As I have already been nicknamed "The Sobber" by friends Scott & Cindy Bartley for once upon a time heaving a big sob in the movie theatre, I thought it only appropriate to list my own.
The Sobber's Top 15 Eye Moisteners
1. Mr. Holland's Opus - the film that earned me the nickname. But I just can't help it. Tears come when: Mr. Holland is surprised on the day of his forced retirement with a concert by all his former students performing the piece of music he has spent his life writing.
2. The Passion of the Christ - well, I'm a Christian, and as such believe that what my Savior went through for me was what I deserved instead. But rather, believing, I receive Grace. It's only slightly overwhelming - so much so that my wife, "fearing" how deeply it might affect her - has never even watched the film, though we own it on DVD.
3. Field of Dreams - I love baseball and I love my dad. Tears come when: one of the greatest lines ever - "Dad? You wanna have a catch?"
4. Saving Private Ryan - one theme you may notice running through my picks is sacrifice (also forgiveness, family, innocence...). Tears come when - at the end, Ryan, touring the graves of the fallen, breaks down and begs his family to tell him he has lived a good life, that he has earned what was given to him.
5 tie. Life as a House, & Dad - The first one I watched on the 1-year anniversary of my dad's passing. I asked Valerie to let me watch it alone, downstairs. It was cathartic. The second one I watched years ago, and it helped me make sure I never had any regrets or anything left to say with my own father.
6. Glory - Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Matthew Broderick - all tremendous in this movie that I could watch any day, any time. Giving those in chains the chance to have honor in fighting for their own freedom seems obvious, but it was a fight just to earn that right. Tears come when: after refusing an earlier request to bear the flag, Denzel's character, just when things look darkest, picks it up from a fallen comrade and rallies the troops yelling, "Come on!"... just before he is killed.
7. Return of the King - part of the tears here were just in realizing that I was saying good-bye to a trilogy and friends that had occupied me for 3 years. Tears come when: first, when Aragorn, as newly-crowned king, says to the four hobbits, "Friends, you bow to no one." Later, when Gandalf, Bilbo, and Frodo sail away into the West.
8. Braveheart - It's that William Wallace, as presented here, couldn't be broken, would not yield to the path of easiness or even the path that prevented his own torture. Tears come when: "Freeeeee - dommmmmm!"... and at the very end, when Wallace narrates how his kinsmen, rallying after his death, "fought like warrior-poets, and won their freedom."
9. Shawshank Redemption - another one I can watch any time, no matter what point the movie begins. Tears come when - Red finally "gets busy living" and arrives on the beach in Mexico and catches eyes with Andy.
10 tie. Life is Beautiful, & Schindler's List - two movies about WWII prison camps where individuals rise above cruelty and circumstances.
11. Forrest Gump - might be my all-time favorite movie. Runs the gamut of all the emotions. Tears come when: Forrest describes to a dying Jenny all the different places he's felt at peace - when the rain would stop in Vietnam, sunset on the boat, sunrise in the desert - and she says she wishes she'd been there with him. "You were," he says.
12. The Notebook - I know it's cheesy, I know it is supposed to bring tears. All I know is Val and I watched it at a Bed & Breakfast on her laptop, huddled together, and then cried to sleep.
13. Titanic - I want to kick the old lady for throwing the necklace into the sea, but as she dies and is re-united with the old gang who went down with the ship, yeah, I cried.
14. Finding Nemo - I guess it's considering the odds of how small the fish and how big the ocean against never giving up the quest to find each other again. Tears come when: Dori finds Nemo after Marlin has already left, and you aren't sure if she's going to overcome her memory issues to realize that she has just saved the day.
15. Toy Story 2 - I love both Toy Story movies, but love this one more for how it touches on what happens when innocence is lost, how toys must fear their owners growing up and not needing them, not viewing them through eyes that sparkle anymore. Tears come when: the song/montage where Jessie explains her past to Woody.
Films you might think would bring out The Sobber but don't (even though I love them)...
Terms of Endearment
The Green Mile
Castaway - ALMOST gets me a couple times; might have had a bigger chance if the tragic love interest had been other than Helen Hunt.