Why Blade Runner Makes Guys Cry

Guy Cry: Blade Runner header

Watch out for some real tearjerker moments snuck between action sequences in this sci-fi classic.

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: Blade Crier Runner.

There are about 15 versions of this film floating around, all with minute changes barely perceptible unless viewed side to side. One version has a voice-over that the producer demanded, one has a dream sequence the director insisted on, one has Harrison Ford in a dress; the list goes on. Ultimately there are enough similarities in these versions that what I talk about below can refer to any of them, so don’t feel bad if you’ve only re-bought the film four times.

First, let’s make sure this qualifies as a “manly” movie. Gunfights? Check. Flying cars and dystopian future? Check, though these days “dystopian future” is being reclaimed by the young adult fiction crowd. (We get it, teenagers won’t play by your rules!) Evil robots killing humans? Check, or maybe not check, depending on which side you fall on deciding if the robots are evil or not. Or if they’re robots or not. Or if the people they’re killing are humans. This movie is very ambiguous, guys! Suffice to say, this is a movie that bro-hams can boast watching to their bro-friends before eating a big bowl of bro-io’s.

But if it’s so macho, why does it make guys cry? Let’s jump in and find out.

The film is in a future where Asian and Western influences have merged. Think Firefly meets The Fifth Element in a world where cars fly, slums are on bottom level, and geisha makeup has made a comeback. Harrison “Gravel voice” Ford is a cop who hunts down replicants, early versions of Cylon skinjobs before they installed the orgasm-spinal cord LED strips. So Indiana Jones is running around the Fifth Element giving people an empathy test to see if they’re robots or not, and if they are he shoots them. Why wasn’t that on the poster?

Meanwhile we follow Rutger “Hobo with a shotgun” Hauer and his crew of robo-pals as they quest to find the one ring — um, I mean to overcome their built-in shelf life of only a few years. They don’t want to start any I, Robot revolution, or a Terminator apocalypse, they just want to live. Despite their habit of killing everyone they come across, they’re really not bad guys. So we start to root for both Han Solo as he tests/shoots everyone he sees “Cause it’s his job,” and the cyber-super-friends off to find the wizard — I MEAN extend their expiration date.

Now, previous CEO of Wayne Enterprises Rutger Hauer isn’t without his sadistic qualities. In a death that still chills me to the core (it’s a pun, wait for it), they visit James “Kung-Fu Panda’s Dad” Hong who’s in a huge fridge making robot eyes. Disconnecting his heating tube, the robo-gang question him for information while he slowly freezes to death. It’s extremely uncomfortable to watch, as each answer he gives is slower and quieter, until he just stops. Let’s just say you may root for the synthetics, but you wouldn’t want to hang out with them.

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Let’s fast-forward to the ending, where Roy Batty (Wonderful name for a villain, don’t you think?) has quite literally met his maker, and is basically told there’s nothing to be done. No, it’s even worse than that. The proverbial Wizard of Oz just told Roy that not only will he die for no reason, but that his maker has a genetic disorder that will cause him to die early too. Much like a son learning he has a fatal genetic condition, hearing “it’s okay because Dad is dying too” doesn’t help. Roy monologues about how he’s stronger than humans, his mind is faster, his eyes can see spectrums that we just can’t, yet he has to die because he was programmed with the same weakness as his creator. The conflict of love and hate for his creator comes to a head literally — Roy both kisses and then smashes the head of his “parent.”

This alone would be enough to make guys cry. The idea that we are mortal is something most men like to forget, because projecting the illusion of invulnerability is considered the job of being a man. Learning that your parents are not invulnerable is a huge blow as well. Not only is there the realization that you’ll lose them one day, but that you can die if they can. So to find out that you’re dying, your parents are dying, and no one can do anything about it is maddening. But the movie wasn’t done with us yet.

Indiana Solo bursts in, fresh from killing all the other Cylons. Robo-Rutger chases him over rooftops, all the while his body shutting down. Han Ford misses a jump, and would have fallen to his death were it not for the bad guy saving him FOR NO APPARENT REASON! At least that’s the face Harrison gives.

But we know the reason, seeing Rutger’s motivation through the film. He didn’t want to kill people, just to live. Now that he felt his body dying and knew what that meant, there was no need to have Harrison die. On top of that, Roy can live on past his deactivation symbolically as the person — person –that saved Deckard’s life. In the final proof of “#NotAllSynthetics,” Rutger shows compassion and empathy, something that Ford’s test was supposed to not find in replicants. Sucks to be you, Harrison!

As Indiana Jones stares wildly confused as to why he was rescued, we are treated to a now-famous monologue by the dying Rutger. In what would later be admitted as complete improvisation, he muses on all his experiences and memories being lost in his death, like tears in the rain.

Just meditate on the depressing futility of that last line, and the soul-crush it delivers. THAT is why Blade Runner makes guys cry. Not only is this a macho movie to a degree, it’s an apt sci-fi analogy of a real human condition. Men grow up in the shadows of their fathers, whether present or absent. Roy had to grow up and face his own mortality in the shadow of actual humans, and then he had to accept how insignificant his life is relative to the big picture. In dying, Roy finally graduated from a mere imitation of sentience to actual sentience. It’s beautiful and tragic.

Also, there’s unicorns!

Like what you see? Secure enough in your masculinity for more? Dan also works 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.