The most awkward crying scenes in movies

Watching another person cry, even onscreen, can sometimes come with an intensity we're unprepared for. While occasionally uncomfortable for all the right reasons, these scenes ultimately play out as powerful emotional beats in the best movies, which is why we remember them. On the other hand, plenty of crying scenes fail to strike a balance and become just plain awkward to sit through. Sometimes this plays out humorously (albeit unintentionally so) and other times it's just cringe-worthy. 

The Spider-Man trilogy - all of the crying scenes

We'll get this one out of the way first. There are few cinematic wailers better (or worse, depending on your perspective) than Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker in Sam Raimi's trilogy of Spider-Man films. It's tough to narrow things down to one particularly egregious scene because Maguire cries a lot in these movies. It's more or less his default emotional setting. He's either fighting crime or scrunching his face into a tiny ball of despair. You can practically feel his nose starting to run as he does it.

To be clear, we're not necessarily hating on him for this. Peter Parker is a great character because of how human he is, and it's kind of great that Maguire looks so strange when he cries, because let's be real, we all look awful when we cry. Anytime a beautiful celebrity pulls off that classic single-tear-and-slightly-furrowed-brow cry and still looks good doing it, remind yourself that that's pure fiction. Real tears are ugly, uncomfortable, and runny. And as uncomfortable as it may be to watch at times, Maguire's waterworks in the Spider-Man movies are about as real as they get, meme-worthy facial expressions and all. 

The Room - Johnny's breakdown

There might not actually be a single tear shed during Tommy Wiseau's performance in the cult classic, so-bad-it's-good movie The Room, despite the fact that he's clearly supposed to be crying during the film's climax. Wiseau's Johnny is at the end of his rope in the film's final moments. His girl has left him, his best friend hates him, and the life he thought he had has proven to be a shallow mirage (this movie really is, as Paul Scheer once said, "Tennessee Williams put through Google Translate"). And in his rage and grief, he destroys the bedroom he once shared with his fiancée Lisa, sobbing as he does it, finally taking his own life.

The problem is that, as anybody who has seen the film can attest to, Wiseau's acting prowess resembles that of an alien asked to replicate human behavior after watching two episodes of Days of Our Lives. And while his flailing about the room, smashing a TV, and throwing clothes everywhere, is over-the-top enough, it's his bizarre guttural wailing that really makes the scene horrifically awkward. Johnny's cries seem to come from some undiscovered muscle buried deep in the throat. They sort of sound like cries, but we never actually see tears. Instead, we just have to sit through this bizarre sound that's very nearly crying but not quite fully there. It's horrifically surreal to watch but, then again, that's The Room's whole deal.

Vampire's Kiss - Peter loses it

Nobody does over-the-top emotion quite like "The Cage." From his bonkers performance in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans to the magnum opus that is The Wicker Man, Nicolas Cage is the de facto gold standard of cinematic histrionics. And this is no more evident than in one of his Hall of Fame-worthy performances, Vampire's Kiss.

The film is full of classic Cage bits (the alphabet run-through is particularly wonderful), but if there's a single moment that embodies the awkward glory of Cage's performance in the film, it's the moment in which he cries. He cries so, so hard. But rather than a constant stream or an organic build, Cage's crying is more staccato. He whimpers quietly until bombastic hoots erupt from his maw, the agony of his failure at killing himself (The gun he used was loaded with blanks, though he thinks it's because he's a vampire. It's a weird movie.) causes him to have a mental break. Cage's filmography is filled with classic amped-up emotional breakdowns like this, but Vampire's Kiss is one of the most memorable. 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - Harry returns with Cedric

Over the course of the Harry Potter series, Daniel Radcliffe turns in numerous memorable performances as the series' namesake and nails moments of tragedy, comedy, youth, and burgeoning adulthood in stellar form. So don't get us wrong here, we love Radcliffe as Potter, but when you start playing a character when you're a child and carry that performance well into adulthood, you're bound to have a few moments that fall flat. One of those moments comes at the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

In this particular moment, Harry has been teleported back to wizard school Hogwarts after witnessing the return of the evil Voldemort and his friend Cedric Diggory's murder at Voldemort's hand. There's already dissonance present between Harry's grief and the jubilant, oblivious crowd. As the audience cheers, Harry dryly sobs in ugly spurts, refusing to loosen his grasp on the body of his friend. It takes a long time for anyone to realize that something is wrong and all the while the audience has to watch Harry weeping uncomfortably over a dead body. It doesn't help when Jeff Rawle swoops in as Cedric's father and really overacts, also sobbing over the corpse. The moment just becomes too much, and it tips the scale from poignant to unintentionally awkward. A scene like this isn't supposed to be fun to watch, but it's also probably not supposed to be this kind of uncomfortable. 

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - Gwen Stacy's death

Certain cliched lines of dialogue have gained a certain degree of notoriety. "There's a storm coming," "You just don't get it, do you?," and "Are you kidding me?" are well-ridiculed for their overuse at this point. One that seems to get overlooked a bit is the ever-present "Stay with me!"; it seems to always be recited over the body of a character that's either dead or dying. Usually it's part of a whole or even part of a dialogue, but when Gwen Stacy dies in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, "Stay with me!" makes up the majority of Andrew Garfield's crying scene.

The audience knows Gwen is dead, but in this particular moment, Garfield's Peter Parker is still coming to the realization. He starts choking up and repeating "Stay with me!" over and over and over again. He even throws in a "No, please!" for good cliched measure before erupting into full-on sobs. It's tense and sad due to the subject matter at hand, but it's also horrendously awkward due to how cliche it reads. It's not that Garfield's performance is bad in that moment, it's just awkward hearing him cry "Stay with me!" at a dead body quite as many times as he does, and it doesn't gets better on repeat viewings. 

Moulin Rouge! - Satine dies

Subtlety isn't a word director Baz Luhrmann ever learned, which can be sometimes a good thing and other times a bad thing. Moulin Rouge! is more indicative of this than any film in his career because, while its visual and narrative bombast certainly suits its story (the movie was very well received), it also makes for a comedically over-the-top crying scene for Ewan McGregor toward the film's climax.

Caressing the body of his love Satine, McGregor's Christian begins softly whimpering; that builds to an almost musical crescendo (appropriate for the film, we suppose) as raspy whines escape his throat. It builds to him tossing his head back and wailing to the heavens, still holding Satine's body and surrounded by roses. It's very Baz Luhrmann, and if it sounds like it's orchestrated poetically, it's not. It's probably the funniest part of Moulin Rouge!, and that includes all the parts of the film that are actually supposed to be funny.

Signs - The last dinner

A crying scene can be tricky to balance for an actor. You can't go overboard in your performance but you also can't undersell the grief in the moment. Fortunately for M. Night Shyamalan, director of the film Signs, the most vulnerable moment of the film, that being the dinner scene that ends in every character crying, is carried by the performances of four very talented and very capable actors. Unfortunately, the scene also stands as proof that there is such a thing as too much talent in one room.

No single performance in the scene leads to it being so borderline laughable. Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Abigail Breslin, and Rory Culkin are all possibly no better as individual performers in any moment in the film than they are in this scene, one in which the family believes they may be eating their last meal before a full-on alien invasion that will likely end in their deaths. The performances are all great, but they add up to too much of a good thing. With every single character weeping (and with Gibson aggressively stabbing at the food on his plate), the dam sort of bursts on the scene's palatability. It's too much at once. You can hardly help but laugh (if only to break the tension) as an all-American family breaks down over plates of french toast and spaghetti. 

Rocky III - Rocky sobs as Mickey dies

The Rocky franchise is a national treasure, and Sylvester Stallone brings the iconic boxer to life in a way that has made him synonymous with the character, much in the way that Christopher Reeve is inseparable from Superman. The hulking prizefighter carries a fragility to his emotional state that makes him lovable in a way few characters are. Rocky is made of pure emotion. And that emotion is on display intensely when he has to say goodbye to his dying trainer, Mickey. The only problem is that the emotions in question manifest themselves in the form of some borderline-grotesque tears.

When a 200+ pound boxer with a bass-heavy Philly accent starts sobbing through a smashed-up face, it obviously ain't supposed to be pretty. But oh man, it's rough to watch, and not in the way the filmmakers intended. It races past "sad and poignant" and into "overzealous and unintentionally funny" so fast you'll think it's trying to lap Dominic Toretto. Rocky cries like a widow at a funeral over Mick's body, blubbering through heavy sobs as he tries and fails to get words out. Yes, it's genuinely heartbreaking, but it's also horrifically hard to watch without cringing at the extent to which Stallone overacts in the moment. We may love Rocky because of how in touch with his emotions he is, but Stallone may have done his job too well this time around.

Armageddon - Harry switches places with A.J.

For all of his occasional triumphs, there are few actors so inherently unlikable as Ben Affleck. It's kind of his whole thing. Sometimes it works to his advantage, but it makes it difficult to buy him as a cut-and-dry hero. And it makes it even harder to be with him in moments in which we're supposed to be sympathetic. Look no further than Armageddon for a prime example of this.

Affleck crying over Bruce Willis, his character's future father-in-law, for taking his place on a suicide mission should be an emotionally devastating moment. Instead it's a scene in which we're supposed to empathize with a crying Ben Affleck and, well, we don't. Affleck certainly doesn't phone it in here, but he doesn't reel it in either. He thrashes, screams, and wails to the heavens like his life depends on it. The problem is that not only does it fail to garner sympathy, it's not particularly well-performed to begin with. It's over-the-top and laughable. Contrast Ben with Bruce Willis, who turns in an empathetic, human performance in this scene, and it only accentuates how awkward a performance Affleck's really is.

50 First Dates - Henry makes a scene at the diner

In his heyday, Adam Sandler excelled at cringe comedy. He was never better than he was when making audiences laugh and wince in discomfort at the same time. So when we talk about his crying scene in 50 First Dates, we do so acknowledging that when we talk about how horrifically uncomfortable it is to watch, that's Sandler's intention entirely. And, believe us, he succeeds in creating one of the most awkward crying scenes of all time in a big, big way.

In the scene, Sandler's character Henry is making himself cry to get the attention of a lady he's crushing on, played by Drew Barrymore. That's already the kind of thing you're afraid to watch but can't look away from. The fact that once he gets her attention he tells her he's illiterate only worsens things. And then of course there's the crying itself: loud, performative, and boisterous. It gets the attention of not just his crush but every other person in the diner. A particular high (or maybe it's low) point comes when he yelps like a scared dog at Barrymore when she finally comes over to say something to him. And let's not forget that it's awfully long. Henry's performance goes on for a good couple of minutes, only becoming more excruciating as it continues. It's every bit the awkward train wreck Sandler intends for it to be, and your skin will crawl watching it play out. But once you get past that, it's pretty dang funny too.