Guy Cry Cinema

5 Movies with Female Leads that Make Guys Cry

Guy Cry Female leads

The goal of this series is to show that being “manly” and being disconnected with your emotions do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. While the approach to these articles is one of comedy and satire, the emotional core of these movies is very valid. Manly movies often times have the potential to make guys cry, for example:

“Female Leads”

There are plenty (though not as much as there should be) films with female leads. For today’s purposes I’m not focusing on films with females in leading roles ALONGSIDE men, but rather as the only main character. Hunger Games? Half her motivation is love interest. Divergent? Same thing. I’m talking about the movies that show how badass women can be. I’m taking about the movies that make any viewer root for the hero and forget gender. I’m talking about the following list of great movies that hopefully will have many more joining their ranks in the coming years. For my money women leads in films try harder, knowing the rare honor they have grabbed from the otherwise male dominated industry. I’ll take one Decent over 10 Guy Pierce Lockout pieces of junk any day.

1. Aliens

Yes, Sigourney Weaver is in all 4 (soon to be 5) Alien franchise films. And yes, I’m ignoring the Alien vs Predator movies because they don’t deserve to be mentioned. The purpose of picking the second film over the first one is how the character of Ripley is treated. In the first film, she’s reactionary. Nothing is known about the alien creature, and though Ripley rises through the ashes as a survivor, that’s all she is; a survivor. In the second film, Ripley already knows what she’s facing. She’s so confident that despite being surrounded by professional commandos (something she wishes she had in the first film) she dismisses them as naive and under-prepared. By the end of this film Ripley can look a 20 foot space-monster in the face and lob verbal insults at it. Try telling Ripley from the first movie to do that!

The sad part comes from a small few lines of dialogue, and if not for the recent Alien: Isolation video game might still be more obscure than mainstream. Ripley had a daughter. “Had” being the operative word; between the first and second film Ripley slept through her daughter’s entire life. Thanks to Paul “Jerk-face” Reiser’s machinations, Ripley has no chance to truly digest this, and instead finds Newt as a surrogate daughter. Then when Newt is carried away near the end of the film, Ripley snaps. Luckily for Newt, she snaps in the “fight” rather than “flight” direction, but the prospect of sleeping through one daughter’s life, then watching another daughter get space-rape-exploded was too much for her to bear. It’s an “eff-yeah” tear being shed, but a tear nonetheless.

Full disclosure: I’m putting serious thought into naming my potential future daughter Ripley. Cause awesome.

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2. The Decent

Have you seen this film? WHAT?! Oh you saw The Cave instead, cause you’re an idiot? Gotcha.

This is one of the tightest action/horror films in recent history, and it’s glorious. Group of girls go spelunking for fun/to get the main character to forget her dead husband. The best part of that is that while there’s a love interest/triangle thing going, no men have to be present.

The main character follows a similar path of Ripley in Aliens; starts out with trauma, starts to feel confident again, finds out a person she trusted is un-trustworthy, GOES ALL OUT BALLISTIC! This time instead of outer space, it’s in a highly claustrophobic cave and instead of aliens, it’s evolutionary variant sub-humans. The character motivations are solid, the scares are earned, and the main character walks a perfect line of victim and self-assured hero.

The sad point is when she finds out her best friend not only cheated with her late husband, but murdered her friend. Murder in the form of not saving, but it’s enough to snap the protagonist into the attacker instead of the victim. The catharsis when she wounds the cheating friend and leaves her as a distraction while escaping proves you don’t need balls to be ballsy.

3. Maleficent

This entry was originally Silence of the Lambs but I couldn’t in good conscience ignore this agreeably recent entry. Who would have thought Disney would take one of their most vicious and evil villains and make her not only relatable, but nuanced enough to be rooted for? Many have discussed the film’s allegory to rape, and generally you don’t find that sort of topic in a Disney film. The realistic yet peripheral approach to this very real issue is both the film’s strongest asset and its largest source of sadness.

Within this film, we are shown that Mal (what I call her, we’re tight) loves her life, loves to fly, and is free. Then a guy she trusts drugs her and does something to her (rape, cut off wing, whatever you interpret) that leaves her broken both physically and mentally. Watching Mal realize what’s happened to her as she wakes is disturbing and unsettling. She needs a cane to walk. She is visibly different and emotionally scarred. Mal seeks revenge from her aggressor but takes it out on innocence. No matter your gender or age, everyone can get something out of seeing Mal come back from that dark place, regaining her confidence (or wings, whatever) and stepping back into the light.

4. Kill Bill volume 1, Kill Bill volume 2

Do you consider these two films, or one long one? Either way, Uma Thurman shows us that women are forces of nature that shouldn’t be trifled with. Between her killing Vivica A. Fox and accepting that her kid might one day seek revenge, to digging her way out of a grave through sheer will (and some training), Uma is one bad-asssssssssssssss.

The sad part is at the end of the second volume, when she’s in the room with the titular Bill and her daughter she thought was dead. Bill calmly reveals that he’s raised Uma’s daughter, and has her complete trust. Uma just killed most of everyone trying to get to Bill, and yet finds herself in a situation where all her skills as a fighter are useless. The pure fear of not wanting Bill to hurt her daughter is amplified by the shock of trying to reconcile that she has a daughter. It’s a highly tense scene, and full of emotion. And it’s immediately followed by a heartbreaking verbal fight with Bill about who hurt who, who’s sins are worse, who deserves what…it’s a nasty divorce. And it just happens to take place between two of the deadliest people on earth.

5. Gravity

Also known as Female Cast Away…In Space!, this film is a story about disaster and how one woman refuses to give up. It’s fantastic. I debated including this along with Maleficent due to both being so recent, but that’s just a reflection on how far women have come recently in the industry. Plus, (despite not looking it at all) both these women are middle-aged, which is historically hard for Hollywood to deal with. I hope that the success of these films will prove to the powers that be that women can be amazing even if they aren’t 21 anymore.

I feel the saddest part of the film is when Sandra has to let George Clooney die, but that doesn’t mean she needed a man on hand to make me care. Sandra “Would play my wife in a movie” Bullock retreats into her work after a random accident took her child. Many viewers can relate to this level of escaping one’s problems by burying their heads in work/drink/whatever, and in that regard it’s highly relatable. But between the accident that took her child’s life and the accidents that propel the plot forward in space, it’s always external. With George, she’s the one who “pulls the trigger” and thus must accept responsibility for it. Through Sandra’s transformation from timid and broken to daring and indomitable we know she’s not going to blame herself for her child’s death or for what happened in space. She will blame herself for letting George go, and agonize what she could have done to save him. Not because he’s a man, not because there was any romantic tension, but because it was a life in her hand and she had to let it go to save herself. That’s a heavy weight AAAAAAAAAAADO YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE?! CAUSE IT’S GRAVITY?!

Like what you see? Secure enough in your masculinity for more? Check out more Guy Cry Cinema or watch Dan on No Right Answer, the weekly debate show that knows what’s really important: Pointlessly arguing about geek culture.


About the author

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