The best directors know that a key element to their job is being emotionally manipulative to their audience. To truly take an audience for a ride, in the short time they are with you, you need to throw as many genuine emotions at them as you can. Note I said “genuine”, because if they don’t work, there is no way the audience is going to ALLOW themselves to be emotionally manipulated. A director who seems to know this well is Michael Haneke (Funny Games, Amour, Cache). He knows that in order to keep an audience entranced and truly invested in a film, you need to stack tragedies and suffering on top of whatever story it is you are telling, regardless of how hard that trauma will hit.
You know who else seems to know this blueprint for memorable films? Pixar. You see the logo and you brace yourself, knowing that you will most likely bawl like a child at some point in the next couple hours. The thing is, the movies are not just emotionally manipulative. They tend to be absolutely brilliant and and utter joy to watch, as well, which makes them even MORE memorable. Here, for your reading pleasure, are the five Pixar films that had me openly weeping at one point, and I take no shame in admitting that. Disney has been doing this to me since I was just a child. Disney has a fetish for killing animal parents and forcing early maturation on America’s youth, and Pixar doesn’t fall far from the tree.
We are emotionally stunted for the most part, though, so we NEED Pixar. Also, any guys who feel compelled to take to the comments and point out how no movies make you cry, and I am a pansy, or some similar logic, let me say it now : We get it, you have a huge penis and sweat grain alcohol. You are an alpha and none of us are man enough to set foot into your cave. Cool, awesome? Go away now. Real men cry. And Pixar helps us get in touch with that side. If anything, the real men of the world owe Pixar a bit of thanks for that. Okay this thing is derailing quick, on to the good stuff.
The Toy Story Saga
It would be foolhardy of me to put these as individual films on this list, because all three of them would be on here, taking up most of the list. Rather than do that, I just wanted to put them as a saga, because they all merit tears for different reasons.
Toy Story one had that sort of “are we or aren’t we real” existentialism that seems to usually only be delegated to A.I in Sci-Fi, and it was amazing to see in the realm of childhood toys. Part two had that song scene with Jessie, which verklempted me beyond belief, and then we have Toy Story 3. Ah, Toy Story 3, killing the idea that the third movie in a trilogy can’t be the best. Can we take a moment to talk about how the scene when all of Andy’s toys hold hands in preparation for death?
Even Saw films rarely get this cruel or upsetting.
No, no we can’t, because I will weep like a baby.
Though I honestly feel like Pixar has a different energy than pure Disney, this is the film that bridged the energies of both those companies, while trying to find an energy of their own. Though Finding Nemo is far more redemptive than sad, ofcourse he has to lose a parent, because that was a crucial element to break the viewer early on, therefor keeping them captive as an audience. Basic mind control stuff, people.
The film is so lovely to look at, even through the initial tears.
Finding Nemo, while not standing out as being the saddest film on the list, does need an initial tragedy to set up the weight of the story, and it delivers that in typical, powerful fashion. The film that follows it is a fun and light-hearted ride, but in those first ten minutes, you can’t tell that, which makes it work even better in the end. Speaking of Pixar and “the first ten minutes” rule, can we talk about…….
Did this film make even a cynic like me believe in love again? Kind of, yes.
If there is a more genuine, honest, and moving love story in cinema outside of Carl and Ellie’s courtship and marriage in the beginning of Up, I don’t know what it is. From the moment they meet as star-crossed nerd children, to those final moments when you see her collapse on the hill, you can FEEL the adoration these two have for each other, and everytime life hits them in the “vacation fund” jar, every single one of us struggling to make it work with someone we love even though life keeps trying to hold us down, could relate. We ALL did. Not only is that montage one of the most powerful moments in all the film, it is one of the most powerful moments in ALL of film.
Those nine minutes, to me, sum up love far better than movies ten times that length.
From that moment forth, when Carl will do ANYTHING to make it to Paradise Falls, we are right there with him, routing along as loud as we can. It is a beautiful love story about perseverance in the face of adversity and the true power of love. On top of that, it has a talking dog. Pretty sure that makes it one of the best films ever.
But that intro. That damned intro. Chokes me up everytime I see it. And by chokes me up, I mean makes me sob like a small child, lost at the mall.
I feel like John Goodman should be in everything, ever.
Though Up may be more whimsical, and Nemo may be funnier, and Toy Story may pack more of an emotional punch, Monsters Inc might just be my favorite Pixar film (outside of The Incredibles which did not make me cry, which is why it’s not here). Monsters Inc just really is one of those “perfect storm” films that sort of magically worked and gelled on all levels, and the end result is unforgettable magic.
But there is a REAL bittersweet element to this movie. The relationship between Boo, Sully, and Mike, is pure cinema magic. The animation gels so perfectly with the casting, which gels so perfectly with the story, and you have a (somehow) heart warming movie about monsters who’s job it is to scare children, yet who inexplicably fall in love with one and have to give her up.
Hold on, it’s raining on my face.
Why have I not done a Flight of the Conchords article yet?
So imagine if I told you, five years ago, that your children would end up adoring a (pretty much) silent film about two people slowly falling in love, filled with retro, 1940’s theater music? Would you believe me? Probably not, but that is just what Wall-E is. Once I say they are actually robots, and a good deal of the film takes place in space, you can understand more clearly why your children love it, but do not forget, at the heart of this movie is a love story, and these two honestly never exchange any real dialogue. The fact that this movie was so successful, and the fact that kids read and adored all the Harry Potter books, kind of single handedly renewed my faith in kids.
Robot love is just about as adorable as puppy love, and super similar, too.
But let’s talk about why we are really here. The scene when Wall-E dies. Because ofcourse he does, because this is Pixar, afterall. And the thing is, even though you can feel it coming in the movie, there is this one part of you that keeps thinking, even as an adult: No way, nope! They won’t do it. NO way! And then, they do it. And you are TRYING to not be upset, but you can’t help it. You feel yourself being moved to tears, and you look over, and your date is taking pics of you and making fun of you, but inside, you know YOU are a real man. SCREW YOU, JESSICA! You sucked. Girls who don’t cry at Pixar films HAVE NO SOUL! BACK TO HELL WITH YOU, SUCCUBUS!
Oh wait, did I just make it all weird? Shit, sorry about that. But I think my point about Pixar movies was made quite astutely, in that one, sad, second. So is there a scene from a Pixar movie that makes you cry, yet I forgot to mention? Take to the comments and tell me your faves!
Sorry to show this again, but SERIOUSLY, PIXAR? The whole floor of the theater was wet with tears that day.
Also, for those so inclined, I was 20 minutes outside of Boston this past weekend, and five minutes from where the “Boston bomber” went to school, when all the shit went down, so if you want an honest account of how it was handled by all involved, click here and let me know what you think.