Sad movies, also known as tearjerkers, are a genre of movies that are designed to evoke emotional responses such as sadness, grief, or melancholy. These movies often deal with themes such as loss, heartbreak, and tragedy, and can leave audiences feeling emotionally drained.
The best sad movies are the ones that are able to connect with audiences on a deep and personal level, often exploring universal themes of love, family, and the human experience.
They can be poignant, thought-provoking, and cathartic, providing a sense of closure or understanding for those who have experienced similar struggles in their own lives.
Some of the most beloved and acclaimed sad movies of all time include classics like “The Godfather,” “Schindler’s List,” and “The Shawshank Redemption,” as well as more recent entries like “A Star is Born,” “The Fault in Our Stars,” and “Manchester by the Sea.”
Best Sad Movies
Whether you’re in the mood for a good cry or simply appreciate the artistry of well-crafted storytelling, there’s sure to be a sad movie out there that will resonate with you.
1. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
“Requiem for a Dream” is a 2000 psychological drama film directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, and Marlon Wayans. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Hubert Selby Jr.
The story follows four characters whose lives become intertwined as they struggle with addiction and the pursuit of their dreams.
Harry Goldfarb (Jared Leto) and his friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) become involved in drug dealing to finance their addiction, while Harry’s girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly) pursues her dream of becoming a fashion designer.
Harry’s mother Sara (Ellen Burstyn) becomes addicted to diet pills in an effort to lose weight and become a guest on a television game show. As their addictions spiral out of control, the characters’ lives begin to unravel in increasingly devastating ways.
“Requiem for a Dream” was a critical success and is widely regarded as a masterpiece of contemporary cinema, known for its innovative storytelling, striking visuals, and powerful performances, particularly by Burstyn.
The film’s depiction of addiction and its effects on individuals and society has also been praised for its honesty and impact.
However, the film’s graphic and disturbing content has also generated controversy and criticism. Despite its challenging subject matter, “Requiem for a Dream” has become a cult classic and a landmark in the history of independent cinema.
2. Sophie’s Choice (1982)
Sophie’s Choice is a 1982 drama film directed by Alan J. Pakula and based on the novel of the same name by William Styron. The film stars Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, and Peter MacNicol.
The film tells the story of Sophie Zawistowska (Meryl Streep), a Polish immigrant who survived the Holocaust but is haunted by her experiences.
She befriends a young writer named Stingo (Peter MacNicol) and becomes involved in a complex love triangle with him and her troubled lover Nathan (Kevin Kline).
The film received critical acclaim for its powerful performances, particularly Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Sophie, which won her an Academy Award for Best Actress. The film also received praise for its handling of difficult subject matter, including the Holocaust and mental illness.
Sophie’s Choice was a box office success and has since been regarded as a classic of 1980s cinema. The film is known for its emotional impact and memorable performances, particularly Streep’s haunting portrayal of a woman struggling with guilt, trauma, and love.
3. Schindler’s List (1993)
“Schindler’s List” is a historical drama film directed by Steven Spielberg and released in 1993.
The film is based on the true story of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who saved the lives of more than 1,000 Jewish refugees during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories.
Starring Liam Neeson as Schindler, the film depicts his gradual transformation from a greedy and opportunistic businessman to a humanitarian who risks his own life to save others.
The film also explores the atrocities committed by the Nazis during the Holocaust, including the mass extermination of Jews in concentration camps.
“Schindler’s List” was a critical and commercial success, winning seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.
It has been praised for its powerful storytelling, sensitive treatment of a difficult subject, and the performances of its cast, particularly Neeson, Ralph Fiennes as the sadistic Nazi officer Amon Goeth, and Ben Kingsley as Schindler’s Jewish accountant, Itzhak Stern.
The film remains a poignant and powerful reminder of the horrors of the Holocaust and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of unimaginable cruelty.
4. Boys Don’t Cry (1999)
“Boys Don’t Cry” is a 1999 biographical drama film directed by Kimberly Peirce, based on the real-life story of Brandon Teena, a transgender man played by Hilary Swank, who lived in Nebraska and was brutally murdered by his acquaintances after they discovered he was transgender.
The film explores themes of gender identity, sexual orientation, and violence against the LGBTQ+ community.
The story follows Brandon as he moves to a small town in Nebraska, where he meets and falls in love with a woman named Lana (Chloë Sevigny), and becomes friends with a group of local men who eventually discover his transgender identity.
The film received critical acclaim for its portrayal of Brandon’s story and the issues faced by transgender individuals.
Hilary Swank’s performance as Brandon earned her numerous accolades, including the Academy Award for Best Actress. The movie also brought attention to hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community and sparked discussions about gender identity and discrimination.
Overall, “Boys Don’t Cry” is a powerful and emotional film that sheds light on important social issues and promotes empathy and understanding towards the LGBTQ+ community.
5. Forrest Gump (1994)
Forrest Gump is a 1994 American comedy-drama film directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, and Gary Sinise.
The movie follows the life of Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks), a slow-witted but kind-hearted man from Alabama, who finds himself at the center of many pivotal moments in American history, including the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal, and the rise of the computer industry.
The film received critical acclaim for its heartwarming story, brilliant performances, and iconic soundtrack. Tom Hanks won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Forrest Gump, and the movie won several other awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Forrest Gump is known for its iconic scenes and memorable quotes, including “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.”
The movie explores themes of love, loss, and the American Dream, as Forrest navigates the ups and downs of life with his simple yet profound outlook on the world.
Overall, Forrest Gump is a beloved classic that continues to be celebrated for its endearing characters, inspirational story, and powerful message about the human experience
6. Philadelphia (1993)
“Philadelphia” is a 1993 drama film directed by Jonathan Demme and starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington.
The film tells the story of Andrew Beckett (played by Hanks), a successful lawyer who is fired from his job when his employers discover that he has contracted AIDS.
Beckett hires Joe Miller (played by Washington), a homophobic lawyer, to represent him in a lawsuit against his former employers for wrongful dismissal.
The film was one of the first mainstream Hollywood movies to address the issue of HIV/AIDS and its impact on society. It explores themes of discrimination, homophobia, and the struggle for justice in the face of adversity.
Hanks won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance, which was widely praised for its emotional depth and realism.
“Philadelphia” is also notable for its use of music, particularly the iconic song “Streets of Philadelphia” by Bruce Springsteen, which won an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
The film’s impact on popular culture and public perception of HIV/AIDS was significant, helping to raise awareness and reduce stigma surrounding the disease.
Overall, “Philadelphia” is a powerful and moving film that continues to resonate with audiences today, both as a work of art and as a call to action for social justice and equality.
7. American History X (1998)
“American History X” is a 1998 drama movie directed by Tony Kaye and starring Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, and Fairuza Balk. The film follows the story of Derek Vinyard (Norton), a former neo-Nazi who is released from prison after serving time for a racially motivated murder.
As he tries to rebuild his life and steer his younger brother Danny (Furlong) away from the path of hate that he once followed, Derek confronts the prejudices and violence that he once embraced and tries to make amends for his past actions.
The movie is known for its powerful performances, particularly Norton’s portrayal of Derek and his transformation over the course of the film.
Its themes of racism, violence, and redemption have made it a thought-provoking and emotionally resonant work that continues to resonate with audiences today.
While “American History X” is a difficult and sometimes disturbing movie to watch, its message of hope and redemption in the face of hatred and violence make it a classic of the sad movie genre.
8. The Passion of the Christ (2004)
“The Passion of the Christ” is a 2004 biblical drama film directed by Mel Gibson and starring Jim Caviezel as Jesus Christ. The film depicts the final 12 hours of Jesus’ life, including his arrest, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection, as recounted in the New Testament.
The film was notable for its graphic and intense depictions of violence and suffering, which sparked controversy and debate among audiences and critics.
Some praised the film for its authenticity and emotional impact, while others criticized it for its excessive violence and alleged anti-Semitic themes.
Despite the controversy, “The Passion of the Christ” was a box office success, grossing over $600 million worldwide, and received three Academy Award nominations.
The film’s depiction of Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice has resonated with many audiences, particularly within the Christian community. The film has since become a cultural phenomenon and a topic of discussion in theological and artistic circles.
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9. Finding Neverland (2004)
Finding Neverland is a 2004 historical drama film directed by Marc Forster and starring Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, and Freddie Highmore. The film is a semi-fictional account of the life of J.M. Barrie (Johnny Depp), the author of Peter Pan, and the inspiration behind the classic story.
The film tells the story of Barrie’s friendship with Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet) and her four sons, who inspire him to write the story of Peter Pan.
As Barrie spends more time with the family, he becomes increasingly involved in their lives and helps them cope with the death of their father.
The film received critical acclaim for its charming performances and heartwarming story, with particular praise going to Johnny Depp’s portrayal of J.M. Barrie.
Kate Winslet’s performance as Sylvia was also well-received, as was Freddie Highmore’s performance as one of the Davies children.
Finding Neverland was a box office success and earned seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Johnny Depp. While it did not win any awards, the film has since become a beloved classic and is considered one of the best films of the 2000s.
10. The Green Mile (1999)
“The Green Mile” is a drama film directed by Frank Darabont and released in 1999. Based on the novel by Stephen King, the film tells the story of Paul Edgecomb (played by Tom Hanks), a prison guard who works on death row at a penitentiary in Louisiana during the 1930s.
When a new inmate named John Coffey (played by Michael Clarke Duncan) arrives on death row, Paul and his fellow guards begin to suspect that he may possess supernatural powers.
The film explores themes of justice, compassion, and the nature of good and evil, as Paul and the other guards struggle with their duty to carry out executions and their growing belief in Coffey’s innocence. It also features a talented ensemble cast, including David Morse, Barry Pepper, and Bonnie Hunt.
“The Green Mile” was a critical and commercial success, praised for its powerful performances, nuanced storytelling, and its exploration of complex moral themes.
Michael Clarke Duncan’s performance as John Coffey was particularly acclaimed, earning him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
The film remains a beloved classic of the drama genre, and is considered one of the best adaptations of a Stephen King novel to date.
11. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005)
“The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” is a 2005 coming-of-age comedy-drama film directed by Ken Kwapis and based on the novel of the same name by Ann Brashares.
The story follows four teenage girls, played by Amber Tamblyn, Alexis Bledel, America Ferrera, and Blake Lively, who are best friends and spend their first summer apart.
They discover a magical pair of jeans that fits all of them perfectly and decide to share them, sending them to each other throughout the summer while they each face their own personal challenges.
The film deals with themes of friendship, love, family, and self-discovery. It was praised for its positive portrayal of female friendships and its realistic and relatable depiction of teenage life.
The performances of the four main actresses were also well-received, with many critics noting their chemistry and the depth of their characters.
The movie was a commercial success, grossing over $42 million worldwide against a budget of $25 million. It was followed by a sequel, “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2,” in 2008. Overall, “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” is a heartwarming and uplifting film that has become a beloved classic among young audiences.
12. Terms of Endearment (1983)
Terms of Endearment is a 1983 American comedy-drama film directed by James L. Brooks and starring Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, and Jack Nicholson.
The movie tells the story of a mother and daughter, Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) and Emma Horton (Debra Winger), and their complicated relationship as they navigate the ups and downs of life, love, and loss.
The film received critical acclaim and was a commercial success, grossing over $100 million worldwide.
It won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress for Shirley MacLaine. The movie is known for its powerful performances, poignant story, and exploration of complex family dynamics.
Terms of Endearment explores themes of love, sacrifice, and the joys and struggles of parenthood. The movie is known for its emotional depth and realistic portrayal of the challenges that families face.
The relationship between Aurora and Emma is at the heart of the film, as they navigate the highs and lows of life and learn to appreciate each other in a deeper way.
Overall, Terms of Endearment is a touching and powerful film that explores the complexities of family relationships and the importance of cherishing the people we love.
13. Titanic (1997)
“Titanic” is a 1997 epic romance-disaster film directed by James Cameron, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. The film is a fictionalized retelling of the real-life sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912, which claimed over 1,500 lives.
The film follows the story of Jack Dawson (played by DiCaprio), a poor artist who falls in love with Rose DeWitt Bukater (played by Winslet), a wealthy young woman who is engaged to a wealthy but cruel man.
Their romance is set against the backdrop of the ill-fated voyage of the Titanic, as the ship hits an iceberg and begins to sink, putting their lives in danger.
“Titanic” was a critical and commercial success, becoming one of the highest-grossing films of all time and winning 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Song.
The film is known for its stunning visual effects, powerful performances, and memorable soundtrack, including the hit song “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion.
While some critics have criticized the film for its melodramatic plot and dialogue, “Titanic” remains a beloved classic for many viewers, who are drawn to its timeless love story and tragic ending.
The film’s impact on popular culture and the movie industry has been significant, influencing numerous other films and cementing Cameron’s reputation as a master filmmaker.
14. The Notebook (2004)
“The Notebook” is a 2004 romantic drama movie directed by Nick Cassavetes and based on the novel of the same name by Nicholas Sparks. The film stars Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, James Garner, and Gena Rowlands.
The story follows the epic love story of Noah (Gosling) and Allie (McAdams), two young lovers from vastly different backgrounds who are separated by war and social class.
The film is framed by a modern-day narrative of an older couple, played by Garner and Rowlands, who are revisiting their own love story as depicted in a notebook.
“The Notebook” is known for its sweeping romanticism and powerful performances, particularly by Gosling and McAdams. Its themes of love, loss, and sacrifice have made it a beloved entry in the sad movie genre, as well as a timeless classic of romantic cinema.
While some critics have dismissed it as overly sentimental or clichéd, “The Notebook” has nonetheless struck a chord with audiences around the world and continues to be a popular choice for those in search of a good cry.
15. Big Fish (2003)
“Big Fish” is a 2003 fantasy drama film directed by Tim Burton and starring Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, and Jessica Lange. The film is based on the 1998 novel of the same name by Daniel Wallace.
The story follows the life of Edward Bloom (Albert Finney and Ewan McGregor), a charismatic storyteller who has a tendency to exaggerate and embellish his life experiences.
His son, Will (Billy Crudup), struggles to connect with his father and separate fact from fiction. As Edward’s health deteriorates, Will sets out to uncover the truth behind his father’s stories and reconcile with him.
“Big Fish” was praised for its imaginative storytelling, stunning visuals, and heartfelt performances, particularly by Finney and McGregor. The film explores themes of father-son relationships, the power of storytelling, and the meaning of life.
“Big Fish” was a box office success and received four Golden Globe nominations, including Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. The film has since become a cult classic and is considered one of Burton’s most beloved works.
3 Characteristics of Sad Movies
Emotional intensity: Sad movies are known for their emotional intensity, often featuring heart-wrenching scenes and powerful performances that can leave viewers feeling deeply affected. These movies are designed to elicit strong emotions, such as sadness, grief, and empathy, and can be a cathartic experience for some viewers.
Themes of loss and suffering: Sad movies often explore themes of loss, suffering, and adversity, depicting characters who are struggling with difficult situations, such as illness, death, or personal tragedy.
These movies can be a powerful reminder of the fragility of life and the universal experience of human suffering.
Realistic portrayal of human experiences: Sad movies often aim to provide a realistic portrayal of the human experience, depicting characters who are flawed, vulnerable, and imperfect.
These movies can help viewers to relate to and empathize with the characters, creating a sense of connection and shared humanity. Sad movies can also offer a sense of perspective, helping viewers to appreciate the good in their own lives and to recognize the struggles that others may be facing.
3 Reasons To Watch Sad Movies
While it may seem counterintuitive to seek out sad movies, there are actually several reasons why doing so can be beneficial for our emotional wellbeing. Here are three reasons why you should consider watching sad movies:
Catharsis: Watching a sad movie can be a form of emotional release, allowing us to experience and process feelings of sadness, grief, or loss in a safe and controlled environment. By tapping into our emotions, we may feel a sense of catharsis or relief, which can help us to cope with difficult emotions in our own lives.
Empathy: Sad movies can also help us to develop empathy and compassion for others, by putting us in the shoes of characters who are experiencing difficult circumstances. This can foster a greater understanding of the human condition and deepen our connections with others.
Reflection: Watching sad movies can also encourage self-reflection and introspection, as we contemplate the themes and messages presented in the film. This can help us to gain new insights into our own lives and experiences, and may even inspire us to make positive changes in our behavior or attitudes.
Of course, it’s important to note that everyone’s emotional needs are different, and there are times when watching sad movies may not be appropriate or helpful. However, when viewed with intention and mindfulness, sad movies can offer a valuable opportunity for emotional growth and healing.
Best Sad Movies – Wrap Up
In conclusion, sad movies have a unique power to move us, to make us feel deeply and to reflect on the complexities of the human experience. From classic dramas like “The Godfather” and “Schindler’s List” to more recent entries like “A Star is Born” and “Manchester by the Sea,” the best sad movies are the ones that explore universal themes of love, loss, and the meaning of life.
These movies can be difficult to watch, but they can also be incredibly cathartic, helping us to process our own emotions and experiences in a meaningful way. Whether you’re in the mood for a good cry or simply appreciate the artistry of well-crafted storytelling, there’s sure to be a sad movie out there that will resonate with you.
So why not grab a box of tissues, settle in, and explore some of the most powerful and affecting sad movies ever made? You might just find a new favorite that will stay with you long after the credits roll.