We all have those days when we could use a good cry. When we could bathe in the tragedy of fictional characters and feel a little less alone. Thankfully, Netflix has an amazing selection of heart-wrenching movies that provide those perfectly emotional, cathartic moments. Whether you need an escape from reality or simply want to treat your softer side, these sad movies will let your feelings flow in a safe space. And with so many choices available on the world’s largest streaming service, we’ve made it easier for you to find the perfect tearjerker to watch right now.
From touching love stories filled with loss and longing to moving dramas that highlight important social issues, Netflix’s vast library houses the kind of movies that will have you reaching out for tissues. And even though there’s nothing pleasant about the absolute crushing weight of melancholy provided by these stories, sometimes it’s important to let the sadness sweep you over because it can later leave you feeling curiously uplifted. Sad movies allow you to experience difficult emotions from a safe distance and release built-up pressure in a way that is satisfying.
So if you find yourself needing a good, life-changing weep session, let these sad and beautiful films give you a glimpse into the complex lives of others as you experience a full range of emotions for them and with them.
Five Feet Apart (2019)
Five Feet Apart may just be the first movie on the list, but it is an absolute tearjerker, so have a box of tissues ready. The touching love story of two teenage cystic fibrosis patients sees them fall in love while undergoing treatment at a hospital. Stella and Will are both suffering from the same illness, and due to the risk of infection between CF carriers, they can only be six feet apart. However, the couple risks everything to be together, despite the symptoms, the rules, and the shortened lifespan of their disease.
Haley Lu Richardson and Cole Sprouse are incredible as Stella and Will, who find laughter through tears and fall deeply in love, reminding us of the strength of the human spirit and what truly matters in life – not how long we have, but how we live while we’re here.
A movie inspired by a 2010 New York Times article, Kodachrome is a touching road trip drama centered around an aging, terminally ill father and the strained relationship with his son. When Benjamin learns that Kodachrome, the iconic film he’s relied on as a photographer for decades, is being discontinued, he tries to convince his reluctant son Matt to take one last road trip together to develop the remaining rolls of film and cherish them in memory.
Convinced by Ben’s nurse, Matt agrees to journey across the country. They meet old friends and revisit the past, and like every road trip with a parent, there are differences that resurface. But the confines of their car also lay an opportunity to re-connect. The movie, in all its honest beauty and brutal humor, examines the feeling of regret, the need for repairing broken bonds, and rediscovering lost joys – before it is too late.
Les Misérables (2012)
The saddest movies don’t always have to be about unattained love or fractured relationships. It doesn’t even matter if you’re particularly empathetic or not, or if you’re even familiar with the history, Les Misérables is an epic musical drama that drips with joy, sorrow, and hope in great amounts. Set against the backdrop of early 19th century France, the story follows Jean Valjean, an ex-prisoner struggling for redemption by living a better life, Inspector Javert, a detective obsessed with capturing him, and the many lives that are forever changed by their chance encounter.
The pursuit between Valjean and Javert is quite touching as it intertwines tales of love, sacrifice, and revolution at a time when France reached a turning point and entered the dawn of a new era. Moreover, Victor Hugo’s sprawling novel is brought to life by powerful performances from Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Eddie Redmayne, Helena Bonham Carter, and an Anne Hathaway.
My Girl (1991)
My Girl is a heartwarming coming-of-age story of an oddly relatable 11-year-old girl named Vada (Anna Chlumsky) and her summer friendship with an emotionally distant funeral home worker. On one side, she’s navigating her fraught home life and her relationship with her widowed father, and on the other, there’s her best friend and first crush named Thomas J. (Macaulay Culkin). When the funeral home hires a new makeup artist, Shelly, Vada is quite friendly with her, until she discovers her father’s growing inclinations towards Shelly, which soon turns into romance.
Dealing with themes of death, grief, and loss (both literally and metaphorically), the movie, at its core, tries to show what it means to truly live. From the relatable characters and witty dialogues to the quiet moments of levity and the bittersweet ending, there is nothing about the movie that won’t trigger tears of pain and hope.
Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut is a powerful period drama based on the 1929 novella of the same name written by Nella Larsen. The movie is set during the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s, and follows two light-skinned Black women who can “pass” as white but choose to live on the opposite sides of the color line. Clare and Irene reunite years after estrangement and together, they reflect on choices made and lives not lived as secrets and lies unfold their cracked relationship.
Passing is an important movie because it touches on themes of racism, colorism, and interracial connection in 1920s America in a way that is visually appealing (thanks to the black-and-white filming). Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga deliver power-packed performances and convey emotions full of both heartbreak and hope.
Created by filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón, Roma is an autobiographical drama that follows the life of a live-in housekeeper of a middle-class Mexican family in the 1970s. Cleo has helped Antonio and Sofía take care of their home and four children for years. But when Antonio cheats on Sofia and flees, she decides to take the kids and Cleo on a vacation. The story may seem like a turbulent family drama on the surface, but its focus on themes of memory, loss, family, hope, and social hierarchy amidst the backdrop of political backdrop in a country ridden by fragile times is truly spectacular.
With its breathtaking cinematography and subtle performances by the actors, the film tries to create a portrait of the quiet beauty in everyday struggles of a family as well as a nation through the eyes of a maid whose only purpose is to care for the family’s children. Roma captures the truth of the unseen individuals who have changed our lives carefully and intimately.
Still Alice (2014)
Starring Julianne Moore in an Oscar-winning performance as Dr. Alice Howland, Still Alice is a heartbreaking drama that revolves around a Columbia professor who finds out that she is suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 50. It’s always sad to watch someone’s memories, most cherished days, and closest people fade away from memory. And as Alice’s memory slips away, it’s as if her entire world begins to shrink within her hands, and she tries very hard to hold on to her sense of self and her relationship with her family.
Needless to say, Moore is incredible at capturing the emotions that Alice goes through. The frustration, the fear, and the dignity of a brilliant, accomplished woman fighting a losing battle with her own mind. But more importantly, directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland portray how love and connections become even more resilient in these trying times.
Marriage Story (2019)
Marriage Story is the kind of movie that you wouldn’t want to watch if you’re in a perfectly healthy relationship. Why? Because it will get you to rethink your relationship or marriage and everything you’ve ever worked on building with a partner. If that’s not much of a warning, here’s the premise: Charlie, a stage director, and Nicole, his actor wife, are going through a harsh and draining divorce that brings out the best and the worst in their love and humanity as they navigate their careers, parenthood, and the crumbling relationship.
Told from both husband and wife’s perspective, the movie stresses on some of the most intimate details of their lives, petty grievances, and raw emotions that come to surface during a separation. Played out brilliantly by Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, the characters are as relatable as they are repulsive. We are them and everything we wish to never become.
All Together Now (2020)
Amber Appleton is a lovely individual. She’s liked by people at school, she’s got her grades in place, and she dreams of studying musical theater at Carnegie Mellon University, the same school her father went to. But Amber’s is keeping a huge secret: she and her mother Becky are homeless, and she’s living on the bus that Becky drives to school. Because of their worsening money situation, Becky decides to seek help from her abusive ex-boyfriend.
On the upside, Amber is invited to audition at Carnegie Mellon. Auliʻi Cravalho plays Amber with searing honesty and compassion, while One Day at a Time’s Justina Machado brings a deeply moving energy to Becky. Through powerful musical performances, laughter, and emotion, All Together Now yanks you up and down like a rollercoaster ride, and finally, very gently, sets you into place.
Pieces of a Woman (2020)
Pieces of a Woman is inspired by an original play created by the movie’s director, Kornél Mundruczó, and screenwriter, Kata Wéber. It is an emotionally devastating but eventually inspiring drama about a couple who is trying to heal after experiencing a tragic incident. Revolving around Martha and Sean, a young Boston couple who are expecting a baby, the movie charts the events after Martha delivers a baby who immediately dies because of a cardiac arrest.
From the haunting opening sequence itself, which is shot beautifully in one continuous take, the film sets a touching tone for a story that is about to portray grief, anger, guilt, and isolation after an unthinkable loss. Vanessa Kirby and Shia LaBeouf play the main couple and they are phenomenal. They show their pain, the depth of their loss, the rawness of the messy, overwhelming journey of mourning the loss of a life they were so ready to celebrate with sheer honesty. You’re not getting through this one without bawling your eyes out.