5 Post-Apocalypse Movies That Make Guys Cry

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Post-apocalyptic movies might seem to be all about manliness, but they can be some real tearjerkers.

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 make guys cry, for example:

Post-Apocalypse Movies

You may think this is low-hanging fruit, taking a film where most of the world has died and trying to find a sad moment. I say while the lives of characters in apocalyptic films, from our points of view, are hellish and bleak, the inhabitants of these films view their existence as just the way it is. Very often post-apocalyptic movies are full of grizzled characters, the only personality that can survive the harsh wasteland that the fall of civilization left behind. The fall of mankind has already passed, and those left are used to the madness. I say it’s harder to find one of those characters sharing a tender moment than it is with a pre-apocalypse. Machismo is the name of the game, and even if those emerging from a bunker accustomed to the old ways are shocked by the new, toughening up is the way to survive.

That, and sharing a good cry.

1. Twelve Monkeys
I’m not talking about the TV show that’s coming out, but the Bruce “Yippie Ki-yay” Willis movie. This is one of Bruce’s many time-traveling movies and thanks to Terry Gilliam’s involvement, it’s a weird ride. A disease wipes out most of humanity, forcing the survivors to seek refuge underground to breathe stale air and slowly go insane over several decades. Somehow they cobble together a time machine and fling Bruce back to collect info on the virus.

Between the imprecise nature of their time machine and Bruce’s uncertainty of his own sanity, this film keeps everyone confused at all times. Still, it’s a hell of a ride. Then there’s the ending. Long story short with SPOILERS…Bruce gets killed in front of himself as a young boy. Not only does this lock his fate in a causality loop, it’s also damn scarring for the kid. No wonder he goes crazy, thus doubting the reality of his experience and distrusting the people around him which causes him to be locked up and meet his adversary and love interest in the first place…oh, no. I’ve gone cross-eyed.

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2. The Road
This film, from beginning to end, is one big sad-fest. Hard as it is to believe, the movie is actually less bleak than the book, but both are trudges. An unexplained cataclysm destroys the Earth (heavily suggested to be a meteor strike and ensuing dust-cloud winter), a father and son travel towards the coast assuming life there will be better. This post-apocalypse is even worse than Twelve Monkeys because animals and plant life are dead as well.

This movie is so bleak, I’m going to have to whip out a highlight list of reasons why we cry at this movie:

  • Not wanting to live through the horror of the apocalypse, the mom commits suicide
  • The dad carries two bullets SPECIFICALLY to commit suicide if things get bad
  • They find a basement full of emaciated people, being slowly eaten by cannibals. Save NO ONE.
  • The boy finds a butterfly in a tin can, the ONLY sign that the future of life on Earth has any chance of rebounding.

3. I Am Legend
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Dog death.

Man loses his daughter during the apocalypse, and treats his dog like the child he lost. Then he has to choke his dog/child to death due to failing to develop a cure for rabid-crap-CGI-creature syndrome in time. Plus, the crippling depression of the bad CGI ruining what was a masterful performance by Will Smith is just heartbreaking. Did you watch the look in his eyes? Can you believe that’s the same actor as the guy in After Earth?

4. The Book of Eli
Also known as “Fallout 3: The Movie.” This film is perhaps my favorite film on this list, because it’s both bleak and hopeful. Again, unspecified disaster has killed most of the Earth, even going so far as to cover the landscape with explosion craters. Eli has a Bible that he is Blues Brothering across the nation, being badass along the way. Sure we find out (SPOILERS) that he’s been blind the whole time, but clearly it doesn’t hinder him at all.

The saddest part for me is a much understated moment regarding his backpack. Denzel “Sexy-az-hell” Washington has a backpack with all his supplies, and a nametag that reads “Hi, my name’s Eli”. This suggests that Eli was a child young enough to need a nametag on his bag when the world ended. It also suggests that he had a loving family that provided him with said bag. I…I need to go hug my kid now. Possibly buy him a backpack. And the cool-looking iPod I saw during movie… HEY! Wait a second…

5. Snowpiercer
I saved this one for last, because it’s a recent movie and many might not want to have any spoilers. If not, this film’s on Netflix instant now and I highly recommend a viewing. And now, SPOOOOIIIIILERS!

A botched global warming fix leaves survivors on a self-sustaining train circling a completely frozen Earth. Poor people in back, rich in front, natch. While Captain America and Hellboy’s dad organize a revolt to equal the playing field, many secrets and surprises result in only Cap making it to the front of the train. Now there’s a “shocking” reveal that the poor people have been eating cockroaches without knowing it, but honestly protein is protein. What’s truly depressing is how we see humans beings used in different ways. The school is used as propaganda, indoctrinating kids to the new way of life. Poor people with artistic skills are forced to entertain the front of the train. The worst being children replacing parts that break, literally used as cogs in the machine. Kept in toolboxes and forced to work in areas not any bigger, these children all but lose their sentience and become a machine.

Was the plan to just keep going until the only humans left are keeping a train running for the sake of keeping it running? Ouch. How nihilistic.

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.


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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.