5 Nerdy Independent Films That Will Make You 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:

“Independent Movies”

The definition of an independent film is one that’s produced mostly or completely outside the major studio system. With so many smaller independent producers tracing their paychecks to the top Hollywood moguls, it’s a little harder to tell which films are truly independent and which ones are engineered to look that way. I say it’s easier to treat it like any art, “I know it when I see it.” It’s somewhat dangerous to take a chance on an independent film, as the quality can vary drastically from one to the next. Some baffle you why a larger studio didn’t scoop it up, while others just make you want to watch Batman to scrub your brain of what you just saw. When done right, an independent film can be a smaller, more intimate, and ultimately more surprising experience than anything big Hollywood can pump out. The quality of the gems you do find wholly outweigh the disappointments along the way, and I highly recommend throwing the dice every so often. Just be prepared to shed a tear or two.

1. Safety Not Guaranteed
Based on a real-life newspaper ad asking for a companion for time travel adventures, this film focuses on a group of reporters who want to get to know the type of person who would post such a job opening. Part of the charm of this film is figuring out whether the film universe is ours where time travel is still speculation, or if it’s a film world where there’s a chance of flying Deloreans and the like. The real core of the plot revolves around the exploration of what lives the main characters are leading, and why time travel would even be a desirable thing to do. It’s cute, exciting, funny, and was produced for $750,000!

What really gets me is a moment at the end where:

4. Reservoir Dogs
Hard to remember, but this was made for only a little over a million dollars, and squarely independently financed. Its cult status has catapulted it to higher fame, but the humble beginnings of this classic film are just that, humble. An interesting take on a heist movie in that there is in fact no heist shown, only the aftermath. Eight men, all going by aliases, get together after a heist that went south. Faults are blamed, guns are fired, and lives are lost.

Because everyone uses code names based off of colors, it’s hard to paint a picture of what exactly happens in this film. Skipping to the sad part, Mr. Orange and Mr. White are friends among thieves. It’s a real surrogate brotherhood, with White mentoring Orange because he’s a “good kid.” Mr. Orange is accused of being a police informant and Mr. White defends him. In the end, Mr. White finds out that Mr. Orange truly was a cop. The film drips with machismo and distrust. The fact that any of these characters even have the capacity to form a friendship is amazing, and for the only connection in the film to be destroyed is tough.

5. Little Miss Sunshine

I love movies where the grandparents and the children bond while the middle generation falls apart. Maybe it reminds me of my own life, but that’s an article for another day. This film, done for $8 million, was a huge hit due to its cute story, strong cast, and a few Oscars thrown in. It’s your basic family hygiene road trip movie, but less National Lampoonand more “Married with Children.” The key takeaway is that this large family is a collection of selfish weirdos, yet somehow combining them creates something loving and beautiful.

Of course the defining moment of the film is when Abigail Breslin reveals her dance routine that he grandfather Alan Arkin created for her as basically a stripper routine. She dances it proudly thinking it’s wonderful, and you get the sense that this routine is what her grandfather thought was wonderful as well. Full discloser, he grandfather would have gotten along with Al Bundy. The mixture of getting a posthumous look at what the grandfather passed on to his granddaughter, and the last straw that leads her family to gather as one and dance with her is touching. Even if you didn’t like the film up to that point, that one scene makes it all worth it.

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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.