POP CULTURE: When and Why We Cry In Films


It’s normal to think that we’ll cry
when sad stuff happens on screen, when a character we’ve come to like dies, when a relationship we wanted to believe in falls apart, when a favorite animal doesn’t make it. Of course, we do sometimes shed tears here, but the odd thing is, especially the older we get, we start crying not when things are horrible
– one toughens up a little – but when they’re suddenly,
and unexpectedly, precisely the opposite. When they’re unusually sweet,
tender, joyful, innocent, or kind. “And the little one is Beatrice.” “Oh, Beatrice, she’s got mischievous glint in her eye, doesn’t she?” “Yeah, unbelievable.” “Forgot napkins.” “Okay, 33 seconds.” For example, when a rather gruff,
distant father shows vulnerability, “I’m proud of you, Flint.” “I’m amazed that someone as ordinary as me” “could be the father of someone
as extraordinary as you.” when two lovers who’d been rowing make it up, when a child says something
incredibly sweet and innocent, “I’m really good.” when someone is so tender with somebody else. Far more than grimness,
it’s a particular grace and loveliness which can, for a moment, feel heart breaking. We’re crying not because
something sad has happened on the screen, but because what’s so lovely on screen
is nudging us to realize, semi-consciously, that some pretty sad things
have been happening in our lives. The loveliness is drawing our attention
to some of the struggles we face, and to some of the things we really want,
but are finding it so hard to get: reconciliation, forgiveness, tenderness,
an end to the fighting, a chance to say sorry. We start to cry at a brief vision of a state of grace
from which we’re exiled most of the time. We ache for all the lost innocence of the world. Loveliness and goodness can make the actual ugliness of our existence all the more vivid. That’s also why, if we were to consider
the unusual project of creating a robot that could cry at the movies, we would have to do something apparently rather cruel. We would have to ensure
that this robot knew all about suffering, for it’s only against a background of pain
that beautiful scenes in films become deeply moving, rather than merely nice. Our tears are telling us something key, that our lives are tougher
than they used to be we were little, and that our longing for
uncomplicated niceness and goodness is, correspondingly, all the more intense. [choir singing] “But when Johnny lifts her at the end…” “No, I know, it’s a very… it’s a great movie.” “If you tell anyone I’ll kill you.” “Yeah, understood, yeah, hundred percent.”




Comments
  1. I have to know… Does anyone know the name of the song that starts at 02.13? – It made me weep uncontrollably

  2. I have to know… Does anyone know the name of the song that starts at 02.13 – It made me weep uncontrollably

  3. What does the narrator say at :30 ? CC won't help and I'm trying to settle something. Does any one know?

  4. All amazing films featured in this video. And it's so true. I cry far more with a happy ending than a sad one. I cry when I remember all the sweet moments with my son, and he's nine years old, and I see him every day!

  5. Wow, this made me remember our lesson in philosophy about Aristotle— how we have to experience suffering and pain to attain a fulfilled life (eudaimonia). It's just amazing how we get to appreciate things more after the bitter experiences we've had in the past. 🙂

  6. Is there a list of the films presented in this video? I see some well-known ones, but many intriguing shots I've never seen. (Hint: they could be added to the description, please?)

  7. It doesn't necessarily mean you are currently suffering.. But yes, you will feel the emotion more powerfully if you have known suffering personally.

  8. Is there a way I can get the transcript of this clip? I'd love to use it as material to teach my students in class. Thank you

  9. What is the reason why someone would stop having the ability to cry? Not completely but it becoming some sort of huge rarity?

  10. You're saying I cry at those moments because it's reminding me of my sadness. And, yes, I am crying at those moments. But I don't feel sad. I feel HAPPY. So how do we explain that?

  11. Full list:
    Amour
    Little Miss Sunshine
    Brief Encounter
    Moonrise Kingdom
    Wendy and Lucy
    Shaun the Sheep
    The Rewrite
    Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
    Carol
    Billy Elliott
    Pather Panchali (Apu Trilogy)
    Spirited Away
    The Bicycle Thieves
    Harry Potter 7
    Pretty in Pink
    We are the Best!
    Pride

  12. most of ghibli studio movies make me cry .. they are so beutifull so innocent so rare … so free … when I watch them i feel all I could be but am not ..

  13. Amélie….that part where she helps the blind man "see" for about 30 seconds…that always get's me. i didn't really cry cause i'm not exactly a crying person but the eyes fill up and i get pretty much emotion overload…closest i get to crying i guess. i love that movie (and i really dislike romantic stuff usually)

  14. You know I have to be honest, this video surpriced me, you know that i cry with movies like "spiderman" or finding nemo, specially when a group of people or characters get together to do something. I have tried to hide my tears in front of people but i have found myself crying longly alone in my house while watching them. I hadn't understood how this happy moments make me cry so much, but now I think that I understand myself more, "the school of life" I will never be able to repay you the impact you have had in my life!!! thank you so much

  15. Hello School of Life,
    Its a great video, and i am left wanting more. One of the things i'd request is if you could add a list of the movie names, the clippings of which have been used above, so we could explore them further. An example is the post you published titled :POP CULTURE: What Is Cinema For?. In the description you've added all the movie titles in their order of appearance. It'd be a great help. Cheers

  16. Is there a way to get an electronic version of the transcript of this video? It's really worth re-reading, and thinking deeply about.

  17. The thing is, when I was a child, I was rarely moved by films. I don't cry and just nod sympathetically only when a character undergoes something really sad. However, that changed when I grew older and learned more about myself and the world in general. I don't just cry, I mope about it for hours to days, depending on the impact. I guess, the more that you can relate to the content of a scene, the more sympathetic and emotional you get when unfortunate things happen.

  18. The first time I remember crying was when I was around 7 and I cried on the scene of "The Color Purple" when Celie and Nettie were reunited and I've been crying every since. I'm probably one of the most openly sensitive, stud, lesbians from the hood

  19. I think the best example of this might be the baseball game scene in the movie One flew over the cuckoo's nest.

  20. I sobbed at the end of Spirited Away…and this video captured why I cried. I cried because for the duration of the movie, I felt some sort of "magic" again. A feeling that I have not felt for so long. A feeling I had so much when I was a child but at some point gradually lost it.

  21. "She wasn't just my ally she was my friend, and I couldn't save her. I see her in the flowers growing in the meadow by my house, I hear her in the mockingjay song, I see her in my sister Prim. She was too young, too gentle and I couldn't save her. I'm sorry."

    Many people don't like/appreciate The Hunger Games and I won't claim it to be the best piece of fiction ever written, but it had some powerful moments for me. I teared up at what other people perceived to be the strangest of scenes. Rue dying was already tragic in and of itself but when I watched the chaos that ensued right after, the frenzied mob of people that had had enough is really what broke me. When the people of the districts were sparked to fight to take their lives back during the Mockingjay.

    It felt so powerful watching these people who were raised to believe that their lives weren't their own, people whose everyday living situations could be considered crimes against humanity, sparked to rage and actually fight to take their lives back. It's the fact that like many historical figures like Rosa Parks, revolution didn't start with some great act of defiance but rather a small and simple gesture. All it took was one girl with a refusal to view the innocent as her enemies as she has been ordered to, a bed of flowers and a handful of berries all saying "You can't do this to us", to push oppressed people past their breaking point.

  22. I started crying in the middle of the video when spirited away showed up. The words "reconciliation, forgiveness, tenderness" hit my heart in a strange way that tears just wouldn't stop coming out

  23. Sometimes it is because it's unexpected. The water scene at the end of the Helen Keller movie is a good example of this. You aren't expecting the positive breakthrough, but it suddenly happens for Helen.

  24. The biggest tearjerker I can think of for me is Morgan Freeman's final letter in The Bucket List (2007). His voice is so strong that it can get even a guy like me teary-eyed and that's not an easy thing to do.

  25. The ending of Schindlers list made me ball my eyes out. Spoiler alert: he grieves and cries over the fact that he could have saved more people, though he already saved over a thousand. The amount of sympathy felt at the end is overwhelming.

  26. School of Life, may you please make a video on how gender are portrayed in the advertising industry?

  27. but that's not it for me. it's not pain i'm looking back on, but the idea that i may one day be that happy. sadness is much better than nothingness, and so is happiness. it is the strength of the emotion, however positive or negative, that makes me shed a tear. i look forward to feeling something like the characters of that movie feel, and my tears are tears of anticipation for the beauty.

  28. This made me cry the first time I watched this, then I came back after seeing the movie Pride 'cause I remembered one of the scenes included here.

  29. I wonder what it means that I sometimes do not cry at all the first time seeing a film, or only get a bit misty-eyed, but will cry much more seeing it again later on.

  30. This week I watched Moana, Brave, and Inside Out while babysitting and I cried at every single one lol. Not like a little tear, but just before full on crying lol….either I'm crazy (it's possible) or I dunno. It a usually why i skip romances, dramas, and movies from Pixar. Too many feels.
    Thank you for this video ❤

  31. I'm that weird not-emotional person that was ABOUT TO CRY EXACTLY 5 TIMES while watching Coco, from Disney Pixar, and I still had watery eyes when we got out. First Pixar (and also Disney) movie that I remember that got me the closest to crying.
    Just to remind you, I did not cry, I just got watery eyes 5 times.

  32. one of the best clips ever made in the history of anything… i say ..it is deeply moving and totally universal (i.e. the nature of existence)

  33. So, when a little kid cries in films.. is it because they copy only the reaction from their parents? But I guess most kids don't show much tears in films.

  34. This really woke me up to my reactions! These videos are beautiful. Thank you School of Life. You make me think and move me emotionally– just like those sweet moments in good films!

  35. The Black and White film with the kid under the blanket is probably Satyajit Ray's Pather Panchali. It is heartbreaking and very painfully realistic.

  36. I think crying at a movie is one of the greatest compliments an audience can give a filmmaker. I cry often at films, one of the most recent was the final scene of The Florida Project. I was inconsolable at the end, in tears for a long time because I found the powerlessness of the circumstance of Moonee so devastating.

  37. It's not always for this reason (the slightly pessimistic one that it's due to something missing or negative in our lives – which sometimes it can be, and there may always be an element of this subconsciously for even happy tears could be healing ones) but it can also be a number of other deeper, life-affirming things- sometimes it's just an appreciation of real-worldly beauty that makes us realize the true value of being (the overwhelmingly moving instrumental music that makes you shed a few tears for example), or if it's at something such as a kindness being shown it can be a reminder of a kindness we actually know now or have known recently- a reminder that sometimes life is actually kind not cruel. Or they can come when we've been wrestling with a particularly challenging relationship or issue and are starting to see a noticeable change from the kindnesses we have done or steps we've taken and a hope that it is worth caring / persevering and the effort it takes. These happy tears are after all often accompanied by a knowing smile- that as rough as it often is, life sometimes isn't so bad after all, nor are we. It's interesting that (from my experience at least) we cry only at sad things in earlier life, perhaps in our more ego-ruled earlier days, happy things and just things that have a 'beauty' to them such as some breathtaking landscape or music only seem to lead to tears as we are older and hopefully wiser- I think this shows that we do grow as people, ruling our ego a bit more than it rules us as we age, even if we don't realize it or it's not so obvious to us, we do build a more realistic view of the world- and people including ourselves- that it's imperfect but we're more OK with that now, that there's still moments and aspects of perfection within that and that sometimes we do actually help shift its balance more towards perfection. It's not pain (I believe) that makes us cry- but an overflow of emotions, which helps us release, process and enjoy the extremes of hurt and happiness, for both types of tears are helpful, even "pain is a way of reminding us that we care" to quote a Oui 3 song. So these tears are a good sign we're getting more comfortable with ourselves, others and the world.

  38. I got tearful during Batman 2 when the penguin was talking to the news reporters about being rejected. And Malificent 2 triggered me as well.

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