Five films that will have your heart ripped open

Sarah Polley and Mark Ruffalo in <i>My Life without Me</i>.

Sarah Polley and Mark Ruffalo in My Life without Me.

As far as my own emotional spectrum goes, I’m not a big crier. I cried a lot when my mother died, and it was a healthy, necessary kind of crying that seemed a useful part of the grieving process. But then Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams split up and the world no longer made sense to me anymore. The ol’ tear ducts dried up, and I resolved never to get close to anyone like that ever again.

But no woman is an island. Even those whose hearts have been turned black by disappointment or feminist witchcraft need to have a good cathartic cry every now and again. If weeping over your own life seems about as probable as Tony Abbott’s head exploding and revealing the litter of feral cats left in charge of his neurological faculties, there are other options.

They are called Hollywood Movies.

Now, as the good people of Twitter proved to me on Sunday night there are literally scores of cinematic efforts that send people spiralling into a pit of despair.


To list them all would be impossible. So I’ve chosen five (a mere drop in the ocean of tears that make up this entire category) to get you started on your short journey to total emotional ruin. Add your own in the comments! 

1. The Champ

I’m not really a huge sports fan. I play one, but only because it’s on rollerskates and you get to hit things. But sports movies are a different story. There’s nothing quite like the narrative of an underdog to get your goofy hiccoughing cry on. When the Jamaican bobsled team in Cool Runnings crash and you’re worried that they might have hurt themselves, but instead they carry their sled across the finish line like proud heroes while everyone slow claps around them? I DIE.

The Champ is not that movie.

Directed by Franco Zeffirelli, it stars Jon Voight as Billy ‘The Champ’ Flynn, an ex boxer struggling to make ends meet as a horse trainer while raising his son as a single dad. When his ex shows up again, Champ returns to boxing to try and win the kind of big prize money that can compete with her new husband’s money and ensure he retains custody of his son, superbly portrayed by a young Ricky Schroeder. As the movie hurtles towards its devastating conclusion, you will discover exactly what it means to be turned inside out, ripped apart and then glued back together using adhesive mixed from the tears of baby animals abandoned by their families because there was something wrong with them. 


2. My Girl

Vada Sultenfuss (Anna Chlumsky) lives with her widowed father in a funeral home, which might account for her morbid fear of death and extreme hypochondria. She spends her days fantasising about her English teacher and playing with her allergic-to-everything best friend Thomas J (a still-cute Macauley Culkin). When her father begins to date his new beauty mortician Shelly (Jamie Lee Curtis), Vada turns her attention to trying to split them up.

It’s a sweet coming of age story set against a nostalgic backdrop and scored by a killer soundtrack. But for 80s babies raised on My Girl, all of that pales in comparison to the real purpose of the film - and that is to watch as Thomas J ventures out to search for Vada’s lost mood ring and is literally stung to death by bees. Literally.

Later, at Thomas J’s funeral (held of course at the funeral parlour connected to Vada’s HOUSE, which doesn’t promise to be traumatising for her in the slightest), Vada loses her shit and screams for someone to put on her friend’s glasses.

And everyone loses their shit right with her.


3. Brokeback Mountain


America, the 60s. Two cowboys meet while herding sheep in the lonely highlands of Wyoming. In the intimate quiet of the wilderness, they grow to love each other - biblically - and spend the next however many years engaged in a secret affair because the conservative society in which they operate won’t allow them to be together. Its bitter ending will have you sobbing into your best flannel shirt and writing to every politician you can think of to express your absolute disgust for the fact that marriage equality has yet to be implemented, because some powerful politicians are content to think of homosexual rights as a ‘fad’.

It also gave the world this, for which I will be forever grateful.


4. My Life Without Me

Picture it. You’re a young mother married to your high school sweetheart, with two beautiful children. You live in a trailer in your mother’s back yard, but even though you’re poor you’re pretty happy.

Then you discover that the stomach pain you’ve been having for the last little bit is actually late stage ovarian cancer, and you have two months to live. You don’t tell your family, because you want them to enjoy your last few months without fearing what’s to come. Instead, you make a list of all the things you always wanted to do but couldn’t because time and opportunity got in the way. Change your hair. Record birthday messages for your daughters for every year until they turn 18. Have sex with another man to know what it’s like. Find a new wife for your husband.

If you can imagine for a moment what it might be like to have your sinuses turned into a raging river, your eyes into faucets and your chest into a whirlpool with no bottom, then you’re halfway to understanding what effect this film will have on you - fitting really, given it’s based on a short story with the title ‘Pretending the Bed is a Raft’.


5. Cinema Paradiso

For real, I can’t even hear the music from this movie without curling into a ball and rocking back and forth lowing like a wounded cow. Awkward, especially when dining in one of those restaurants that likes to put together its own atmospheric playlists.

But Giuseppe Tornatore’s cinematic feat has all the ingredients for a classic weepy. It celebrates the redemptive power of film. It’s a coming of age story. It features both a small child in need AND an old person with wisdom to impart. It explores a love story challenged by both time, distance and the inevitable choices we make as adults. And it features this scene, which is just so goddamn cute that if you don’t feel ALL THE THINGS while watching it then you are officially dead inside and we have nothing more to say to each other.

Mind you, all of this will be pretty much null and void come September 7 and all the joy and happiness is sucked out of the world into the black hole that is the Coalition’s moral centre.

Why, just the thought of it makes me want to weep.




  • Yes, i agree, I remember seeing my girl as a child and completely bawling my eyes out! Same goes for cinemas paradiso.

    Date and time
    August 30, 2013, 8:32AM
    • Cinema Paradiso …

      Nothing like the last scene where Salvatore (Toto) is watching the compilation of kissing scenes from old movies that Alfredo made for him. Every time I listen to Ennio Morricone's music that is the scene always pops in my mind ... :’(

      Date and time
      August 30, 2013, 9:10AM
      • Thanks for the spoilers.

        Date and time
        September 01, 2013, 8:32AM
      • lol how is that a spoiler? only key plot point it reveals is that one of the main characters is in the last scene of the film.

        Date and time
        September 03, 2013, 7:49PM
    • I am looking forward to September 7 actually. I think it will be the happiest and most joyful day to happen in Australia for the past 6 years.

      sooty kettle
      Date and time
      August 30, 2013, 9:46AM
      • Seriously? I feel sorry for you.

        miss worldly
        Date and time
        August 30, 2013, 9:25PM
    • I always tell people about My LIfe Without Me. No one ever seems to have seen it, or even heard of it, but I remember seeing it soon after it came out and being absolutely devastated by it. My go-to for a good cry,

      Date and time
      August 30, 2013, 10:02AM
      • Have you seen Grave of the Fireflies (ie Hotaru no haka)?

        Watch it, then write another list.

        Date and time
        August 30, 2013, 10:50AM
        • Watched it for a class during uni, I'm not sure I could bring myself to watch it through again.
          It was just brutal. One of the girls in the class ended up crying on my shoulder for the last 20 minutes.

          Date and time
          August 30, 2013, 11:51AM
        • Kelly's Hero's. When Corporal and BAR gunner get it in the minefield. Kelly's thousand yard stare.

          Deus Ex
          Date and time
          August 30, 2013, 1:24PM

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