The Ice Cold Movies That Make 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:

“Ice Cold Movies”

I was going to call this “Frozen Movies” but then I realized no one would read it except children looking for Elsa and Anna. As January and February continually attack us with frigid temperatures and gloomy skies so grim there’s a mental health disorder spawned by it, the film industry has taken notice. The moviegoing public wants to be entertained but the cold permeates our psyche. So a myriad of films either take place in frozen locations, host them as backdrops to the story, or even feature the temperatures and weather as almost a character in and of itself. No, I’m not including Happy Feat, Ice Age, or Batman and Robin because these lists are for good movies that don’t make you want to claw your eyes out. What I do have a list of is five excellent films that will make you grab for your tissue, and your goose down jacket.

1. Fargo
Everyone hears this movie’s title and instantly thinks of poor Steve Buscemi being force-fed into a wood chipper. Honestly for some, that’s all you need to know, but for others this is a hilarious black comedy set in North Dakota. The wintery backdrop and local accents speak to innocence while the character’s actions are far from honorable. Pretty much everyone is trying to take advantage of everyone else, and you just get to choose who you’re rooting for and hope for the best. The best being not ending up in a wood chipper.

A good dark comedy is right up any guy’s alley, but what can get the tears flowing in this snowy scene? Well, the only actual innocent person (Macy’s kidnapped wife) is killed offscreen for no more reason than she was making a lot of noise. Because she was kidnapped. It’s sad that she was killed, but lots of people were killed in this movie that didn’t necessarily deserve it. What is sad is that her life was so inconsequential that her death was infinitely trifling. It was a punchline. That’s saying something, especially in this movie.

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2. Snowpiercer
Not sure how we could have a list of movies about snow and cold without featuring the excellent film about a world almost completely destroyed by those two things. The simple synopsis doesn’t do this film justice, as the visual motifs and metaphorical camera angles are delicious. A failed global warming countermeasure caused a sudden ice age, and the last humans are on a train that’s devolved into a microcosm of class warfare. There’s twists, heartbreaks, world building, and a sense of grimy fatigue that creates an addicting atmosphere. I’ve watched it at least 4 times and have no plans on stopping.

There’s several scenes that try to make you cry, and for all I know they succeed. But for my money, it’s all about the scene where child from the back of the train is forcibly taken to the front and his mom has no pictures of him. An artist working only with charcoal sketches a crude drawing of the boy, and even admits it’s not very good. The mixture of knowing her son is on the train but that she’ll never see him again mixed with the cruel insult of a poorly drawn picture being the only image of him she has is inhumanly dark. Such a good movie.

3. 30 Days of Night
This movie truly takes the dark cold and makes it a character. A city in Alaska that has a literal month of darkness finds itself under attack by Vampires who quite like the extended night. Edward sparklecheeks these vamps are not, with constant blood splatters and bone-snapping ferocity and strength on display. The town can’t run for help because of their isolation and the cold, and they can’t go for the authorities because the main character IS the authorities. It’s dark, violent, and full of energy though the film also knows when silence and stillness can be just as effective. A good movie to watch on a cold dark night for sure.

What’s sad about the movie is that it robs the viewer of their humanity while watching it. There’s a scene where survivors are hiding out, yet an elderly relative with dementia doesn’t know the situation he’s in and becomes a liability. The quickness that I personally thought “Well, Grandpa’s gotta go” was faster than I would have hoped, but the film makes a strong argument that when the laws of the animal kingdom are back in play, the weak and elderly need to get eaten for the strong to survive.

4. The Thing

Another excellent movie where cold, ice, and isolation are key to what makes the movie great. A shape-changing creature causing paranoia and fear is bad enough, but throw in an environment where just sitting outside too long can kill you is the icing on the cake. The main weapon employed by the humans is a flamethrower, making anti-cold the only savior they have. Kurt Russell does his best to keep the peace, but when severed heads start turning into crab creatures, there’s only so much you can handle. By the end of the film, it’s ambiguous if anyone survived, and to some degree it’s a moot point.

Of course there’s two related situations that strike me as the emotional core of the film. The first is Wilford Brimley who realized the severity of what they were dealing with was locked up as a madman until he was assimilated. The other is the ending where neither the audience nor the 2 remaining survivors know if either are still human, and sit back to allow the cold to kill them. The connecting theme is knowledge being unhelpful in saving them. Generally horror films need someone to hold the idiot stick for the plot to progress, but in this film it’s those with knowledge that get the biggest shaft.

5. The Grey

Remember when Liam Neeson wasn’t an action star? What a horrible world that was to live in. This film sees him as a suicidal hunter protecting a group of plane crash survivors in Alaska. Beset by the angriest pack of wolves in existence, the crew must attempt to survive. The attempt doesn’t go well, but it’s still very engaging to see them try. The cold and stark environment contrasted with the violent nature of the wolves (and the human in-fighting) is frightening yet beautiful. It’s not Taken with wolves, but it’s a solid installment in the Liam Neeson is an action god library.

The movie starts with Liam wanting to kill himself presumably because he doesn’t have purpose in his life. The movie ends with him revealing his wife had a terminal illness. Then (maybe) a wolf kills him. So as badass as he was, the short end of the stick is kinda his thing in this movie.

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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.