Admit it, it gets to you. When an old and probably diaper-wearing Noah (James Garner) crawls into that tiny hospital bed with an equally old and dementia-addled Allie (Gena Rowlands) at the end of “The Notebook,” you have to pretend the dog farted just so you have an excuse for your watery eyes. Even if you’re manly enough to make it through the rollercoaster love story of the younger Noah and Allie, the final scene will take you down. Spoiler alert: they die together, holding hands, and if you’ve ever been any kind of lonely, the thought of a love like that makes you weep like a schoolgirl after telling her that Santa Claus hates her. “The Notebook” is sad because it touches that thing inside of us, that thing that knows that true love brings happiness, but that too ends when life does. Like “The Notebook,” the following four movies break your heart because they show you the kind of real love that we all desire, then they strip it away, leaving us sobbing in the aftermath.
“Beaches” – It’s not a romance. It’s a story about two friends. The over-the-top singer CC Bloom (Bette Midler), and the classic wealthy Hillary (Barbara Hershey) are unlikely friends who meet as children and struggle through the ups-and-downs through the years of competition and friction between them. This story is refreshing because it both admits to the competitive nature of women’s relationships and attests to the strength in that bond. While the attention-seeking CC paves her way to fame, Hillary takes a drastically different path, and the two women grow apart only to rebuild their friendship while Hillary inches closer and closer to death. If you don’t snot-coming-down-your-face sob when the movie’s theme, “Wind Beneath My Wings” plays, then your heart is aluminum like a robots, and you should be destroyed.
“Titanic“ – Despite the sappiness of lines like, “I’m the king of the world!”, there’s a lot to be said for this film. For one thing, the actors are good actors, just good enough to pull off the epic saga. Kate Winslett shines. Leonardo DiCaprio shines too, but more because of his greasiness. But they’re onscreen chemistry is believable, they’re final scene spoof-able, but still heartbreaking, and their passion enviable. It’s the type of love that people always say wouldn’t have lasted anyway, so maybe the beauty of this propels its sadness.
“Life is Beautiful” – The Germans force an eccentric Jewish man, Guido (Robert Benigni), along with his entire family out of their home and into a concentration camp. To save his young son from fear, Guido makes the goings-on of the camp a game, and he manages to get his son through the experience through pure humor, acting and imagination. Guido’s final scene in the film is tear-jerking indeed, but it’s not without hope which makes this movie well worth the travel-pack of tissues you’ll use up while watching it.
“Up” – The fact that this is an animated film doesn’t make it any less sad, but it does make it exponentially more embarrassing to bawl while you’re watching it. The movie itself actually turns into an original and uplifting story, as bright and vividly breathtaking as Pixar animation always is. The first few minutes are adorable, as they introduce you to the main character as a little boy, Carl, who meets the love of his life, Ellie. Ellie plans to one day go on an adventure to South America. Over the next ten minutes, the film plays out the entirety of their life together. Without a single line of dialogue, this “cartoon” manages to portray the sweetness of a life well-spent with a soulmate and the struggles that real people face as they grow old together. Truly a masterpiece, hang with it through the heartache. It somehow gets even better.