As Bottom Line Health readers learned from our article “Go Ahead, Have a Good Cry!” with Lauren M. Bylsma, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, there are many health benefits to a good cry. While life’s circumstances often give us cause for an emotional release, sometimes you need a little help to get those tears flowing. Here are the favorite tearjerking films recommended by the team members here at Bottom Line…

Beaches (1988). This film takes you through ups and downs in the friendship between child-performer CC (Bette Midler) and rich-kid Hillary (Barbara Hershey) that begins when they meet in Atlantic City at age 11. The movie’s theme song, “Wind Beneath My Wings” (which became a hit song for Midler) truly says it all about the depth and importance of the love between friends.

Brian’s Song (1971). Though this real-life story of the friendship between two professional football players was remade in 2001, you can’t beat the original made-for-TV version starring James Caan as the dying Brian Piccolo and Billy Dee Williams as his friend Gale Sayers. You’ll surely start tearing up as soon as you hear the theme song, “The Hands of Time,” start to play.

The Christmas Shoes (2002). Two stories mesh in this tearjerker. A young boy, Nathan, (Max Morrow) tries to raise money to buy his dying mother (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) a pair of shoes for Christmas. On Christmas Eve, Nathan crosses paths with workaholic lawyer Robert (Rob Lowe), who is facing the failure of his marriage.

Free Willy (1993). A young orca whale—Willy—gets separated from its parents and ends up on display at an aquarium. Twelve-year-old Jesse (Jason James Richter), a troubled orphan, befriends both Willy and his trainer Rae (Lori Petty) and the two of them, along with handyman Randolph (August Schellenberg), are determined to save their whale.

I Am Sam (2001). Mentally handicapped Sam (Sean Penn) is raising his daughter Lucy (Dakota Fanning) alone. Circumstances prompt Lucy to be placed into foster care, and Sam hires attorney Rita (Michelle Pfeiffer) to get her back.

Life Is Beautiful (1997). This film, directed, cowritten by and starring Roberto Benigni, tells the story of an Italian Jewish man and his family that gets sent to a concentration camp in 1939. The father turns their captivity into a game to keep his five-year-old son Giosué (Giorgio Cantarini) protected from the horror that surrounds them…and to keep Giosué alive.

Love Story (1970). When Oliver (Ryan O’Neal), a wealthy Harvard student, falls in love with Jenny (Ali MacGraw), a working-class music major attending Radcliffe, his father disapproves and disinherits him. Undeterred, the couple marries, struggles to make ends meet and soon learns that Jenny is terminally ill. This tearjerker’s most enduring line is, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

Marley & Me (2008). This movie features the true-life crazy antics of Marley, a lovable, high-strung Labrador retriever, and the family that loves him. Starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston, it is based on John Grogan’s best-selling memoir. This movie will make you laugh as much as it will make you cry.

The Notebook (2004). In 1940s South Carolina, mill worker Noah (Ryan Gosling) and rich girl Allie (Rachel McAdams) are desperately in love but her parents don’t approve. They break up, Noah goes off to serve in World War II and Allie becomes involved with another man (James Marsden). But when Noah returns years later, Allie needs to choose. James Garner and Gena Rowlands play the older versions of Noah and Allie. Based on the best-selling novel by Nicholas Sparks.

Old Yeller (1957). This Disney classic is about a teenage boy (played by Tommy Kirk) in post–Civil War Texas who adopts the stray dog that starts hanging around his family’s ranch. Also stars Dorothy McGuire and Fess Parker as the parents.

P.S. I Love You (2007). Holly (Hilary Swank) is a young widow and Gerry (Gerard Butler) her late husband who planned ahead for his death and wrote her 10 letters that arrive over time to guide her through her grief and help her restart her life. Features Kathy Bates as Holly’s mother and Lisa Kudrow and Gina Gershon as Holly’s best friends.

Saving Private Ryan (1998). This film opens on June 6, 1944, with the Allied invasion of Normandy. When it’s discovered that three brothers from one family were killed in the fighting, a group of soldiers led by Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks) go behind enemy lines in an effort to rescue the fourth brother (Matt Damon).

Sophie’s Choice (1982). Upon arrival at Auschwitz during World War II, Sophie (Meryl Streep) is forced to choose which one of her two children will be gassed and which one will proceed with her to the labor camp. That gut-wrenching decision and other horrors of the Holocaust continue to haunt her and her lover, Nathan (Kevin Kline). Based on the best-selling novel by William Styron.

Stepmom (1998). Susan Sarandon is a terminally ill mother of two coming to terms with her illness and her ex-husband’s future wife (Julia Roberts), who will soon become the stepmother of her children. 

Terms of Endearment (1983). This film portrays the mother/daughter relationship of two very different women, through loving and difficult times. It won an Academy Award for best picture in 1984, as well as Oscars for stars Shirley MacLain (the mother) and Jack Nicholson (her neighbor and love interest) and for writer/director James L. Brooks, plus a nomination for Debra Winger (the daughter).

Titanic (1997). The doomed love story of 17-year-old aristocrat Rose (Kate Winslet) and poor artist Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio), who meet aboard the Titanic. This blockbuster won 11 Oscars, including best picture and best director for James Cameron.

The Way We Were (1973). Two very different people (played by Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford) meet in college and have a wonderful romance but are ultimately driven apart by their political views and convictions. And don’t forget that soul-filling theme song.

Wuthering Heights (1939). Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) and Cathy (Merle Oberon) are deeply in love but forced by class prejudice of 19th century England to live their lives apart. Based on the classic novel by Emily Brontë.

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