Why Do Narcissists Cry at Movies?

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~ photo by Shutterstock

This is a popular search term with inquiring minds Googling the phrase about 357k times.  It’s also a common search that leads people to my site.  They want to know why the Narcissist cries at movies because it’s so out of character with what they know about their oft-cruel partner.

It goes something like this:

You’re sitting in the theater beside your Narcissist.  At the climax of the story line, two star-crossed lovers become separated when a mudslide rips through the hotel where they’re vacationing in Brazil.  You hear a small whimper and look over to see the Narcissist crying.  He or she might even grab your hand for effect.  You almost expect them to turn to you and say, “Just kidding…fooled ya!”, but their eyes remain glassy with welling tears.  You’re so busy analyzing this unexpected behavior that you find it hard to concentrate on the rest of the movie.  Memories of their abuse become blurry, and you begin to question your perception, believing that perhaps you exaggerated things when they called you a “trashy loser”.  After all, everyone loses their cool sometimes, right?

Before you start repressing painful memories in an effort to give them the benefit of the doubt, it’s important to understand the common reasons for this.

Scenario One – Abuse Amnesia

The Narcissist is running out of tricks to gain clemency for their crimes and they sense the end of the line.  Therefore, they call upon the powers of abuse amnesia, hoping you will be overcome by their obvious display of having a heart.  Besides, if you didn’t forgive them, what kind of person would that make you?  How could you possibly turn a cold shoulder when they are in such apparent emotional pain?

Don’t let this charade fool you.  The Narcissist is appealing to your forgiving nature, where we often forget about our own troubles and try to comfort them instead.  You feel a false bond between the two of you, and you magically forget everything they’ve ever done up to that point.  Until later that night, of course, when they start complaining about paying for the popcorn and how you owe them one.

Scenario Two – Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitively, you know the Narcissist doesn’t have feelings of empathy or compassion, yet deep in your heart you want it to be true.  You still love them, so you hold onto the empty hope that perhaps they are turning a new leaf.  You think, “If they are crying at a sad movie, they must have a heart in there somewhere.”  You ponder that maybe you were too hard on them when you said you’d be leaving after you caught them cheating.  Perhaps you did something to incite their wandering eye.  You DO need to lose eight pounds, after all.  You resolve to go easier on them and sweep their indiscretions under the rug, imagining a fresh start since they finally showed their “emotional” side.

Think about it.  Did they show any emotion when it was possible you might have to undergo an operation that would render you unable to have children?  Did they cry that time you had a cancer scare?  Did they get all weepy when you almost had a miscarriage in your third trimester from the emotional trauma they inflicted upon you?  Probably not.

When it comes to dealing with the Narcissist, you must use your own logic, not theirs.  Have they shown even once that they cared about your feelings?  What did they do the times you cried in front of them?  I doubt it was anywhere near what you considered doing when you witnessed them sobbing at the sight of lost love on the big screen.  I’d venture to guess you were ridiculed and possibly abandoned for a day or two.

Cognitive dissonance is what torments us when we think about leaving the relationship.  We don’t want to accept what we already know to be true.  Cognitive Dissonance is simply the scientific term for Love is Blind which was coined around the 1400s.  In fact, modern-day research has shown that feelings of love inhibit the areas of the brain that control critical thought.  Put that into your toolbox.

~ Sympathy for the Devil – The Rolling Stones

Scenario Three – Faux Empathy and the Mask

Ever notice how the Narcissist only cries at movies (or other intimate settings where people are close together like restaurants and bars)?  Remember the philosophical question, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”  The Narcissist is that tree falling, only this time it’s in the movie theater in front of an audience.  Perhaps they spotted an old coworker two seats over.  Therefore, “Timberrrrrr!” is in order.

~ photo by Jason Bergsieker


Scenario Four – Tears of Fear and Possible Loss

You know how a four-year old cries at the prospect of not getting ice cream because they broke a rule?  In the same way, Narcissists often cry when boundaries are placed on their conduct or when their façade is at risk of exposure.  It just so happens that the movie theater is a great place to express these frustrations under the guise of “caring”.  When analyzed, most N-targets have found that the Narcissist usually gets tearful at movies following an episode where he or she found themselves in danger of being alone, such as when their supply threatens to leave.  Does that fit your situation?

Almost all humans cry.  We cry because we’ve been hurt; because someone we love has been hurt or passed away; we cry when we’re afraid; when we’re depressed.  We cry at happy and sad movies because we are capable of empathy.  The Narcissist, however, only cries as a method of manipulation or when the world as they know it is about to end.  In short, they only cry for themselves.

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Sam says October 31, 2021

I get frustrated with this. My ex and I have split and I have only a couple of weeks before I leave. She has not once shown any emotion over the split . Even as I’m clearing the loft and packing for the move, I get upset. Absolutely no emotional response, compassion or any words of understanding and then bam! Movie comes on and there’s tears .

jo says September 10, 2021

In 2019 I had already been hemorrhaging for a couple of years when I finally sought a gynecologists then at last an oncologist, during the many months the tests came out negative, no one understood why. Right up until the oncologists scheduled the surgery my N husband stood by me and was actually helpful though I could see he did this reluctantly, still he helped. I made the mistake of thinking I had been wrong and he really does care after all. After the surgery when I went in to Dr.s office to see and hear the prognosis. My husband made me go in to the inner exam room by myself when everything with in me wanted to plead with him please don’t make me hear this by my self. The doctors had done a compete hysterectomy and sent the organs into a lab. they wasted no time telling me I`d had cancer and they had successfully removed it all. Such joy and hope filled my heart but then when I was leaving the outer office with my husband, he ask me if everything was O.K. when I said “I DO NOT HAVE CANCER,” you should have seen his face, like he’d been hit by a sledge hammer and it did not get any better after that, he nearly had car accidents because he was so distracted he looked so disappointed and sad like his payoff was not coming, that I felt like I was sick at my stomach, I have never felt so hated, his contempt was actually scaring me and this went on for several day until then he said I owed him & he wanted me to do certain things to pay him back for his trouble. I have seen him through two heart attacks , cried for him and prayed for him. If I ask him for anything he would just ignore me. It was like I did not exist to him. My husband can cry when watching a TV show or a movie but he certainly does not cry when I hurt and he only seems to cry when someone is watching. It took me years in denial before I realized I was seeing him through rose colored glasses, I made him out to be who I wanted him to be not who he is. I made excuses for his actions and words.

Leah says April 30, 2015

My narcissistic ex cried during movies – copiously. And at a Holocaust memorial. And when I finally started coming to my senses and called him on sexual abusing me early in our relationship. And each time, I surprised the hell out of myself by responding with puzzlement and a total lack of empathy, which is completely out of character for me. “Why is he crying?” I’d think, like some robot who’d never seen tears before. At the memorial, I even *asked* him why he was crying – as if it was weird to cry at an extremely affecting memorial that was making ME tear up, too! “Why am I responding to his tears with such coldness?” I thought. “What’s wrong with me?” It was only after a final shocking D&D and his stated admission that he fakes empathy to get what he wants from people that I realized: Fake. It was all fake. My “coldness” and confusion was my intuition kicking in. And the tears over the sexual abuse? Faked contrition so I wouldn’t come forward. And yeah, he was never there when I was sick, had a medical procedure done, or had health complications – including ones arising from the STD HE gave me. Spot-on article, Kim. Thanks!

Delaram Heidari says March 20, 2015

My mother is a malignant narcissist. It seems to me that when we used to watch a sad movie and she would cry, she wasnt crying for the characters… But for herself. To test her i asked why she was crying once, and she said that “it reminds me of something that happened to me”. So no, it must not be empathy. Because she is crying for herself, not the movie character.

Anteallach says December 24, 2014

Gosh! Your site is so enlightening. I am desperately trying to maintain no contact with my Narc but he keeps hoovering as I have a lot to offer him. I depise him with a passion for trying to get me to meet him for 4 years, then deliberately and cleverly seducing me when I was at my most vulnerable. I was only with him for a year and a half and after 13 months of therapy for childhood rape plus his emotional and physical abuse, I can see clear as day who he is. A 100% bona fide narcissist. In fact, I knew this about 3 months after we met, but he had me totally love bombed by this time.

He is married with 3 kids (yes, it is not something I am proud of) and he always cries at gigs during a song about a marriage breakdown and losing the children to the mother. I now completely understand he is only thinking about his own loss of control and manipulation and making a public display of it.

Can narcissists feel empathy for fictional characters? | says December 4, 2014

[…] empathy for fictional characters on a movie screen or in a book, because those are not real people. There’s an interesting article written on the blog Let Me Reach by Kim Saeed about this subject, in which the author concludes that narcissists definitely do cry at movies, and […]

Donny says April 30, 2014

Does a narcissist cry at movies alone?

    Kim Saeed says May 6, 2014

    Not usually, because any display of emotion requires an audience most of the time. However, if a scene in a movie makes them feel especially sorry for themselves (ex: they find themselves without a source of supply, or they’ve been court-ordered to pay money)…then it’s possible they might cry alone at a movie.

Kathy says April 21, 2014

Kim, You said “Did they cry when you had that cancer scare?” I have the beginning stages of lymphoma and may very well be just fine, but mine said, “Forget about that lymphoma.” That made me realize he was totally not normal.

    Kim Saeed says April 21, 2014

    Kathy, one of my worst moments with my Ex was when I was recovering from surgery after having an ovary removed. I was literally waking up from anesthesia when he started in. His own sister had to ask him to stop…

PamG says April 9, 2014

My ex N used to make himself cry by conjuring up (out loud) a scene about how much he would miss me if I died…he would say, “look, look, I’m crying,” and he’d grab my hand and make me feel that tear he squeezed out. He would build up this fantasy about how he wouldn’t be able to walk past my door ever again if I died (it was always ME who was going to die) and that the city where we lived – he couldn’t stay; he’d have to leave because of all our memories. One of the oddest things is that he seemed proud of the fact that he could actually produce two or three tears. It was never more than that and that was okay with him because it would not be an understatement to say he was giddy over those three tears. It was one of my red flags that finally helped propel me over the fence and out of the relationship. While It happened maybe three or four times ( in the five years of on/off again relationship) with the exception of one time, it always happened in a public place (bar).

    Kim Saeed says April 19, 2014

    Pam, I’m sorry I didn’t reply sooner. Somehow I didn’t see your comment until now…

    While your Ex’s method of manipulation is rather repugnant…I got a chuckle from how you relayed it. His forcing you to feel the tear(s) he squeezed out, and that you were always the one to pass in the bizarre fantasy he used to work himself up. The fact it was always in public isn’t lost on me.

    My Ex would do the following: We’d go to dinner, and he’d go on about how the food was so delicious because he was sitting across from me (so that other patrons could see how romantic and sweet he was towards me). Sometimes he’d go so far as to feed me a bite of food from his fork. Of course, I’d have to play along because I didn’t want to cause a scene. Then, when we got home, he was already scheming ways to recoup the money he’d paid for the dinner (on the occasions he actually paid), and work himself into madness so he could go on a verbal abuse rant.

    I’m glad you’re out of the relationship. Wishing you the best 🙂

Anonymous says April 4, 2014

What I see with my grown daughters, the oldest who is driven to succeed in business, very successful, but said at Christmas, every time she walks In a room, 9 out of 10 times, she feels like she has done something wrong. She is a great manager of people, patient to listen and understand, empathy for all, caretaker and peacemaker The family. My youngest daughter suffered with an eating disorder, depression, anger, does not deal well with stress. Most of all, they still yearn for me to be better friends with my ex and his young wife, but when I try, there are always digs because he knows how to push my buttons. I hate seeing my daughters hurt, they are so amazing and beautiful young women.


    Kim Saeed says April 5, 2014

    Thanks very much for your input.

    Is your Ex the father of your daughters?

      Linda Moore says April 21, 2014


Linda Moore says March 31, 2014

All your information of living with in a marriage of 21 years with a narcissistic husband is hitting the nail on the head. I have just celebrated 13 years of marriage with my soulmate. I was single for 8 years and did a lot of therapy to recover and be whole again. I am still dealing with the past which usually crops up through my two grown daughters. They love their father and there is no way I can say anything to them about his manipulation. He was not part of caring for them until I remarried and I know his mindset and actions. I love visiting my daughters and grandchildren and would love to live closer to them in retirement, but not so sure this is possible. It still amazes me how my ex can fool everyone but me. I sometimes think I am paranoid, but this is how I took on the blame of everything that was wrong in the marriage. I have read a lot on your website, it is as if you were living in my shoes and validates all this really did happen.

I would like some words of wisdom in my situation. Thank you. Linda

    Kim Saeed says April 3, 2014

    Linda, thank you for stopping by and sharing your story.

    Since your children are grown and they now have their own children, it’s probably best to just let things flow in their own way unless your Ex does something to disturb the peace. I hope he doesn’t do that, but if he does, then you can share the past if you feel it would be of benefit to the situation.

    In the meantime, I would just leave everything up to God, Karma, or whatever higher power you believe in. Try not to focus too much on feeling like he “got away with it”. They always have their day of reckoning sooner or later…

      Mimi Pollier says April 4, 2014

      Hi Kim:
      Do you really believe they have their day of reckoning??? it just seems that they go through life unscaled without suffering any consequences for all the people they hurt in their life.. if i knew i hurt some one deeply i could not live with myself. i really could not. i get so afraid if i know someone does not even like me.. What are your thoughts on their day of reckoning??? Sincerely Mimi

betternotbroken says March 30, 2014

Once again you stumbled onto something I had not really explored, yes he cried in a random movie “Up” and the only other time he cried was when I left him at park due to his abuse. I had to go back as he had my “keys” (yes I know) and when I did I found him allegedly upset, he thought a homeless man in the park had found me and hurt me so he yelled at the homeless dangerous man demanding where I was, he was so scared he lost me tears appeared in his eyes. Sadly it did in fact confuse me in spite of my empathy for the homeless man who probably did not hear one word from my former spouse. Now I know it was not an isolated character trait, thank you.

emergingfromthedarknight says March 30, 2014

Quickest way to make them run.. express genuine feelings of sadness. You will get a lecture about it after they have left you for days telling you there is something wrong with you and how difficult it was for them that you dared to express a true emotion. Blahhh…

    Kim Saeed says March 30, 2014

    Indeed…that, and the typical, “You’re too sensitive”, or “You took that the wrong way.”

    We’re just supposed to toe the line without showing any resistance…

racajan says March 29, 2014

Crazy narcs

armyofangels2013 says March 28, 2014

Spot on, Kim! I can recall those feelings after seeing a tear on the cheek of the narcissist while listening to a song about a father and child…I questioned every experience I had with him…definitely drew me back into the cycle of abuse and more trauma bonding. He did not cry when our children were born, or when I was in a farm accident in the last trimester of pregnancy.

Teela Hart says March 28, 2014

On our first date my ex played the Rolling Stones song. Guess I should’ve taken the hint.

    Kim Saeed says March 28, 2014

    I should have taken all kinds of hints…

      john garcia says August 17, 2016

      My ex picked only movies about narcissists and stories eerily similar to our relationship. On our first date she picked a movie about a female vampire called
      ” Let Her In “. She was toying with me from day one

    flowersfromapsycho says March 28, 2014

    Which song? I recently heard “Under My Thumb” and it made me sick.

      Kim Saeed says March 29, 2014

      Flowers, it’s called “Sympathy for the Devil”. You can find the song on YouTube, or simply look up the lyrics. I like the musical score, but the lyrics are rather intimidating…

      Teela Hart says March 29, 2014

      Sympathy for the Devil.

StrongerSoulSurvivor says March 28, 2014

Wow, this post really made me think. In the early days, my abuser would insist on turning off a movie if it contained even the slightest most distressing thing. And, he loved the most soppy romantic films. I thought that showed a sensitive heart. Later, some of the things he threatened to do (and those he actually did) just made my blood run cold. Now I know better what was really in his heart. Crocodile tears.

Ajaytao2010 says March 28, 2014

Nice reading about you

Thanks for visiting my blog. Be in touch. Browse through the category sections, I feel you may find something of your interest.

    Kim Saeed says March 28, 2014

    Thank you, Ajaytao 🙂

    I enjoy your blog and the photography/quotes are very inspiring.

      Ajaytao2010 says March 28, 2014

      Oh thank you so much dear Kim 🙂

Phill Ferreira says March 28, 2014

Reblogged this on The Story of my Twin Boys , Oliver and Oscar Ferreira and commented:
Very , very true ….

    Kim Saeed says March 28, 2014


Angie says March 28, 2014

So true. You are ALWAYS on point!

    Kim Saeed says March 28, 2014

    😀 Thanks Angie!

Mimi Pollier says March 28, 2014

Hi Kim:
No, the N in my life i have only seen cry a few times.. but not a real crying… rather a tearing up.. Wanted to ask you about something that is making me cry and cry. i’ve come home and seen he has been at my house fixing a fence in the front yard.. he just dumped me again brutally in January.. and went back to the ow again.. Why Why Why.. each day i pass that fence and cry.. Please respond as to what would make him come back up to the house again for what reason? Just to torture me more. I want to call to say thank you but know he will just kill me with his words telling me again about him and her.. can’t handle that anymore.. Please respond as to why N’s do this to their victims. Thank you so much Mimi

    Kim Saeed says March 28, 2014

    Mimi, not all Narcissists cry at the movies, but a lot of them do. On the other hand, they will use any opportunity to cry when they want to manipulate or appear to be a victim.

    As far as your Ex fixing the fence…it could be a few different reasons. It’s very possible that he wants to bait you to pull you into an argument. If he’s with the other woman, it could be that he doesn’t pick fights with her yet, so he needs to do it elsewhere. Is the house in both your name and his?

    It could also be to deepen your confusion (cognitive dissonance) where he wants to appear to be “a normal guy just fixing a fence”, whereas you well know what torture he is capable of. Another reason is he may simply do it to make the other woman believe he is a super-nice guy in order to get his hooks deeper into her.

    If the house is just in your name, you should put up a No Trespassing sign. That should be a clear message that you don’t want him to come around again for any reason.

Fellow Survivor says March 28, 2014

“Have they shown even once that they cared about your feelings? ”
This one sentence says it all.

    Kim Saeed says March 28, 2014

    True…sums up my whole 8-yr marriage.

      sharon says August 16, 2017

      In 20 years of marriage, I can’t remember a single event where he showed empathy toward my feelings of betrayal.
      I also can’t remember a single promise that was kept.

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