Guy Cry: Father/Son: social

When it comes to movies focused on the relationship between fathers and sons, you know there are going to be some tears.

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:

Father/Son Movies

We couldn’t very well call this a column about manly films that make guys cry without mentioning the genre of father/son films. Sure, some films like Big Fish are chemically designed to make guys cry, sing “Cats in the Cradle” and call their dads or sons. It’s the other films, the ones you don’t expect to be sad, that blindside you. Disney films traditionally are about daughters and fathers (read: Little Mermaid) and many family films are about fathers and all their kids (read: Hook). It takes a truly special film to focus on the father/son dynamic, and what it means for men to live up to their father’s footsteps.

And, no, Star Wars doesn’t count. Just because one is the other’s daddy doesn’t mean the plot is affected at all by it.

1. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Some may call this the ultimate father/son movie, but where does it make guys cry? Let’s dissect.

With two films under his belt, Indy was known to guys as the man’s man. But Sean Connery was known to the world as the ultimate man’s man, so who budges? It was perfect casting to have one come from the other, but then the reality set in that these two didn’t have an easy time living with each other. Both fighting for the upper hand, neither wanting to admit they were wrong: Indy and daddy Bond are all but casual acquaintances for half of the film.

Then, in the “no tickets” blimp scene, Sean Connery says Indy left just when he was getting interesting, painfully suggesting that Sean had no interest in raising a child, only knowing a man. Indy accuses James Bond Jones of not being there for him, never talking. This can be as trivial or as deep as the viewer wants it to be, but ultimately Sean puts Indy on the spot, insisting that if he had something to say that he should say it.

Indy says nothing, not because he had nothing to say, but that it was clear his dad wasn’t someone he could confide and communicate with. Anyone who had strained relationship with their father felt mighty uncomfortable with this scene, in what was otherwise a simple action comedy.

2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

The best way to describe this film, once “creepy” and “nostalgic” were taken, would be inconsistent. The tone switches between anime-level zaniness with sound effects and punch-zooms to character drama quite often. Master Splinter, the boss that he is, refers to his turtles as his “sons,” and they regard him as their father. The respect is there (unlike with Indy), but that’s counteracted by Splinter’s speech about the turtles needing to prepare for the day he’s gone.

Then, fast forward to him being kidnapped by his mortal enemy Shredder. The boys are left assuming the worst. In what they could only assume was foreshadowing, Splinter was gone and they were still children trying to find their way in the world. As rubbery and Cory Feldman-y as they were, the scene of the turtles crying or of Raphael screaming with rage and anguish shared by us all.

And then you add his weird Force ghost speech to them, which basically amounts to, “You have found the answer to how to survive without me, by finding strength in each other.” Sure, he’s not actually dead at all, but that’s a powerful realization for siblings that have recently lost parents.

3. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
This is a newer film, but they’ve already come out with the sequel so I figure enough time’s passed to discuss it. It’s a great film, so if you haven’t seen it, just skip this section for fear of spoilers.

James “I ruined the Oscars once” Franco works on a cure for Alzheimer’s, completely altruistically…except his dad totally has Alzheimer’s. In fact, Franco ignores many risks and safety procedures due to his admiration and love for the man his father was before the most anguishing illness took him. But ignoring safety protocols worked out so great for the cast of Alien, so I’m sure nothing bad happens.

Point is, Franco thinks he’s cured his dad who for all intents and purposes has returned from senility and eventual death. John Lithgow portrays a highly intellectual and loving father, so for his son not only to cure his lost sanity but revive their father/son relationship is glorious. Then as the drug wears off and Franco frantically tries a stronger dose (read: reason the world ends), Lithgow stays Franco’s hand and shakes his head no. For all Franco’s accomplishments, his father had to stop him and force Franco to admit failure. Perhaps if Lithgow had grabbed Franco’s hand a few weeks earlier, we wouldn’t be ruled by apes, but that’s splitting hairs.

4. There Will Be Blood

Remember the film that wasn’t No Country for Old Men that came out a few years ago? It was this film, where an oil baron is a jerk for three hours and then kills a guy with a bowling pin. I’m sure there was more to it, but I didn’t like Scarface and this was basically the turn-of-the-century, oil-driven version of Scarface.

That being said, the father/son dynamic and plot of this film are absolutely soul-crushing. Daniel Day-Oil Baron adopts a child and uses him as a prop in screwing people out of their oil-rich lands. “Look at me, I’m not evil, I’m a family man showing my boy the business” Daniel would say, while screwing families out of their homesteads and generally being a dick. An unfortunate oil derrick explosion leaves the boy deaf, and when faced with the choice of either taking a vacation from dicking to tend to his boy or dicking it up while sending the boy away to a special school, he choses dicking it up.

Fast forward to years later, where the two reunite long enough for the boy to tell his father that he’s going into the oil business and effectively becoming competition. Daniel Day-Dick for the first time tells the boy, in a particularly horrid fashion that he was adopted, and the boy responds by essentially saying “Thank God.” Before we can recover from that, we then see the world’s worst father grow old alone in a gigantic empty mansion, his only willing visitor being his mortal enemy. That’s so depressing, it’s no wonder he became all-out deranged and obsessed with milkshakes.

5. Frequency

I feel like this film wasn’t widely seen, though everyone I asked had seen it. Dennis Quaid is in it, so there’s that?

Due to…Aurora Borealis?…Quaid’s son in present day is able to communicate with his long-dead Daddy Quaid through their ham radios. Once the suspicion of “Is this really you?” is passed, they have fun with it, bonding again as they did when both shared the same house. Then comes the sad parts, where Dad learns of his own demise, and of his son’s recently failed relationship due to the trauma that Quaid caused. Sonny boy (Who was so bland I refuse to name him) gives Quaid info to avoid dying in a fire, but the new timeline has him dying of cancer AND now mom was murdered. Way to go, Blandy!

After a long string of time travel shenanigans, Quaid finally doesn’t die and joins the son in the present. It’s a fun movie that Looper borrowed quite a lot from, and definitely worth a view. Just watch out for the feels, in talking to your long dead dad only to accidentally kill your mom.

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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