So that sexist scientist was wrong – boys do cry. Celebrate with our ultimate guide to male emotion on screen
Last week, Nobel Prize-winning scientist Tim Hunt managed to anger the entire thinking world with his claims that women were difficult to work with, due to their habit of bursting into tears, the hysterical wenches. Thankfully, he’s been proved wrong: it turns out it’s actually men who are more likely to have a blub in the workplace. We welcome this news – too long have men been forced to closet their emotions, or risk being seen as weak. So to help scrub away patriarchal stigma and celebrate the fact that boys do cry, here are our top ten moments of male emotion in film.
JOHNNY DEPP – CRY-BABY (1990)
A pre-Scissorhands Johnny Depp is John Waters’ 1950s dreamboat whose ability to shed a single tear drives all the girls wild. After being sent to juvie, where he gets a stick-and-poke teardrop on his cheek to remind him of his lost love (“I’ve been hurt all my life, but real tears wash away. This one’s for Allison and I want it to last forever!”), he is able to overcome his past and finally, he is able to cry from both eyes. Not only is it one of the campest and most attractive moments ever, but the film also inspired MiuMiu’s SS15 collection. So chic.
LEONARDO DICAPRIO – ROMEO + JULIET (1996)
Baz Luhrmann’s kaleidoscopic reimagining of the Shakespearian classic sold two star-crossed lovers to the MTV generation. Set in Verona Beach to a soundtrack of Garbage and Radiohead, Clare Danes and Leo made the greatest lovestory ever told look like a music video (in the best way possible). When Romeo finally walks crying through a corridor of neon crucifixes to see his seemingly-dead wife lying among a shrine of candles, it offers not only some empathic catharsis, but also some dreamy interior inspiration.
CHRISTIAN BALE – AMERICAN PSYCHO (2000)
Inspired by Tom Cruise’s "intense friendliness with nothing behind the eyes", Christian Bale’s super-slick portrayal of a grotesquely superficial (and freakishly attractive) psychopath Patrick Bateman closes with an epic sobbing scene. Explicitly confessing his numerous brutal crimes to his lawyer’s voicemail, the brief moment of humanity from a man who is “on the verge of tears by the time we arrive at Espace, since I’m positive we won’t have a decent table” is eerily disturbing.
MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY – DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (2013)
Matthew McConaughey’s biographic portrayal of Ron Woodroof, a rodeo cowboy and electrician given 30 days to live after being diagnosed with AIDS, is a heartbreaking exploration of 1980s prejudice and the big-pharma industrial complex. On day 29, after leaving a home graffitied in homophobic abuse, Woodrow breaks down sobbing in a scene that depicts the frustrations and fears of the 80s AIDS crisis–as well as proving why he won an Oscar for the role.
HEATH LEDGER – CANDY (2006)
Australian drugologue Candy shows the heroin-fuelled, mutually destructive relationship between protagonist Candy (Abbie Cornish) and Dan (Heath Ledger). After a long and painfully bleak exploration of the desperation of active addiction, a cleaned-up Dan realises that he can’t sustain a drug-free relationship with Candy and, sobbing, leaves her to her own journey. One of the most starkly realistic portrayals of drug use, Candy could easily operate as a feature-length ‘Just Say No’ campaign, but it’s the exploration of the codependence between the couple that really kills.
JAKE GYLLENHAAL – BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (2005)
Ang Lee’s adaptation of Annie Proux’s short story has Heath Ledger (Ennis Del Mar) and Jake Gyllenhaal (Jack Twist) as sixties cowboys who fall in love while tending sheep on Wyoming’s ‘Brokeback’ mountain. When Ennis refuses to run away with Jack and then stands him up on one of their subterfuge fishing trips, Jack’s heartbreak is one of the most bleakly devastating scenes imaginable. Until the end. The end is almost unbearable.
JAMIE BELL – BILLY ELLIOT (2000)
Set during the mid-80s coalminers strike, Billy Elliot is the agonisingly heartwarming tale of a young, Northern boy who makes it into the Royal Ballet School. Watching Julie Walters having a fag while she teaches him how to pirouette in a boxing ring is obviously charming, but the most moving is the scene where, flushed and furious, 11-year-old Bell breaks down screaming at her under the pressure of a deeply traditional family (“lads do football, or boxing, or wrestling. Not friggin’ ballet.”). Either that, or his father hysterically trying to cross a picket line to raise money for his audition train ticket.
MATT DAMON – GOOD WILL HUNTING (1997)
One of Matt Damon’s most celebrated roles (who doesn’t want to relive the academia barfight?) has him playing young blue-collar genius Will Hunting, an MIT janitor taken under the wing of therapist Sean Maguire (Robin Williams). When Damon finally breaks down and recognises his childhood abuse to Williams, even the immense Minnie Driver sex scenes pale in comparison to watching the therapeutic healing of a troubled prodigy. You’d think that an Elliott Smith soundtrack playing over Gus Van Sant landscape shots could be a bit overwrought, and maybe it is, but in the best possible way.
BRAD PITT – INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE: THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES (1994)
In 1994, before the onslaught of vampire-related blockbusters, Anne Rice’s 70s gothic novel was turned into a Hollywood film packed with undead superstars. Brad Pitt plays Louis, a vampire-with-a-conscience who ‘adopts’ fellow vampire Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) as his daughter. When he hears that she has been killed, he cries a single tear before wreaking his revenge, explaining that a vampire can cry “Once, maybe twice in his own eternity. Maybe it was to quench those tears forever that I took such revenge on them.”
KIERAN CULKIN – IGBY GOES DOWN (2002)
With a heavy nod to The Catcher In The Rye, Kieran Culkin plays melancholy adolescent Igby Slocumb in this sardonic and strangely emotional comedy-drama. After escaping military school to move to Manhattan, he and his older brother (Ryan Phillipe) assist their mother (Susan Sarandon) in dying before she succumbs to breast cancer. It all sounds a lot more depressing than actually is, but Culkin’s post-death hysteria is amazingly poignant and showed him as more than just a Home Alone sidekick.