March 12, 2024 | Alexa Terpanjian

Emotional Facts About Tearjerker Movies

Feel like having a good cry? It’s okay—sometimes you just have to let it all hang out. Close the blinds, grab a tub of ice cream, a box of tissues, and sit down with any one of these films guaranteed to have you weeping harder than Shirley MacLaine in ...any of her most famous roles. Besides, you’ll feel better after ugly crying—it’s cathartic (or so says science, #41)! Curl up in a big fluffy blanket and get ready to get a little heavy with 42 emotional facts about tearjerker movies.

1. Crying is Bonding

Sad films can provoke a feeling of empathy. When empathizing with other people (even if they’re fictional characters), our brains will naturally release oxytocin, engaging certain circuits of the brain that help us and make us want to connect with others.

Tearjerker  Movies

2. Let It All Out

Plus, don't you feel better after a good cry—a cathartic release? Even though sadness is the main association with crying, a survey shows that 85% of women and 73% of men report feeling lighter, better after crying, feeling that it relieves tension and balances emotions.

Tearjerker Movies factsShutterstock

3. Emotional Wrecks

Despite their passionate onscreen chemistry in The Notebook, Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams didn’t get along – at all. They fought onset, yelled and screamed at each other, and ended up dating for two years after.

Tearjerker Movies factsThe Notebook (2004), New Line Cinema

4. A Cowboy in the Making

Before Brokeback Mountain started filming, director Ang Lee sent Jake Gyllenhaal off to “cowboy training” camp to help toughen him up. He learned how to ride horses, get his hands bloodied and chop wood. On the other hand, Heath Ledger was not sent to cowboy camp; he grew up on a farm in Western Australia.

Tearjerker Movies factsBrokeback Mountain (2005), Focus Features

5. From Deep Within

To accurately portray John Coffey, the convicted killer charged with brutally murdering two little girls in the emotionally charged The Green Mile, actor Michael Clarke Duncan would recall childhood memories of his father abandoning him, to help power him with the raw emotion he needed in some of the heavier scenes.

Tearjerker Movies factsThe Green Mile (1999), Warner Bros.

6. Real Buddies

The Green Mile producer David Valdes describes Michael Clarke Duncan as the soul of the cast, and says he remembers Tom Hanks breaking down into tears when it came to Duncan’s last day of filming.

Tearjerker Movies factsThe Green Mile (1999), Warner Bros.

7. A Truly Epic Heartbreak

Author Robert James Waller wrote the manuscript for Bridges of Madison County in 11 days. It was originally intended to be a gift for friends and family, but ended up in the hands of an agent who fell in love with it and asked, “…Robert, where have you been all my life…?”

Tearjerker Movies factsGetty Images

8. Not A Dry Eye in the House

During the filming of Bridges of Madison County, leading lady Meryl Streep had everyone crying with her, including cinematographer Jack Green, who had to keep wiping his own tears away. Clint Eastwood was doing the same.

Tearjerker Movies factsThe Bridges of Madison County (1995), Warner Bros

9. Mega Waterworks

While Bridges of Madison County was in theatres at the Sony Theatres Lincoln Square in Manhattan a box of tissues sat near the popcorn stand for both women AND men exiting the theatre wiping their eyes. The cinema’s general manager says the men tried to pretend they weren’t weeping, but they really were.

Tearjerker Movies factsShutterstock

10. Art Imitates Life

Hilary Swank was able to naturally sink into her role as the tough girl Maggie Fitzgerald in Million Dollar Baby. Swank says she had a very similar upbringing Maggie, having had a poor and difficult childhood, living out of a car with her mom after her father left the family when she was 6.

Tearjerker Movies factsMillion Dollar Baby (2004), Warner Bros.

11. That’ll Do It

Crying on camera isn’t easy. On the set of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Gary Oldman was shown a family photo album (he had just split from Uma Thurman). The sight of the old photos brought him to the exact point of heartache director Francis Ford Coppola was trying to get.

Tearjerker Movies factsBram Stoker

12. Last Resort

If an actor can’t produce real tears onset, onion vapor can induce tears or a few drops of glycerin will do the trick.

Ke’elikolani factsShutterstock

13. Strange Connection

We have ‘80s tearjerker Terms of Endearment to thank for two of the greatest cultural achievements of the late 20th century—Debra Winger and Shirley MacLaine’s Oscar-nominated and –winning (respectively) performances, and The SimpsonsT. No, you didn’t read that wrong. When the filming of Terms of Endearment wrapped, director James L. Brooks received a book of Matt Groening’s Life Is Hell cartoons as a gift. He loved it, asked Groening to create some cartoons for The Tracey Ullman Show, and the rest is history.

Random FactsThe Simpsons, 20th Century Fox Television

14. Truth is Sadder Than Fiction

The origin story of Steel Magnolias is just as tear-jerking as the movie itself. Writer Robert Harling was living in New York City and struggling to make it, and he confided in his sister about how difficult it was. She said that she wished she could help somehow. Soon after, she passed on while undergoing surgery. Harling wrote Steel Magnolias as a short story which was then adapted as a play, basing the Shelby character on his sister, and the rest is history. His sister helped him more than she’d ever know, and he’s been a successful writer, film director, and producer ever since.

Tearjerker Movies factsGetty Images

15. Still Fresh

The film Stepmom was dedicated to director Christopher Columbus’ mother, “In loving memory of Irene Columbus,” who passed on from cancer the year before the release of the movie.

Tearjerker Movies factsStepmom (1998), TriStar Pictures

16. Part of the Theme

Take notice of every one of Forrest’s age transitions in Forrest Gump. Even though the era is different, in the first scene of every transition he dons a blue plaid shirt.

Tearjerker Movies factsForrest Gump (1994), Paramount Pictures

17. Cult Following

Even though The Shawshank Redemption didn’t quite fully resonate with audiences while in theatres, it was its video release that made it one of the highest-grossing video rentals of all time. Probably because people like to ugly cry in the privacy of their own home.

Shawshank Redemption FactsThe Shawshank Redemption, Warner Bros.

18. Eager For The Role

Edward Norton really wanted a role in American History X, and the odds were against him. Director Tony Kaye wanted anybody but Norton, and had to begrudgingly go with Norton because they couldn’t find anyone better in time for filming. Norton also took a massive pay cut, receiving one-fifth of his usual $1 million movie fee.

Tearjerker Movies factsAmerican History X (1998), New Line Cinema

19. The Real Story

The iconic elderly couple from Titanic, seen clutching each other side-by-side in bed just as the water starts to fill their room, is a cinematic tribute. They were Ida and Isidor Strauss, the owners of Macy’s department store.

Tearjerker Movies factsWikimedia Commons

20. A Big Ship

It cost way more money to make the film Titanic than it actually did to build the Titanic itself. The ship’s cost (adjusted for inflation) was $150 million, and the film was $200 million.

Kate Winslet FactsGetty Images

21. A Long List

Schindler’s List suggests that there is one list when actually Oskar Schindler had seven lists. The film touches upon two, and the remaining five were the updated two previous lists, which included over 1,000 Jews saved by Schindler himself.

Tearjerker Movies factsSchindler

22. Moved to Tears

The deeply tragic film Hotel Rwanda was based on a true story. The film was so moving that in April 2010, then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown admitted that he shed tears watching the film.

Tearjerker Movies factsHotel Rwanda(2004), United Artists

23. A Little Bit of Everything

Director Darren Aronofsky says Requiem for a Dream is anything but a film about illicit substances and detests when it is referred to as such. He says it's a film about an invisible monster—addiction. It’s the punk movie and the audience is the mosh pit of emotion; it’s about the lengths that people are willing to go to in order to escape their realities; and of course, it’s about love, or when love goes wrong.

Tearjerker Movies factsWikipedia

24. Many Voices

There were a few big names in The Fox and the Hound, like Mickey Rooney as Todd and Kurt Russell as Copper. Corey Feldman even popped up to lend his voice as young Copper.

The Fox and the HoundThe Fox and the Hound (1981), Walt Disney Animation Studios

25. There’s a First For Everything

In My Girl, leading actors Anna Chlumsky and Macaulay Culkin engaged in their first on-screen kiss—together—while they were both 10-years-old. Culkin said it was gross—15 takes were needed in order to get it just right.

The Fox and the HoundMy Girl (1991), Columbia Pictures

26. Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

Roberto Benigni says that the title Life is Beautiful came from Soviet politician Leon Trotsky. Knowing he was about to be killed by Joseph Stalin’s assassins while in exile in Mexico, Trotsky said he looked over to see his beautiful wife in a garden. Despite everything that was happening to him, and was about to happen to him, “life is beautiful".

Assassinations factsGetty Images

27. Sounds Realistic

While filming the strip scene in P.S. I Love You, Gerard Butler’s suspenders hit Hilary Swank on the forehead. The cut was pretty bad—she was rushed to the hospital and given seven stitches!

Tearjerker Movies factsFlickr, Josh Jensen

28. All in One

In Lion, Rooney Mara’s character is a combination of characteristics of all of Saroo’s real-life girlfriends who were with him while he searched.

Tearjerker Movies factsLion(2016), Aquarius Films

29. Far From Home

Sunny Pawar, who plays the young Saroo in Lion, almost couldn’t attend the US premiere of the movie—he was denied an entry visa. After producers made an appeal to Homeland Security, Pawar and his father were finally able to cross the border.

Tearjerker Movies factsGetty Images

30. He Is Sam

Many of Sean Penn’s lines and actions from I Am Sam are improvised. The producers preferred Penn’s take much more than the book, like when Sam shouts out “Ask Big Bob!” at the new restaurant.

Shia LaBeouf factsGetty Images

31. Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Once the filming of The Time Traveler’s Wife wrapped up, Eric Bana was set to start filming Star Trek. Bana shaved his head before learning that re-shoots were still needed for The Time Traveler’s Wife. Production was put on hold to allow for Bana’s hair to grow out which took so look, the movie came out a year past schedule.

Tearjerker Movies factsThe Time Traveler

32. A Top Secret Secret

It was 1940 when 6-year-old Donnie Dunagan was chosen to provide the voice for Bambi in Bambi. When Dunagan grew up and joined the army to become the youngest-ever drill instructor, he kept his acting past on the down low, wanting to steer clear of any potential harassment. It wasn’t until 2 months before retirement, when he complained about a task, that his general revealed that he had Dunagan’s folder, and knew all about Bambi.

Classic Kids’ Movies FactsFlickr

33. A Package Deal

Patrick Swayze fought tooth and nail to have Whoopi Goldberg onboard for Ghost. He said he wouldn’t be in it without her, and because of that, Goldberg profusely credits Swayze with her Oscar win. Goldberg says he’s “a stand-up guy".

Patrick Swayze factsGhost (1990), Paramount Pictures

34. Head to Toe Transformation

Every day during the filming of The English Patient, Ralph Fiennes insisted that he undergo full body makeup even for the scenes that only showed his face. The full face and body makeup application took an astounding 5 hours.

Harry Potter Actors FactsShutterstock

35. Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction

Director Paul Haggis of Crash credits the experience of having his own car hijacked as the inspiration behind the success of the film.

Tearjerker Movies factsFlickr, Yann Caradec

36. Where There’s a Will…

The budget for Crash was a low $6 million, forcing Haggis to be crafty—he filmed scenes in his own home and even provided his own car for scenes when needed to help cut costs.

Tearjerker Movies factsCrash (I) (2004), Lionsgate

37. Happy to Be Sad

Research suggests that sitting around crying into your popcorn watching sad movies can actually make you feel happier. The explanation is that because movies are so dramatized, in comparison, you feel grateful for your own life and relationship—chances are, your problems aren’t as bad as those of the characters on screen. Sad movies prompt you to be more reflective and grateful.

Montgomery Clift factsShutterstock

38. That’ll Do It

Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander, the leading man and leading lady of The Light Between Oceans, met on set. Director Derek Cianfrance, who is known for being extreme with his actors, insisted Fassbender and Vikander live together for 6 weeks remotely prior to filming. And it didn’t work out so badly–the two fell in love and eventually got married.


Tearjerker Movies factsThe Light Between Oceans (2016), DreamWorks

39. He Saw The Bigger Picture

No one knew how successful Forrest Gump would turn out to be. Tom Hanks certainly had faith in it, however. He signed onto the film an hour and a half after reading the script, agreeing to take the lead role only if the film was historically accurate. Hanks also didn't get paid for the film, per se—he agreed to a percentage of the earnings, which gave him around a $40 million paycheck.

Forrest Gump factsForrest Gump, Paramount Pictures

 40. Teeny Bopper Love Story

Ryan Gosling and Rahcel McAdams, as iconic as they are in their roles, almost didn’t make The Notebook. At one point, Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears were considered for the lead roles instead.

Justin Timberlake factsGetty Images

41. We Will Always Love This Song

It was producer Kevin Costner’s idea to use the song “I Will Always Love You” in The Bodyguard. He was originally a fan of Dolly Parton’s 1973 country version and personally asked Parton if Whitney Houston could sing it for the film. He was adamant, and wanted Houston to sing it acapella in the beginning to really drive home how much she loved him.

Richard Burton FactsGetty Images

42. She Had It Coming

The original cut of the final scene of My Best Friend’s Wedding involved Julianne (Julia Roberts) meeting an attractive stranger, played by John Corbett. That ending wasn’t well received by test audience (actually, test audiences wanted Julianne dead, they detested her so much) so a new ending where Julianna dances with George was filmed and replaced instead.

Tearjerker Movies factsMy Best Friend


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