46 Sad Movies for When You Need a Good Cry

Better than crying about the state of the world, right?

still of layne james in if beale street could talk, 2018 sad movie
(Image credit: Alamy)

To keep functioning as a human in a complicated world, sometimes you need to just let loose and have a good cry. Studies have found that crying can relieve stress, help us cope with scary situations, and release endorphins. And what better way to cue the waterworks than to put on a sad movie, dim the lights, and feel all the feelings? That's why we at Marie Claire have compiled a list of the saddest movies we turn to when we feel like taking a moment. 

The sad films below are listed by category so you can narrow down the search for what type of cry you’re looking to have. For example, a cry about a war movie (think Grave of the Fireflies or Sophie’s Choice) can lead to one kind of emotional state—contemplative, meditating on the inherent brutality of humanity—while a sad romance movie (The Notebook, One Day) will lead to a very different set of feelings—wistfulness, swooning appreciation for the things that make life meaningful. And then, of course, there are the all-time best sad movies, which you’ll find toward the bottom of the page. We’re talking Marley and Me, Manchester By the Sea, the first five minutes of Pixar’s Up—the kind of scenes guaranteed to lead to some heaving, ugly sobs. Hyperspecificity is what we were going for with this list of sad movies: A taxonomy of the particular kinds of sad, courtesy of your really emotionally healthy friends at Marie Claire.

So check out our list of the best sad films streaming now, get the tissues ready, and call us if you need anything. (Oh, and if you're looking for the best sad movies on Netflix specifically, we've got a list for that too.) Happy sniffling! 

Spoiler alert: In order to talk about what's sad in these movies, sharing some crucial details are essential. You've been warned.

Sad Romance Movies

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

Reason You'll Cry: It's about two people who love each other but can't be together. Need I say more?

Weepiness Level: Crying while singing in French, if you can imagine such a thing.

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Her (2013)

Reason You'll Cry: This movie is a unique meditation on loneliness in the age of artificial intelligence, and it will have you questioning the ways you use technology to cope.

Weepiness Level: Shoulder shaking quietly, staring at your smartphone suspiciously but also with a weird longing.

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The Farewell (2019)

Reason You'll Cry: Because you'll be reminded of a simple fact that we all know, but usually try to ignore actively thinking about: Everyone we love will eventually die and all we can do is make the most of the time we have with them. 

Weepiness Level: Several tissues and a call home to your family.

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Jojo Rabbit (2019)

Reason You'll Cry: Do you know anyone who can keep from crying during this movie?? I sure don't. Even the characters within the film are moved to tears by Forrest and Jenny's stories.

Weepiness Level: Crying to '60s and '70s rock classics―an interesting vibe.

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Moulin Rouge (2001)

Reason You'll Cry: A fun, gorgeous, sexy, musical romp about love that ultimately ends in tuberculosis. So unfair.

Weepiness Level: Lip-quivering with perhaps a contemplative tear.

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Steel Magnolias (1989)

Photograph, Facial expression, Wedding dress, Bride, Ceremony, Event, Marriage, Wedding, Bridal clothing, Gown,

(Image credit: TriStar Pictures)

Reason You'll Cry: It's a movie about a group of sister-friends, one of whom dies tragically while fulfilling her dream of having a family (even knowing the potential consequences). If you have a pulse, you will cry. Also, Dolly Parton is in it which is not a reason to cry but it is good to know.

Weepiness Level: Snotty nose-blowing.

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Forrest Gump (1994)

Reason You'll Cry: Do you know anyone who can keep from crying during this movie?? I sure don't. Even the characters within the film are moved to tears by Forrest and Jenny's stories.

Weepiness Level: Crying to '60s and '70s rock classics―an odd vibe.

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The Way We Were (1973)

Reason You'll Cry: Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford have undeniable chemistry in this story of two mismatched lovers who, in the end, just can't make it work. It's sad because it'll remind you of your own lost loves. Also, it's got a killer soundtrack.

Weepiness Level: Sobs that won't stop because, honestly, they're not really about the movie, are they?

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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Reason You'll Cry: Michel Gondry makes movies that are thoughtfully quirky and then punch you right in the gut. This one stars Jim Carey as a man reeling from a crappy breakup who decides to use new technology to have all memories of his ex, Kate Winslet, wiped from his memory. But as the strange, surreal erasure process starts to take him through every memory he has with her, he realizes that maybe relationships are filled with good and bad—and that's sort of the point of everything.

Weepiness Level: More like Eternal Sadness of the Sobbing Mind.

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Marriage Story (2019)

Reason You'll Cry: We've all experienced the crushing loss of a relationship falling apart and Marriage Story reflects that pain right back to us. 

Weepiness Level: Pretending it's allergies to everyone watching with you even though it is clearly not just allergies.

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The Notebook (2004)

Reason You'll Cry: Look, this movie is schmaltzy as hell. But it's also deeply romantic and tragic in the way that all love stories are tragic because they can't possibly last forever and...I'm sorry, I just need a minute.

Weepiness Level: Crying in spite of yourself.

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Sad War Movies

Titanic (1997)

Reason You'll Cry: Ummm, how about because an entire ship full of people meet their watery doom? But mostly due to the scene in which two old people lay in bed and wait for the Grim Reaper to take them. Also Jack. Poor, sweet Jack. There was almost certainly room for him on that door. 

Weepiness Level: Several fully-formed tears.

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Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)

Reason You'll Cry: This movie is achingly poetic, and it touches not only on literal death, but also on the death of youth, friendship, and innocence.

Weepiness Level: Wine-drunk tears while you stalk your long-lost childhood best friend on Instagram.

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Loving Vincent (2019)

Reason You'll Cry: Van Gogh was terrible misunderstood and treated cruelly during his lifetime. And the fact that this movie was made using different Van Gogh-style paintings for every single frame makes it infinitely more poignant.

Weepiness Level: Letting the credits run completely because you're too busy sobbing to stop them.

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Me Before You (2015)

Reason You'll Cry: Because not all love stories have a happy ending, but it's even sadder when that sad ending is part of a choice and not fate stepping in. 

Weepiness Level: Ugly crying into a bottle of wine and drunk texting "I love you" to everyone you care about.

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Revolutionary Road (2008)

Reason You'll Cry: Because of the death of these people's hopes and dreams...and also because of literal death.

Weepiness Level: Tearfully reminding your confused and concerned significant other that you love and appreciate them.

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Christine (2016)

Reason You'll Cry: In Christine, we watch the title character (played by Rebecca Hall) slowly succumb to loneliness until she kills herself on live television. And it's based on a true story.

Weepiness Level: Stunned silence followed by a sudden, drawn-out sob.

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The Danish Girl (2015)

Reason You'll Cry: The injustice of transphobia + the endurance of unconditional love + the fact that this is a true story. I see no reason not to cry

Weepiness Level: Hugging your pillow to your chest, murmuring, "It's just not fair" over and over again.

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One Day (2011)

Reason You'll Cry: Described by several people on the MarieClaire.com staff as "one of the most manipulative movies of all time" (in a good-cry way), this story follows Anne Hathaway (with an accent) and Jim Sturgess as two people who meet in college and meet up again on the same day each year for two decades. There is more death than there probably needs to be for something that's such a slow burn. Even telling you the plot might make you tear up.

Weepiness Level: Tears over how unfair life (and this movie) can sometimes be.

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Sad Beautiful Movies

Pieces of a Woman (2020)

Reason You'll Cry: A devastating home birth the main character experiences will hit home for a lot of women.

Weepiness Level: Quite a bit of "ugly crying."

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Hair (1979)

Reason You'll Cry: Director Milos Forman changed the ending of this classic musical to make it doubly as upsetting. Much of the movie is a celebration of life, rebellion, and hippie culture, so the comedown at the end will have you positively wrecked.

Weepiness Level: Sobbing as you pine for world peace and stick flowers in your long, untamed hair.

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Mary and Max (2009)

Reason You'll Cry: This movie captures the essence of intense loneliness, isolation, suicidal depression, and the sheer power of a single, unexpected human connection in a way that no movie with live-action actors ever has.

Weepiness Level: More crying than you ever expected to do for claymation characters, that's for sure.

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Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)

Reason You'll Cry: It's in the title. A girl dies, and even though you know it's coming, the climactic tragedy still rips you apart.

Weepiness Level: The first time I saw this film, I was in a room full of people, and when the lights came back on at the end, every single person quietly had tears on their face.

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Five Feet Apart (2019)

Reason You'll Cry: More than 30,000 Americans live with cystic fibrosis (opens in new tab), and we get a glimpse of how the disease takes a toll on young people.

Weepiness Level: At least one box of tissues and a call to your mom after the movie ends. 

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A Star Is Born (2018)

Reason You'll Cry: Two musicians come together to create arguably one of the best songs of all time *cough* "Shallow" *cough* and fall in love. If this was a perfect world, the film would end there, but because it's a movie, Bradley Cooper's character is a pill-popping alcoholic who desperately needs to be saved.

Weepiness Level: When you think you're done crying, it'll make you cry again.

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Toy Story 3 (2010)

Reason You'll Cry: When Andy's toys come face to face with their own, horrifying demise and then just accept that they're going to burn to death in an incinerator, you'll feel the burning pain of your own childhood dying a little. Don't worry, they make it out (is that even a spoiler, since there's a Toy Story 4?). But still

Weepiness Level: The always-jarring feeling of being forced to acknowledge your own mortality, paired with a setting that makes you consider that through the lens of childhood. BRB, dying inside a little (/a lot).

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Dead Poets Society (1989)

Reason You'll Cry: In this movie, we have: Robin Williams as the teacher figure you always wanted, a group of young men trying to find there way in this scary unknown world, overbearing parents who just won't quit meddling, and the life-altering power of literature.

Weepiness Level: The kind where you have to hold in your sobs to not draw attention. 

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Little Women (2019) 

Reason You'll Cry: All we want is for Jo March to find love and live the life she deserves. There's another big reason you'll cry, but we won't spoil it for you.

Weepiness Level: A couple packs of tissues are necessary. 

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AI: Artificial Intelligence (2001)

Reason You'll Cry: If you can watch the scene where Haley Joel Osment, playing a robot who believes he's a real boy, begs his human mother not to abandon him as she drives away and leaves him to mourn her love for all eternity, then you might be the robot.

Weepiness Level: Moderate weeping, as this list goes. Luckily, there are less sob-fest parts of the movie, too.

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My Girls (1994)

Reason You'll Cry: Even if you're not a chid of the '90s, Macauley Culkin as an adorably sweet dweeb with a fatal bee allergy will ruin you.

Weepiness Level: A few minutes of bawling.

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Atonement (2007)

Reason You'll Cry: A beautiful, lush movie about a terrible mistake made by a young girl that ruins not only her life but the lives of two innocent, very attractive people? Ugh, fine, pass the tissues.

Weepiness Level: Horrified tears.

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Inside Out (2015)

Reason You'll Cry: In this movie, we have: Robin Williams as the teacher figure you always wanted, a group of young men trying to find there way in this scary unknown world, overbearing parents who just won't quit meddling, and the life-altering power of literature.

Weepiness Level: The kind where you have to hold in your sobs to not draw attention. 

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Sad Emotional Movies

Marley and Me (2008)

Reason You'll Cry: It tracks the life of possibly one of the cutest and most energetic dogs on the planet. It's promoted as a comedy, which, trust us, does have its moments, but like we said, "tracks the life," so uh, that also includes the end.

Weepiness Level: Clutching your furry friend's coat while crying.

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Foxtrot (2018)

Reason You'll Cry: This critical, thought-provoking look at Israel's military by Israeli filmmaker Samuel Maoz starts with a family's reaction to their son's death―but takes several unexpected turns that somehow makes the film even more gut-wrenching than expected.

Weepiness Level: Sobs interrupted by intermittent cries of, "War is pointless!"

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Never Let Me Go (2010)

Reason You'll Cry: Swelling orchestral soundtrack? Check. Romantic, forbidden love triangle? Check. Doomed loves? Check. Postmodern fable about clones based on a (genius) book by Kishuo Ishiguro? Um, also check.

Weepiness Level: A good, transfixed cry.

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The Lovely Bones (2009)

Reason You'll Cry: Grappling with the murder of a young girl and the lack of answers her family receives about her death throughout the movie, plus experiencing the life she had ahead of her.

Weepiness Level: You'll be calling your parents at least three times after finishing the movie.

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Happy as Lazzaro (2018)

Reason You'll Cry: You'll fall in love with the innocent yet doomed Lazzaro in Alice Rohrwacher's ethereal, fable-like film. And at the end, you'll be crying not only for him, but also out of frustration that the world is the way it is.

Weepiness Level: *sobs in Italian*

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Grave of the Fireflies (2011)

Reason You'll Cry: This depiction of World War II from the perspective of two young Japanese children absolutely gutted me. For some reason, this film was released on a double-bill with the delightful childhood classic My Neighbor Totoro, resulting in scores of traumatized movie-goers who'd been expecting a lighthearted trip to the movies.

Weepiness Level: Crying as you request an appointment with your therapist ASAP.

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The Saddest Movies of All Time

Mouchette (1967)

Reason You'll Cry: Robert Bresson is known for depicting characters in impossible, dire circumstances, and the sight of this orphaned little girl crying right into the camera, will absolutely set you off.

Weepiness Level: Pausing the movie because you can't hear it over your crying.

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Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Reason You'll Cry:  Kids dying and lifelong guilt and lost love in cold, coastal New England. 

Weepiness Level: The type that's accompanied by physical pain in your chest.

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Seven Pounds (2008)

Reason You'll Cry: We'll try to be as un-spoilery as possible here, but let's just say that when the truth about the main character's random acts of kindness is revealed, crying is guaranteed.

Weepiness Level: Stunned silence and then a steady stream of quiet, body-shaking sobs.

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If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

Reason You'll Cry: Childhood friends turned love-struck couple struggle to move forward with their life together when one of them is arrested and put in jail for a crime they didn't commit. You'll never want to scream at your television more.

Weepiness Level: A jumbo box of tissues' worth.

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Sophie's Choice (1982)

Reason You'll Cry: The titular choice in this movie is synonymous with devastating, no-win situations. That choice, if you haven't seen the movie, is the moment when Holocaust survivor Sophie (played by Meryl Streep) was forced to choose which of her children to send to their death.

Weepiness Level: Existential crisis-induced sobs and a lingering sadness that will hit you again, without warning, for the rest of your life.

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Lion (2016)

Reason You'll Cry: The story of a little Indian boy who gets separated from his family, adopted by an Australian couple, and then who goes in search of his birth family. Ugh, it's so sad

Weepiness Level: Some of the heaviest crying you'll do in a film, guaranteed.

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Up (2009)

Reason You'll Cry: Honestly, you can watch this movie and not cry, but it would require skipping the first 10 minutes. The gist is: Woman meets man, woman marries man, woman lives a perfect life with man, woman dies, man has to keep on going somehow. Even typing that made me well up.

Weepiness Level: A truly traumatizing cry for two minutes, and then the shadow of that cry for the rest of the movie.

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Cady Drell is a writer, editor, researcher and pet enthusiast from Brooklyn.