loaded question: what’s the hardest or longest you’ve ever cried at a movie or TV show?

This week’s question comes via the Twitter feed of online magazine Bright Wall/Dark Room, which recently asked a similar question of its readers:

What’s the hardest or longest you’ve ever cried at a movie or TV show?

I have lots of answers I could give to this, so I’ll offer the most recent one: Station Eleven, the new postapocalyptic miniseries that is beyond wonderful. (It’s on HBO Max in the US and StarzPlay in the UK.) Its ending had me sobbing my eyes out.

Your turn…

(You can also discuss this at Substack or Patreon, if you prefer. You don’t need to be a paying subscriber to comment, but you will need to register with either site to do so.)

share and enjoy
If you haven’t commented here before, your first comment will be held for MaryAnn’s approval. This is an anti-spam, anti-troll measure. If you’re not a spammer or a troll, your comment will be approved, and all your future comments will post immediately.
notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
view all comments
Mon, Feb 07, 2022 12:59pm

I thought about giving a jokey answer to this question. There used to be a Folger’s coffee jingle—and maybe it’s still in use—that went, “The best part of waking up is Folger’s in your cup.” It made me feel so sad for the person drinking the coffee. I thought: If the best part of your day is Folger’s coffee, you need to seriously reconsider your life choices.

A more serious answer might start out by talking about horror stories: Neil Gaiman wrote a scary story for children called Coraline, but some kids weren’t frightened by the book. They just thought it was a fun adventure story where the villain gets defeated in the end. Grownups, on the other hand, found the book terrifying, because they knew how many scary things can happen to a little girl.

When I was younger, almost nothing made me cry. Now that I know how difficult life can get, I’ll cry at even the dumbest things. I first realized it when I was watching a shamefully manipulative episode of The Simpsons. Lisa really wanted a pony, so Homer was working extra jobs to pay for it, but they still couldn’t afford to keep it. I was almost in tears. I thought: Homer just loves her so much.

I can’t even remember which movie made me cry the most, but one of them was My Neighbor Totoro. It has an ending that’s almost cheerful. A sick person gets a little bit better. But I knew how unlikely even that amount of healing really was, so when I saw the film for the first time, I had to cry, if only out of relief that the ending hadn’t been so much sadder.

reply to  Danielm80
Mon, Feb 07, 2022 2:18pm

“The best part of waking up is Folger’s in your cup.” It made me feel so sad for the person drinking the coffee. I thought: If the best part of your day is Folger’s coffee, you need to seriously reconsider your life choices.

But it’s not the best part of their DAY, just the best part of their waking up. :-)

Rockapella’s version is the best:


reply to  Bluejay
Mon, Feb 07, 2022 2:45pm

They’ve never tried, just for example, Harney and Sons tea, maybe a strong Russian blend or Hot Cinnamon Spice? I’m not a beer drinker, but I think the Folger’s slogan is kind of like like saying Bud Light is the reason people go to bars. Nice harmonies, though.

reply to  Danielm80
Mon, Feb 07, 2022 3:46pm

I’m sure there are better kinds of coffee, but Folgers wouldn’t pay for them to sing that. :-)

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Danielm80
Wed, Feb 09, 2022 1:41pm

I thought this was gonna be your jokey answer:


Mon, Feb 07, 2022 2:15pm

To my surprise, it’s probably Field of Dreams. My wife and I saw it for the first time last year, thinking we’d just be settling down to a corny, passably enjoyable film. I knew it was about baseball, knew that lots of men loved it, knew “If you build it they will come.” But I didn’t know it would be about grieving for fathers. So when we saw it just a few months after losing our own dads, it hit us much harder than we could ever have expected.

Ted Lasso has been a show that we’ve cried over, not necessarily while watching an episode, but while thinking and talking about it afterward. It’s such a cathartic show about forgiveness and kindness and healing (among other things)—and, I now realize, quite similar to Field of Dreams in being ostensibly about sports but really about how to answer pain with love.

Mon, Feb 07, 2022 3:53pm

I freely admit that it doesn’t take much to make me tear up at a movie. Heck, I cried when Dwayne Johnson’s gorilla pal faked his death at the end of Rampage. I guess I’m the audience Dino De Laurentiis once famously described: “No one cry when Jaws die, But when the monkey die, people gonna cry.”

Biggest cry I can remember in recent memory, though, would be the end of Avengers: Endgame. I teared up a little at some of the earlier bits, like Tony Stark dying and at his funeral, but those were not wholly unexpected. What really got me was Steve and Peggy finally having their dance to wrap up the movie and their story.

Mon, Feb 07, 2022 8:58pm

Platoon. There are others but if they were rated, there would be a big gap between Platoon and number 2. It was devastating. It wasn’t a personal connection – no family military history, I didn’t know anybody who went to Viet Nam, or anybody for whom it was a looming threat of the draft, that kind of drama. During that time I was like everyone around me, nearly oblivious, just the dreadful footage on the evening news. It had very little impact. Life went on. Now, I won’t imply that Platoon changed all that – meaning my personal response to the Viet Nam War – but I was very strongly moved by it. By the end I was crying in earnest. I cried through the credits, and when I got to my car (I’d gone by myself) the floodgates opened and I sat there bawling for 15 minutes before I thought I could drive. Then I didn’t want to go home, I wanted somebody to be with that could understand and just let me cry. I drove to a friend’s house (still crying). She wasn’t home, but she usually left the back door open so I went in and cried some more. She hadn’t come home when I thought I should go, but I left her a note. I can’t tell you a reason for this. It wasn’t just that a character died, or some devastating plot point. It was the hopelessness and pointlessness of it all. I can’t see a war movie any more without thinking that. It takes a whole lot away from my appreciation of them.

Edit: I think I should mention that these days I don’t cry at all. I wish I could. There are plenty of times when it would be appropriate, and sometimes I feel it coming, but it doesn’t happen. It’s been several years, I think. I only noticed a few years ago.

Tue, Feb 08, 2022 2:57pm

OLD YELLER. Not a joke.

Sun, Feb 13, 2022 2:36pm

Keeping in mind that I’m extremely susceptible to emotional manipulation and have been brought to tears by the impassioned speech of Rhino, the obese CGI hamster in Bolt, there are three scenes that are guaranteed to reduce (perhaps elevate?) me to a full-on, snot streaming out of my nose, sobbing wreck of a man:

1) When the Iron Giant says “Superman.” The first time I watched it in the theater, I was so surprised by my own reaction that I stayed in my seat, waited for the next showing, and watched the entire movie again, assuming that foreknowledge would grant me immunity; however, it hit me just as hard the second time around. I’m a sucker for self-sacrifice. After at least ten rewatches over the years, it still consistently breaks me.

2) When Boo says “Kitty.” It’s the one-two-three punch of leaving a small child you deeply love forever, being given a gift by a close friend that you know took a monstrous effort to construct, an effort fueled by their concern and love for you, and finally returning to someone who you thought was lost forever. It’s also the first movie I watched with my ex-wife on our first date during our first vacation to San Francisco, so there are some complicated emotions running through me when I simply hear the name “Mike Wazowski.” Fortunately, I don’t live in a Polish neighborhood (please don’t take that out of context).

3) This is more obscure – there’s a Chinese film by Zhang Yimou called “Not One Less” about a young, inexperienced substitute teacher in a mountain village and her struggle to bring one of her students back to the classroom. The end destroys me. An already emotional climax is doubly affecting because I was a full-time teacher for five years and a substitute for two years prior to help pay my way through college to earn my teaching certificates (I truly wish substitute teaching in a poor neighborhood was mandatory in the States, akin to military service in South Korea).

Seeing how stubborn and idealistic she was hit incredibly close to home. I understand how many would consider the film to be nothing more than melodramatic propaganda promoting the unity and strength of Chinese society, but as an avid critic of the Chinese government, I sat on the floor and sobbed through almost the entire end credit roll. I’m pretty sure it still holds the record for longest uninterrupted post-baby sob session, a hotly contested event in the late 90’s.

There are a ton of other films and shows that occasionally squeeze out a couple tears, Pixar and a few Ghibli movies in particular – these are the only three that work 100% of the time, every time.