Sometimes, sad movies are all we need to feel lighter. If you think about it, movies are nothing but a form of art. Art is a resilient and vulnerable bridge that leads right into our hearts. It trembles under the weight of our emotions, with every step we take, but it still stands strong and carries us through to other worlds. It allows us to lay ourselves bare and feel all the love, desire, anger, regret, sadness, hope and utter joy that we often repress in daily life.
It is art that lets us climb into the pages of our favorite book, making a home inside the words tenderly pressed onto the paper. It is art that makes our heartstrings thrum, echoing the soft guitar strings in our favorite music. Movies are essential, effective artistic mediums, too.
The made-up universes behind the screen are a reflection of society and can amplify multi-diverse voices that call for change. Movies create safe spaces for those who are made to feel small and ignored in real life. Movies allow us to harness the powers of our imagination limitlessly, reaching fascinating territories such as deep-seas, outer space and futuristic worlds.
Watching movie characters go through life’s happiness and grief can be quite cathartic. Perhaps that is why we often find ourselves sobbing over our comfort emotional movies, snuggled on the couch alone or someone we cherish, biting down salty sobs with the salty popcorn. Well, we are here to make those little, emotional movie-watching moments count. We have prepared a list of 10 sad movies to make you cry, so you can add them to your must-watch list for the weekend.
10 Sad Movies of All Time
The best sad movies creep on you slowly and then suddenly get a tight hold on you. They delicately sprinkle lingering emotions in the cracks between fleeting moments. They weave together smiles and tears and laughter and wails and whispers and screams into a brutally honest depiction of being human. They leave you breathless, chest aching with the exhilaration of going through the worst misery and somehow having come out of it alive, still.
But no one formula or plot makes the perfect sad movie. This is why each movie on this list is so different, exploring a variety of topics such as the loyalty of animals, school violence, loss of innocence, coming to terms with one’s sexuality, etc. You are sure to find something that makes you curious enough to watch.
Without further delay, here are the 10 saddest movies of all time:
1. I'm Thinking of Ending Things
This 2020 psychological thriller, written and directed by Charlie Kaufman, is based on Ian Reid’s novel of the same name. It starts with a young woman visiting her boyfriend’s parents on a cold, snowy evening, while also contemplating how she should break up with him. However, it is quite clear that things are not what they seem.
What follows are a series of bizarre, surreal, non-linear events that unnervingly explore the depths of human loneliness. The entire film is a continuous contrast between the hopeful illusions we build for ourselves and the bitter reality that still constantly rises to the surface. Its consistent ambiguity will leave you wondering about what is truly happening. It will bring you face-to-face with the deep-seated emptiness that exists within all of us
This 2013 Hindi period romantic drama, directed by Vikramaditya Motwane, is based on O. Henry’s short story, The Last Leaf. The story is centered around the encounter between a landlord’s sick daughter and a man who leads a double life. Their star-crossed love story is one filled with romance, adventure, betrayal, survival, and sacrifice.
The film explores the relationship between humans and the objects that hold their hopes, even if the object is a single leaf that is barely hanging onto its tree. You will be thrown into the throes of love and forgiveness and feel the entire pain of holding onto someone who is fading right in front of your eyes. The ending will certainly bring you to tears when you realize just how the light of hope persists even in the darkest times
This 2009 Pixar film was co-directed by Peter Docter and Bob Peterson, who also co-wrote the story with Tim McCarthy. The movie revolves around a reserved, elderly widower and a lively, young boy. The two come together to tie thousands of balloons to the widower’s house, so he can fulfil a promise he made to his late wife.
The film uses the amazing power of animation to show how love and grief are two sides of the same coin. Its cute, colorful style does not spare any blows and leaves you reeling from the brunt of emotions. It explores the inevitability of loss and how only life can fill the space it leaves behind.
This 2016 coming-of-age movie, written and directed by Barry Jenkins, is based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s unpublished play, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. The story follows a young Black boy through three major stages of his life, as he slowly comes to terms with his sexuality. Along the way, he encounters various other characters that become significant in his life.
In this gut-wrenching movie, our protagonist turbulently goes through many difficulties, such as physical and emotional abuse. This journey slowly unravels is the nuanced picture of being Black and queer in America. As you watch this young boy growing into a man that truly accepts himself for who he is, you will not be able to hold back those wounded sobs in your chest.
5. Dead Poets Society
This 1989 teen drama, written by Tom Schulman and directed by Peter Weir, remains to be a must-watch classic for all generations. The story is set in an elitist boarding school, where an enigmatic English teacher instills the love of poetry within the hearts of the young schoolboys in his class.
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He encourages them to break away from the norms and seize each day unapologetically. The film takes you on a beautiful, unforgettable ride where you see each boy break out his shell and embrace the gentle comfort of words. There are many significant events along the way, such as the undeniable thrill of forming a secret society and a devastating performance of Shakespeare's A Midsummer’s Night Dream that you will not forget even after the curtains drop. The film reveals a stubborn truth: Just like a whispered poem in a dark cave, youth will eventually break free from every cage.
This 2019 black comedy thriller, directed by Bong Joon-ho and co-written by Han Jin-won, has deservedly won four Oscars. In the story, you watch the poor Kim family grasp their one chance at climbing the class ladder when they all get jobs in a wealthy household. It reveals how ignorant the rich are when it comes to their privilege and how they easily look down on the financially disadvantaged.
The film gives you a brutally honest depiction of unfairly large economic gaps between sections of the same society. It shows how those poor must often sacrifice their dignity and humanity to access resources that should be available to all. This dark tale of survival that comes at an unbearable cost will surely leave you stunned and despairing in your seat.
7. My Girl
This 1991 coming-of-age comedy-drama, directed by Howard Zeiff and written by Laurice Elehwany is one that only hits more as you grow older. The story follows an 11-year-old hypochondriac girl who has a rather close relationship with death, with her mother having passed away at childbirth and her father being a funeral director.
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She goes through the painful transitions of growing up and comes to understand herself better with time. The story is extremely emotional because it explores loss and grief through the innocent gaze of a young child. It is hard to watch our protagonist grapple with feelings and questions that even those older than her cannot process. Her journey of befriending her fears and sorrow will make you long to hold the lost child within yourself.
8. Brokeback Mountain
This 2005 Neo-western romantic drama, directed by Ang Lee, written by Dianne Ossana and Larry McMurtry, is based on a short of the same name (by Annie Proulx). It is centered around the love between two cowboys and shows their emotionally and physically intimate relationship. The movie remains to be a touchstone in LGBTQ+ cinematography and influenced many other queer movies that came after it.
The film deals with heavy topics such as internalized homophobia and repression of important parts of one's identity because society does not have those safe spaces for exploration. It is a heart-rending portrayal of two lovers who keep going back to each other over and over again, even in the face of inevitable tragedy. These ebbs and flows of visceral emotion and pain will surely bring you to tears.
9. Taare Zameen Par
This 2007 Hindi drama film, directed by Aamir Khan and written by Amole Gupte, is undeniably one of the best cinematic portrayals of a child's mind and soul. The film follows an 8-year-old dyslexic boy who is misunderstood and mocked by the rigid educators around him, and even by his own family. They send him to a boarding school, which turns out to be a blessing in disguise. There he meets a teacher who finally gives him the space to explore his imagination through his favorite medium: art.
The film vividly shows the psyche of a young child who only wants to be accepted by those around him. It raises questions about our present education system and its inability to accommodate different learning styles. It lets those children speak who have been often ignored by society. As you watch this young boy slowly regain his childhood innocence and happiness, you will be left with damp, blurry eyes.
10. Hachiko Monogatari
This 1987 Japanese drama film, directed by Seijriō Kōyama and written by Kaneto Shindo, has pretty much become a legend. It is a heart-wrenching story about a dog who waits for his owner to return from work, for nine years after the owner's death. If that doesn't sound devastating enough, the fact that it is based on a true story surely will.
The film portrays the loving and loyal relationship between a dog and a human who loves him. Both of them eventually come to care for each other and look after each other in their unique ways.
It shows how grief is not just a human emotion, but rather, an emotion that can be felt by any living creature. Your heart will not be left unbroken, as you watch our four-legged protagonist deny his human's death and wait for him through the adversities of every season
All these saddest movies of all time in this list each have their unique recipe of tears. But they share one thing in common: each of them will take root in your heart and surely make you weep. Be sure to take your time and not strain your eyes as you cry.
Sad Movies Can be self-Care Too
Sadness is an emotion that is often demonized and shunned by humans. We praise happiness and joy, but deny our lonelier, miserable versions from rising to the surface. There is a certain gender bias towards emotional expression too, with certain genders being mocked for it, while for others it is almost taboo. However, one cannot always be positive and keep smiling. Tears and sobs are a part of us too and deserve to be expressed without shame.
Be it watching sad movies to make you cry, or mourning the loss of a favorite book character, or reliving bittersweet old memories through the lyrics of a comfort song, all of these are acts of self-love and self-care too. It's okay to hold your grief by its hand and give it a warm hug. It's okay to feel empty, and not want to think of good things, for once, just rest. It's okay to let it all out, till you are left with only the silence of your despair.
This is still you. This is still how the hope will come back in someday, right through that open wound. But you don't need that hope to accept those terrified parts of yourself. Rather, accepting those small, ignored parts of you, is an act of hope, itself.
P.S. If you liked this list make sure to check out our K-drama list and tell us what you liked!
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