Leon the Professional
The story of a hit man and the neighbor girl he takes in after her family is slaughtered by a corrupt DEA officer (played by the brilliant Gary Oldman), this film is definitely not something most people would label as a weepy. Don’t let the violence fool you, at its heart the film is about the relationship between the two and how they form a surrogate family for each other and a support network neither one has truly known before. When Leon sends Matilda down the chute and she resists because she knows he can’t follow her, I lose it every time.
Another genre bender that may surprise you, Schmidt is ostensibly a comedy. Jack Nicholson plays a recent retiree who is somewhat baffled by what to do with himself, now that he’s free from the daily grind. We follow him on his trek across the country to his daughter’s wedding, as he narrates. His narration is really what he has been writing in his letters to the African boy he sponsors through an aid organization and much of what he writes is funny because it seems so inappropriate for such a correspondence. Additionally his interactions with his future son-in-law’s family, especially the mother played by Kathy Bates, is funny as well. You think you’re watching a comedy until the very end when anyone with a heart is brought to tears.
A Little Princess (1995)
Based on the book and way better than the Shirley Temple version, this one has lush cinematography and draws great parallels between Sara Crewe’s life and the version of the Ramayana that she tells to her classmates to entertain them. When she thinks she’s lost her father again because he doesn’t remember her and she’s being dragged away by the police, Liesel Matthews does such a heartwrenching cry of “Papa,” I always need a Kleenex afterward.
Life is Beautiful
Its inclusion on this list should come as no surprise to anyone who’s seen it. It is a movie that could traditionally be considered a tearjerker. If you’re not into subtitles, you need to get to be, because not seeing this film is a sin of omission. For the unaware, it is the story of a doting father and husband in Italy during WWII. Eventually he and his family are taken to a concentration camp and in order to protect his son, he tells him that they are playing a game. Roberto Benigni won Best Actor and the film won Best Foreign Picture Oscars.
Another foreign film, this one from France, there must be something about foreign film makers because these two were the ones I recommended in Sunday school as promoting Christian values. Ironic considering we in the States often view Europe as a godless den of secular humanism. At any rate, this movie is based on a true event during WWI. It tells of a Christmas Eve armistice between the French/Scottish side and the German side. Peace, even when so temporary, is a gentle reminder of man’s capacity for good.