Pass the hanky
Its weird to think we can enjoy being sad, but sometimes films can cause the tears to flow, and we willingly give ourselves up to moment. Whether its an unexpected death, a tragic parting, a missed opportunity or the end of an affair, the violins kick in and the tissues come out. Its a tricky feat for a director to pull off, because touching and emotional can so easily fall over into sentimental and mawkish. But the masters of the craft can orchestrate our feelings with the skill of conductor. Warning: you may want to remove any contact lenses or mascara.
50. Avatar (2009)
The Moment: Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang) launches an attack on holy Na'vi territory in order to clear the land for mining operations.
Get Your Tissues Ready: The Na'vi Hometree--a central hub for Pandora's natural neural network--is felled.
If It Was Played For Laughs: The Na'vi fashion the tree's branches into massive clubs and smackdown the humans Captain Caveman-style.
49. Moulin Rouge! (2001)
The Moment: Dying Satine (Nicole Kidman) breaks script to sing secret love song 'Come What May,' prompting Christian (Ewan McGregor) to risk being shot by joining her on stage.
Get Your Tissues Ready: The performance is too much and Satine, plagued by tuberculosis, dies in Christian's arms.
If It Was Played For Laughs: Satine's death literally brings the house down, because her collapse triggers a Mousehunt-style ripple of destruction across the stage.
48. Billy Liar (1963)
The Moment: Billy Fisher (Tom Courtenay) arranges to leave his Northern town to travel to London with vivacious Liz (Julie Christie).
Get Your Tissues Ready: Billy jumps off the train to fetch milk but, fearful of the unknown, hesitates before getting back aboard and it departs without him.
If It Was Played For Laughs: He manages to get back on time...but he's boarded the train to Glasgow, not the one to London.
47. Gran Torino (2008)
The Moment: Grizzled war veteran Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) pays a visit to the gang who have terrorised his neighbours, and is shot and killed.
Get Your Tissues Ready: It is revealed that the silver object Walt was carrying wasn't a gun, but a lighter. He deliberately allowed himself to be killed to ensure the gang was arrested for murder.
If It Was Played For Laughs: Walt would be carrying a Pez dispenser.
46. Stand By Me (1986)
The Moment: Remembering his childhood, the adult Gordie Lachance (Richard Dreyfuss) reveals that best mate Chris Chambers was later stabbed and killed.
Get Your Tissues Ready: Gordie chokes up as he tells us, "I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?"
If It Was Played For Laughs: The camera pans to reveal that Gordie's current friend is with him and saying, "Well, thanks a bunch.
45. Cinema Paradiso (1989)
The Moment: Film director Salvatore Di Vita (Jacques Perrin) pays a visit to the Cinema Paradiso, the movie theatre he frequented as a child.
Get Your Tissues Ready: He watches a reel of movie kisses cut by the village priest but secretly spliced together by the cinema's late projectionist, Alfredo (Philippe Noiret).
If It Was Played For Laughs: The film is a compilation of people falling over.
44. Don't Look Now (1973)
The Moment: John Baxter (Donald Sutherland) chases a red-coated figure which he thinks is the spirit of his dead daughter along the canals of Venice.
Get Your Tissues Ready: It's not his daughter. It's a knife-wielding midget serial killer. Uh-oh.
If It Was Played For Laughs: It really would be his daughter, and she'd tickle her dad with a feather.
43. The Iron Giant (1999)
The Moment: When the Army launches a missile to destroy the Iron Giant (Vin Diesel) that would also blow up the town of Rockwell, he flies off to intercept it.
Get Your Tissues Ready: Remembering the lessons his friend Hogarth told him, the Iron Giant pretends to be Superman as the missile blows him to bits.
If It Was Played For Laughs: He really would become Superman, and swat the missiles away.
42. Limelight (1952)
The Moment: Calvero the clown (Charlie Chaplin) suffers a heart attack after his triumphant comeback performance with his old partner (Buster Keaton).
Get Your Tissues Ready: The show must go on. As Calvero dies, his muse Terry (Claire Bloom), a ballerina, has to take the stage.
If It Was Played For Laughs: The obvious tribute, as Terry's dancing starts to become Chaplinesque until she falling onto her arse more often than she is pirouetting.
41. Platoon (1986)
The Moment: Sergeant Elias (Willem Dafoe) is left for dead in Vietcong territory, but as the platoon looks back from their choppers, they realise he's still alive.
Get Your Tissues Ready: Elias is gunned down to the sad refrain of Barber's "Adagio For Strings".
If It Was Played For Laughs: The VC would be such terrible shots they'd kill each other and allow Elias to walk away.
40. The Shootist (1976)
The Moment: Cancer-stricken gunslinger L.B. Books (John Wayne) calls his enemies to the saloon for one final, suicidal shootout.
Get Your Tissues Ready: It's the knowledge that Wayne himself was himself dying of cancer that gives this scene its poignancy.
If It Was Played For Laughs: Wayne wouldn't allow himself to die on-screen and instead snarls, "That'll be the day" when he's shot.
39. Rome Open City (1945)
The Moment: Pina (Anna Magnini) sees her resistance fighter husband Francesco rounded up by the Nazis.
Get Your Tissues Ready: Running after Francesco to thwart the arrest, she is gunned down in the street.
If It Was Played For Laughs: The Nazis are terrible shots in most WWII movies. If the same applied here, they'd simply shoot each other and Pina would live.
38. Wendy And Lucy (2008)
The Moment: Penniless drifter Wendy (Michelle Williams) finally tracks down her missing mutt, Lucy, to the yard of a kind dog-lover.
Get Your Tissues Ready: Realising that she can't look after Lucy as well as its new owner, Wendy tearfully says her farewells.
If It Was Played For Laughs: Instead of walking away, Wendy climbs the fence and goes to sleep in Lucy's new kennel.
37. Beaches (1988)
The Moment: C.C. Bloom (Bette Midler) whisks dying friend Hilary Whitney (Barbara Hershey) out of hospital to enjoy her final hours outside.
Get Your Tissues Ready: The two friends sit on the beach where they grew up, watching the sunset. Cut to: Hilary's funeral.
If It Was Played For Laughs: It can't be a coincidence that this was released only a year before Weekend At Bernie's.
36. Milk (2008)
The Moment: Gay San Francisco politician Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) is assassinated by closeted colleague Dan White (Josh Brolin).
Get Your Tissues Ready: Thousands turn out for a candlelit vigil in Milk's memory.
If It Was Played For Laughs: It's 1978. Obviously, everybody goes to a massive disco at the YMCA.
35. The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp (1943)
The Moment: At the outbreak of World War Two, immigration officers question German refugee Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff (Anton Walbrook).
Get Your Tissues Ready: Theo reveals he's left Germany to honour his late English wife's wish to move to the country of her birth, and to get away from his children who have become Nazis.
If It Was Played For Laughs: A Jeremy Kyle-style talk show in which the children would be wheeled on for an awkward reunion.
34. Big Fish (2003)
The Moment: Dying storyteller Edward Bloom (Albert Finney) asks his son William (Billy Crudup) to finish the story of his life.
Get Your Tissues Ready: At a riverside funeral, William carries Edward to the water where he transforms into the big fish of the title.
If It Was Played For Laughs: Instead of the fish story, William simply tells the plot of Happy Gilmore but with Edward as the hero instead of Adam Sandler.
33. Silent Running (1972)
The Moment: Astronaut Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern), along with damaged drone robot Huey, blow up the Valley Forge in order to camouflage the escape of the last eco-dome containing Earth wildlife.
Get Your Tissues Ready: The last drone, Dewey, loyally tends to the forest as the dome drifts through space.
If It Was Played For Laughs: The film would end with Dewey building a lady robot to keep him company.
32. Kramer Vs Kramer (1979)
The Moment: Billy Kramer (Justin Henry) hurts himself in a fall and dad Ted (Dustin Hoffman) rushes several blocks to carry him to a hospital.
Get Your Tissues Ready: As a doctor stitches up Billy's injury, Ted sits with him to help him conquer his fear and pain.
If It Was Played For Laughs: The doctor uses laughing gas as an anaesthetic, and Ted decides to inhale some too.
31. Shane (1953)
The Moment: Wounded in a gunfight after protecting the Starrett family, Shane (Alan Ladd) rides away to an uncertain future.
Get Your Tissues Ready: The Starrett boy Joey (Brandon De Wilde) tries in vain to persuade Shane to stay: "Shane! Come back!"
If It Was Played For Laughs: Shane comes back, only to find that all Joey wanted was to take his gun.
30. Gladiator (2000)
The Moment: Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russell Crowe) realises that not only has mad Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) murdered his father to claim the Emperorship, but he has ordered the death of Maximus' entire family.
Get Your Tissues Ready: Maximus escapes but too late to prevent his wife and son from being slain.
If It Was Played For Laughs: He realises that he's walked into the wrong villa. The Meridius house is next door.
29. Biutiful (2010)
The Moment: Uxbal (Javier Bardem) installs heaters in the warehouse to try and make the Chinese immigrants who work for him more comfortable.
Get Your Tissues Ready: He arrives to find that the heaters were faulty and everybody has been gassed to death.
If It Was Played For Laughs: It'd be laughing gas, and he'd turn up to find them all in hysterics.
28. Philadelphia (1993)
The Moment: Lawyer Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) visits dying AIDS victim Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) to tell him he has won his court case for wrongful dismissal.
Get Your Tissues Ready: The previously fearful, homophobic Joe reaches out to touch Andrew.
If It Was Played For Laughs: Andrew has wired himself up with electricity so that Joe gets a shock when they touch.
27. American History X (1998)
The Moment: Reformed neo-Nazi Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton) arrives at his skinhead brother Danny's (Edward Furlong) school only to find him shot dead by a fellow student.
Get Your Tissues Ready: Danny's school essay is heard in voiceover, revealing that Derek had persuaded Danny to mend his ways too.
If It Was Played For Laughs: Danny's essay is told entirely in the format of rap lyrics.
26. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
The Moment: Lifer Brooks Hatlen (James Whitmore) is paroled but struggles to adjust to civilian life.
Get Your Tissues Ready: Brooks hangs himself with the same methodical precision he applied to running the prison library.
If It Was Played For Laughs: The rope miraculously breaks in a later flashback, it is revealed that Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) provided the noose back in Shawshank, but had made sure it wouldn't work.
25. The Wrestler (2008)
The Moment: Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke) insists on competing in a rematch of his famous fight against The Ayatollah despite suffering a lethal heart condition.
Get Your Tissues Ready: Randy leaps to certain death in order to win the fight with his signature move, the Ram Jam.
If It Was Played For Laughs: The Ayatollah, realising that the fall would kill Randy, hurriedly moves a trampoline into the ring and Randy safely bounces back onto his feet.
24. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
The Moment: Fight trainer Frankie Dunn reluctantly agrees to ethuanise his disabled boxer Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank).
Get Your Tissues Ready: As he administers the lethal dose, Frank reveals that the nickname he's given Maggie Mo Chuisle is Gaelic for "my darling, and my blood."
If It Was Played For Laughs: The syringe breaks in Maggie's arm; she finds this so funny that she has a change of heart and decides to live.
23. The Child (2005)
The Moment: Strapped for cash, petty criminal Bruno (Jrmie Renier) sells his baby, Jimmy, on the black market.
Get Your Tissues Ready: Bruno is shocked into sorting out the mess he's caused by the shock and anguish on the face of Jimmy's mother, Sonia (Dborah Franois).
If It Was Played For Laughs: Instead of selling the child, Bruno signs a lucrative deal with Disney for the kid to become a superstar.
22. About Schmidt (2002)
The Moment: Returning from his abortive trip to break up his daughter's wedding, Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) finds he's been sent a letter from his African penpal, Ndugu.
Get Your Tissues Ready: Schmidt is reduced to tears by Ndugu's crayon drawing of the two of them holding hands and smiling.
If It Was Played For Laughs: The letter continues, "PS. Ndugu is coming to stay with you," and there's a knock at the door.
21. Marley And Me (2008)
The Moment: John and Jenny Grogan (Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston) realise that surgery won't stop the suffering of their beloved Labrador Marley.
Get Your Tissues Ready: John stays at Marley's side as the dog is put to sleep.
If It Was Played For Laughs: The shot is actually a miracle-cure adrenaline boost that restores Marley to his earlier chaos-causing antics.
20. A Single Man (2009)
The Moment: George Falconer (Colin Firth) takes a call from who he thinks is his lover Jim (Matthew Goode).
Get Your Tissues Ready: It's bad news Jim has died in a car accident and George is gripped by numb, silent shock.
If It Was Played For Laughs: "Hang on sorry, wrong number."
19. Make Way For Tomorrow (1937)
The Moment: Elderly couple Barkley and Lucy Cooper (Victor Mature and Beulah Bondi) enjoy one last date before they are shipped off to separate retirement homes thousands of miles apart.
Get Your Tissues Ready: Despite a chipper Barkley telling Lucy he'll send for her, the look on her face as his trains departs is unmistakable she'll never see again.
If It Was Played For Laughs: Turns out Barkley hasn't got a valid ticket, so they chuck him off and he and Lucy run off together.
18. Dead Man Walking (1995)
The Moment: Rapist and murderer Matthew Poncelet (Sean Penn) is brought to his execution by lethal injection.
Get Your Tissues Ready: Counselled by Sister Helen Prejean (Susan Sarandon), a repentant Poncelet admits his crimes and apologies to the families of his victims.
If It Was Played For Laughs: It'd need a show-stopping musical number to make this one cheery.
17. Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince (2009)
The Moment: Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) return to Hogwarts from their Horcrux hunt, only to apparate into an ambush.
Get Your Tissues Ready: Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) kills Dumbledore with an Avada Kedavra curse and, if you think that's sad, wait 'til you find out why he killed him in The Deathly Hallows.
If It Was Played For Laughs: Dumbledore would have been knocked off the tower with a laughing curse.
16. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
The Moment: Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) visits the parents of his dead lover, Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal).
Get Your Tissues Ready: In the bedroom, Ennis realises Jack has kept the shirt he was wearing on Brokeback Mountain.
If It Was Played For Laughs: In a new epilogue, Ennis becomes a scientist and pioneers cloning technology so he can recreate Jack.
15. Kes (1969)
The Moment: Billy Caspar (David Bradley) discovers that his bullying half-brother Judd has killed his beloved kestrel.
Get Your Tissues Ready: Billy falls to pieces after he finds Kes dumped in a bin.
If It Was Played For Laughs: Billy stuffs the bird and continues to 'train' it, just to fuck with his brother.
14. The Elephant Man (1980)
The Moment: A cruel mob chases and corners deformed John Merrick (John Hurt).
Get Your Tissues Ready: Cornered, Merrick breaks down and cries, "I am not an animal! I am a human being! I am a man!"
If It Was Played For Laughs: The speech would continue. "I like watching football. I'm a little lairy after a few pints. I quite fancy Scarlett Johansson."
13. Grave Of The Fireflies (1988)
The Moment: Learning that his sister Setsuko is dying of malnutrition, Seita hurries home with all the food he can find.
Get Your Tissues Ready: The delirious Setsuko is sucking marbles that she thinks are fruit drops, and offers her brother 'rice cakes' which are actually mud.
If It Was Played For Laughs: Seita reverses the game by feeding her real food but pretending they're eating horrible things like worms.
12. Ikiru (1952)
The Moment: Dying of cancer, Kanji Watanabe (Takashi Shimura) visits the children's playground he's fought to have built.
Get Your Tissues Ready: Despite considerable cold hastening his death, Watanabe sings happily to himself while playing on the swings.
If It Was Played For Laughs: He'd get dizzy on the roundabout instead.
11. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
The Moment: Newlywed Tracy di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg) is gunned down by SPECTRE as she drives off on honeymoon with James Bond (George Lazenby).
Get Your Tissues Ready: 007 tells a police officer not to rush for help: "we have all the time in the world."
If It Was Played For Laughs: Bond would remember his trademark quip: "Oh well, every wedding needs something blue."
10. The Lion King (1994)
The Moment: Mufasa (James Earl Jones) saves Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) from a wildebeest stampede, only to realise he's been set up by evil brother Scar (Jeremy Irons).
Get Your Tissues Ready: Not only does Scar throw Mufasa off a cliff to his death, he then tells Simba it's the cub's fault.
If It Was Played For Laughs: Mufasa sneaks a banana skin under Scar's paw and the baddie goes tumbling after him.
9. Sophie's Choice (1982)
The Moment: Zofia Zawistowski (Meryl Streep) arrives at Auschwitz with her two children, but she can only take one with her.
Get Your Tissues Ready: Sophie' makes her agonising choice and condemns daughter Eva to death.
If It Was Played For Laughs: The kids would decide by playing rock, paper, scissorsbut always pick the same one until the guards got bored and let them both go with Sophie.
8. Blue Valentine (2010)
The Moment: The day after a frankly terrible date, Dean and Cindy Pereira (Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams) realise that their marriage isn't going to survive.
Get Your Tissues Ready: A heartbroken Dean has to persuade his doting daughter Frankie to go back to her mom so he can walk away.
If It Was Played For Laughs: Dean brings out his ukulele, sings in a silly voice, and everything's fine again.
7. Toy Story 3 (2010)
The Moment: Woody arranges for Andy to spare his toy pals from life in the loft by giving them to new owner Bonnie.
Get Your Tissues Ready: Andy reluctantly hands over Woody as well, realising it's time to let go of childish things.
If It Was Played For Laughs: The toys will go to see Andy at college in Toy Story 4, with hilarious consequences.
6. E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (1982)
The Moment: It's what E.T. has wanted the entire film, but going home now means saying goodbye to friend Elliott (Henry Thomas) and his family.
Get Your Tissues Ready: Henry's sister Gertrude (Drew Barrymore) gives the l'il alien a peck on his forehead.
If It Was Played For Laughs: The kids go with him. In their place, the aliens send a couple of exchange students.
5. Bambi (1942)
The Moment: Hunters attack, and Bambi's mother is shot.
Get Your Tissues Ready: A distraught Bambi looks for his mother, only to be told by his father that she "can't be with you anymore."
If It Was Played For Laughs: The 'hunter' is revealed to be Thumper in disguise, and the whole thing was a trick to teach Bambi about stranger danger.
4. Brief Encounter (1945)
The Moment: Not-quite adulterers Laura (Celia Johnson) and Alec (Trevor Howard) agree to part, but find their final date interrupted by Laura's friend.
Get Your Tissues Ready: Alec leaves to catch his train, and Laura contemplates throwing herself on the tracks.
If It Was Played For Laughs: She is pulled back by a station attendant who looks exactly like Alec, thus giving her a second chance to get her end away.
3. The Champ (1979)
The Moment: Washed-up ex-champ Billy Flynn (Jon Voight) takes on another fight to help support his son T.J. (Ricky Schroder).
Get Your Tissues Ready: Fatally knocked out, T.J. cries "Champ, wake up!" at his ringside in a scene so sad it's used by psychologists to study depression.
If It Was Played For Laughs: The Champ really is taking a nap, and T.J.'s tears wake him up.
2. Schindler's List (1993)
The Moment: Annoyed by seeing his car coated in soot, Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) realises that the bodies killed in the Krakow Ghetto are being exhumed and burnt.
Get Your Tissues Ready: Schindler spies a red coat and recognises it as belonging to a girl he'd seen during the liquidation of the Ghetto.
If It Was Played For Laughs: It'd probably look a look like Jerry Lewis' infamous The Day The Clown Cried and, like that film, would never be seen by anybody 'cause of its bad taste.
1. Up (2009)
The Moment: A life on fast-forward, as childhood sweethearts Carl and Ellie fall in love, get married and dream of visiting Paradise Falls.
Get Your Tissues Ready: Now elderly, Ellie becomes fatally ill just as Carl gets around to arranging their dream holiday.
If It Was Played For Laughs: Carl would do something daft like attaching balloons to the house so he and Ellie could fly to the waterfall Come to think of it, why didn't he do that earlier?