Based on an informal survey of "Men’s Health" Editor-in-Chief David Zinczenko’s male friends, here are the movies that make men misty-eyed, including: "A River Runs Through It," "Legends of the Fall," "Brian’s Song," "For Love of the Game," "City of Angels," "Field of Dreams":
A lot of the movies you mention here are sports-oriented movies—like "We are Marshall." And then you have a couple of shoot-em-ups—or, in the case of "Braveheart," stab ‘em up! And remember that killer scene in "Gladiator"when Maximus returns home to his family farm and finds his wife and kids dead? A stab in the heart!
I think men get teary-eyed about issues of honor, bravery, and nobility. And a guy will get upset or be very touched by someone who shows bravery in the face of tragedy. And the two places where men’s bravery and loyalty are tested are on the sports field and the battlefield. So those are the realms men feel comfortable becoming emotional over and in. And, I would add, dog movies ("My Dog Skip" and "Old Yeller"). And what are dogs known for? Bravery and loyalty!
A lot of these great examples are movies guys can relate to because they’re, say, chances they missed to connect with their father, and the way it happens here, in a simple game of catch, really resonates. It’s not that we want to go back and have the heart-to-heart, but rather, to engage in the simple activities that conveyed so much (or didn’t) when we were kids. Women connect on a social, interactive level, whereas guys are more likely to focus on doing—an activity, a shared experience. Recalling that activity is very poignant.
What is it about these movies that make mencry?
Our emotions are buried deep for a reason—if they were too close to the surface, they’d get in the way of our actions. But over the course of a movie, we can be softened up, especially if there’s a guy character (like Kevin Costner in "Field of Dreams") whom we identify with who gives us permission to vent our feelings a little bit. In a sense, it’s like going overboard rooting for a team: It isn’t real, so you can just run with it.
Ditto the guy stand-in. If the emotion in a story is conveyed through a strong male character, he stamps our passport into the misty-eyed world.
Whenever a man’s honor is on the line, guys are ready to overlay their lives on top of the storyline unspooling in front of them. In "3:10 to Yuma" [background: total guy tear-jerker, where Christian Bale plays a farmer who volunteers to escort notorious train robber Russell Crowe to the federal penitentiary train. Bale's 15-year-old boy joins the bloody quest against his father's orders and sees Bale shot down upon completion of the mission. All about guts, and honor, and setting the right example], every father in the audience has to ask himself: Am I setting that kind of example for my kids? Are they learning honor and courage from my actions? One of my editors watched it with both his sons, on purpose.
A movie almost can’t lose for guys if it meaningfully explores the father/son relationship, or its stand-ins: coach/player, sergeant/soldier, mentor/mentee. Ditto when it’s a band of brothers in the military, in business, or in sports. They bring the unstated relationships right to the surface and explore them. Guys think through this stuff all the time, but they’re not likely to discuss it. In a way, it makes them more vulnerable to depictions on the screen, because the filmmaker is forcing them to confront those feelings in a way they won’t engage in themselves.
What is it about "TheNotebook," thatdoesn't resonate with men?
Haven’t seen it—'cause I’m a guy! Kidding. But in general, guys are sensitive to an excessive show of emotions, as opposed to emotions that run deep. We’re suspicious of weeping and wailing because we’ve seen them used as manipulators at times. So if the goal is a good cry, we’re more likely to roll our eyes. But if the guy on the screen is holding it back, just like we tend to do, then we might lose it on his behalf.