11 Sappy Movies That Reduce Gen-Xers To Floods Of Tears

by Leigh Anderson
Originally Published: 

The 1980s and early ’90s might have been the heyday of tearjerker movies. At the time, I watched them with friends, with my mom, and occasionally with boys, dabbing my tears all the while. Then I went through a stage when I thought they were all absurdly cheesy. And now I’m back to loving the sappiness, happy to curl up with a box of tissues and a bag of Smartfood and relive my younger days. Who’s with me? Below, the 11 sappiest movies a Gen-Xer could ask for.

1. A River Runs Through It. Oh, the dad, the gorgeous sons, the perfect cast of the perfect fly-fishing rod. Brad Pitt in hip waders. We cried at, well, the end. Iconic line: “I am haunted by waters.”

2. Ghost. Because Demi Moore is sad when she throws her pots and she can still feel Patrick Swayze’s presence around her. Plus, we liked the whole wet-clay scene when Patrick Swayze is mostly naked. We cried when they said “ditto” as a response to “I love you.” Iconic line: “Molly, you in danger, girl.”

3. Dances With Wolves. Kevin Costner pretty much embodied the ’80s, didn’t he? Sometimes so hot, sometimes rather…cheesy. But we still love him. I mean, Lt. John J. Dunbar, who’s just too rough for polite society, makes his way on the frontier with his pet wolf, Two Socks. He falls in love with Stands With A Fist (Mary McDonnell) and joins the Sioux tribe as one of their own. We cried when loyal Two Socks bites the dust. Iconic line, when Kicking Bird asks how many whites are coming to invade Sioux territory, Lt. Dunbar: “Like the stars.”

4. Terms of Endearment. Shirley MacLaine, who doesn’t want to be called “Grandma,” Jack Nicholson the womanizer, and Debra Winger as the doomed Emma are a trio of actors to die for. We cried when Aurora demands Emma’s pain medication in the hospital. Iconic line: “I’m lying here next to the astronaut.”

5. Dead Poets Society. All those boys, all that poetry. Robin Williams as the inspiring English teacher, a young Ethan Hawke, the tragic Robert Sean Leonard. We cried when Neil died. Iconic line: “O Captain! My Captain!”

6. Dying Young. Okay, the title kind of gives it all away. But this story of Julia Roberts caring for a terminally ill Campbell Scott has me reaching for the hanky every time. Iconic line: “And if you get well, when you get well, I’ll be there with you. And if you die, I will hold your hand. I’ll hold your hand and the last thing you will ever see will be me because I love you.”

7. Fried Green Tomatoes. Who can forget Kathy Bates wrapped in plastic wrap? Who can forget how adorable Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary-Louise Parker were? We cried when Ruth dies. Best line: “Face it, girls. I’m older and I have more insurance.”

8. The Bridges of Madison County. So much weeping over a four-day love affair! Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep—who could make a movie called The Hours of Watching Paint Dry, and we’d probably cry—broke our hearts as star-crossed lovers who didn’t run away together after all. We cried when they parted. Iconic line: “Who knew that, in between bake sales, my mother was Anaïs Nin?”

9. Steel Magnolias. Oh, the woman-centered films, like Fried Green Tomatoes, do seem to get us every time. And this one has Dolly Parton! We cried when Shelby had her baby boy. Iconic line: “I realize as a woman how lucky I am. I was there when that wonderful creature drifted into my life and I was there when she drifted out. It was the most precious moment of my life.”

10. Philadelphia. We loved Tom Hanks in a role that introduced AIDS to mainstream film audiences, with Antonio Banderas as his lover. Denzel Washington is the homophobic lawyer willing to take the case. We cried when Tom Hanks and Antonio Banderas dance together. Iconic line: “We’re standing here in Philadelphia, the, uh, city of brotherly love, the birthplace of freedom, where the, uh, founding fathers authored the Declaration of Independence, and I don’t recall that glorious document saying anything about all straight men are created equal. I believe it says all men are created equal.”

11. Legends of the Fall. Brad Pitt again, brothers again, early 1900s Montana again. This time, the story of three brothers, in love with the same woman, brings us to tears because, well, just about everyone dies. We cried at: the final scene. Iconic line: “It was a good death.”

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