5 Movies That Are Retroactively Sadder – Dark Knight to Furious 7

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:

“Movies That Are Retroactively Sadder”

Movies are magical snapshots of false history. The scene you see is only one point of view, mostly because all the others are filed with cameramen, production assistants and craft service trucks. This illusion is held up in order to entertain and provide escapism, but that veneer can be shattered if you hit it hard enough. Just like poetry has different interpretations decades after being penned, movies can seem more poignant and powerful with some age behind them. Unfortunately with age comes changes, and if an actor dies or a tabloid-worthy event stands to ruin someone’s career, a weight is added to the entire production. Below is a list of movies where that weight was channeled into greatness.

1. What Dreams May Come

This film is, for my money, the best example ever committed to celluloid (or digital data) regarding the afterlife. Not only is it beautiful in both script and sight, but the different interpretations of how the afterlife might look is thought-provoking. Ideas such as punishment, judgment, self-identity, even concepts of a personalized afterlife mixed with a communal one is addressed. The main plot revolves around Robin Williams trying to save his wife from the eternal punishment he believes awaits suicide victims, and ultimately the fact that they were soulmates allows him to do it.

Robin Williams unfortunately committed suicide. I don’t say this to profit or benefit from the shock, it’s just a fact. That fact juxtaposed with this film is what makes me sad. The man made the most beautiful interpretation of the afterlife (including the punishment that awaits suicide victims) that the world has ever known, and then ended up potentially damning himself to that very fate. The only thing that keeps me from fully coming apart is the hope that in the far future when his spouse passes, she’ll save him and live in the paradise showcased in this film.

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2. The Dark Knight
It’s easy to live in our current Batman world and guffaw at the stumbles that Christopher Nolan’s trilogy suffered. Other than internet trolls that are unpleasable, the quality jump between what we had before this trilogy and where we are now is not that dissimilar to the jump between Adam West’s dancing goofballery transitioning to Tim Burton’s first serious take on the Dark Knight. And a certain Heath Ledger performance is what really stands as the best part of all three movies combined in my eyes. His insanity, his balance between comedy and horror, and good God, that pencil trick introduction! This was a Joker that literally might kill you or might just wink at you and walk away.

Once again, tragedy struck and Heath died before the film was released. He won a posthumous Oscar for his performance, but that didn’t fix the hole in our hearts…or the third movie’s script. Originally the third film was going to have the Joker and Two-Face in it (or so I hear), but had to be reworked. And it shows. Any failings of TDKR is due to this rush job, and to think of the magic that the world could have had with Heath’s Joker breaks my heart.

3. Furious 7
Unless you were indecently touching yourself in the theater at the prospect of fancy cars, no one thought he Fast and the Furious franchise was going to be just that: a franchise. When they kept pumping out sequels, very few would have been surprised if one of those sequels were direct-to-video, ala The Scorpion King 3. Yeah, they made that. But somehow the cast and scripts kept getting better and better, and by the time Furious 7 came along to defy the laws of entropy, things got hotter. There was not only a continuity strong enough to warrant plot twists that people cared about, but the scripts became more than just cars, but about people as well.

In very unfunny irony, Paul Walker died in a car crash before this film was released. His star was beginning to truly shine, and the ending of this film where he says goodbye is all the more heartbreaking as we the audience are saying goodbye to Paul.

4. Tommy Boy

We lost Chris Farley way too soon. If anyone’s seen the trailer for I Am Chris Farley, you’ll know that all the comedians who worked with him loved him. Couple that with all the millions of fans he had, and you have a loss that robbed us all.

One could replace this with Black Sheep, though I think this film represents the highest point of Farley’s career. His delivery of the jokes both physical and scripted is simultaneously honest and sly. And unlike a certain Happy Madison, he never reduced himself to base toilet humor as a crutch, preferring self-deprecation that never felt mean. Watching this movie is a great way to spend an afternoon, but watching it with the knowledge that we’ll never get another Chris Farley movie hits us where it hurts. No, not the groin…the heart.

5. The Wrath of Khan

This movie is one of the core films that started this column. Its legend of making even the most stony-eyed macho man blubber like a baby is far known. What starts as a return of a minor villain from the original Star Trek series quickly becomes the finest example of revenge and self-sacrifice ever filmed. Still considered to be the best Star Trek film despite a growing base of competition, if it’s on TV you watch it.

J.J. Abrams is a very talented movie-maker. I wish him success in all that he does. But taking the best a series has to offer and going past the point of fan service into straight-up repetition is something I will never forgive him for. If you watch The Wrath of Khan alone, it’s amazing, if you watch Star Trek into Darkness alone, it’s pretty darn great too. But if you dare to watch them in that order, the hatred in your heart and the tears in your eyes will have no end as J.J. Abrams switches two of the characters to deliver the exact same scene. Then to twist the knife of having the death not even last 10 minutes before magic blood saves the day…what did I ever do to you J.J.?

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Daniel Epstein
Father, filmmaker, and writer. Once he won an Emmy, but it wasn't for being a father or writing.