“Mum, why’s Dad crying at the dolphin film?” said my youngest boy. Yet again I was the first to cry at a film we’d gone out to see as a group. I guess I should be happy that the kids see that there is nothing wrong with their dad showing a vulnerable side. But why did I cry at a film about a dolphin? (The film in question was the recently release Dolphin’s Tale.)

To consider this  further I decided to look at  the top five films that made me cry and see if there is pattern.

Veronica Guerin  – 2003
The compelling and disturbing film about a Irish journalist who sought to expose the drugs and crime barons of Dublin and ended up paying the ultimate price. The film starts with her murder and retells the story and although you know the murder is coming, the end is gut wrenching. I cried pretty much all the way back to the car after watching this film.

Salvador – 1986
The story is told through the eyes of US Journalist Richard Boyle and recounts the conflict between the peasant revolution and the US-backed death squads in El Salvador in the early 1980s. As an Oliver Stone film, you expect the confrontational approach but story is moving and ultimately deeply sad and unresolved at every level.

The Mission – 1986
The story of a group of Jesuit priests who seek to bring God to a tribes of Amazonian indians on the border of lands conquered by Spain and Portgual. It is a story of sin and reconciliation, love and betrayal and the ultimate sacrifice through love. The music is haunting, leaving a permanent mark on your psyche.

Gorillas In The Mist – 1988

The only “animal” film in the top 5. The story of the life and struggles of Dian Fossey to save mountain gorillas in the high forests of Rwanda. The story is compelling and disturbing and the character of Fossey is cleverly protrayed by Signourny Weaver. A must see with an ending that will make you cry.

Hotel Rwanda – 2004

An amazing true story of how one man defied the warlords of Kigali to save the lives of some 1268 people facing a grim death. While the story is ultimately about the triumph of good over evil, the sense of overpowering doom in the confined environs of the hotel is difficult to cope with. The scene where the white people are all airlifted out leaving the local people to Interhamwe miltia while the UN stand by unable to intervene is a stark reminder of the way the world can turn its back on iniquity when there is nothing to be gained from being involved. A sad indictment on our times.

So what links these film and why did they all make me cry?

They are all based on true stories and all contain the death or near death of key characters. However, I think the bit that strikes you the most of all these films is they are about an individual who takes on the powerful. Whether its Guerin against organised crime, Fossey against the poachers or Rusesabagina against the war lords of the Interhamwe, they are all sought to bring justice and hope to those who were struggling without a voice. Now while Dolphin’s Tale is in a different league it does tell the (largely) true story of what two 11-year olds can do in the face of suffering and big business.

So if you haven’t seen the films above you should. Be inspired and find your own personal battle to fight and make the world a better place. And don’t be afraid to cry in front of the kids.