Top 10 Best Ugly Cries in Movies
VOICE OVER: Elise Doucet
WRITTEN BY: Garrett Alden
No artsy, single tears here! We're crying with the big boys now, ugly style. We're going over the moments in film where actors cried realistically or flamboyantly. Although some of these moments are emotionally affecting, none of them are pretty. Also, because many of these moments deal with important plot details, there will be spoilers ahead. Join MsMojo as we countdown our picks for the Top 10 Best Ugly Cries in Movies.
Top 10 Best Ugly Cries in Movies
No artsy, single tears here! Welcome to MsMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Ugly Cries in Movies.
For this list, we’ll be going over the moments in film where actors cried realistically or flamboyantly. Although some of these moments are emotionally affecting, none of them are pretty. Also, because many of these moments deal with important plot details, there will be spoilers ahead.
#10: Anne Hathaway
“Les Misérables” (2012)
This musical stars an ensemble cast and while many do an admirable job, Anne Hathaway is frequently cited as a standout. Hathaway plays Fantine, a factory worker who is fired from her job and forced sell first parts of her body, including her teeth, before turning to prostitution. Her increasingly desperate life boils over into a solo song, “I Dreamed a Dream,” where she laments her broken dreams. Hathaway’s vulnerable performance and barely controlled emotion helped earned her an Academy Award for the performance and while the moment is hard to watch, it’s hard to look away too.
#9: Tom Cruise
Although Tom Cruise is generally known for his work in action films, he’s also done some surprisingly dramatic work as well. In “Magnolia,” Cruise plays Frank Mackey a motivational speaker who is resentful of his dying father for not going to see his mother when she was dying. Although Frank affirms that his father won’t make him cry, and he begins his one-sided conversation by insulting him repeatedly, Frank gradually breaks down, begging his father not to go. Cruise plays Frank’s fraying, conflicting feelings perfectly and his performance here is arguably one of his finest.
#8: Brad Pitt
This thriller follows a pair of detectives, William Somerset and David Mills, played by Pitt, pursuing a serial killer who murders his victims using imagery of the Biblical Seven Deadly Sins. The killer, known only as John Doe, leads the detectives out to an isolated location and has a box delivered to the spot. This box contains the head of Mills’ wife, in a bid to goad Mills into killing him to complete his “set.” Pitt’s performance vacillates between grief at the deaths of his wife and unborn child, and his growing resolve to murder Doe; leading to a very unique and memorable ugly cry.
#7: Matthew McConaughey
In “Interstellar,” Matthew McConaughey plays Joseph Cooper, an astronaut on a mission to find a new home for humanity due to deteriorating conditions on Earth. However, because of the prospective planets being located near a black hole, time passes much slower at their destination. Upon viewing the messages he received from his children as they grew up, Cooper breaks down at seeing how much of their lives he has missed and how they feel he’s abandoned them; fighting and failing to keep himself composed in a brilliantly acted ugly cry by McConaughey.
#6: Claire Danes
“Romeo + Juliet” (1996)
In this modern updating of a classic tale of star-crossed lovers, there were bound to be a few tears. Due to a tragic series of misunderstandings, Romeo kills himself with poison after believing Juliet to be dead. When she awakens from her sleep and finds her lover dying, she’s understandably distressed. Claire Danes illustrates here why she’s one of the best and most frequent ugly criers in Hollywood. That lip quiver and face scrunch are quintessential Danes moves and while she’s honed her craft since this film, it’s still a good ugly cry.
#5: Laura Dern
“Blue Velvet” (1986)
David Lynch films can get pretty bizarre, and that includes some strange performances. Dern plays Sandy Williams, the daughter of a detective who becomes involved with college student Jeffrey Beaumont after he finds a severed ear. As the two investigate a lounge singer somehow connected to the case, they become involved. However, unbeknownst to Sandy, Jeffrey becomes involved with Dorothy, the singer, as well. Upon finding out, Dern delivers one of the most cartoonish ugly cries ever put on film. Her crying is so overacted that it’s become a meme, something Dern herself was surprised to learn.
#4: Viola Davis
“Fences” sees Viola Davis playing Rose Maxson, a housewife in the 1950s with an embittered husband, Troy. Upon learning that Troy has been sleeping with another woman and gotten her pregnant, Rose unleashes years of pent-up bitterness of her own at Troy; telling him how she gave up on her own dreams and desires out of love for him. Davis’ powerful tirade is delivered through tears and a surprising amount of snot, that’s as amazingly acted as it is cringe-worthy. As hard as it can be to watch, we can definitely see why she won an Oscar for her performance here.
#3: Matt Damon
“Good Will Hunting” (1997)
Matt Damon not only co-wrote “Good Will Hunting,” he also played the title character. Will’s life begins to change after it’s discovered he’s a genius and he begins seeing a therapist, Sean Maguire, with whom he forms a friendship. However, Will’s past demons, namely that his foster father physically abused him, lead him to push opportunities for happiness away. When Maguire confronts Will about this, he repeats that it isn’t Will’s fault, until he breaks down and sobs uncontrollably. It’s the kind of desperate, pent-up release that you get when you let something you’ve been holding in out all at once and Damon doesn’t hold anything back.
#2: Heather Donahue
“The Blair Witch Project” (1999)
Heather Donahue plays a fictionalized version of herself who, along with two others, research the titular local legend. When one of them disappears and Heather finds evidence of his death or injury, she makes an apology video in the middle of the night; tearfully taking responsibility for everything that’s gone wrong on the trip. The camera focuses primarily on her eyes and nose, which is extremely runny, making for one of the most iconic and parodied ugly cries in cinema. It’s a great moment of pure, distilled terror, even if it does make us want to give her a tissue… or ten.
Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
“A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951)
“Blue Is the Warmest Colour” (2013)
“Manchester by the Sea” (2016)
“The Mist” (2007)
#1: Tobey Maguire
Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” trilogy (2002-07)
Peter Parker/Spider-Man is played in this trio of films by Tobey Maguire. Everyone knows by now Spider-Man’s origin story, how his Uncle Ben died, passing on to Peter how great power means great responsibility too. Maguire’s tearful performance upon finding his uncle murdered is still one of the better versions of the scene. However, Maguire tends to ugly cry frequently throughout the trilogy, which has led the actor’s scrunched up face to become a frequent meme and the subject of mockery. We can see he puts his all into these moments, but on the other hand… he does look a little goofy.