Full Disclosure: I am a student employee at Library Media Services in Hornbake. However, I am not writing this as a library employee; I am writing this as a film lover.
Movies have made me feel just about every emotion that is humanly possible to feel. That’s the power of cinema; one moment you’re laughing and the next you want to cry.
And it doesn’t matter who you are; anyone can cry because of a film.
Forbidden Games (1952)
DVD call number: PN1997 .J4452 2005
What better way to kick off this list than to start with a film that throws so much suffering and sadness at you from the beginning?
The film begins in June 1940 and the Germans are invading France. Paulette is a young girl fleeing Paris with her parents when their refugee group is attacked by German planes. The scene is one of the most gut-wrenching I’ve ever seen; how anyone could watch the first 10 minutes of this film without having damp cheeks is a mystery to me.
The Deer Hunter (1978)
DVD call number: PN1997 .D39 2006
While Forbidden Games sheds light on the traumatizing effect World War II had on children, The Deer Hunter explores the intense emotional distress of American service members who fought in Vietnam. Starring Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken, this film’s portrayal of friendships and relationships wracked by war is heartbreaking and tragic. In addition to water flowing from your eyes, the film’s heart-pounding Russian roulette scenes will get blood flowing in your veins (even though such Russian roulette games didn’t actually happen in Vietnam.)
DVD call number: PN1997 .S245 2004
Much like director Vittorio De Sica’s later 1948 Neorealist classic Bicycle Thieves, little Italian kids are responsible for much of this film’s lachrymose qualities. Two boys from Rome dream of owning their own horse . Unfortunately, their plan for buying one goes terribly wrong; they are accused of stealing and are sent to juvenile detention. What follows is a harrowing look at life inside a children’s prison.De Sica ends the film with a turn of events that can only be described as “rock-solidly” sad.
Dersu Uzala (1975)
DVD call number: PN1997 .D4532 2000
Master director Akira Kurosawa shot this beautiful, sweeping Soviet-Japanese co-production on glorious 70mm film. This movie is the story of Captain Vladimir Arsenyev. The time he spent in the early 1900’s with Dersu Uzala, a nomadic hunter living in Russia’s far East is covered. At its heart, this film is about the unbreakable friendship between two very different men, a relationship that is pushed by the inevitable breakdown of aging. As Dersu grows old, he can no longer survive on his own, and Arsenyev must make the difficult decision on how to help his friend live his final days in happiness. Aiming for poignancy, this film hits home.
The Apartment (1960)
DVD call number: PN1997 .A63 2001
A few years ago when I watched this movie for the first time I was expecting it to be a nice, light-hearted comedy. I was so completely wrong. The tingling in my chest and throat took me completely off-guard. Why was I feeling so much emotion from a comedy? Why did you trick me, Billy Wilder? Jack Lemmon is perfect as C.C. Baxter, a man who gets walked all over by his bosses and everyone around him. Shirley MacLaine is equally as convincing as Fran Kubelik, heartbroken and suicidal. I mentioned laughing and crying back to back in the introduction—well this really is the perfect example of a film that elicits this kind of response.
Paris, Texas (1984)
DVD call number: PN1997 .P25 2009
This is it. This is the tearjerker I think about possibly more than any other. You know how you can tell this is such a sad film? Both Kurt Cobain and Elliott Smith said it was their favorite movie. Wim Wenders directed this masterpiece about a wandering man named Travis who comes back into his young son’s life after four years.
Travis’ conversation with his son’s mother through a one-way mirror is one of the most hauntingly beautiful scenes in all of cinema. Themes of abandonment, heartbreak and reunion are all dealt with in Paris, Texas, and if there’s one film on this list that strikes me hardest, it’s this one.
If you disagree and think you’re too tough to tear up, I invite you to watch all six films. You can check each of them out right now at Library Media Services in Hornbake Library.
Featured Photo: Screen capture from the film, ‘Paris, Texas.’
Matt Kubisiak is a senior broadcast journalism and film studies double major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.