Tear-jerkers: Memorable plus Meaningful


While discussing my recent movie reviews that were less than favorable, my friends

were suggesting I make a list of memorable and meaningful movies I would still

recommend despite sad, unusual or discouraging endings. This will help you to get

a better idea of my movie entertainment tastes and interests. Hopefully, this will

also spur some additions or explorations into movies you have not yet experienced.


I think that I may have overdone my expressing ‘dislike’ for “Gone Girl.” In the past,

while a younger and more adventurous woman, I may have hung on tightly to the

‘roller coaster ride’ of this fine, well-received movie. After all,  Jack Nicholson was

hugely entertaining in the suspenseful thriller movie, “The Shining.” Rosamunde

Pike was chilling in her portrayal of Amy, in “Gone Girl.” Reminds me how I did

enjoy Glenn Close’s psychotic character in 1987’s “Fatal Attraction.”


Lastly,  I hope to shed some light on the subject of movies, for ‘drop-in’s’ or new

visitors to my posts, who may think I am all sunshine and happy endings only!


Here is my List of Favorite Movies which are varied in subject matter, ‘genres’

and widely spaced in their production and release dates. They include ‘gooey’

love stories, star-crossed lovers,  along with ‘gory’ and intriguing plot lines.


1. “Deliverance,” a fine movie which featured great performances from both Ned

Beatty and Burt Reynolds. It was not pleasant, but it was informative and held my

interest throughout this feature. I am sure it won awards, too.


2. “Dr. Zhivago,” which probably did win an award for best song, “Lara’s Theme.”

If you loved this one, it may have been because you cherished the book, too. Julie

Christie was gorgeous, the scenery was captivating and I could not take my eyes off

of Omar Sharif. The historical element and the details were perfect, along with the

war-torn, epic love story.


3. “Diary of Anne Frank.” (No need to explain why this movie was significant. Along

with many of my mother’s friends thinking they chose exactly who should play this

role and Millie Perkins did an excellent job in the 1959 classic. The 2009 mini-series,

for television was a good one, to help bring awareness to another generation.)


4. “Casablanca,” made me fall in love with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.

This iconic love story included historical features and another war story.

“Play It Again, Sam,” although a friend informed me, it never was included in the

movie. It is implied by both the main characters asking for him to play  the song,

“As Time Goes By,” more than once. It became a common expression, most young

people even know where it (sort of) comes from…along with Woody Allen using it

later,  in his film title.


5. “Flowers in the Attic,” recently remade, done well for television. This is an example

of a fascinating, dark subject, including incestuous behavior. It was a great book with

a well written script. Louise Fletcher, who did an outstanding performance in this

movie, also portrayed Nurse Ratched in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”


6. “Love Story,” which brought my Dad and me together, reading it, first in the Reader’s

Condensed Version, which came to our house. Then, he went right out and bought the

full  hard book version. Our whole family went to see the movie, knowing we would need

tissues, enjoying Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal, in their roles.  “Not a dry eye in the (movie

theater) house.”


7. “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” which I jokingly say is to blame for my vastly

inappropriate husbands. Paul Newman and Robert Redford played the bank robbers, who

up until the very end, did not use guns to hurt people. The last freeze-frame of the partners,

coming out of their hiding place, to the Mexicans shooting their guns, is unforgettable. I

also, surprised my parents, by taking our Encyclopedia Brittanica out when we got home,

finding the “Hole in the Wall Gang” article there. They had thought it was a fictional story,

and later, proud of the efforts of both Paul Newman and Robert Redford’s philanthropic

projects: “Newman’s Own” foods (sauces, dressings and other products) and “The Hole in

the Wall” children’s ranch for those disadvantaged kids, other benefits like scholarships



8. “Saving Private Ryan,” which is another sad story but it is more realistic than most

war stories. I point this out due to my brothers and others who enjoyed John Wayne’s

versions of war while growing up. The Viet Nam movies, such as “Apocalypse Now”

and “Born on the Fourth of July,” include violence, drugs, Agent Orange and some

powerful, memorable characters.


9. “Brian’s Song,” which won a few awards, I am sure. Brian Piccolo, along with

his best friend made sports and cancer a household subject to talk about. If it could

happen to a young, vital athlete, it could happen to . . . anyone.


10. “Flowers for Algernon,” which had the futuristic subject of how drugs could

potentially raise a person’s I.Q.  If you never saw this one, it is very well done. This

makes you appreciate the way science fiction can be gently inserted into a movie,

without being overdone. Matthew Modine plays the man with retardation, in the

newer 2000 version,  Cliff Robertson was the fine actor to watch in,  “Charly.”

Both were based on the short story, “Flowers for Algernon.”


11. “Clockwork Orange,” which was a book I was required to read in high school. Our

class went to see the movie together. It is not everyone’s “cup of tea,” but it was a break-

through movie with fantastic performances by a young Malcolm McDowell and directing

by Stanley Kubrick.  Anthony Burgess’ science fiction book was disturbing, but has

significance and meaning. Visualizing the book did not match how powerful the film was.

Our classhad great discussions after viewing this, about what personal rights criminals,

particularly juveniles, deserve. Where the boundary of “Big Brother,” (government and

courts) also begins and ends.


12. “Romeo and Juliet, ” which broke the ground rules of lack of male nudity prior to

this movie in the 70’s. I think you may know why anyone would like all versions of

this movie, since it is considered ‘classical’ to love Shakespeare.


13. “West Side Story,” with the Hispanics and Caucasians fighting over their areas

of the city or ‘turfs’ among rival gangs. A beautiful love story, with music and great

choreography. The movie’s ending could disappoint you, if you did not know it was

based on #12’s book and movie themes.


14. “Out of Africa,” which was absorbingly written by Isak Dinesen. It has Robert

Redford, Meryl Streep, many British actors and the scenery is outstanding. What a

magnificent love story!  The ending made my Mom and me weep in July, while we

watched this for our ‘umpteenth’ time. What I could not get over, this recent viewing,

was how young the two leading actors were, when they made this movie.


15. “White Fang,” other Jack London stories, have the naturalistic side of ‘survival of the

fittest,’ along with beautiful Alaskan and other frontiers featured. The 1991 movie, with

Ethan Hawke was ‘panned,’ by critics, given the “Rotten Tomato” award.


16. “Dallas Buyers Club,” AIDS and Matthew McConahey, along with the wonderful

supporting actors and actresses, made this a rich, intelligent, humor-sprinkled movie

about a serious subject. I liked Jared Leto’s sympathetic portrayal of a transvestite.


17. “Philadelphia,” with Tom Hanks. Need I say more? Fantastic movie, need your

tissues but I watched it again recently, it still ‘holds up’ to the test of time, my gauge

or ‘thermometer.’ Wide variety of actors, along with exploring our fears of HIV and

Aids in a movie. Bruce Springsteen’s song, “Philadelphia,” is hauntingly beautiful.


18. “Fargo,” the Coen brothers have done funnier, (“Raising Arizona” with Holly

Hunter and Nicholas Cage) but this one is the ONE that hangs in my mind, lingering.

If you were to compare it to anything else, in the way of ‘thrillers’ they would ‘pale.’

Great writing skills! Frances McDormand is excellent in capturing the Minnesota

accent and delivering a pregnant police woman realistic, classic  lines. William H.

Macy and Steven Buscemi are outstanding in their quirky parts.


19. “Steel Magnolias” had Julia Roberts dying. What else do you need to know? Many

famous actresses, including Dolly Parton, Sally Fields, and Shirley Maclaine bring

the comic relief. Good support from the male actors in this movie, also.


20. “Terms of Endearment,” with Shirley Maclaine, Jack Nicholson. Debra Winger

is dying. The family dynamics and the careful writing is a good combination, realistic

and gritty at times. Jeff Daniels plays the husband, who is not likable, a switch from

his typical roles.


I did not add a lot of old, classic and Iconic movies, since I know there are much better

critics of these, so please share… (like “The Count of Monte Cristo” or “In the Name of

the Rose.”)


What melodramatic movies do you enjoy, despite not always being popular with the


How do you like to escape into movies? Through romance, drama, action or historical

fiction or ??


50 responses »

  1. Nice list of movies!

    The only problem with “Play it again, Sam!” is that no one actually says that in the movie.

    Ingrid Bergman’s character says, “Play it once, Sam, for old times’ sake, play ‘As Time Goes By’.”

    Later Bogart’s character says, “You played it for her, you can play it for me. … If she can stand to listen to it, I can. Play it.” (Can’t you just hear him saying it? Such a distinctive voice. Seems to come from the back of his teeth.)

    The line does occur in a Marx Brothers movie, A Night in Casablanca, and as you mentioned, is the title of a Woody Allen film.

    • Oh, I am so glad you put me straight on this one! I have seen the movie several times, but sometimes after one has seen a movie, you may just ‘hear’ what you think you ‘heard.’ I probably am like many who thought this line came for that movie, I loved the “A Night in Casablanca” movie, as all the Marx Brothers movies are hysterical. I am much more familiar with “A Night at the Opera,” though. It may be ‘played’ more? hmm. . .?
      Did I say Lauren Bacall? See, you didn’t get me to change that mistake, I really am thankful for your reminder of who is saying the first reference to Sam in the movie…
      I love the song, “As Time Goes By…” Thanks for the factual and entertaining comments, W.S.

      • Bogie and Bacall were in plenty of great films, so it’s easy to conflate them. (And all those people whose last name starts with “B”!) Great romance both on and off the screen! And, man, what a sultry knockout she was! Probably my favorite actress (and actor) from that era.

      • They were an idyllic couple, one that would compare to how people emulate Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. They were great and I am so glad they loved each other, married and stayed together, until H.B. died. This wedding happened in Ohio at Malabar Farm, Mansfield area. The author had become a friend of the two of them, they had the requisite winding staircase, with the bride looking beautiful in her wedding gown.

  2. Oh, forgot to mention, for the record, Deliverance got a lot of nominations (three Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and Best Director), but didn’t win any. 😦 It is on many “100 Best” lists.

    And Doctor Zhivago did win five Academy Awards (including Best Original Score) and was nominated (but didn’t win) five others. It also won five Golden Globe awards. It’s currently available on one of the cable channels OnDemand, and it’s on my list to see again!

    • Thank you for this additional information, W.S.! Smitty, you are the best! I was running out of time at the library when I wanted to post this, so I just left it as is. Knowing there were plenty of ‘holes’ in the story! ha ha! You filled in some of the blanks!

  3. Dr Zhivago is one of my favorite movies! It’s a classic.. They tried a redo but it could never come close..

    • Oh, this is so nice to know about you and your movie tastes! Thanks for letting me know, which I agree, remakes are rarely as good as the originals!! Have a wonderful and blessed weekend!

  4. That is quite a list, Robin. When it comes to moves, I’m a tear-jerker gal. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve cried watching Brian Song, Terms of Endearment and Steel Magnolias. The cemetery scene in Steel Magnolias gets me every time. I love Saving Private Ryan, but I can’t watch the opening segment.

    • Jill, I don’t re-watch “Saving Private Ryan,” “Schindler’s List,” and a few others where it is just too hard to see them. I think ’12 Years A Slave’ is worth re-watching, as the above list did not include it!
      I think we both get a lot of therapy, which they call these movies, ‘cathartic,’ due to this quality of allowing us to cry and I sob, sometimes. I feel better afterwards, remembering the good parts, too. Thanks so much for this comment, including some of my all time favorites shared with you! Hope you have a lovely weekend! It is sunny and I am off, soon, to the park with my grandson, Micah!

  5. Great list Robin I would definitely add The Count of Monte Christo and Shawshank Redemption and Schindler’s List…There are a few movies on your list that I have yet to watch and I’m going to make a point of watching at least one this weekend! I think I’ll start with Dr Zhivago 🙂

    • “Dr. Zhivago” is long, but it is worth it, you can have an intermission, get up and have a snack and bathroom break, too! smiles! I love the idea of continuing to add people’s favorites to this ongoing list. I enjoyed the ones you mentioned, but would not re-watch, “Schindler’s List,” along with “Saving Private Ryan.” Some movies, I can visualize almost entirely from memory, and I would add, “Valkyrie,” as a good Tom Cruise movie, that once seen, was just enough. Powerful, good and true.

  6. Bryan’s Song…now that brings back memories of me crying like a baby (and I mean sobbing). A Star is Born with Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristopherson, too. I was a teenager and the hormones were raging!

    • Oh, Lorna! How did I forget, “The Way We Were” and what you named, “A Star is Born?” I am so glad you mentioned this one, which sent me off remembering the first one I just added. I liked Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, a lot in that movie, despite I think it only got ‘average’ reviews. This was a great re-make of another classic movie, I believe. Oh, teens and their hormones, certain times of the month got me really crying like a baby, too. Thanks so much for this reminder, which triggered another favorite movie. This could be ongoing for months…

  7. Philadelphia is one of my all-time favorite movies. Yes, to the Bruce Springsteen song. But remember the Maria Callas aria that Tom Hanks’ character walked Denzel’s character through? And then Denzel goes home and embraces his sleeping child? Oh maybe, my most favorite movie moment.

    • I really loved this moment in time, which no, I had forgotten. Thanks so much for reminding me of this, Barbara! I am thankful for daddies and mommies who go home to hug their babies or children by a simple, meaningful scene in a movie. I did this a few times, myself. I love that aria, which touches a string in my heartbeat, catches it and holds it for awhile…

      • I loved this aria and “Philadelphia.” (My Mom used to play opera on Saturday mornings.) The insights and passion Tom Hanks felt for Maria Callas’ aria – stunning. And Denzel Washington’s reaction – excellent.

  8. Many old movies on TCM I really fall into, even if they aren’t “big names.” I love seeing what the culture was like at the time. I really never liked Love Story very much–book or movie, although all friends were in love with it. I LOVE Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House and Sitting Pretty, two FABULOUS old movies. And I love Babe. And The List of Adrian Messinger–so so so good. A terrible melodramatic movie I liked as a kid was the “remake” of Wuthering Heights (70s).

    • I am so glad you didn’t mind expressing your true feelings about “Love Story,” Luanne! I am all about opinions and never would debate this one. It was one that could have easily gone a different way, at another time period for me. My Dad getting into it really added to my interest, too.
      I love, “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House,” too! This one had a lot of humor in it. I have not seen, “Sitting Pretty,” and wish I had time to get this one today. I have plans with my 5 year old grandson, overnight included… I will have to check back here and remember all the additions and suggestions. I somehow started quite a conversation.
      My Mom would say I was re-miss if I didn’t add, “Mama’s Bank Account,” which does have some Nordic heritage, New York scenery and humor sprinkled into it. She also loved the book for this, which is named something else. I also liked one of her favorites, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.”

  9. Oh such a great list!!!!! So many that I enjoyed as well…I seem to like strange movies…like Fargo:-) Thanks Robin!! May need to watch some of these again!❤️

    • “Fargo” was a weird movie, Tracy, I agree! I tried to watch the t.v. series, which came on opposite something I was hooked on, during commercials. I did like Billy Bob Thornton’s character and the man who did Steve Buscemi’s role was intriguing and creep, too. I need to have a whole day and find it on DVD at the library. It went on in Minnesota, as a serial killer.
      I am so happy you liked the list, Tracy! If you get a cold, winter’s day and time on your hands, one of these may be quite therapeutic. I liked, “A Walk to Remember,” due to my youngest daughter liking Mandy Moore. Felicia had just gone through a break-up so I joined her in crying… Hugs, Robin

  10. dr. zhivago, love story, the english patient, romeo and juliet. i love all of these, along with all of the quirky movies you know i love. fargo was one of the best, i agree – great list robin

    • So glad you mentioned, “The English Patient,” I watched this more recently and got so much more out of it! I am glad the others I mentioned, you agreed on and enjoyed, Beth! I liked, “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” for its quirky characters and all those Monty Python movies, but they don’t make me cry! (Thank goodness, we all need to laugh, too!)

  11. I don’t know about movies so much but I’m with you with Gone Girl – I hated the book and nothing would get me to watch the film!
    Saving Private Ryan is a classic as was Butch Cassidy. I enjoy films with a bit of grit – The Killing Fields was memorable, and The Deerhunter. Can you see a theme emerging?

    • I forgot to include those post WWII, Viet Nam and skirmishes movies. Thanks, Jenny! It is like an ongoing, continuous stream of good movies, some which may not appeal to everyone, but sometimes are worth a ‘revisit.’ “The Killing Fields” and “The Deerhunter” were very well done and I am so glad you mentioned them!

    • I am glad you liked “Out of Africa,” Elizabeth. My Mom liked Isak Dinesson and there was another book she read of hers that was good. It is interesting, since she used a ‘man’s name’ in my mind, which just made me think of “To Kill A Mockingbird.” That is not a tear-jerker, but it is very meaningful. The author, I did not know for years, Harper Lee, was a woman! I am sure you knew this much earlier than I did… It is strange how authors felt compelled to use male names to get published. “We have come a long way, Baby!”

      • To Kill a Mockingbird, not only a fabulous book, but the movie is awesome. Loved it since I first read it in high school. It’s just too bad Harper Lee never wrote another book. One of the most miserably sad movies I ever watched was Madame X with Lana Turner. It was so gut wrenching, I’ve never watched it again and I just wanted to shake her all through the movie for allowing her mother-in-law to do that.

      • I appreciate how you mentioned the movie is also awesome of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” with Gregory Peck, along with the other cast members being ‘perfectly’ cast, I think!
        You know this is amazing, I appreciate your adding the movie, “Madame X” to the list, too. It is quite a good story, but it is heart-wrenchingly sad. Did you ever see the movie, “Pinky?” It has a girl of mixed racial background, trying to ‘deny’ her African American mother, who happened to also be a maid. It made me cry, rant and rave, but I have watched it more than once, a couple of times. It is black and white and has Sandra Dee in it, too, I believe.

      • I don’t know if it’s the same movie as “Pinky”, but it sounds like the movie “Imitation of Life” with Lana Turner, Sandra Dee, Juanita Moore, Susan Kohner, and John Gavin. I’ve seen it a couple of times. So, sooo sad. How could anyone treat such a kind and loving mother that way? Breaks my heart.

      • I am not sure why (off the top of my head?!) I thought that movie was called, “Pinky.” Thanks so much, Elizabeth for straightening me out! I did not google it and just guessed the title! It was about her not wanting people to know her racial background, right? This was one I did cry a lot about and you gave the complete cast, which may help someone who wishes to add an excellent movie to their need to see and add to their ‘tearjerkers’ list.’

    • Oh, thank you for loving these movies, too. It is nice to know there are a lot of us out there! I am glad you liked the classic, well done version of “The Diary of Anne Frank,” along with the 70’s version of “Romeo and Juliet.” I think the young actor and actress were very relatable and made the story, ‘real’ to my teen-aged self!

  12. Excellent post, Robin. You and I have very similar tastes in movies…except for GONE GIRL. I devoured the book for all its twists and turns and surprises. Plus I’ve heard Gillian Flynn speak and she is amazing, AND she understands both Kansas and Missouri and uses them in her books, and these are my old stomping grounds.
    I talked my husband into going to the movie of GONE GIRL with me–all 2 hrs. 25 min.–and he was amazed that it moved fast, held his interest, and had such excellent acting and tight plot…for being such a dark story.
    I stand by my vote for both the book and the movie!

    • Oh, so glad you and your husband enjoyed this movie, Marylin!
      I never meant to say it wasn’t exciting or interesting. Especially have heard from readers of the book, that it was very close to its message, twists and turns, along with being pleased with the choices of actors.
      Glad you liked my other choices.
      Also, very happy that you added some parts of Gillian Flynn’s background and her interview, too. We are committed to freedom, as writers and readers of books, so I like the dialogue and debates, too.
      Thank you, Marylin for this comment! Hope you have a great weekend.

  13. Robin … You’ve listed so many of my favorite movies. I avoided “Flowers in the Attic,” but I saw and loved many of the others on your list. When “Love Story” came out, I think I saw it 3 times at the theater. Yes, I cried every time.

    Once, when my husband and I were in a remote area of a park in the Everglades, we saw two men. They just seemed oddly out of place and the thought that came to our minds was the banjo tune in “Deliverance.” The film was disturbing and powerful.

    • I am surprised at your admission about “Love Story,” since someone here didn’t really like it, it made me question my gut reaction to it! Maybe it was the time period, maybe the way the actors seemed so real. . . I would cry today again, if I watched it. Thanks, Judy, for sharing your emotional reaction to this movie!
      I think “Deliverance,” was a one of a kind, eerie movie. I like your description: “disturbing and powerful.” That was creepy, those two men in the Everglades, you wonder what they were up to, Judy! The banjo tune music matched the tone of the movie, perfectly. Which is the way teamwork in movies should be combined.

    • I appreciate this agreement with my list of movies… at the time it was just one we had to accept the ending. My favorite scene was rather incongruous with the rest of the movie, where Paul (Butch) is riding a bicycle with Katherine on the handlebars, with the song, “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” playing. It was a sweet and simple scene, before the sad parts started!

      • I love that scene too! I love so many of the great “one liners” from that movie, I am forever asking if “Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?” and my absolute favorite, “Boy, I’ve got vision and the rest of the world wears bifocals.”

      • I realized after I replied that I may have sounded idiotic using “shut up” as an expression, but it’s where I was in my head at that moment.
        And good golly, how I love that movie!

  14. I’ve seen most of the movies on your list, however, I may be the only person my age who hasn’t seen Casablanca. I like sappy movies, and the one that made me cry through the entire movie was P.S. I Love You with Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler. Otherwise, I’m a huge James Stewart fan and have seem almost everyone. My favorites are Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Cheyenne Social Club, and of course, It’s a Wonderful Life.

    • April, you absolutely are the only person who has never seen Casablanca, which was my favorite movie all through my youth. I’m with you on the Jimmy Stewart–he was born in my town, Indiana, Pennsylvania and is much revered here. We have a museum dedicated to his life and work–my fave Stewart is The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

      • Oh, another film I forgot. There are many, and good to know about the museum. I would love to visit there! I knew I was the only person. I will have to check it out.

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