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The best movie ballads: 'Memory’ and 7 more guaranteed to make you shed tears


Get ready for musical wonderment when Cats bounds into Cineworld on 20th December.

Based on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sensational musical (itself based on a collection of poems by T.S Elliot), the upcoming cinematic adaptation is helmed by Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper (Les Misérables).

It stars Taylor Swift, Judi Dench, Idris Elba, Ian McKellen and Royal Ballet superstar Francesca Hayward as the tribe of Jellicle kitties, who must decide which one of them is to be reborn in a new life.

Bursting with incredible tracks (including brand new song ‘Beautiful Ghosts’ co-written by Swift and Webber), Cats is perhaps best known for ‘Memory’. Performed by cat Grizabella as she laments her past, we know there won’t be a dry eye in sight when Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson belts out this show-stopper in this movie.

‘Memory’ isn’t the only movie ballad guaranteed to shed some tears. And here are seven others you’ll need a tissue for.

1. ‘I’m Going Home’ – The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

The definitive ‘Midnight Movie’, The Rocky Horror Picture Show may be renowned for its deliciously campy rock anthems ‘The Time Warp’ and ‘Sweet Transvestite’. But we shouldn’t forget about Tim Curry’s heart-breaking rendition of ‘I’m Going Home’.

After events escalate and mad scientist Frank-N-Furter (Curry) loses control, he’s usurped by his subordinates. Acting as his final curtain call, this performance is his plea to live and return to his home planet of Transsexual in the galaxy of Transylvania.

A huge departure from the rambunctious ‘Sweet Transvestite’, the tender vocals and melancholic instrumentation paint Frank in a sympathetic light – and, thanks to Curry’s performance, we fall for it every time.

2. ‘I Will Always Love You’ – The Bodyguard (1992)

We can’t list powerhouse movie ballads without mentioning Whitney Houston’s earth-shattering performance of ‘I Will Always Love You’ from The Bodyguard.

Originally performed by Dolly Parton, Houston’s iconic cover appears at the finale of her cinematic debut, in which she plays R&B superstar Rachel Marron who strikes up an unlikely relationship with bodyguard Frank Farmer (Kevin Costner).

Houston’s soulful stage performance is the perfect way to close out this timeless love story. And let’s not forget her equally dazzling performance of ‘I Have Nothing’ which appears in this film, too.

3. ‘Llorando’ – Mullholland Drive (2001)

David Lynch’s acclaimed masterpiece Mullholland Drive is many things, but one thing it isn’t is a musical. And yet it arguably contains one of the most emotionally-charged vocalisations ever put to film in the form of Rebekah Del Rio’s ‘Llorando’.

When protagonists Rita (Laura Harring) and Betty (Naomi Watts) visit a peculiar nightclub, they witness Rio sing an enchanting, a capella Spanish-language cover of Roy Orbison’s ‘Crying’. Shot in extreme close-up of Rio’s face, we feel every note and meaning behind each syllable. She’s crying, Laura and Betty are crying, and we, too, are in tears listening to her.

That’s until Lynch pulls the rug from under our feet, transforming our tears into a mixture of confusion and horror.

4. ‘Midnight Radio’ – Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)

Based on his Off-Broadway play, co-writer, director and star John Cameron Mitchell’s cult hit Hedwig and the Angry Inch follows the eponymous East German drag punk singer and her band – the titular Angry Inch – as they tour America. They’re in pursuit of Hedwig’s former lover who stole her songs to become a famous musician.

Chronicling Hedwig’s life story and existential search for identity through riotous tracks like ‘Origin of Love’, the film concludes with the soaring anthem ‘Midnight Radio’. A metaphor for self-acceptance and unity, it’s impossible not to get swept up in the power of this ballad.

5. ‘I’ll Cover You [Reprise]’ – Rent (2005)

Losing a loved one is the hardest thing to cope with, a sentiment that’s beautifully articulated in the reprise of ‘I’ll Cover You’ in Chris Columbus’s cinematic adaptation of musical Rent.

Sung by self-proclaimed anarchist Collins (Jesse L. Martin) at the funeral of his partner Angel (Wilson Jermaine Heredia), who passed away from AIDS, this is the biggest emotional blow of the film. While the united voices of the ensemble offer some hope in this bleak situation, this mournful variation of the couple’s otherwise upbeat duet will always hit us hard.

6. ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ – Les Misérables (2012)

From ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’ to ‘Bring Him Home’, we could have included most of the songs from Les Misérables on this list. However, if we had to pick one, it has to be the emotionally devastating ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ as performed by Anne Hathaway as tragic heroine Fantine in Tom Hooper’s 2012 cinematic version.

Fired from her factory job and living on the streets, Fantine sings this ballad as she laments on the happier life she lost. The anguish is tangible in Hathaway’s ethereal voice as it crescendos into pure heartache and hopelessness. Such raw delivery helped Hathaway secure the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

7. ‘Fare Thee Well’ – Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

Partially inspired by the autobiography of folk singer Dave Van Ronk, the Coen Brothers’ multi Oscar-nominated Inside Llewyn Davis follows the titular struggling musician (Oscar Isaac in his breakout role) during one week of his life in 1961 New York.

Complete with a gorgeous folk soundtrack, the cherry on top is ‘Fare Thee Well’, a gravelly acoustic piece sang by Isaac at the film’s opening. Raw, passionate and intimate, this song has a special significance to the film that’s gradually revealed to us. Once that meaning is perceived, its appearance (and Isaac’s stunning voice) becomes all the more heart-wrenching.

pirouettes into Cineworld on the 20th of December. What are your favourite movie ballads? Let us know @Cineworld.

Andy Murray is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.