I recently saw the newest Pixar hit Inside Out (2015), a journey through the mind of an 11-year-old girl and her emotions. Like so many other Pixar films, it touched upon basic human emotions about changes in life. And it does so literally in this one, because the main characters are named Joy and Sadness. But it got me thinking about some other fun films on DVD which are equally heart-warming. It takes some great storytelling to balance an array of emotions in one film.
Sometimes you desperately need to laugh out loud. And sometimes a good cry does you some good, too. Rounded up by my officemates and me, here is a collection of 17 loveable movies that have been known to illicit both laughter and tears before the credits roll. I won’t name names because some of the guys in the office were reluctant to confess – “I might have cried or whatever.”
Get your tissue box in reach and prepare to laugh.
1. Steel Magnolias (1989). The plot largely takes place in Truvy’s (Dolly Parton) Beauty Parlor. It’s the story of a close knit group of people whose lives come together there. As you get to know the people at Truvy’s, their stories will make you laugh, and they will make you cry. Shelby Eatenton (Julia Roberts) is a diabetic young lady who becomes pregnant, against the advice of her physician. The pregnancy endangers her health. Her mother, M’Lynn (Sally Field) shares her concerns with her close friends. [SPOILER ALERT] This scene will make your heart ache along with M’Lynn as she express the anger she feels from losing her daughter.
2. Love Actually (2003). Set in contemporary London in the weeks before Christmas, this film weaves together a spectacular number of love stories-sometimes romantic — sometimes sad, sometimes stupid — all funny in their own way. It is also the directorial debut of celebrated screenwriter Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Notting Hill), with a stellar ensemble cast, including Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Laura Linney, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Bill Nighy, Keira Knightley, Martine McCutcheon and Rowan Atkinson. You’ve got to love this scene, when the Prime Minister makes a speech, standing up to the President and accusing him of acting like a bully.
3. Fried Green Tomatoes (1991). In a Southern nursing home, a feisty resident and old local ﬁxture named Ninny Threadgoode (Jessica Tandy) befriends Evelyn Couch (Kathy Bates), a depressed housewife, and stirs her to action with an inspirational tale. She tells the story of a transcendent friendship between two young women living in rural Georgia in the 1930s, Idgie Threadgoode (Mary Stuart Masterson) and Ruth Jamison (Mary–Louise Parker), who forge a powerful bond, surviving the hardships of life despite racism, prejudice, abuse, jealously and death. And on this one, I must confess, I’ve seen it so many times, I can quote much of the film scene-by-scene. This scene is one of my favorite character development moments, when Evelyn hits her breaking point in the parking lot of the Winn Dixie and unleashes “Tawanda.”
4. Notting Hill (1999). Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant make a perfect team and are both at their best. Grant plays quiet Englishman and book shop owner, William Thacker and Roberts, as Anna Scott, a mega-movie star. Anna finds safety from the paparazzi in the comfort of of Will’s flat in Notting Hill. Add a flat mate named Spike, played by Rhys Ifans, and you have the perfect chemistry for one emotional ride of laughter and tears. [SPOILER ALERT] This pivoting scene where Anna comes back into the shop to make a plea that she’s “just a girl” will have your eyes watering up for sure.
5. Return to Me (2000). Happily-married Bob Rueland (David Duchovny) is struck with tragedy when his wife Elizabeth (Joely Richardson) dies from complications after a car accident. Through her death, however, another is given life, as Grace Briggs (Minnie Driver) who has an ailing heart, is given a transplant. Finally able to live a normal life for the ﬁrst time in years, she joins her grandfather (Carroll O’Conner) in helping to run a restaurant. With a good cast of supporting roles, including David Alan Grier and director Bonnie Hunt. It’s an old-fashioned love story, one that’s sweet and innocent, so if you’re cynical about rom–coms, this one might not be right for you. Check out this “Swiss water” scene, when Bob goes on a date and has a moment of kismet with the waitress.
6. My Girl (1991). Vada Sultenfuss (Anna Chlumsky) is obsessed with death. Her mother is dead, and her father Harry (Dan Aykroyd) runs a funeral parlor. She is also in love with her English teacher Mr. Bixter (Grifﬁn Dunne) and joins a poetry class over the summer just to impress him. Thomas J. Sennet (Macaaulay Culkin), her best friend, is allergic to everything and sticks with Vada despite her hangups. When Vada’s father hires Shelly DeVoto (Jamie Lee Curtis), a makeup artist, she helps young Vada as she struggles with the concept of death. [SPOILER ALERT] can’t help but cry along with Vada as she reacts to the loss of Thomas in this funeral scene.
7. Dead Poets Society (1989). Passionate English teacher John Keating (Robin Williams) inspires his students to challenge the status quo imposed upon them by their prestigious private school. With much vigor and enthusiasm, Keating exclaims to his class, “Carpe Diem, lads! Seize the day. Make your lives extraordinary!” Taking this charge to heart, some of Keating’s students (Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke, Gale Hansen, Dylan Kussman, Josh Charles) reform the secret society to celebrate the human spirit. Learning to think for themselves, each, in their own way, are changed forever. [SPOILER ALERT] In this touching scene, the boys take a stand for their teacher as he exits the classroom after being fired due to the suicide of a student.
8. Up (2009). A young Carl Fredricksen meets a kindred spirit in a girl named Ellie. Together they grow up and dream of adventures in far-off places. But, as the years pass by, their adventures together stay close to home. [SPOILER ALERT] I get a little choked up just thinking about this scene, with its beautiful score as you see the story unfold with their “Married Life” together. It will have you tearing up in under 4 minutes.
9. Way Way Back (2013). A coming-of-age story about a teenage boy, Duncan (Liam James) who spends the summer at a beach house with his mom, Pam (Toni Collette) and her jerk of a boyfriend (Steve Carell). Unbeknownst to them, he spends his days working at a local water park, where he befriends the manager, Owen (Sam Rockwell) and feels like he’s able to be himself. There are lots of laughs from the other cast members, including Maya Rudolph and Allison Janney. Check out the trailer.
10. Toy Story 3 (2010). As Andy prepares for college, his toys accidentally get donated to Sunnyside Day Care, where they must escape from a tyrannical teddy bear and his band of thugs, which include a baby doll and a Ken doll. It’s filled with all the antics and comedic writing that makes Pixar movies great for both kids and adults. [SPOILER ALERT] At the end, as Bonnie holds up Woody’s arm to gesture a goodbye, Andy waves back and says farewell to to his favorite childhood toy.
11. 50/50 (2011). It’s a story about two buddies dealing with the fact that one of them has been given a cancer diagnosis and a 50/50 shot of beating it. Due to its real-grit portrayal about fighting cancer, it will tug at your heart strings. And, since it stars Seth Rogen, it’s good for a few laughs. In this scene, Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and his friend Kyle (Rogen) are at a bar, using “I have cancer” as a pickup line.
12. Beaches (1988). Brassy C.C. Bloom (Bette Midler) and classy Hillary Whitney (Barbara Hershey) met on a beach when they were very young. Through good times and bad times, through broken marriages and budding careers, they always had each other. And together, they would face their greatest challenge…as only best friends could. You’ll enjoy watching an 11-year old Mayim Bialik in her role as a young C.C. Bloom. [SPOILER ALERT] In this scene, Hillary’s daughter Victoria makes the choice to live with C.C. after her mother dies.
13. Family Stone (2005). Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney) brings his overly self-conscious girlfriend, Meredith Morton (Sarah Jessica Parker), home for the holidays for the ﬁrst time, seeking a thumbs-up from his parents Sybil and Kelly Stone (Diane Keaton, Craig T. Nelson), and his grown-up sibs Amy (Rachel McAdams), Susannah (Elizabeth Reaser) and her daughter Elizabeth (Savannah Stehlin), Ben (Luke Wilson) and Thad (Ty Giordano) and his partner Patrick (Brian White). When things aren’t going well, Meredith calls upon her own sister, Julie (Claire Danes). Along with secrets revealed, love affairs unraveling, sibling conﬂict rising and unexpected turns, the Stone family ﬁnd more reasons to love and lean on each other. Check out the spoiler-free trailer for a glimpse into the drama.
14. The Descendants (2011), based on a novel of the same name. Hawaii land baron, Matt King (George Clooney) tries to reconnect with his two daughters while coping with his wife’s hospitalization after a serious boating accident. Together, they face some truths about their relationships. The trailer gives you a good preview of the family drama and humor that unfolds. [SIDE NOTE] Meet New York Times bestselling author of The Descendants, Kaui Hart Hemmings on Thursday, September 24, at 7 p.m. at your Flagship HPB.
15. Life is Beautiful (1997). This film, written, directed and starring Roberto Benigni, is a must-see. Guido (Benigni) has achieved a perfect family – married to the woman he loves and raising his young boy, Joshua. But he quickly finds himself as well as his family wrapped up in the Holocaust. In order to keep his family together and Joshua safe, everything becomes a game in the concentration camp. It’s a truly touching movie that will make you laugh as well as cry and realize that life is beautiful. In this scene, Guido meets the love of his life at a black-tie dinner.
16. I Am Sam (2001). A mentally challenged man named Sam (Sean Penn) fights for custody of his 7-year-old daughter Lucy (Dakota Fanning). Lawyer Rita Harrison (Michelle Pfeiffer) takes his case pro bono, and in the process, she learns that love is really all a family needs. [SPOLIER ALERT] In this heartbreaking scene, Lucy says goodbye to her father as Child Services takes her away.
17. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) based on a book of the same name. A struggling salesman, Chris Gardner (Will Smith), takes custody of his son as he starts a new career as a stockbroker. Unable to make ends meet, he and his son Christopher (Jaden Smith) end up living on the streets. In this scene, Gardner talks to his son about aspirations and dreams.
So, it’s time to fess up. Which film has you reaching for the tissues?