Is there a dry eye in the movie house? Probably not recently, if you’ve seen Men Don’t Leave, Steel Magnolias, Driving Miss Daisy, or Stella. (Well, maybe not Stella — unless you laughed so hard you cried.) There’s no shame in some healthy sobbing when a good movie comes by its emotional tug honestly. What’s most loathsome, however, is shedding tears at a picture that’s so blatantly manipulative, so cumbersomely clichéd that you can almost see the film’s makers pulling the strings that drain your tear ducts. That’s when you feel used and cheated. And that’s why we’ve developed the Manipulometer, a system designed to measure the finesse of the flood-controlling factor in a soggy sampling of well-known weepies.
Gone With the Wind: Civil War forces Southern belle to face Tara-ble realities.
Casablanca: Worth sobbing over again and again, Sam.
The Way We Were: No-chance romance with misty, memorable lounge tune.
Brief Encounter: When the train pulls out, there’s not a stiff upper lip in the theater.
Doctor Zhivago: Torrid tundra love melts the iciest of hearts.
Dark Victory: All about Bette Davis’ eyes.
Love Story: What do you say about a movie that stoops so low for the flow?
Terms of Endearment: The world’s longest AT&T commercial.
Camille Garbo croaks.
Romeo and Juliet: Shakespeare is malled in Zeffirelli’s Top 40-themed teen lovefest.
Tears for Tots
Oliver!: The epic Dickens-based musical never twists your arm.
The Red Balloon: A lonely French boy finds and loses a helium-filled friend.
E.T.: Hairless, wrinkled alien phones home, dies, is resurrected, and leaves.
Kramer vs. Kramer: Great fathers are made, not born.
Bambi: Mommie deerest.
Sounder: Sharecropper family with heroic hound struggles against racism during the Depression.
Old Yeller: ”Best doggone dog in the West” gets shot, replaced by pup.
Born Free: A lion’s share of sadness and an unshakably sappy song.
Big Boys Do Cry
An Officer and a Gentleman: Richard Gere breaks down, but love lifts him up
Field of Dreams: All for a friendly game of catch with dead ballplayer dad.
The Pride of the Yankees: Three strikes if Lou Gehrig’s story doesn’t make you choke up.
Brian’s Song: Scrappy-go-lucky halfback gets tackled by the big C.
The Wizard of Oz: The last straw is Dorothy missing the scarecrow most of all.
The Sound of Music: The hills are alive with singing nuns, Aryan imps, Nazis, and edelweiss.
It’s a Wonderful Life: Every time a bell rings, this one comes on TV.
Stella Dallas: When it rains, it gushes in this 1937 masochistic mom-o-drama.
Miracle on 34th Street: Despite all doubts, yes, Natalie, there is a Santa Claus.
The Gold Rush: And the Little Tramp had the table set and everything.
Alice Adams: Poor, pathetic climber Kate Hepburn wins rich beau.