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8 Moments in ‘Jerry Maguire’ Guaranteed to Move You (Okay, Me)

There’s no reason for this post to exist. Seriously. Yet, even in our SEO-obsessed age wherein timeliness and relevance to the pop cultural conversation is everything, there’s something therapeutic in creating something just for the hell of it. Case in point, I LOVE the 1996 Cameron Crowe-directed romantic comedy/drama Jerry Maguire. Whenever someone asks me my favorite film, it’s always between this one and The Matrix (for very different reasons, obviously).

Both resonate with me in such profound ways, all the more shocking since I didn’t even see Jerry Maguire until we blind-bought it on VHS (yes, I know I’m old, millennials, thanks for that). Crowe’s not a filmmaker I particularly enjoy, though this film singlehandedly granted Tom Cruise a free pass for life (one he’s needed this year with crap like this). Something about Jerry’s journey of self-discovery has only continued to hit home with me, especially as I get nearer and nearer to the 35 years of age he is when the film begins.

So, for no other reason other than my own blatant self-indulgence, here are some of the most emotionally charged moments that get me every time. Every. Damn. Time.

1. The one you knew was coming

Let’s just get this one out of the way upfront. Of course this scene makes the list. It’s the emotional climax of the film and by far the most famous/infamous moment. However, unlike the “Show me the money!” scene (which is funny but far from one of my favorites), Jerry’s entrance into a divorced women’s group retains the impact no matter how many parodies it inspired. Certainly, the “You complete me” callback helps matters, but it’s the sincerity and raw emotion in Jerry’s heartfelt speech and belated revelation of his love for Dorothy (Renee Zellweger) that makes it one of the greatest finales in romantic movie history.

2. In Rod We Trust…

Really, the part of this sequence — in which Rod (Cuba Gooding Jr.) is knocked unconscious during a critical, nationally televised game — that affects me the most is Regina King’s sobbing line “My whole life is this family, and it does not work without him.” However, Rod’s recovery and field-side dancing really caps off the whole scene in the end. Gooding’s unbridled enthusiasm in the scene (which he reprised for his Oscar win) truly sells what the moment means for Rod and, by extension, his family. After risking everything, he’s finally getting the recognition he’s always dreamed of. His journey runs parallel to Jerry’s, as both men struggle to earn their places.

3. The Things We Think and Do Not Say

A large part of why I think I connect to Jerry Maguire so much is that the film kicks off with a crisis of conscious for the shark-suited sports agent. Jerry has been feeling like his job has been slowly chipping away at his soul and, after waking up in a cold sweat, pours his heart out in a scatching indictment of his industry and his desire for more fulfillment in his life. If that’s not something we can all relate to, I don’t know what is. Over the years, I’ve seen more and more of myself in this moral predicament, grasping at ways to be my truest self and set aside the societal trappings that stand in my way. Jerry may lose his job as a result, but it sets him on a greater path.

4. Dorothy’s premature declaration

Sure, the film’s named Jerry Maguire, but let’s not forget Zellweger’s charming breakthrough performance as his business partner and eventual wife. While Jerry has a lot more work to do on himself, Dorothy is already head over heels in love with him. The moment in which she confesses this to her sister Laurel (Bonnie Hunt) is both beautiful in that she believes in Jerry’s aspirational self and a bit heartbreaking considering the disconnect between him and Dorothy. In the end, her faith is repaid, but Dorothy faces a lot of heartache along the way, coupled by Jerry’s closeness with her son.

5. Male bonding with Jerry and Ray

One of the most heart-wrenching moments in Jerry Maguire is Dorothy and Jerry’s breakup scene. Realizing that Jerry doesn’t love her the way she needs to, Dorothy laments how he “loves (her) kid and he sure does like (her) a lot.” It’s a moment set up by our previous choice, but another facet of this complicated dynamic is that Ray (Jonathan Lipnicki) has found the father figure he needs in Jerry. That bond really begins in this scene, in which a drunken Jerry connects with Ray about his own past. Both man and boy are searching for a sense of belonging and find it in each other. Like so many moments in the film, this one is still so bittersweet.

6. “Free Fallin'”

Even if Tom Petty hadn’t recently passed away, this rare moment of pure joy for Jerry still would have made our list. Our everyday lives are so fraught with worry, responsibility, fear and guilt, and at this point, Jerry is blissfully ignorant of how his fledgling business is about to come crashing down. Believing he has secured superstar quarterback Frank Cushman to his new venture, Jerry searches his radio dial for just the right song to highlight his joy, landing on Petty’s “Free Fallin.'” The scene captures the freedom Jerry feels in that moment through the universal language of music and, in doing so, creates perhaps the most relatable instance in the entire film.

7. The Ambassador of Kwan

Jerry Maguire may be a Jerry/Dorothy love story, but it is almost equally a tale of the friendship between Jerry and Rod. Upon learning he has landed the lucrative contract he needs, Rod goes off on a gratitude spree, thanking his wife, teammates and even his militant brother Teepee. But before his time is up, he shouts out Jerry himself, proclaiming him his ambassador of “kwan.” The term is introduced earlier in the film as Rod’s encapsulation of love, respect, community and money and conveys his deep appreciation and even admiration for his agent, realizing Jerry’s vision for his company and signaling the meaningful connection the men have established.

8. Dicky Fox’s Life Lessons

Early on in Jerry Maguire, the titular character introduces viewers to his late mentor, Dicky Fox (Jared Jussim). While Dicky interjects throughout the film a few times with pearls of wisdom, I’m focusing specifically on his last one, which turns out to be the closing line of the film before Bob Dylan’s “Shelter from the Storm” takes over: “Hey, I don’t have all the answers. In life, to be honest, I failed as much as I have succeeded. But I love my wife. I love my life. And I wish you my kind of success.” This simple sentiment highlights precisely what Jerry’s story has been about, achieving happiness and living life on your own terms. Quite the takeaway for a film.

BONUS: Help Me Help You

Although it’s not a particularly moving moment, Jerry’s locker room breakdown is probably one of my favorites in the film. So I simply had to toss it in here as an honorable mention. Jerry’s admission of the “pride-swallowing siege” that is his life reveals just how far he’s pushed himself physically and emotionally to make his and Dorothy’s business a success. His desperation bleeds onto the screen, only for Rod’s laughter to undercut the self-seriousness of Jerry’s plea. Both a laugh-out-loud moment and a brilliant effort at setting the stakes, this confrontation between Jerry and Rod deftly lays the emotional groundwork that the finale builds off of.

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Robert Yaniz Jr. can be reached on Twitter at @crookedtable.
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