MM Top 5: Tearjerkers

The MM Top 5 series has become like a well-oiled machine over the past few months and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. To ensure the quality of the series continues I am going to be taking a break from the series to find some new lists for you, my loyal readers. So for now, this will be the last Top 5 until further notice; oh it’s Tearjerkers by the way. Remember to leave a comment and vote in the poll for your voice to be heard.

5. The Land Before Time: Don Bluth, 1988
5. The Land Before Time

5. The Land Before Time

I always find children’s films to be some of the most upsetting of any put to screen and The Land Before Time is definitely no exception. Released in 1988 to capitalise on the success of hand-drawn Disney cartoons it was one of the most loved animated films of the decade and spawned an unbelievable 12 sequels, though the first was the only one released in cinemas.

Following the adventures of baby dinosaurs Littlefoot, Cera, Petrie, Ducky and Spike, Land Before Time was an emotional tale of their journey to a wondrous ‘Great Valley’ where they could be safe from the dangers of carnivorous dinosaurs and the ever-changing landscape around them.

But why is it a tearjerker? Within the first 20 minutes of the film, Littlefoot’s mother is brutally killed by a Tyrannosaurus Rex leaving the tiny Apatosaurus to fend for himself. Throughout his journey to the Great Valley, he constantly reminisces about his mother and the life he was forced to leave behind. Add to this a moving soundtrack with a song by Diana Ross that could even make those with hearts of steel cry and you have one of the most upsetting and yet uplifting animated films ever.

As a note on the side, the little girl who voiced tiny duck-bill Ducky was tragically killed by her father as she slept in her American home.

I defy any of you reading this to watch The Land Before Time and not shed a tear.

4. The Notebook: Nick Cassavetes, 2004
4. The Notebook

4. The Notebook

Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams starred in 2004’s saddest film by a country mile. The Notebook follows the two leading actors as they fall in love in the 1940s and is narrated throughout by an elderly gentleman who is living in the present day.

The film itself received mixed reviews from critics but was a huge success at the global box-office as romantic drama movies always go down exceptionally well with audiences. It wasn’t the film itself which became such a tearjerker, as deep down it was just the usual run of the mill love story, it was the excellent source material on which it was based, the novel of the same name by Nicholas Sparks, perhaps the king of the tearjerker.

Add to this two brilliant performances from Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams and you have a Romeo & Juliet-esque love story that explores the themes of heartbreak, redemption and true love better than any film I have ever seen.

3. ET – The Extra Terrestrial: Steven Spielberg, 1982
3. ET - The Extra Terrestrial

3. ET – The Extra Terrestrial

Director Steven Spielberg features twice in this fortnight’s list. Here we have his 1982 blockbuster classic E.T – The Extra Terrestrial; a film which stunned cinemagoers across the world with its amazing special effects, rousing soundtrack and poignant story.

Spielberg really tugged at our heartstrings in a film which has simply become one of the greatest pieces of cinema of all time. E.T the cute little alien lost on Earth after crash-landing brought tears to the eyes of many as he struggled to come to terms with being stranded on a planet which was never meant to home him.

Thankfully he is taken in by Elliot, a lonely little boy and his family, including a very young Drew Barrymore, who learn to love him and teach him the ways of the planet in some hilariously staged sequences including trick or treating at Halloween and of course the moment he is introduced to Barrymore’s Gertie in the garden shed.

Alas, perfection is never meant to be and scientists finally get hold of E.T bringing with it the first of many hugely emotional scenes signalling the climax of the blockbuster. For me, the tears continue as our little alien buddy finally gets to go home, lifts his finger and says ‘I’ll be right here’ as he points to Elliot’s heart.

Emotional stuff.

2. War Horse: Steven Spielberg, 2011
2. War Horse

2. War Horse

Oh Spielberg, will you ever cease to make your loyal cinema-going fans cry. For now, it seems like the answer will be no as the veteran director showed in 2011 with his adaptation of the play War Horse, a film that will make even those of you who class yourselves as non-animal lovers weep like little babies.

Starring Jeremy Irvine, Peter Mullan, Emily Watson, Tom Hiddlestone and David Thewlis; War Horse was an emotional rollercoaster from the very start, right up until the end credits being to roll.

Focusing on the plight of horses used in World War One, Spielberg introduced audiences to Joey, a beautiful young stallion who is snapped up as a plough horse. Predictably, he is useless and is soon sold off to the army to be used as a trusty steed.

However, it wasn’t just the horses we felt for, there was real emotion invested in the human characters as friends were lost in battle to mustard gas and machine guns. There is one heart-wrenching scene in particular involving two German deserters who are found inside an old windmill that will leave your jaw on the floor in sheer disbelief.

War Horse is not a film to watch if you’re feeling blue, it is pure emotion from beginning to end and just as you think the tissues can go away, in typical Spielberg fashion, there is a finale which is so joyous and happy, your eyes will sting.

Why do you do it to us Mr. Spielberg? Why!?

1. Marley & Me: David Frankel, 2008
1. Marley & Me

1. Marley & Me

I’ll probably get a fair bit of criticism for including so many films which lack investment in their human characters and instead get the tears rolling with animals, but for one reason or another, people are so invested in animals that they often will have you blubbing more than any human character could.

We finish this edition of the MM Top 5 series with Marley & Me, a film directed by David Frankel who is no stranger to the romantic comedy drama as he was also at the helm of the brilliant Devil Wears Prada. With Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson and Alan Arkin on board you would expect nothing more than your usual rom-com, but you’d be so wrong.

Enter Marley, a naughty but adorable Labrador who steals every scene he’s in. The problem with Marley & Me is that you know what is coming, even if you haven’t read the book. We spend as the audience a good 90 minutes learning about his naughty streak and his adorable side and then, right at the end he is cruelly ripped away from us like pets generally are.

For any of you out there who have a dog or owned one previously, Marley & Me is the ultimate no-go area. It is simply too sad, I have tears writing this as I think about the film.

Yet it constantly makes me want to watch it again, because I love seeing how happy animals can make their owners and how the bond between man and dog is truly one of the most beautiful relationships on this planet, and for me it is the biggest tearjerker of all time.

Thanks for reading, please leave comments and vote in our fortnightly poll.

An Honourable Mention:


The Lion King



The Green Mile

P.S. I Love You

17 thoughts on “MM Top 5: Tearjerkers

  1. I agree with the combined list of your top 5 tearjerkers and your honorable mentions. I would probably add Stepmom, The Bucket List, My Sister’s Keeper and Les Miserables to my list as well. Let’s put it this way, I wouldn’t be able to narrow it down to 5! I love The Land Before Time, so glad it made your top 5, however my vote went with Marley and Me. 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment Katie, I’m pleased you agree with my combined list. It was probably the most difficult list to narrow down and that’s why there were almost double the number of honourable mentions on this topic compared to previous ones.

  2. Once again, an informative top five. Interesting choices, I can’t say that they would have made my own but everyone’s different! I think you are missing films about heroes and people who have faught for something and reached a tragic end- Gladiator, Braveheart, Man on Fire etc. sad to here it’s the final one for a while! Enjoyed them 🙂 x

    • Thanks Fiona. I think this is why the lists are so much fun to read and write. It’s everyone’s different take on what they find sad.

      For me, films about people in peril don’t make me cry – no matter how much I enjoy them. The series will return in the autumn just to ensure that the topics don’t decrease in quality.

      Thanks for your loyalty over the last few months, and I’m glad you’ve stuck with the series.

  3. Some good choices, Adam, however the films that have reduced me to blubbering wrecks the most are – My Sister’s Keeper, A Little Bit of Heaven and The Impossible. The Impossible would get my vote.

  4. Emotional but enjoyable edition! I don’t usually find films with animal characters that upsetting but Marley & Me is definitely an exception to this! Have sobbed every time I have seen it (scene where the children watch the home movie sets me off!) and can imagine that if you have a dog it would be ten times worse. In agreement with the inclusion of The Notebook as well as the opinion that the concept of the story sets it apart slightly. Bucket List would be on there for me as well.

  5. If the notebook doesn’t make you cry, you know you are made of stone. Great top 5 and I agree with the honourable mentions but I’ve got to say I might have forgotten the notebook in terms of tearjerkers but you are so right, an emotional watch and my winner from your list. Thanks for a great read.

    • Thanks for the comment Heather. Those people with hearts of stone eh ;-). Thank you for continuing to support the MM Top 5 series and we’ll keep you up to date with when it returns in the autumn.

  6. Totally agree with the poll and great to see an animal related film making number one! I sobbed like a baby, so did my boyfriend and is still the one and only time I’ve seen him cry!

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