Films to make a grown man cry

I often hear amusing – and let’s face it, rather sexist – comments about films that it is acceptable for grown men to cry at. Said films include the likes of The Shawshank Redemption, Gladiator, Shane, Saving Private Ryan, Braveheart and so forth. In fact, at a screening of Warrior, I saw a row of extremely tough looking men, possibly mixed martial artists on a night out, blubbing their eyes out in the final act, as Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton beat the living hell out of each other in an orgy of mindless violence and… forgiveness. Watch the film. It’s not as ridiculous as it sounds.


Accepting for a moment this ludicrous macho premise of films that a grown man can cry at without perceived emasculation, for me the ultimate example is still Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus, starring Kirk Douglas. This stunning tale of a slave who raised an army against the Roman Empire remains one of cinema’s great epics, and my all-time-favourite sword and sandals pic. Douglas is stunningly heroic in the lead, but he also heads a terrific supporting cast, including Jean Simmons, Peter Ustinov, Charles Laughton, Laurence Olivier and Tony Curtis. The latter two share a notorious, censor baiting bathing scene with gay undertones. Dalton Trumbo’s screenplay has action, romance and wit to spare, and Alex North contributes a stirring musical score. Really, there is nothing not to like, even though it is a tad overlong.


As for the tear-jerking scenes, most will cite the classic “I’m Spartacus” moment, where Douglas’s defeated slave army stand as one to protect the identity of their leader. But I find the much more affecting scene comes just before the end, when Olivier’s spectacularly nasty Crassus demands that Spartacus and Antoninus (Tony Curtis) fight to the death, and the victor will be crucified. “We will test this myth of slave brotherhood” he intones.


Spartacus is surprised to find Antoninus will not yield to a comparatively painless death. “I won’t let them crucify you,” he declares. They fight, and in the end Spartacus wins. “Forgive me Antoninus,” he whispers, as he stabs his dear friend. “I love you Spartacus, as I loved my own father,” Antoninus whispers back, as he lies dying. “I love you, like my son that I’ll never see,’ Spartacus says. “Go to sleep…” Spartacus then turns to Crassus, declaring through his defiant tears “Here’s your victory. He’ll come back. He’ll come back and he’ll be millions!”


That scene always makes me cry. Actually so does the final scene, where Virinia (Simmons) sees Spartacus hanging on the cross and she shows him his son – the son he had always longed for, who would be born free. Those final scenes are so powerful that I always forgive the film for its flabbiness in the mid-section whenever I watch it.

Post Script from Sam: Let the reader understand this post is applicable for people in general not just grown men. Also if you enjoyed this and haven’t listened to the podcast on Sad Stuff yet what exactly are you doing?

samantha stephen