The 5 Movies That Make Only Very Specific 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:

“Cult Movies”

The definition of this list is more important than usual because the definition of a “cult” movie is fluid depending on who you’re speaking to. Some define it as a movie that did terribly at the box office, but then gained a second life on home video. Others define it as a movie that’s defended to the death by a fiercely loyal group, despite many flaws they choose to overlook. Still others define it as movies that are so stuck up their own ass that only film study majors can even stomach them, like that one guy who claims he likes eating lemons because it “cleanses his palate.” For today’s purposes we’re going to take a little from all those definitions, while as always showcasing films that are manly yet emotional. A fair warning: cult movies that would feel at home at a Troma festival are not being considered.

1. Memento
Sure, it’s Christopher “Bat-Tank” Nolan’s first big film but the non-linear plot, mix of color and black-and-white filming, and modest budget keeps it in the cult category in my eyes. Guy “Mandarin” Pierce is a man with no ability to form new memories, yet is trying to track down his wife’s killer. His body a roadmap of tattoos to help him make progress, his surroundings blanketed with sticky notes and polaroid reminders. To simulate the memory problems that Guy deals with, the plot is doled out in reverse, so the audience is unable to know what came before. Brilliant to be sure, and hard boiled as anything.

The sad part is (spoiler) the reveal that Guy was the one who killed his wife. This is split into two heart-wrenching parts: the first when Guy is told a story about another memory patient who repeatedly gave his wife insulin until she died, and the second part is when Guy learns that was HIS wife. Personally, I find the idea of lovingly administering medication to your wife over and over again, not knowing that you are killing her, is a serious blow to the feels.

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2. Brazil
Anything from Terry Gilliam really fits as a cult movie, because his work is so polarizing. Never doing gangbusters at the box office but always finding enough of an audience to become classics, Terry’s work is often found in a movie library. It’s easy to say this is a film about a man wrestling with the commercialization and bureaucracy of his world in contrast with his desire to be free, but the film borders on being as indecipherable as a drug trip so words fail me in describing the plot. Suffice to say, it’s debatable what happens in many parts and that’s what makes it so sad.
Despite it being established that once Elizabeth Swann’s dad was captured and tortured, everything that occurs afterwards was only in his mind, there are still many who reject that and insist that he escaped. Do you know why? Because the thought of the bad guys winning so entirely and thoroughly is so unpalatable that many only watch the cut where it’s not revealed as a dream. It’s so sad that people close their eyes and ignore certain scenes to make it better. How’s that for sad?

3. Donnie Darko
Much like Primer, this is a film that may make sense to you when you see it, but afterwards you’ll find yourself reading plot summaries online just to realize you had no idea what just happened. There’s so much not explained in the film that the director just assumes we understand, like pocket universes and people destined to correct the time flow before the pocket universe collapse on itself. It’s super-cult, but still a worthwhile film.

My knee-jerk reaction is just listening to the “Mad World” song as the reason why this film is sad. Not sure that counts, so I’ll list another. Donnie is portrayed as a very goth kid with not the best social skills, however he bonds with a girl through the film and seems happy. Then she’s killed for (insert plot here) and we really feel the weight of his loss. Not having a vast network of relationships, this one human connection meant the world to him, and its loss is huge. When the pocket universe rejoins the normal time stream (this movie is dumb) and everyone is brought back to life, we have a scant few moments to hope Donnie will gain happiness…then he’s crushed by a jet engine. You kinda have to be there.

4. Fight Club
Do you know someone who owns this film? Sure you do. Better question: do you know someone who quotes this film constantly and thinks it’s the best thing ever in the world ever???? Yep, this one falls square in the “loyal following of fans” category of cult classic. Sure, it’s got Brad Pitt being so manly that people get into underground fistfights just cause he says so, but it’s not perfect. That being said, the film is tough as nails and very entertaining, and was practically built from the ground up to have a cult following. It’s about a cult!!

Edward Norton’s character at one point realizes that he’s created a monster that he can’t stop. He begs his followers to not do what they want to do, but he’s trained them to ignore him. It’s like he built an escape-proof death room and then accidently locked himself in. The panic in his eyes as he realizes the full extent of his powerlessness is soul-crushing.

5. Evil Dead 2

You really think I’m going to have a list of cult classics without paying tribute to the King? Hail to the King, baby! Bruce “Groovy” Campbell accidentally lets loose a force of evil while staying in a cabin in the woods and has to fight them. In the process EVERYONE other than Bruce dies and Bruce loses a hand. Don’t worry, he attaches a chainsaw to the stump (I know, right?!) It’s fun, scary, funny, gory, and directed by Sam “Best Spider-Man director to date” Raimi. But it’s also sad.

Remember the part where we said Bruce was the only survivor? Well one of the corpses was his girlfriend, the reason he wanted to go to the cabin in the first place. He has a few tender moments with her, gives her a present that’s clearly sentimental to him, and then she gets possessed. Not only is Bruce forced to dispatch her, but then her corpse mocks him until he dispatches her again. That’s cold, that’s evil… dead? (Dr. Evil pinky grin.)

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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.