Movies guaranteed to make anyone cry

Whether it's over a gut-wrenching political drama, a slow-burning slice-of-life biopic, or even a seemingly comical animated flick, we've all shed a tear or two watching a film (though some of us may never admit it). Crying can be cathartic, especially when catalyzed by something as artistic and carefully crafted as a movie, and scenes that spark the waterworks are usually among the most memorable. If you're looking to let it all out over some particularly poignant films, and even some unexpectedly sentimental ones, you've come to the right place. Grab your pint of Ben & Jerry's and a box of tissues (and beware of spoilers!) as we take a look at some movies sure to make you cry.

The Iron Giant

We feel the need to preface this first pick with a demand… er, gentle recommendation: please watch The Iron Giant. This 1999 Brad Bird-directed animated film weaves the tale of the spunky Hogarth Hughes and his titular metal-eating mate as they embark on an exciting adventure in post-Sputnik suburban Maine. Set during the inception of the oftentimes tumultuous Space Age in 1950s America, The Iron Giant blends into its narrative elements of militaristic action and patriotism. And there's none more heroic than the Iron Giant himself, who makes the ultimate sacrifice in order to save the town of Rockwell. The kicker? Having previously bonded over the crime-fighting Superman comics with Hogarth, the Iron Giant imagines himself as the caped crusader as he soars through the sky in the moments before detonation. We guarantee you'll well up.

Interstellar

If you've caught Christopher Nolan's unexpectedly touching space epic Interstellar, which picked up a handful of Oscar nominations in 2015, you'll know what's coming next. This story of headstrong astronaut Joseph Cooper (played wonderfully by Matthew McConaughey), determined to complete a galactic mission that spans decades, isn't one you'd anticipate to have you bawling like a baby, but oh, it absolutely does.

Let's rewind a bit and ask why astro-McConaughey is even launching into the stars in the first place. Simple: Earth has been ravaged of its crops, and humanity's survival is in doubt, so Cooper and the crew of the spaceship Endurance head out in an attempt to bring energy back to Earth before their children pass. This is what makes Interstellar so heartbreaking. While en route, Cooper receives messages from his children, Murphy and Tom, who have aged significantly since he left. In the clips, Tom catches Cooper up to speed on his marriage and the birth (and eventual death) of his son, and Murphy mentions that she's the same age as Cooper was when he left. Compound this with McConaughey's gripping performance, and this scene has left us decidedly not "alright, alright, alright." (Don't even get us started on when Cooper and Murphy eventually reunite.)

Guardians of the Galaxy

2014's magnificent addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Guardians of the Galaxy, garnered a ton of well-deserved attention mostly for its charming lead in Chris Pratt, its tongue-in-cheek take on the superhero genre, and its bangin' soundtrack. But what it's also gained is a bit of reputation for making its audience cry.

As evidenced in one of our previous picks, the innocent gentle giants of films are often the first to make a sacrifice to secure the wellbeing of their loved ones. This James Gunn-spearheaded film is no exception, with the tree-like creature Groot breaking his body down to save the rest of the Guardians from ultimate peril. Groot stretches his arms out wide, thousands of branches bursting left and right, to encapsulate his teammates in an unbreakable sphere. But the tears really start flowing when Rocket the Raccoon asks Groot why he would give his life for theirs, prompting a poignant twist on the big guy's signature three-word mantra.

The Green Mile

Adapted from the 1996 Stephen King novel, The Green Mile can seem on the surface a darker, weightier film than most, but what lies below is a web of relationships that will tug at your heartstrings. The most touching of all? John Coffey (the late Michael Clark Duncan) and Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks), who form an unusual alliance at Cold Mountain Penitentiary, where Paul is the death row supervisor and John is awaiting execution for a crime he didn't commit. Supremely and supernaturally gifted, John cures many of their ailments, including (you guessed it) Paul.

While The Green Mile has plenty of emotional moments, one in particular will leave you in disbelief at just how many tears your eyes can produce in a single sitting. Though the entire group of Cold Mountain guards know John is an innocent man, and have difficulty coming to terms with ending his life, John confides in Paul that he wants to die, as the world is too cruel a place for him to live, and so the men respect his wishes. Moments before John is killed, Paul steps forward to shake his hand, a subtle reminder that their bond was true and a thank you for sending him onward.

Up

Okay, you might've seen this one coming from a mile away, but how could we not include perhaps the most chest-compressing film Pixar has ever made? Up has become notorious for its opening sequence, one that comes out of left field and snatches the hearts of anyone watching. Little compares to watching the movie for the very first time—expecting a quirky tale of a curmudgeonly old man who builds a balloon home, meets a chubby boy scout, and befriends some colorful beasts on his journey through the skies—and then getting effectively punched in the stomach with sentiment. Pixar proves it's much more than that twee tale right from the get-go, offering up a sprawling scene that details the life and death of Carl's wife, Ellie. We freely admit we sobbed and sniffled and sighed at the ten-minute montage, and we know you will, too.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Even fans of one of the most beloved novel-to-film franchises of all time aren't immune from tear-stained cheeks. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, based on the second and third volumes of J. R. R. Tolkien's epic series The Lord of the Rings, doesn't wrench us with all-out brutality or countless gruesome deaths, but with its purity and its people. The moment everything falls to tears is a small but impactful one, when the newly-crowned king recognizes the Hobbits for what they're worth and delivers a line none of us will soon forget: "My friends, you bow to no one." After watching them bravely trek the world to finally vanquish Sauron once and for all, we couldn't agree more. Pass the tissues, please.

Manchester by the Sea

Directed by award-winning playwright Kenneth Lonergan and starring Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea has a pretty devastating premise, as it deals with the internal, emotional, and real-life aftermath of an untimely death, but it still manages to leaven its heavy drama with humor. No amount of chuckles, however, could blunt the movie's wrenching turning point.

Following the death of his brother, Lee (Affleck) takes in his nephew, Patrick, and the two spend their days fishing in the waters of their quaint Massachusetts hometown. Grappling with grief and all the complexities that come with it, both Lee and Patrick attempt to bury their emotional distress, but things come bubbling to the surface in one devastating scene. Overcome by the loss of his brother to heart failure and of his happiness to depression, Lee tells Patrick he can't bear to stay in Manchester-by-the-Sea any longer, as tragic reminders linger all across the small-town seacoast. Four words will crush you as you watch: "I can't beat it."

The Shawshank Redemption

Widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made, The Shawshank Redemption, adapted from the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, received seven Oscar nominations, glowing critic reviews, and the attention of a ton of heartbroken moviegoers. This 1994 flick stars Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne, a banker sent to Shawshank Prison following his murder conviction, and Morgan Freeman as Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding, another prisoner serving a life term. The pair learn from one another the virtues of patience, fortitude, mild manners, and the intricacies of justice against reality. Alongside the initially unlikely duo is Brooks Hatlen (James Whitmore), a convict incarcerated since 1905, who's finally released in his old age. Realizing just how much the "the world went and got itself in a big damn hurry" while he was locked up, Brooks is unsure how to navigate even the simplest tasks, and his health suffers because of it.

"I have trouble sleepin' at night. I have bad dreams like I'm falling. I wake up scared. Sometimes it takes me a while to remember where I am," Brooks says. "I don't like it here. I'm tired of being afraid all the time. I've decided not to stay. I doubt they'll kick up any fuss. Not for an old crook like me. P.S: Tell Heywood I'm sorry I put a knife to his throat. No hard feeling, Brooks."

Brooks delivers this farewell monologue, addressed to those still inside Shawshank Prison, in a cutting and ugly-cry-inducing scene that culminates in his suicide. Just before he passes, he carves "Brooks was here" into a ceiling beam inside his home. (Yeah, we're welling up just thinking about it.)

Field of Dreams

There's nothing quite like a moving father-son scene, but it's made even more powerful in a film like Field of Dreams, which marries the idiosyncrasies of familial ties with the driving force of desires, no matter how fantastic. After receiving visions and hearing voices in his head, Iowa corn farmer Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) constructs a heavenly baseball diamond that draws in one very special attendee: Ray's father, John. We won't give away too much of the context, but the pain of Ray's journey to see his father once more (and to have him beam with pride) makes the movie's end melt into sweet sadness—and will reduce you to a puddle of tears. As with most films on our list, a single line stabs us right in the chest in Field of Dreams: "Hey Dad, you wanna have a catch?"

The Imitation Game

This Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley-led historical drama brings light to one of Britain's most brilliant minds: Alan Turing, the computer scientist and cryptanalyst famous for his efforts to crack the code on the German-backed Enigma machines, used during World War I to transmit diplomatic and military communication. Though lauded for his exceptional talent and unwavering perseverance, Turing was subject to extreme ridicule by the United Kingdom's legal system following the discovery that he was in a same-sex relationship with a young man named Arnold Murray. The Imitation Game depicts this arresting account of discrimination and unjust, inhumane treatment with dexterity, but the tipping point comes in a minute moment of vulnerability.

Facing the risk of losing his career, accomplishments, and credibility because he's gay, Turing collapses inward, begging Joan (Knightley) to help save his latest machine, which he lovingly named Christopher after a boy he fell in love with in school. "They'll take him away from me," he says. "You can't let them do that. You can't let them leave me alone. I don't want to be alone."

Pan's Labyrinth

Pan's Labryrinth is the beautiful brainchild of brilliant writer and director Guillermo del Toro, and follows a young girl named Ofelia through an eccentric maze beneath the ground—and through the trials she's forced to endure above it. Set in post-Civil War Spain at the start of the Francoist period, the story sees Ofelia gain a new stepfather in the Falange officer Captain Vidal, discover the fairy-tale-like underworld, and attempt to complete tasks to save her ailing mother, Carmen, from succumbing to illness and entering the underworld for good. Desperate to escape Vidal's cruelty and cowardice, Ofelia is told she must spare a few drops of an innocent's blood to fully open the portal to the ethereal underworld. And though she could use her baby brother for this purpose, she refuses to harm him.

Not only does del Toro construct an aesthetically awe-inspiring environment unlike any other, he also concludes his story with a death few anticipated, but many find satisfying. (We'll explain, we promise.) In an intense scene in which rebels track down Captain Vidal, he lashes out at Ofelia and shoots her. As she rests on the ground near the entrance of the labyrinth's stone staircase, her blood is shed—innocent blood, the last thing needed to open the portal. What follows is a reunion poignant enough to excuse Ofelia's death, as she appears truly, finally at peace.

The LEGO Movie

We're ending on a softer note, one that doesn't center around loss or grief or any of that trademark sad stuff. Instead, we bring you hope so bright and gleaming, it'll leave your eyes glassy with inspiration.

The LEGO Movie might seem like a peculiar choice for this list, and the majority of the block-based animated flick focuses on its dazzling cast takin' on the bad guys with a badass ferocity, but it all takes a deeper turn in the last few minutes. Beneath the comical exterior is a real-life family, Finn and "the Man Upstairs," whose story is framed in the context of the tiny toy characters and their topsy-turvy world; Finn uses the LEGO figures to work through the strains of his relationship with his father.

In a final moving speech, the Man Upstairs (Will Ferrell) realizes his son's dreamt-up antagonist, President Business, is actually based on him, his perfectionism, and his tendency to resort to condescension. He asks Finn what his protagonist, Emmet, would say to President Business, and the response will have you weeping.

"You don't have to be the bad guy. You are the most talented, most interesting, and most extraordinary person in the universe," Finn says to his father, through the LEGO character Emmet. "And you are capable of amazing things. Because you are the Special… and you still can change everything."

Excuse us, we have something in our eye…

Logan

Hugh Jackman making his final turn as Wolverine, the iconic X-Men character he's played for the last 17 years, is a notion bittersweet enough to make any Marvel fan misty-eyed. But those surface-level tears turned into full-on face-puddles in the closing moments of Logan, the James Mangold-directed pic that's not only one of the most powerful superhero movies of 2017, but also one of the most heartbreaking.

The film chronicles Jackman's weary Logan, despondent and reliant on alcohol, as he cares for Patrick Stewart's ailing Professor X and spends his days hiding from the world and his legacy somewhere along the Mexican border. All that is completely upended when a mysterious girl arrives, seeking refuge from the dark forces that are pursuing her. It's a young mutant, X-23, better known as Laura—Logan's daughter.

Logan lets his claws out once more as he fights to bring Laura (Dafne Keen) to safety in the face of mental demons and near-lifelong enemies. A final, brutal battle sees the life-and-death mission fall to the latter, when the rage-filled X-24 impales Logan on a tree branch and leaves him to bleed out—not before Laura shoots an adamantium bullet into the back of X-24's head, though the killing is in vain. Logan looks to Laura, remarking "so that's what it feels like" as his face relaxes into death. If you weren't already ugly-sobbing, one word will break you into a million pieces: "Daddy," the only thing Laura can muster through her pained cries.

Toy Story 3

Pixar has a particular way of pulling at your emotions (need we remind you of the "I look at you, and I'm home" moment from Finding Nemo?), but there was something uniquely devastating about its 2010 flick Toy Story 3. Eleven years after the second installment in the twee tale of personified toys, a series that an entire generation of people grew up watching, Toy Story 3 had no shortage of the hilarious moments and tongue-in-cheek references that only adults would pick up on, and it also carried with it a plotline that drove straight into its audience's heart: the gang of toys don't belong to Andy anymore, a circumstance that leaves their fates hanging on a wire.

During the climax of the film, the whole bunch—Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Mr. Potato Head, Rex, Slinky Dog, and even the new antagonist Lots-O'-Huggin' Bear—are tossed into an incinerator after an escape plan goes wrong. Of course, watching characters you were first introduced to when you were just a tiny tot in immediate and fatal danger is difficult enough, but the moment the crew realizes that they're going to die and decide to link up hands so they can face their misfortune together is next-level cinematic torture. Only those with hearts (and eyes) of steel can make it through this scene without shedding a ton of tears.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series is teeming with emotion seamlessly translated in its eight total film adaptations. The triumphs and trials of its trusty trio come to a spilling over point in the first installment of its two-part finale, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, which sees Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) tasting long-awaited victories but also coming to terms with tragedies they never saw coming. One in particular left its wide-eyed wizard fans doubled over with grief: the death of Dobby.

Dobby's passing marked the end of a deep relationship Harry developed with a creature who was, at first appearance, nothing more than an annoying House-elf for the Malfoy family. Once Dobby's sneaky antics were stripped back to reveal his true, protective nature, Harry freed him, gifted him various trinkets throughout the years, secured him employment at Hogwarts, and helped give his life a new purpose—as much as one can from a past history as a victim of abuse.

In the final moments of his life, Dobby attempts to earn redemption against Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter), the elder sister of Narcissa Malfoy (Helen McCrory), but is struck down by her knife. On the sandy shores at Shell Cottage, Dobby collapses into Harry's arms, his last words being Harry's name. Tears turn into sobs when Luna (Evanna Lynch) closes Dobby's eyes, saying, "There, now he could be sleeping."

Furious 7

The word association between the Fast and Furious film franchise usually doesn't involve phrases like "poignant," "heart-rending," or "emotionally complex," but the 2015 installment Furious 7 is undoubtedly all those things. Far more moving than most action flicks of recent memory, the James Wan-directed pic encapsulates the true final job of Brian O'Conner, played by the late Paul Walker.

Walker, who was killed in a car accident in November 2013 during a Furious 7 filming break, had a tangible presence in the film after his passing, despite the director using Walker's younger brothers as doubles to wrap up his physical appearance on screen. After all the madcap action sequences (like the cars jumping out of a plane and then between two buildings) of the film have slowed to a stop, Furious 7 tributes Walker with a simple and sentimental final scene.

As Walker's Brian plays on the beach with his wife Mia (Jordana Brewster) and son, and a montage of previous Fast and Furious films flash on screen, Vin Diesel's Dominic Toretto delivers what feels like a eulogy to Walker: "I used say I live my life a quarter-mile at a time. And I think that's why we were brothers. Because you did, too. No matter where you are, whether it's a quarter-mile away or halfway across the world, the most important thing in life will always be the people in this room… You'll always be with me. And you'll always be my brother."

Pass the tissues, please.

The NeverEnding Story

The 1984 West German film The NeverEnding Story, based on the Michael Ende novel of the same name, bills itself as an epic fantasy, but it can also be called a "psychological roller-coaster" or a "gut-punching kaleidoscope." It could even be re-titled to The NeverEnding Stream of Tears, because that's exactly what audiences experience when they witness Atreyu's (Noah Hathaway) horse Artax die. More than Artax's death itself, it's the way he dies and the deliberate way in which it's shown: like the film's name suggests, it's never-ending.

When the boy-and-horse pair are trekking through the misty, gloomy Swamps of Sadness, Artax gets stuck in quick mud and is too downtrodden to carry on, so he slowly sinks to his tragic fate—and the camera doesn't cut away, guaranteeing no one will step away dry-eyed. We watch as the pre-teen Atreyu wails for his soon-to-be-gone Artax, and are repeatedly shown the horse's genuinely terrified face, as though the animal is actually afraid of dying on the movie set. Not even Falkor the Luckdragon can make up for this kind of blow to our emotions.

Good Will Hunting

The late Robin Williams' Oscar-winning performance as Professor Sean Maguire in the 1997 drama Good Will Hunting is one of his finest, as the Academy can clearly tell you, and it can all be boiled down to one tiny phrase: "It's not your fault."

Any Good Will Hunting fan can recite the scene in question in their sleep: Matt Damon's Will Hunting is speaking to Williams' Sean (albeit reluctantly) about the abuse he suffered as a child, the physical trauma his foster parents inflicted upon him. Will asks Sean if he had experience with "that," and the moment spirals out into a stunning breakthrough grounded in that single sentence that sits sincere amongst a film that's littered with sarcastic, quippy one-liners.

Just as Will holds on to Sean's empathetic words,"It's not your fault," so too does the audience. We all want—nay, need—to be reminded every once in awhile that the dealer of the bad cards we've been given is to blame, not us.

The Transformers: The Movie

Michael Bay, eat your heart out. What 1986's The Transformers: The Movie lacked in CGI madness, oversaturated action sequences, and gratuitous explosions as seen in the modern Bay-helmed franchise, it made up for in real-deal relationships (between transforming alien robots, but still) and a truly tense space battle that would determine the future of the Transformers' home planet, Cybertron.

After the Decepticons make landfall in Autobot City, hacking and slashing as many Autobots as they can, only a small group remains: Arcee, Blaster, Blurr, Hot Rod, Kup, Ultra Magnus, Springer, Perceptor, and the human Daniel Witwicky (David Mendenhall). Good ol' Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) and his band of Dinobots arrive as reinforcement, and Optimus takes down the Decepticons in no time at all, though in the middle of the climactic tumble with Decepticon leader Megatron, he's mortally wounded.

But it's an animated film and the injury happened right in the middle, so surely he should survive, right? That's where you're wrong. Optimus doesn't wake up to roll out once more; he stays down, passing the Matrix of Leadership to Ultra Magnus (Robert Stack) as he passes away. The Transformers are more than meets the eye, indeed.