Guy Cry: Child Actors social

These movies may be kid-centric, but they pack an adult-sized emotional punch.

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:

Child Actor Films

The shorthand for movies with children in them goes like this: child actor = expected to be bad. Only in a rare few films are the children true actors, as opposed to kids of the director who got the job despite little to no existence of talent or skill. When a rare movie does have such a pint-sized performer who knows what they are doing, the movie generally does quite well. These islands of quality turn a profit at least and become classics at best. And since most — if not all — of us used to be children at some point, we can identify with them as long as the writing is engaging. Can movies where the protagonists are children make us cry? I would argue that they’re the most capable to do so.

1. The Goonies
A group of kids go on a treasure hunt to save their neighborhood from foreclosure, all the while being chased by crooks. There’s no need for a twist, no stunt casting involved. Just a group of kids who not only did a hell of a job acting, but grew up into full-on powerhouses. Josh “Thanos” Brolin, Sean “Samwise” Austin, Corey “Lost Boys” Feldman…well that last one’s debatable, but still!

This film does its best emotional work when we see life through a kid’s eyes. Mikey struggles to have any sort of control over his life. His parents can’t afford their house, his friends are quick to give up at the first chance they get, and even his body doesn’t fully stand behind him (asthma). The most emotional part for me is when the crew has a chance to end their treasure hunt midway through. He stops them, explaining that the world is not their world, it is their parent’s world. No matter who you are, you can relate to the feeling that someone else is making the decisions in your life, and you just have to take it. The allure of forging their own path, even if only for a little while, spurs his friends to push on.

2. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Gene Wilder, not Johnny Depp, in case you were wondering which version this title refers to. The original movie is the adaptation of a story about how terrible most children are, it did a far better job of conveying a message AND entertaining than the new one. The children actors did a far better job of conveying real personalities instead of the one-note creatures from Tim Burton’s version. Giving some slack for the need to sing, the kids in these movies were flawed kids…but still kids. And Charlie excellently fit the role of a human child who wanted more for his family, as opposed to the new one who’s so mature beyond his years it’s almost creepy.

Emotional part? When Charlie finds the ticket. The movie expertly fakes out the viewer several times, raising our hopes and dashing them. Yet the optimism that Charlie shows each time exemplifies childhood wonder, and so when he finally does see the gold paper, we cheer for him. If tears arrive, they’re tears of joy.

3. The Sixth Sense
Remember when we thought Haley Joel Osment was a good actor? Remember when we thought M. Night Shyamalan was a good director? It was because of this movie. Setting aside the twist that would forever define M. Night’s career, this was and is an intense horror film. Even though Bruce Willis is in it, Haley is the protagonist. And boy did he sell it that he’s scared out of his Buzz Lightyear underwear.

There’s really no one scene that made me cry: it’s the boy’s situation on the whole. This child, as we all know by now, can see dead people. For some reason, the dead can only communicate through jump scares. His mom doesn’t believe him and all his classmates ridicule him so what can Haley do? Nothing. That’s what really depresses me the most. Even at the end of the film when he resolves to help the dead as opposed to developing a fear-ulcer, he still has to deal with that sh*t for life. And from the premature greying in his hair, his life won’t be that long.

4. The NeverEnding Story
Most of you just broke down crying right now. I’m so sorry. This film is the simple story of a boy who reads a book, and finds the lines between his imagination and reality blurring. I’m not going to lie: It’s pretty fantastic.

Again we see the same theme of children not being masters of their own fate. The book reader is bullied and retreats into his books to escape reality. Both the child reading the book and the child actors within the book’s story do a superb job of selling the fantasy setting, and several adult actors could take a page or two out of this book.

Did you like the horse that the in-book protagonist had? Did you cry when the horse lost all hope? Did you lose your freaking sh*t when, due to losing all hope, the horse slowly drowned in a marsh while the boy watched and cried? If you have a soul you did.

5. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
This film could not have succeeded with bad child actors, it’s just that simple. Steven Spielberg is known for his ability to produce childhood wonder to the point that J.J. Abrams tried to replicate it with Super-8 — and fairly successfully I might add. But if I had to choose one, I’ll go with the original. This film is so much from the child’s perspective that the evil government is barely humanized. Most of the shots are from waist high, reenforcing the point of view of a child.

This one’s so old and beloved that it feels almost unnecessary to go into the scene that makes us cry, but here it goes: E.T. begins to die, presumably due to being separated from Elliott, the boy he emotionally imprinted on. As both the alien and the boy start to die, no one knows what to do. Sure, the government agents know how to resuscitate humans, but E.T.? They basically give him oxygen and put thumbs in their butts. When the human boy’s life is bound to E.T.’s fate, and his fate is in the hands of those with thumbs up their butts…it becomes a hard scene to watch without tearing up.

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.

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