Arts & Life

Movies that Make Grown Men Cry

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In a column in the Chicago Tribune, page two columnist John Kass revealed himself as a "crybaby" at guy cry movies. And male readers jumped at the chance to admit that yes, they too cry at the movies. The Tribune's Web site is still taking votes for favorite guy cry films.


But right now, guy crybabies. For whatever reason, it's generally okay for women to cry during tearjerkers, but most men would rather shop for shoes than admit they cried at the end of "Old Yeller." Maybe that's changing.

In a column in the Chicago Tribune, page two columnist John Kass revealed himself as a quote "crybaby" at guy cry movies. And male readers jumped at the chance to admit that, yes, they too cry at the movies.

The Tribune's Web site is taking votes for your favorite guy cry films. And we want to know them too. Guys, what movies make you cry? Do you try to hide it? And women, do you ever secretly catch your boyfriend, husband, dad, or brother getting misty-eyed?

The number here in Washington is 800-989-8255. That's 800-989-TALK. Our e-mail address is And you can also comment on our blog, it's at

John Kass is on the line with us from Chicago. Welcome to the program.

Mr. JOHN KASS (Columnist, Chicago Tribune): Hello. Thank you for letting me reveal to the nation that I'm a big crybaby.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROBERTS: We're pleased to give you that opportunity.

Mr. KASS: Thank you.

ROBERTS: But you know, it's ironic - reading your columns, you've faced down corrupt politicians, threats from the mob in Chicago. People would consider you something of a tough guy. Was it hard to out yourself as a movie crybaby?

Mr. KASS: Well, not really because - I started it as a joke. A friend of mine at the Tribune suggested "Thelma and Louise" was a guy cry movie. And she's - it's more of a horror movie if you've ever seen it…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KASS: …for guys and for people who like '66 Thunderbirds, because they smash the beautiful car…

ROBERTS: Oh, right, they drive right into the Grand Canyon.

Mr. KASS: And I thought, you know, what would be another (unintelligible) that make guys cry? Probably the four more years video for Hillary Clinton at the, you know, four years from now at her next convention when she goes for her second term. That would make probably 50 percent of all guys cry in the United States.

But what was funny was that people sent in heartfelt, you know, really heartfelt messages about crying at movies. And I just admitted it; I'm just a big weepy baby when it comes - you know, there are certain parts of like "Rocky." Are you a big "Rocky" fan?

ROBERTS: Yeah. Number one.

Mr. KASS: Okay. Number two - Rocky number two, when the wife comes - you know, she's in a coma but her hair is perfect and her lipstick is on. And she comes out of the coma and tells Rocky to win the second fight against the Apollo Creed archetype and that's when I start balling. I ball there. I ball at "Brian's Song."

ROBERTS: We had a caller earlier who said "Field of Dreams."

Mr. KASS: "Field of Dreams." When the guys said - when Kevin Costner says, let's have a catch, dad. Oh, yeah. That's a big one. But "Brian's Song" in Chicago was big. It was about Brian Piccolo dying of cancer - a Bear player, friend of Gale Sayers. And that gets everybody to cry here in Chicago.

ROBERTS: Now, you described in your column a noise that men make when they try not to cry. Can you give us a little demo of that noise?

Mr. KASS: Heemp.


(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KASS: It's like a heemp. I spell it, phonetically, H-E-E-M-P. Maybe you should throw three E's in there. That's when a guy doesn't want to cry but he catches himself and stifles the sob. And you can hear that, you know, when - that tells a woman if a guy is a real guy crier or a piece of fake guy crier.

ROBERTS: There are fake guy criers?

Mr. KASS: No. No. Yeah, there are. There - in the '70s, several hundred years ago, people my age would put on Leonard Cohen albums or James Taylor albums to convince our female companions that we are sensitive, and that is all a ruse. And I don't want women - young women to get caught into that - caught up with a fake guy crier. So if you hear a heemp(ph), then you know the guy's really crying, he's really fighting it.

ROBERTS: So are there heemp movies, and are there all-out-bawl-I-can't-even-pretend-to-hide-it-anymore movies?

Mr. KASS: Well, clearly any time a dog dies, you know, those are all-out bawls. "My Dog Skip," I've never seen it because I heard that the dog died. It terrified me. Ever since "Old Yeller," I haven't been able to watch a dog movie. We saw - what was the movie? - based on a children's book "Because of Winn-Dixie," and we were watching it with the kids, with the family, and I was terrified throughout the whole movie that the dog was going to get killed.

You know, everyone enjoyed it, and I'm sitting on my hands, terrified. So yeah, when a dog dies, that's definitely a weeper. When Mel Gibson paints his face blue and makes a speech on a white horse before chopping the heads off of British or English soldiers in - what was that movie?

ROBERTS: "Braveheart."

Mr. KASS: "Braveheart." Yeah, that's a guy-cry. Sports clichés: guy-cry.

ROBERTS: Oh, "Hoosiers."

Mr. KASS: "Hoosiers," oh. You know, "Hoosiers" has as many cry moments for guys as - what was that movie with James Garner and Gena Rowlands, and she has Alzheimer's disease? What was that called?

ROBERTS: Oh, I don't know.

Mr. KASS: I forget it, but there were like three endings to it. You kept waiting for…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KASS: You know, I mean, it's like okay cry at this one, and then there's another ending, and you cry at - and the crescendo keeps building. So I think "Hoosiers" is kind of like that. "The Notebook," "The Notebook." That's what it was.

ROBERTS: Oh, "The Notebook."

Mr. KASS: You missed that one, huh? Yeah, so did I. The other guy-cry is when you come home and you want to watch something on television, and your wife and her friends are sitting around watching a movie like, oh, what's the one with the tomatoes?

ROBERTS: "Fried Green Tomatoes."

Mr. KASS: Yeah, yeah, that kind of thing. You know, you're just like, okay, I'm just going to go out for a beer. See you later.

ROBERTS: Yeah, we have that moment when you're watching the 40,000th day of the NBA playoffs.

Mr. KASS: Yeah, because the whole thing has to last six months.

ROBERTS: Also with us now is Murray Horwitz. He's director and COO of the American Film Institute Silver Theater and Cultural Center. He joins us from his office in Silver Spring, Maryland. Welcome, Murray.

Mr. MURRAY HORWITZ (Director and Chief Operating Officer, American Film Institute Silver Theater and Cultural Center): Hi. How are you doing, Rebecca?

ROBERTS: So what kinds of movies make men cry, as opposed to just being general tear-jerker or making women cry?

Mr. HORWITZ: Well, first of all, I've got to get this out of the way. John, you are such a sissy. I can't believe a guy from - never mind…

Mr. KASS: Thank you, thank you.

Mr. HORWITZ: Well, it's interesting because John - you did such a great job, John, in your columns in the Tribune identifying, making just that break, Rebecca, between films that sort of make everybody cry. And it's important that no less a macho father authority than Bernie Mac had an episode in which he said recently that it's okay for guys to cry at "It's a Wonderful Life."

So we have that authority. And there's a terrific scene in Steven Spielberg's film "1941," with John Belushi, where Robert Stack plays a general who is watching "Dumbo," and when the mother dies in "Dumbo," he breaks down crying.

ROBERTS: The mother doesn't die in "Dumbo." She's just locked up.

Mr. HORWITZ: Oh, she's imprisoned, I'm sorry.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROBERTS: You just horrified children all over America.

Mr. KASS: She dies in "Bambi."

Mr. HORWITZ: An elephant, a deer, what do I know? But those are both big guy-cry moments, I think.

Mr. KASS: Does Thumper die?

Mr. HORWITZ: Sorry?

Mr. KASS: Does Thumper die in "Bambi?"

ROBERTS: Thumper, no. Thumper makes it in "Bambi."

Mr. KASS: Okay, good.

Mr. HORWITZ: But to answer your question, I think that - I've got two answers. There are certain themes that I think guys respond to more than women do, patriotism for example, and there are all kinds of - I think the first movie I remember crying in was "Yankee Doodle Dandy," and it's just because it was this big flag-waver and everything. And when George M. Cohan, in the person of James Cagney, marches along with the soldiers at the end - and I looked over, my mother was not crying. I was weeping. And there's thing about - and military stuff plays into sort of camaraderie films so that some of the films on John's list like "Saving Private Ryan" and "Braveheart" - also, you picked a great film and one of my favorites, John, that you wrote about, which is "Tunes of Glory" with John Mills and Alec Guinness, which is - plays on that whole camaraderie theme in a sort of dark way.

And you know, in sports films there's a level on which I think guys get "Rudy" and guys get "The Natural" and "Rocky" that women just don't relate to maybe as much.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROBERTS: Let's hear from Clark in Porterville, California. Clark, what movie makes you cry?

CLARK (Caller): Well, any movie where there's a father-son connection makes me cry. I'm a dad. I have two boys, and I am so extreme that I cry at the end of "Finding Nemo."

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KASS: That's when the little fish found his mom?

ROBERTS: His dad.

CLARK: No, his dad. He was searching…

Mr. KASS: Oh sorry, yeah, that was sad.

ROBERTS: Clark, it takes a big man to admit that on national radio.

Mr. KASS: Do you heemp? Do you heemp at movies?

CLARK: What was that?

Mr. KASS: Do you heemp, like do you ever stifle a cry and make that sound like heemp?

(Soundbite of laughter)

CLARK: No, I just sit there and quietly weep, and wait for one of my sons to look over and start laughing at me.

Mr. HORWITZ: Well, to stay with the nautical motif, there's a terrific - well, I don't even know about - we can talk about terrific in a minute, but the movie called "Big Fish," a Tim Burton movie with a guy who goes to search for - who tries to be what his father was in a way. And the kid is Billy Crudup, and it's with Albert Finney as the father, and then Ewan McGregor, the young man who tries to be his father. And it'll tear you up.

Mr. KASS: So would - if Leonidas, king of Sparta, came back to the present day, would he beat the heck out of us now for talking like this?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KASS: He would say what a bunch of wimps Americans have become.

Mr. HORWITZ: Yeah, you know…

ROBERTS: I bet he cried.

Mr. HORWITZ: One of the things that - where the macho thing really plays into it, and I think honorable mention should go to an art form - I guess it's an art form - that has actually become much more expert than even movies at this, and that's TV commercials. There are, you know, ads for pickup trucks now that make you cry, you know, where the, you know, the son goes off to the Army or, you know, the…

ROBERTS: I'm sorry, Murray, you were calling John Kass a sissy, and you're crying at truck commercials?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KASS: And he's crying - do you have a truck, Murray? Come on.

Mr. HORWITZ: No, but okay, I can settle this. About 25, 30 years ago, there was an ad for Coca-Cola that featured Mean Joe Green of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

ROBERTS: Oh ,right.

Mr. KASS: Right.

Mr. HORWITZ: I rest my case.

ROBERTS: Okay, all right. Fair enough.

Mr. KASS: And he didn't beat up the little kid.

Mr. HORWITZ: Later, but that was off-camera.

ROBERTS: You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. We have e-mail from Mary, who says this is for my husband: "Ghost." He cries every time. We've seen it a lot. That last scene when Demi Moore is kissing the ghost of Patrick Swayze just kills him. John Kass, do you have a lot of women outing the men in their lives?

Mr. KASS: Oh, we had - there are so many women who outed them and, you know, and then would put in a line like please don't identify me. You know, don't identify my husband. And there was one who said, you know, he cried at "My Dog Skip," okay? And she told me about it and I put in the column, and he was just blubbering about the death of the dog. And then his daughters were teasing him, and he stormed out of the room saying something like you'll never understand the relationship between a boy and his dog, and he just left the room in a huff.


Mr. KASS: And a lot of women also can identify the fake guy-cry. In other words, I'm sensitive, let's lower your resistance, you know, to ploy to the real guy-cry. And that gave me - it almost made me want to cry just hearing about it.

Mr. HORWITZ: This is a very important point that John has made. I mean, he's doing this selflessly, and he's doing it as a way of standing up for the women of America, if not around the world.

Mr. KASS: That's me. That's what I do in my column.

Mr. HORWITZ: It's an important point in - women have to be able to protect themselves. And any time some guy is, you know, blubbering away at, you know, "Love Story," it's time to get a new boyfriend.

Mr. KASS: Yeah, get a new boyfriend, walk away. And plus, if a guy rents a movie that is what we call a chick-flick or a movie designed like, you know, like the tomato movie or the pants - what's the one with the pants, and it goes around?

Mr. HORWITZ: Oh, "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants."

Mr. KASS: All that stuff. You know, if a guy rents a movie like that for a date, then you should dump him.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HORWITZ: He's up to no good.

Mr. KASS: He's after something else, and it's not the movie.

ROBERTS: Let's hear from Ed in St. Louis. Ed, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

ED (Caller): Thanks, I'll give you two on a same theme: "Seabiscuit" and "Cinderella Man."

ROBERTS: This is the underdog theme.

ED: Yeah, the underdogs, also Depression Era. You know, I think there's a link there. I don't know, but…

Mr. HORWITZ: Well, did you actually cry in "Cinderella Man"?

ED: Yeah, at the end, when he wins the fight against Max Baer, yeah.

Mr. HORWITZ: Because the…

ED: A little bit, but "Seabiscuit" was the bigger one.

Mr. HORWITZ: The reason I mention that is I think maybe, you know, "Cinderella Man" might have been a bigger hit had it hit that moment the way, you know, "Rocky" did or "Requiem for a Heavyweight" does, or other boxing movies, that really do make a guy cry. And it didn't do that for me, but I don't know. But if it did for you, well then I'm - what can I tell you? I'm an insensitive guy.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Ed. I feel that we're providing a therapy session for men all over America here.

Mr. KASS: This is pathetic. I'm going to have to start writing alternate columns now, ripping guys crying. I think we have to stop.

ROBERTS: We have e-mail from Laura in Philadelphia who says: My husband always gets choked up at that part in "The Sound of Music" when the captain is singing "Edelweiss" when he believes he'll be leaving his family to join the navy for the Third Reich. I have to say, I've always wondered why Austria had a navy, myself, in that movie.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROBERTS: It always surprises me.

Mr. KASS: They have a lake, I think, don't they?

ROBERTS: It always surprises me that he cries because the scene seems so ridiculous. I guess it has to do with men and war. That's what you were saying, Murray, there's the camaraderie, military aspect.

Mr. HORWITZ: There's that. There's the danger of it. And I have to say this too, although I wouldn't accuse "The Sound of Music" of doing this, but it's like, and now people are going to get mad at me for saying this, but in a way it's like pornography in that it's trying to get some physical response out of you. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with artistic excellence.

I am now going to make my admission, okay, my John Kass admission. I was blubbering in one of the films I hate the most, which is a 1979 film. It's a remake of "The Champ" with Jon Voight and Ricky Shroder.

Mr. KASS: You actually saw that thing?

Mr. HORWITZ: Franco Zeffirelli. I had no choice. It was a screening. Anyway -it was free. I didn't pay to see it. And I'm sitting there, and the same time that tears are streaming down my face, I'm thinking this is awful. This is a terrible, terrible movie.

ROBERTS: And you feel so manipulated.

Mr. HORWITZ: That's right, but you can do that because people know how to make that manipulation.

ROBERTS: Well, Murray Horwitz and John Kass, thank you both so much for joining us today.

Mr. HORWITZ: Thank you.

Mr. KASS: Heemp, heemp.

ROBERTS: And the callers we didn't get to, some of the votes were "What Dreams May Come," "Sling Blade," Michael Keaton's movie "Life," "West Side Story," any cowboy movie with John Wayne, "Chariots of Fire," and "The Great Santini."

I'm Rebecca Roberts. This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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