No one is more surprised that Justin Baldoni is a successful actor, director, producer and author than Justin Baldoni. Despite being born in Los Angeles, he says he lacked the confidence to see himself in any of those roles. With his breakout turn as Rafael Solano on the TV series Jane the Virgin, he found himself questioning the ways fame and mental health intersected, especially on social media. Baldoni's journey of growth resulted in his 2017 TED Talk, "Why I'm done trying to be 'man enough,'" and led to his book, Man Enough: Undefining My Masculinity, published in 2021.
These days, Baldoni is focused on "disruptively inspirational" projects for his production company, Wayfarer Studios, and an upcoming middle-grade book, Boys Will Be Human: A Get-Real Gut-Check Guide to Becoming the Strongest, Kindest, Bravest Person You Can Be.
Below, Baldoni shares with A.frame five of his most moving moments at the movies.
Directed by: Steven Spielberg | Written by: Melissa Mathison
For any filmmakers like me in their (late) 30s, I can’t imagine E.T. not being on their top five list of influential films. It’s perfect. No one mixes action, adventure, fantasy, wonder and sincere emotion together better than Steven Spielberg and I’m not sure it can ever be topped. There was something about the simplicity of the film that captured all our hearts and opened all of us up to the possibility that not only are we not alone, but that there is genuine good in all of us. It made us wonder. It made us curious, and for those 90 minutes…we all were Elliott.
It was also the first film I remember crying in, which was so important not only in building my relationship with the cinema, but with myself. I’ve been waiting for my kids to be old enough to watch it with me and that day is finally here, just in time for its 40th anniversary IMAX re-release this year!
Directed by: Nick Cassavetes | Written by: Jeremy Leven
This film broke me in a way no film had ever done before. I was 20 and was going back and forth between L.A. and Denver to help take care of my Nana Grace who had dementia. I sat in the theater with one of my best friends hysterically crying and didn’t move for 20 minutes. I’ve always been a romantic, but this took it to a new level. It is the ultimate testament to the fact that in the end, love is all that matters. As one of my favorite quotes from the Baha’i writings says (which is tattooed on my arm in my wife’s handwriting), “Where there is love, nothing is too much trouble, and there is always time” - Abdu'l-Baha.
Directed by: Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff | Written by: Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts and Linda Woolverton
I can still remember being in the Third Street Promenade theater in Santa Monica, grasping the handrail for support with one hand while the other was wiping away tears just minutes after the movie ended. As I was walking down the stairs, I can still feel the touch of my dad's hands as he rubbed my shoulders, letting me know it was okay to cry. When I think back on it, the reason I couldn’t stop crying, wasn’t because I was sad (well, I was a little sad) but because I felt alive! Like I had just experienced what unity and oneness could feel like. Sitting with my dad, both of us crying, him holding me and then walking out of that movie while Elton John’s "Circle of Life" played, will stay with me for the rest of my life. When I think of my relationship to cinema, and what I want others to feel when they watch my films… I always go back to that moment of catharsis for my 10-year-old self.
Directed by: David Anspaugh | Written by: Angelo Pizzo
This film is in my opinion THE GREATEST SPORTS MOVIE OF ALL TIME, but I am a little biased. My family bleeds gold and blue as my grandfather was the senator of South Bend, Indiana, in the '40s and I grew up going to Notre Dame games. One of my great-uncles even owned the local bar that was in the film, and I still have my signed ND football from Rudy himself. I think the film is pitch perfect, and the final scene with Jerry Goldsmith's score bringing us to the climax gives me chills and makes me sob every. single. time. It’s my go-to when I want to feel inspired and let some tears out. There's no better feeling than the release that comes when Rudy’s dad hugs his brother in the stands and Rudy is lifted onto the shoulders of his teammates. It’s pure magic.
Directed by: Michael Gracey | Written by: Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon
I wasn’t expecting this film to hit me the way that it did. Like in The Notebook, I sat next to my wife with tears streaming down my face feeling like I had just seen my own journey onscreen. Like I had been healed. The final song, "From Now On," has become my anthem as in our business, especially for a filmmaker, it’s so easy to put our profession and dreams above everything else… including our families. We spend our lives chasing dreams and sometimes forget the why. To me, there is nothing more important than family and I would give this all up in a heartbeat if I couldn’t figure out the balance. As amazing as an experience of filmmaking is, "these eyes will not be blinded by the light."