Whenever I need a good cry, I put on Captain America: The First Avenger — or, at least, the final 15 minutes of it.
In those 15 minutes, our titular hero, otherwise known as Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), has to save the world by flying a plane into the Atlantic Ocean, because there's no other way to land it safely without detonating the explosives inside the plane and thereby wiping out the population of New York City.
Meanwhile, Steve's love interest and love of my life, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), is on the other end of a radio call with him, telling him that there has to be some other way.
"I'm going to need a raincheck on that date," he says about their planned dance date, even though they both know he'll never make it. "We'll have the band play something slow. I'd hate to step on your-"
At this point, the radio cuts off as he plummets into the sea, and I am weeping.
To make matters worse, Steve then wakes up after being cryogenically frozen for 70 years (because Marvel), and the first thing he says upon realizing he's lost decades of time is: "I had a date."
Sure, it's not a traditional tearjerker like, The Notebook, but if that isn't potent crying material, I don't know what is. And whether your go-to crying movie is a Nicholas Sparks adaptation or something else, crying at movies can be cathartic as hell. In fact, crying in general is good for you.
Movies can touch feelings in us that we don't normally have access to.
Lena Aburdene Derhally
"In the psychotherapy world, we believe that the release of emotions is a very good thing and repressing emotions is the opposite if it gets too extreme," says Lena Aburdene Derhally, MS, MA, Imago certified psychotherapist. "Sometimes crying is a release when we have allowed emotions to build up inside us for too long, and eventually we have nothing left to do but cry."
But it doesn't just feel like a release — it's actually good for you. Derhally says that crying releases toxins (which decreases stress), endorphins (hormones that makes us feel happier), and oxytocin (the bonding hormone that connects us with others). And crying during a movie in particular helps because you're emotionally connecting to something on the screen without actually going through it in real life. In fact, a study from 2015 suggested that crying during movies can help increase your ability to empathize with others.
"I think many people who don't cry a lot in 'real life' are sometimes surprised at something in a movie that can trigger a crying episode," Derhally says. "Movies can touch feelings in us that we don't normally have access to. For example, if there is a death or a loss in a movie and we connect with that, it may help us reconnect with our grief."
That might not sound like a good time at the movies, but it might explain why some of us might watch movies for the express purpose of crying about something happening in them. Derhally promises that crying during a movie is healing, and if anything it means we can connect with people and feel empathy with them, even if they're not real. I, for one, may not know what it's like to have to say goodbye to the love of my life as I sacrifice my life to save the world, but thanks to Captain America, I can feel an iota of that pain, and use it to unleash my emotions whenever I feel blocked.
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