Sometimes you just want to watch a movie, and then cry for the rest of the night. These sad movies make you ponder mortality, social injustices, and tragedies of the past and present. These films remind us about life’s fragility and the devastation of personal losses. Netflix is the perfect place to find some tear jerkers to binge this weekend. Make this weekend Netflix and cry.
This list of sad movies are ranked from sad to “get the tissue ready” to heartbreaking. Each film has its own brand of sad, so we recommend that you don’t watch these films expecting lighthearted fun, though some of these films have happy endings and comedy. Go into these movies really ready for a cloud of sadness.
10. 50/50 (2011)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in 50/50, a movie about a 20-something diagnosed with cancer. The title comes from him finding out that his chances of survival are 50/50. Seth Rogan co-stars as Gordon-Levitt's character's friend. Seth Rogan’s friend Will Reiser wrote 50/50 and it deals with his real life experience with cancer. Anna Kendrick, Anjelica Huston, and Bryce Dallas Howard have supporting roles in 50/50.
50/50 is a dark comedy, so it’s a little funnier than most films on the list, but 50/50 still deals with the sobering realization that sickness and death are inescapable. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character Adam uses his cancer diagnosis to fix some of the things that are broken in his life. He heals his life because this might be the last time he gets to do it. 50/50 gets a happier ending than most cancer movies, but its happy ending doesn’t deter from the sadness of the whole concept. Stream 50/50 HERE (opens in new tab)
9. War Horse (2011)
Steven Spielberg directed and produced War Horse, a drama based on the book by the same name. Steven Spielberg has done numerous World War II movies, but this is his first one about World War I. It follows Albert (Jeremy Irvine) and his beloved horse Joey as World War I takes them on their own journey. They hold on to the hope of finding each other after the war ends. Emily Watson, Peter Mullan, David Thewlis, Tom Hiddleston, and Benedict Cumberbatch have supporting roles in War Horse.
Mainly, War Horse uses the unique perspective of Joey and the people he encounters to show the horror of war. It devastates both people and animals. War Horse showcases the despair of war, but it’s also a movie about hope. Joey and Albert go on their individual journeys but their bond and hope for a reunion keeps them moving forward. War Horse will have you shedding a tear or two all throughout the movie. Stream It HERE (opens in new tab).
8. Room (2015)
In Room, Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay play mother and son Joy and Jack. Old Nick (Sean Bridgers) abducted Joy when she was a teen and has been holding her captive for seven years. The two are confined to one room where Joy tries to shield Jack from the horrors she endures each night.
Room tells the horrific story of being kidnapped and repeatedly abused. However, Room is told mainly from the perspective of Jack, so he doesn’t quite comprehend what’s going on and sees their situation in a whimsical light. Jack’s perspective keeps Room from being completely depressing, but the concept, performances, and emotional strain that Joy and Jack endure makes this a film that you’ll need lots of tissues to finish. Stream Room HERE (opens in new tab).
7. Philadelphia (1993)
In Philadelphia, Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) hides his homosexuality from the corporate law firm where he works. He is diagnosed with AIDS and continues to try to hide his condition and sexuality. When some paperwork goes missing on one of his cases, his bosses immediately fire him. Andrew believes that his firing was because of his sexuality and AIDS diagnosis, not the lost paperwork. The lawsuit that he files against his firm leads him to lawyer Joe Miller (Denzel Washington).
Philadelphia showcases the prejudices faced then and still faced by gay people and AIDS patients. It’s sad to watch the inhumane treatment that Beckett suffers just because of his disease and sexuality. Philadelphia doesn’t rank higher on the sad meter because the film focuses more on the trial than Beckett’s inevitable death. The trial offers a bit of light and hope to Beckett’s frustrating and terrible situation. Tom Hanks earned an Academy Award and gave one of his best performances in Philadelphia. Stream it HERE (opens in new tab).
6. The Pursuit Of Happyness (2006)
Will Smith stars with son Jaden Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness, a movie based on the true-life account of Chris Gardner, a man who faces financial and emotional distress in the pursuit of a better life for himself and his son. Chris Gardner (Will Smith)’s wife leaves him, the government takes over his bank account, leaving him penniless, and he and his son become homeless. Gardner’s only hope to improve his situation is an unpaid internship where he competes for one job against many qualified interns.
Gardner completely loses everything and he’s emotionally drained. Yet he continues to go on and raise his son as best as possible. It’s a riveting story about the struggles people endure for the pursuit of something better. Will Smith gives one of his best performances in The Pursuit of Happyness. Smith’s performance is transcendent, emotionally impactful, and layered with agony and hope. Stream The Pursuit of Happyness HERE (opens in new tab).
5. Blue Valentine (2010)
In Blue Valentine, Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling play a couple whose relationship is ending. The film uses a nonlinear narrative to depict several critical moments in their relationship. Blue Valentine shows the joy of falling in love and the intense pain when it all crumbles apart.
Like Marriage Story, Blue Valentine gives a raw, real, and extreme look at a marriage on the brink of divorce. Blue Valentine is a lot harder to watch than Marriage Story, because the film takes a no holds barred look at how nasty things can get between a couple. At least with Marriage Story, the two still seem to respect each other, but in Blue Valentine, Ryan Gosling's and Michelle Williams' characters have very scarring issues that help rapidly deteriorate their marriage. Additionally, William’s character clearly wants out but Gosling’s character is very much still holding on to a dream. Blue Valentine really wants to break your heart, so it shows you the good times just to make the inevitable spiral towards darkness all the more tear-inducing. Stream it HERE (opens in new tab).
4. My Girl (1991)
My Girl is a coming of age story starring Anna Chlumsky, Macaulay Culkin, Dan Aykroyd, and Jamie Lee Curtis. 11-year old Vada (Anna Chlumsky) lost her mother at a young age. She spends her summer working with her funeral director father, Harry (Dan Aykroyd), dreaming of being a writer, crushing on her creative writing teacher, and obsessed with death. She also spends most of her time with her best friend, Thomas J (Macaulay Culkin).
For those who haven’t seen My Girl, boy does that movie surprise you with an unexpected tragedy. The lines “he needs his glasses” will never feel the same again. Stream My Girl HERE (opens in new tab).
3. Kiss And Cry (2016)
Sarah Fisher and Luke Bilyk star in Kiss and Cry, a movie based on the real life cancer battle of Carley Allison. Carley Allison was a singer and figure skater who developed a rare cancer that only affects 1 in 3.5 billion people. She documented her journey online through blogs and videos. Sarah Fisher and Carley Allison were real life best friends and Kiss and Cry was made to honor her.
It doesn’t get more sad and tragic than a teen getting a rare cancer, but Kiss and Cry isn’t just another sad teen disease movie. Instead, the film celebrates Carley Allison’s spirit and her journey to not let her devastating diagnosis stop her from really living. Kiss and Cry will have you bawling by the time the film ends. It’ll also make you appreciate the precious nature of life and want to make every moment count. Sarah Fisher and team gave Carley Allison a beautiful tribute with Kiss and Cry. Stream it HERE (opens in new tab).
2. Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Matthew McConaughey plays real life AIDs patient Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club. He smuggled pharmaceutical drugs into Texas and distributed them to other AIDs patients. They called this operation the Dallas Buyers Club. The Dallas Buyers Club featured performances by Jennifer Garner and Jared Leto.
Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey both won Academy Awards in 2014 for their performances in Dallas Buyers Club. It’s by far, both of their best work, and one of Matthew McConaughey’s best movies. The film highlights the sorrow and hopelessness felt in the 80s and early 90s with the AIDS epidemic. The Dallas Buyers Club’s tragic AIDS and HIV topic becomes even more gut-wrenching with the added power of McConaughey and Jared Leto’s extraordinary performances. Stream it HERE (opens in new tab).
1. The Boy In The Striped Pajamas (2008)
In The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Bruno (Asa Butterfield) is the 8-year-old son of an extermination camp’s Nazi commandant. Feeling isolated and lonely, he starts sneaking to the barbed wire fence surrounding the camp. He befriends a boy inside the camp named Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), and the boys form an unbreakable bond. Vera Farmiga, Rupert Friend, and David Thewlis have supporting roles in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.
Movies about the holocaust are always difficult to watch because of the horrors endured and inflicted. Add two young boys and Nazi extermination camps, and you’re setting yourself up for earth shattering heartbreak. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas delivers devastation and more. This is one of those movies that’s so tragic that you can probably only watch it once. Stream The Boy in the Striped Pajamas HERE (opens in new tab).
Netflix has plenty more movies that will make you cry coming in February.
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Spent most of my life in various parts of Illinois, including attending college in Evanston. I have been a life long lover of pop culture, especially television, turned that passion into writing about all things entertainment related. When I'm not writing about pop culture, I can be found channeling Gordon Ramsay by kicking people out the kitchen.
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