Heart-wrenching Films Streaming on Prime Video for an Emotionally Charged Experience


Prime Video will make you cry. In a good way, of course. Everyone needs a good cry occasionally, and doing so with an emotionally-charged film is often a good indicator of its overall quality. Combined with the numerous films available on Prime Video’s library, there are ample opportunities to let the waterworks flow for an hour or two. Again, in a good way.

Overcoming intense tribulations, making the best of a bad situation, or simply just trying to get by are what Prime Video’s saddest movies are all about. Whether you’re looking for a story you won’t soon forget, or you simply have some extra tissues you could do without, these are some of the saddest movies currently streaming on Prime Video.

Manchester by the Sea

Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea
Roadside Attractions
Amazon Studios

Manchester by the Sea sees Casey Affleck (Interstellar, Good Will Hunting) return to his childhood home after the sudden death of his older brother. But as he tries to care for his teenage nephew, a traumatic past will rear it’s head once more as new connections are formed, old ties flame out, and grief buried long-ago is suddenly exhumed.

A bittersweet ending lies in wait if you watch Manchester by the Sea. It’s an intimate movie that examines depression at it’s core, and how it’s encompassing nature can’t necessarily be resolved with a big, pretty bow. Still, our protagonist makes do the best he can, and you’ll find yourself rooting for him through glassy eyes after its contemplative ending. Considered to be one of the best films of 2016, and of the 2010s for that matter, Manchester by the Sea is a tragic drama worth seeing.

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Honey Boy

Noah Jupe in Honey Boy (2019)
Amazon Studios

Honey Boy is particularly compelling for a variety of reasons. Written by and featuring Shia LaBeouf (Transformers, Fury), Honey Boy is loosely based on LaBeouf’s real-life experiences. Lucas Hedges plays Otis Lort, a former child-actor forced into rehab after a drunken accident. Faced with a potential prison sentence, a series of exposure therapy sessions unveil a childhood scorched by an alcoholic father, the pressures of acting, and escapism through substance abuse.

A deeply personal film, Honey Boy is a story about trauma. It showcases how trauma is passed down from generation to generation, whether intentionally or not, and how that trauma is practically inescapable for most during their developmental years. LeBeouf even opted to play the role of his father in the film itself, though he admitted that some creative liberties were taken in his performance.

Brokeback Mountain

Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal Brokeback Mountain
Focus Features

Co-starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, with Ang Lee directing, Brokeback Mountain is a heart-wrenching drama that originally released in 2005. Based on a short story by Annie Proulx, a pair of cowboys in Wyoming find themselves sharing an intimate moment after a hazy, drunken night. But while the two affirm that it was nothing more than a moment, they find themselves returning to their lives with a newfound sense of longing, one that may rip apart everything they once knew.

Snubbed at the Academy Awards in favor of Crash, Brokeback Mountain is frequently considered to be a groundbreaking achievement in LGBTQ+ representation, as well as being one of the best dramas of the 2000s. With Gyllenhaal and Ledger’s acting chops, you’re guaranteed to open the waterworks before the credits roll.

Rocky Balboa

Sylvester Stallone in Rocky Balboa
MGM / Sony

Rocky Balboa — not to be confused with 1976’s Rocky — is the concluding film in the original Rocky saga. But whereas the first Rocky film was an uplifting underdog story, Rocky Balboa is a sentimental reflection on both the character and the career of the actor who plays him, Sylvester Stallone. At a ripe 60 years old, Rocky now owns a restaurant as a subdued widower, whose estranged relationship with his son gnaws at his soul. But when Rocky gets one last chance to fight in the ring, what will ultimately become of our Philadelphia native?

Equally sappy and self-reflective, Rocky Balboa is a perfect send-off for a character whose seemingly done it all, with his biggest opponent now being a life outside the ring. It’s a film that works even better if you’ve seen all five films that came before, as frequent homages and references can be found throughout.

Where the Red Fern Grows (1974)

Stewart Petersen in Where the Red Fern Grows (1974)
Crown International Pictures

A childhood staple next to Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet, Where the Red Fern Grows is a quintessential coming-of-age story about hunting, companionship, and tragedy. In the Ozark Mountains, a young Billy Coleman (Stewart Peterson) finds himself in the company of two hunting hounds, Old Dan and Little Ann, in a tale as old as time. What starts as an ambitious venture turns into a profitable path for Coleman and his family. But good times never last, and Coleman will have to learn how to cope with the circle of life and death.

If you were lucky, you didn’t have to hear this glum tale read out during grade school. But if you want to re-live this classic story of love and loss, Where the Red Fern Grows is an ultimately positive film that will leave you misty-eyed once it’s all said and done.


Tom Hanks in Philadelphia (1993)
TriStar Pictures

A Tom Hanks classic, Philadelphia sees him play Andrew Beckett, a man afflicted with the AIDS virus whose condition leads to a malicious termination. When Beckett acquires legal counsel in the form of Joe Miller (Denzel Washington), Beckett finds himself battling both the disease and a court case in order to receive punitive damages for his pain and suffering.

A landmark film for its depiction of HIV/AIDS, as well as positive portrayals of homosexual individuals, it’s a heartbreaking story that tackles an unfortunately tragic time in American history. While the stigmatization of the AIDS virus has largely subsided, Philadelphia loosely bases itself on real events that directly impacted those afflicted with the virus, and those who were unfairly associated with it. It’s a genuine heart-breaker, though its beautiful ending will have made the journey ultimately worth seeing.

Boyz n the Hood

Boyz n the Hood
Columbia Pictures

John Singleton’s directorial debut, Boyz n the Hood is the film that put him on the map, earning him the first ever Academy Award nomination for a black director. We follow the story of Tre Styles, played by Cuba Gooding Jr. in his feature film debut, as he’s sent to live with his father in South Central Los Angeles. But trouble arises as the surrounding gang culture starts to creep into Tre’s life, as well as the lives of his long-time friends.

Inspired by Singleton’s own experiences, as well as the lives of others he knew, Boyz n the Hood was a deeply personal project by the late director. It doesn’t mince words, and it addresses the harsh realities that befell the area with a beautifully somber grace. With three unique perspectives featured, Boyz n the Hood will tug at your heart by the time of its intense finale.

The Color Purple (1985)

The Color Purple
Amblin Entertainment

A surprising entry from Steven Spielberg, The Color Purple features Whoopi Goldberg in her second ever feature film. Goldberg plays the role of Celie Harris, a black woman growing up throughout the early 20th century. Spanning forty years, Harris is forced to overcome the systemic abuse that surrounded black women from the time period, all while finding the inner strength to press on with her last bit of hope.

You may recognize Goldberg more for her comedic roles, but The Color Purple is easily carried by her compelling dramatic performance. Some may feel slightly put off by the film’s tonal inconsistencies, as well as a forced sense of sentimentality. But despite this, you’ll have to ask if someone is cutting onions during The Color Purple‘s most gripping moments. A remake of the film is currently in production, due for release in December 2023.

All Dogs Go to Heaven

Anne-Marie hugs Charlie in All Dogs Go to Heaven after he promises to find her a real family if she helps him steal from people..
United Artists & MGM

The story of Don Bluth and his animated rivalry with Disney could easily fill a whole book. But while he’s more well-known for projects like An American Tail and Dragon’s Lair, his first film after a short-lived partnership with Steven Spielberg is sure to let the tears flow. You won’t find the typical Disney tropes in Don Bluth’s films, meaning that they’re willing to go places that the House of Mouse simply can’t.

Directed by Gary Coldman (Anastasia), All Dogs Go to Heaven is a bittersweet musical drama featuring the voice talents of Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, and the last performance of child actor Judith Barsi. It tells the story of a German Shepherd who, after escaping from Heaven to return to Earth, aims to take revenge on those who led to his death. But after meeting a kindly orphan, will he remain committed to his original goal?

The Peanut Butter Falcon

Shia LaBeouf Peanut Butter Falcon
Roadside Attractions

An indie darling released in 2019, The Peanut Butter Falcon is the directorial debut of Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz. A young man with down syndrome, played by Zack Gottsagen, finds himself befriending an isolated fisherman after escaping from a state care facility. Together, the two go on a river-bound journey in order to fulfill our protagonist’s biggest dream: to become a professional wrestler like his life-long hero, the Salt Water Redneck.

Taking direct inspiration from Huckleberry Finn, this heartwarming story is sure to make you laugh and cry in equal measure. It’s less overtly depressing than other entries on this list, but the sheer triumph of the human spirit is sure to put a tear in your eye. If that’s not enough of a sell, additional cast members include Dakota Johnson, Shia LaBeouf, and John Hawkes.

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