Band of Brothers (2001)
The genius of Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks’s epic true telling of Easy Company and their mission from Operation Overlord through to VE Day lies in the use of talking heads. Each episode is prefaced with a small interview with surviving members of the Screaming Eagles. You never find out the identity of the men until the last episode, when you can put names and deeds to faces. The final words are given to Richard Winters who recounts a conversation he had with his grandson. “He said, ‘Grandpa…” Tearing up to the camera. “Were you a hero in the war?’ Grandpa said no. But I served in the company of heroes.”
Those who criticised Danny Boyle’s existential sci-fi nightmare for having a confusing and unsatisfying conclusion are clearly heartless beasts. The fact that they managed to see it through their teary eyes is very telling. Really, they shouldn’t have been able to focus after the moment Captain Kaneda (Hiroyuki Sanada) sacrificed himself to save the crew. ‘Kaneda, what can you see?’ asks ship psych Searle as the solar flares lick at his space suit. Absolutely nothing. All faces were firmly buried in the popcorn to hide the shame.
Ten minutes. That’s all it took. 600 seconds was all Pixar needed to prove that it could make anyone it wanted, adult or child, dance like the flailing, emotional marionettes we are. Watching Carl Fredricksen meet and then lose, the one true love of his life was one of the most heartbreaking pieces of cinema since George shot Lennie in his big fat head. Talk about teaching children a lesson. The lessons being: Everything is shit, and life is one continual adjustment to loss. The end.
Jerry Maguire (1996)
No we’re not talking about the wretched ‘You had me at hello’ bit, more the moment that should be used to illustrate the term ‘bro-mance’ in any picture dictionary. As cocky wide receiver Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr) emerges from the locker room after playing the game of his life, he’s surrounded photographers and TV crews, but realises there’s only one person he wants to thank – his agent Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) who’s there desperately holding back the tears. Which you won’t be.
Big Wednesday (1978)
The chances of director John Milius forcing a tissue-dab to the eye are remote; the man wrote Dirty Harry, Conan the Barbarian and Magnum Force, none of which are particularly tear-jerking, unless you take Charles Bronson’s acting into account (boom!). Yet with his nostalgia-laced surfer flick, Milius struck the sob spot, as local legends Matt, Jack and Leroy make their way through life surfing the morning glass, throwing burgers at each other and pissing in the steam iron. They are loved, but love is fleeting, and as the old, faded legends stand on the cliff to watch new surfing heart-throb Gerry Lopez carve through a swell, they understand that they were heroes to a generation that has ultimately forgotten them. “Lopez. And he’s just as good as they say he is”. “Yeah. So were we, Barlow, so were we”.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
If it’s true that friends are the new family, then it’s best to disown the Fellowship of the Ring because those guys are all take, take, take. Come to Helms Deep they said, save the people of Rohan they said, it’ll be fun they said. Not if you’re no nonsense elf, Haldir it won’t be. When all seemed lost, this platinum blond hero pitched up with the rest of his elves to fight a battle they were under no obligation to fight. And when poor Haldir gets impaled through the back by an orc what thanks does he get? A sad look from Lord of the Smugs, Legolas.
Michael Clarke Duncan, Steve Buscemi, Ben Affleck and Owen Wilson all start singing John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane” before boarding a space shuttle to save mankind – their heady combination of resignation, earthy blue collar concepts of what’s right and the possibility of untold fame and riches if they don’t get spread across a Texas sized interplanetary projectile is delicious, and also incredibly heart warming. Now all we need is Billy Bob Thornton in an unexplained leg-brace. Oh look, there he is…
Terminator 2 (1991)
Sure, by the end of the movie there’s a slight sense of remorse that the whinny little John Connor hasn’t taken a bullet to the face, but it is the stone face T-800 who, after two hours of belting a man made from essentially the same stuff you push up old people’s bottoms to ascertain their temperature, manages to hit the blubber spot. “I know now why you cry, but it is something that I can never do”, he laments, before they lower him into the vat of molten lead, thumb held triumphantly aloft. Incidentally, so strong was the final scene, he demanded $30 million to return in Terminator 3. Fortunately, they decided that would be a comedy.
Batman Begins (2005) / The Dark Knight Rises (2008)
Any of the bits with Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Batman. “I never thanked you” says Gordon at the end of Batman Begins. “And you’ll never have to” replies Bale’s Batman. And he doesn’t y’know, that’s not how their relationship works. Stoic does it a disservice – theirs is more a Victorian father and his son rather than this touchy feely modern nonsense. But Jim knows the score, he knows what Batman does, and he might even have an inkling of why he does it, as The Dark Knight proved; “He’s the hero Gotham deserves,” Jim tells his son. “But not the one it needs right now.” Sniff. “So we’ll hunt him.” Oh god. “Because he can take it.” HE CAN’T, JIM, you monster. “Because he’s not our hero.” Snuffle. “He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark…” Sob “Knight.”