St. Petersburg Times
The five-hankies list of saddest movies
By Steve Spears, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Saturday, August 13, 2011
What is it about big yellow dogs that makes moviegoers well up so often? Okay, so they’re adorable, loyal, strong and when it comes time to say goodbye to man’s best friend, we â€¦ we â€¦ Oh, stop it already! We’re running out of tissues. When Smithsonian Magazine recently named 1979’s The Champ as the saddest movie of all time, based on its scientific study, we had our doubts. So we did our own scientific study. Well, actually just an online poll. And you know what? The Champ, in which little Ricky Schroder loses boxing pop Jon Voight, didn’t even make the top 5 list. Readers at tampabay.com/things-to-do instead preferred these cinematic weepers.
Top 5 saddest movies
1. OLD YELLER (1957): “Now and then, for no good reason, life will haul off and knock a man flat.” Especially when one has to say goodbye to a faithful hound. Critics weren’t wowed â€” the New York Times called it “sturdy as a hickory stick” â€” but it grew more popular over time. We bet fans of 2008’s Marley & Me, which wasn’t on our poll, handed their vote to Old Yeller too.
2. BRIAN’S SONG (1971): This Emmy Award-winning TV movie follows the friendship between Chicago Bears players Gale Sayers and the late Brian Piccolo, who died of cancer during his playing days. The music alone is gut-wrenching, and tears are inevitable when Sayers tells his teammates: “I love Brian Piccolo. And tonight, when you hit your knees, please ask God to love him.”
3. SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993): The true story of a World War II profiteer who saves the lives of more than a thousand Jews during the Nazi reign of terror, this movie deservedly won seven Oscars. But it’s Oskar Schindler‘s final lines that cut deepest: “I could have gotten one more person â€¦ and I didn’t! And I â€¦ I didn’t!”
4. TERMS OF ENDEARMENT (1983): Jack Nicholson‘s comic moments â€” “If you wanted to get me on my back, all you had to do was ask” â€” were absolutely essential to moviegoers leaving the theater in one piece once Debra Winger’s character passes away.
5. BEACHES (1988): Did I ever tell you that Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey were my heeeeeroes? Midler’s sweeping ballad, performed just after the death of her lifelong friend, is a crusher. Oh, stop blubbering and grab a Kleenex.
Steve Spears hosts the Stuck in the ’80s blog and podcast. E-mail him at email@example.com. No tissues were harmed in the writing of this article. (Okay â€¦ three were.)