5 Movies That Don't Get Enough Credit for Being Tearjerkers

#2. What Dreams May Come: The Destruction That Comes From True Love

Boy, people are forgetting about this film quickly. Maybe it's because it's impossible to say the title without sounding like you're saying "Wet Dreams Gay Cum," which was the gay porn parody.

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"Um, no. I don't think that's the reason. What's wrong with you?"

What Dreams May Come is based on the 1978 novel by the great Richard Matheson. The movie tells the story of a man whose wife was institutionalized after they lost their children in a car crash. The wife/mother falls into a suicidal depression, while the husband/father tries to stay strong. Years later, the husband too dies in a car accident, and his wife finally succumbs to sadness and commits suicide.

The majority of the film deals with the man reuniting with his children and experiencing the joys of heaven, but when he learns his wife's suicide has fated her to hell, he travels to the underworld to save her. For my money, that's a little more exciting than letting some selfish bimbo hog all of the driftwood while you freeze to death.


But What Dreams May Come doesn't get me because of some grandiose gesture that saves the day, despite what the trailer might lead you to believe:

Instead, the husband's grand gesture is not to save his wife. She is lost. She is insane. She is in hell. And he decides to sit by her side forever. It's something he refused to do in real life. When she went mad with grief over the loss of the children, he soldiered on while she was institutionalized. He makes amends now, for eternity. And seeing that act of selfless devotion, she is stirred from illness and damnation, and saves them both.

#1. Lorenzo's Oil: The Strength to Let a Child Die

OK, so I hear you now. You're saying, "What are you talking about, Gladstone? Lorenzo's Oil is about dying kids. How is that not an obvious tearjerker?!" Oh, wait a second. I just remembered you're 19. You're not saying that at all. You're saying, "Ohhhhhhh, now I get that joke from Paul!"

Agent Lorenzo Zoil.

In any event, yes, Lorenzo's Oil is the true story of Augusto and Michaela Odone's search for a cure for their son's adrenoleukodystrophy -- a nightmarishly debilitating and previously fatal disease. But here's the amazing thing about Lorenzo's Oil. Despite what I just told you, there is nothing melodramatic about this movie. It does not show how cute and lovely Lorenzo is and then say "Cry now, motherfuckers, cause he's dead." It also does not show you an afflicted child and then say "Cry now, motherfuckers, he's cured!!!" Neither of those events happens in this painfully honest movie about death and disease.

Lorenzo gets ill in the first few minutes of the film because this is a movie that studies how one family dealt with a death sentence for their child. The Odones' search for a cure did not save their child, but it did lead to the discovery of medicine or "oil" that arrested the destructive progression of the disease. For other children, diagnosed early on, that means the preservation of their quality of life.

So why is this a truly unique tearjerker? Well, as you can imagine, there are support groups for the parents whose children are afflicted with this horrific disease. And because this disease typically carried a fatal prognosis, the main point of the group was to support each other during the inevitable death of their children. The Odones were outliers, however, because they were searching for a cure, and at one point mother Michaela Odone is referred to as being merely selfish because of her inability to let go. Her hopeless fight is seen as only prolonging her child's suffering, because she is too weak to let go.

That's why later, when we see this mother cradle her now speechless, afflicted child and lets him know that if the pain is too much, he has her permission to fly away to the baby Jesus, you will either bawl your eyes out or go back to systematically strangling puppies, as is your practice.

Clip not available online, which is probably for the best if you need to not be publicly crying for 16 hours today.


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