necessary.” This one stays with you.
25. The Impossible (2012)
Finally, The Impossible is based on the experience of María Belón and her family in the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. From beginning to end, viewers are pulled into a nightmarish situation as it unfolds with one unbelievable circumstance after the next.
The way they shot the film and the commitment to telling the story is incredible, and the reunion at the end will reduce anyone with children to a puddle on the floor. It stars Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, and Tom Holland in his debut.
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Elizabeth Ervin is the owner of Sober Healing. She is a freelance writer passionate about opioid recovery and has celebrated breaking free since 09-27-2013. She advocates for mental health awareness and encourages others to embrace healing, recovery, and spirituality.