Think a grim war movie can’t be a tearjerker? Think again.
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:
I’m not talking about a war with the machines a la The Terminator, or a war on drugs as in Scarface, or even the mob wars showcased in The Godfather. War movies are literally movies that take place during a war. Generally it’s Vietnam or WWII, though WWI creeps in there sometimes. War movies allow us, as an audience, to see the ground level horrors that soldiers experience, instead of the propaganda-filtered newscasts served to us. Per Ron Perlman, “War never changes,” but they sure change those who fight in them. These movies are intense, with emotional bombs that blast through even the thickest walls protecting our hearts. Revealing, sometimes funny but always captivating, war movies are some of the most manly films… as well as routinely tear-jerkers.
1. Saving Private Ryan
These days either Tom Hanks or Matt Damon would do as a lead in a war film, but this doubles down and gives us both. Lucky us, though the bulk of the film is Tom looking for Matt. The film expertly shows how priorities shift in battle. What started as an extraction mission changed to a bridge defense mission, and men who began as cowards became brave. Personally, I was only able to watch this film once due to a very disturbing and heart-wrenching scene.
One of Tom “Woody” Hanks’ men is vocally Jewish, taunting the Germans that he’s still living. Later in the film this man, played by Adam Goldberg, is in a sniper tower with another soldier who’s “protecting him.” Screw this other soldier. Screw him sideways. A German soldier gets to Adam and a fight ensues, leading to a stalemate with a knife, while Corporal Coward sits there peeing himself. Adam loses stamina and SLOOOOOWLLLY gets stabbed to death, begging for his life while the enemy whispers for him to be quiet. THAT’S A BIG FAT PILE OF NOPE! The whole whisper-slow stab thing is on my phobia list now.
2. The Deer Hunter
A stark tale of the Human-Deer war of 1947. Or not.
This film is just…just the worst. Not in a bad way, but in an “I’m gonna need a bigger box of tissues” way. The war in this film is Vietnam, and the big ol’ star is Robert DeNiro. Oh, and some guy named Christopher Walken won an Oscar for being in it. I wonder what that guy’s voice sounds like?
The overall message of the film is that the Vietnam War destroyed people’s minds. It doesn’t help that the main protagonists are captured and held in a POW camp, where they’re forced to play Russian roulette with each other. There are scenes that make you tear up every other moment, but the worst part is when Christopher “Funny Voice” Walken is discovered in Saigon by friends who thought him dead. Walken has been playing the death game and shooting up with heroin for so long his mind is gone, yet when his friends join the game he wakes up. Then he proceeds to lose at Russian roulette, after taking what would have been his last round.
Well, I guess it still was. THE FEEEEEEEEEELS!
Dammit, Vietnam! I get it! Everyone who fought in your war is emotionally destroyed! This film could have been named Friendly Fire, because half the confrontations emanate from such accidents. Oh, I’m sorry…”accidents.”
Big stars in this film are Charlie Sheen and some flying green guy named Willem Defoe (Plus Keith David, my very favorite voice, in all things). Without going into every plot twist, we’re dealing with good soldier sees soldier who’s lost it a little being cruel for no reason, tries to kill him, then others try to retaliate, rinse, wash and repeat. The really sad part about this film is that everyone keeps trying to injure themselves to get out of war. On guy sprays bug repellent on his feet, another stabs his own leg…really the enemy doesn’t have to do anything but wait for our guys to keep friendly-firing and self-injuring themselves. The horror of war being so bad that these men lose their minds, commit self-harm, kill each other for seeing them kill still others…it’s horrifying.
And the overarching theme of the film tends to be, “the better you are at war, the less human you become,” along with something frank about there being no more actual “good guys” in modern warfare. Ahead of its time, that notion.
4. The Hurt Locker
A newer film starring Hawkeye and Falcon, I mean Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie. Jeremy is a bomb disposal master, but he’s a sort of adrenalin-junkie who takes many needless risks. Stuff happens in the movie involving bombs and disposing of them, or dangerously not disposing of them — just go see it for that. The sad part is when Jeremy gets home.
This war machine, this trained soldier on leave, walks in a supermarket. He’s so bored, so impotent when not disposing bombs in a war zone that he doesn’t know what to do with himself. Despite all of humanity mentally sending him “SHUT UP” messages, Jeremy tells his son that there’s only one thing he knows and loves (spoiler alert: it’s not his son). Then he starts another year-long tour of duty. I don’t know what’s more painful: Jeremy’s impotence at not being in war, or telling his son that he’d rather be almost-killed constantly than spend time with him.
5. Apocalypse Now
Remember that book Heart of Darkness you had to read in school? No? Well just watch this movie: same basic deal. There’s a few versions of this but they all involve Martin “Hey my son was on this list too!” Sheen searching for Marlon “Superdaddy” Brando who’s gone missing in the Vietnam War…HOLY HELL ARE THESE ALL ABOUT THE VIETNAM WAR?!
Sheen sets off to find Brando and kill him, as Brando has gone nutso and tricked a local tribe into treating him as a god. Jump to the end, and Sheen succeeds but loses all but one of his men in doing so. Despite all the violence and horror that this film displays, the sad part for me is the very beginning. Prior to being “activated” for this secret mission, Sheen passes civilian time by drinking and hallucinating. That’s his basic Saturday night…and every other night. His sheer failure to re-integrate into civilian life is staggering, and how much more at ease Sheen seems in the jungle is equally so. One wonders how he will react after the events of this film.
Notable cool stuff: This film has Harrison Ford, Dennis Hopper, and an incorrectly-credited Laurence Fishburne. It’s both the source of “I love the smell of napalm in the morning,” and “the horror…the horror.” It’s pretty bad-ass.
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.