5 Movies About Illness that Can Make Guys Cry

DISCLAIMER: This is not a series dedicated to proving men shouldn’t cry, or to suggest ONLY women cry and are therefore inferior. The goal of this series is to dispel the pre-established (yet flawed) notion that being “manly” and being disconnected from your emotions go hand-in-hand. Even the most macho of men enjoy and even shed a tear at films, and the sooner we can admit that the sooner the concept that one sex is better than the other can go away. While the approach to these articles is one of light-hearted comedy, the emotional core is valid. While men might be more hesitant to admit it, movies often times have the potential to make us cry, for example:

“Getting Sick in the Movies”

To be clear, this is not what movies make us sick AT the movies, for that would be a very long list of Eli Roth and Uwe Boll films. Today we’re talking about movies that center around the sickness, get up, come one get down with the sickness (sorry, had to do it). Walk into any office building this month and you’ll notice something strange; empty cubes as far as the eye can see. The cause? A potent mixture of allergies, pink eye, and stomach flu that comes around every spring. As human a condition as getting sick is, it only stands to reason that our cinema would reflect that. Whether our film protagonists are slowly wasting away from the plague or caring for someone slowly turning into a pile of sludge, illness is something we’ve all been through so we can all relate. Here’s a list of films centering around illness, get ready to both vomit…and tear up:

1. Contagion

This is unfortunately a realistic approach to a fictional virus. I say unfortunately because things do not go well for humanity on the whole. Also Jude Law gives us yet another reason to hate Jude Law, and my list was already pretty extensive on that front. The Law of hating Jude aside, this film is a series of shocking events that go from an innocent handshake to most of humanity dead in a mass grave. While Jude Law tries his best to be the villain, reality is the true antagonist–realities of a true pandemic (such as people that would try to profit off fake treatments, supply shortages of the real vaccine, and scientists who only somewhat understand the illness that’s killing all social order). Also there’s the amazing unpublicized red herring of casting Gwyneth Paltrow only to have her be patient zero and die almost immediately.

This movie scrapes the barrier between what probably would happen and fantasy, but what sticks out to me is when Matt Damon takes his wife to the hospital for what seems like a cold. Several hours later she’s dead, and it’s so unexpected that Matt can’t even process that she’s died. He keeps asking to talk to her after the doctor repeats that she died. His brain cannot handle the shock, and that both sets the stage for the film and hits us right in the gut.

Recommended Videos

2. Philadelphia

From fictional illnesses to very real ones, this is the film they showed you in school to introduce you to the AIDS unit. One part illness film, one part legal drama, Tom “Woody” Hanks is dying from AIDS and Denzel Washington is the lawyer fighting to prove Tom’s employer terminated him wrongfully. Some things have improved since this film was made such as the survivability of an AIDS diagnosis, and some things could stand with a little more improvement such as eliminating persecution of people based on their sexual orientation. Still a very powerful film with highlight performances from both main actors.

The part that gets most people is the end where Denzel shares with Tom that he won the case. Tom at this point has hours to live if that, making the victory one of principle rather than reparation. But man does it hit hard.

3. 50/50

Sticking with non-fictional illnesses but moving to a more lighthearted approach to them, we have a film with Seth Rogen yet somehow deals with serious issues. Bizarre, I know, but it makes for a great film. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a young man who finds out he has cancer, and the film explores how he and the ecosystem of family and friends around him react to that diagnosis and later treatment. Close friends become closer, strained relationships stretch to snapping, and Joseph finds new meaning in life as he brushes with the end of his. Unlike the first two selections on this list, Joseph survives but as the title suggests, it could have gone the other way.

I can only assume this film hits those who have survived cancer harder than those of us lucky enough to be blissfully unaware of that experience. Regardless, I find the hardest scene to stay dry-eyed at is when Joseph is trying to have sex with a girl and the pain is too much for him to ignore. The frustration he feels in not being able to forget about his diagnosis for one moment and having it rob him of even the smallest pleasure is palpable.

4. The Cure

The only other film that Timmy from Jurassic Park has ever been in to my knowledge, this is like 50/50 but the other side of that coin. Meaning the patient in question doesn’t make it. This film was seemingly written to tap directly into the tear ducts of its audience. You have a young boy who contracts AIDS through a blood transfusion, you have another boy with an abusive mother, and you have a road trip adventure between two friends in search of a cure for a terminal illness that we all know from the start is bogus. That doesn’t matter, because the friendship these two boys develop and the lengths they go for each other make it worth it. Of course the cure in the title was never real, but to have a purpose in life–even if that life is cut short–is always aspirational.

How bout the entire film? Want more specific? How about the end when the friend puts his shoe in the grave of his lost pal, representing that they’ll both be by each other’s side? Crying yet?

5. Maggie

Finally, everyone’s favorite illness: the zombie virus. And everyone’s favorite action star, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Wait, what? That’s right, Arnie starred recently in an indie film about a man and his daughter who’s been recently bit and will soon turn. Despite a society that’s barely emerged on the other side of a global zombie outbreak, his doctor lets Arnold take his daughter home to spend what time she has left with her family. It’s heartbreaking seeing her slowly turning (in this film the process takes days, if not weeks) and hearing stories of how others have succumbed. An analogy of any terminal illness, we see Arnold’s daughter’s body turn against her in horrifying ways until she’s barely the person she used to be. Who would have thought we’d get such a small, touching film from the Terminator.

The end is equal parts sad and horrifying. The daughter is full-on zombie but Arnold still can’t bring himself to shoot his little girl. He pretends to be asleep as she approaches him, willing to die with his daughter. Instead, she kisses him and jumps off the roof, remembering a happier time. Even zombies can make us cry sometimes, and not just from eating our faces.

The Escapist is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more
related content
Read Article 5 Tough Goodbyes in the Movies that Make Guys Cry
Read Article 5 Irish-Themed Movies that Can Make Guys Cry
Read Article 5 Adult Animated Movies that Make Guys Cry
Related Content
Read Article 5 Tough Goodbyes in the Movies that Make Guys Cry
Read Article 5 Irish-Themed Movies that Can Make Guys Cry
Read Article 5 Adult Animated Movies that Make Guys Cry
Daniel Epstein
Father, filmmaker, and writer. Once he won an Emmy, but it wasn't for being a father or writing.