25 Sad Movies Guaranteed to Make You Cry (In the Best Way)

Chemical Hearts
Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios.

Who doesn’t love a good cry? That’s where these best sad movies and tearjerker films come in. From Titanic to The Fault in Our Stars, we rounded up the best emotional films for movie-lovers who can’t help but sob every damn time a sad moment happens.

Whether you’re a fan of sad romantic movies or simply love films that make you cry, this list of the best sad movies are sure to tug on your heartstrings and not leave one dry eye by the end of your viewing experience. Sure, we all love a happy ending, but there’s something different about an emotional movie that has us in our feelings from start to finish. If you’re anything like us, you love a good tearjerker, and this roundup of the best sad movies to watch when you’re happy, sad or simply want to shed a tear or two while watching a two-hour movie (more if you’re watching Titanic) is the list for you.

And so, without any further ado, we present to you our list of the best sad movies. From new films like Chemical Hearts to classics like Sophie’s Choice, this roundup of tearjerkers are sure to make you cry (in the best way possible.)

Chemical Hearts (2020)

Released in August 2020, Chemical Hearts stars Lili Reinhart as Grace town, a new student at a small town high school, who meets hopeless romantic Henry Page (Austin Abrams.) Though the two don’t seem like a perfect match at first, Grace and Henry soon fall for each other as they work together at their school’s newspaper. The film is based on Krystal Sutherland’s 2016 novel, Our Chemical Hearts.

The Notebook (2004)

Based on Nicholas Sparks’ 1996 novel of the same title, The Notebook stars Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling as two star-crossed lovers, Allie Hamilton and Noah Calhoun, who make up and break up several times throughout their lifetime. The movie is told in two timelines: Noah and Allie when they’re young and when they’re old and aging. We won’t spoil the ending, but the movie includes a sucker-punch final moment that will leave any viewer in tears, which is why it’s on our list of the best sad movies.

Room (2015)

Room, based on Emma Donoghue’s 2010 novel of the same title, stars Brie Larson as Joy Newsome, a 24-year-old woman who has been held captive for seven years and whose 5-year-old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay) was born in captivity. The movie starts with Joy and Jack in the small, windowless (aside from a small hole in ceiling) room they’ve called home for the past few years. They’re set free when Joy thinks of a plan for Jack to escape and find help. But when they return to reality, Joy finds it harder for her and Jack to adjust than she thought. In 2016, Larson won an Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in the film.

Lion (2016)

Lion is a biographical drama based on Saroo Brierley’s 2013 novel, A Long Way Home. The film, which stars Dev Patel, tells the life story of Brierley, from the moment he was separated from his family in India as a child to his mission 25 years later to find them. Patel, as well as Nicole Kidman (who plays Brierley’s adoptive Sue), were both nominated at the 2017 Oscars. The reunion at the end alone deserves a spot on our roundup of the best sad movies.

Schindler’s List (1993)

Directed by Steven Spielberg, Schindler’s List, which was nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture in 1994, is based on the 1982 novel Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally. The film, which is in black and white, stars Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist who, with the help of his wife Emilie Schindler (Carolien Goodall), saved thousands of Polish-Jewish refugees from the Holocaust by employing them at his factories during World War II.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)

Based on John Boyne’s 2006 novel of the same name, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas stars Asa Butterfield as Bruno, an 8-year-old boy who is the son of a Nazi commander, and his friendship with Schmuel (Jack Scanlon), another 8-year-old boy whom he meets near the woods where he lives.

The Lovely Bones (2009)

The Lovely Bones, based on Alice Sebold’s bestselling 2002 novel of the same title, stars Saoirse Ronan as Susie Salmon, a 14-year-old girl who was murdered and watches her family from “the in-between” as they wrestle with her death. Susie, who narrates the film, vacillates between wanting vengeance for her killer and allowing her family to heal.

Forrest Gump (1994)

Forrest Gump, which was the second highest-grossing film on 1994, stars Tom Hanks (who won an Oscar for Best Actor for his role) as the titular character, a slow-witted but kind-hearted man from Alabama who witnesses several history-defining moments in the 20th century United States. Forrest Gump is an emotional experience from start to finish. Once you watch it, it’s clear why it’s on our list of the best sad movies that will make you cry, laugh and clap by the end.

Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Call Me By Your Name, based on André Aciman’s 2007 novel of the same name, stars Timothée Chalamet as Elio Perlman, a 17-year-old boy who’s living with his family in rural Northern Italy for the summer. While in Italy, Elio meets Oliver, a 24-year-old graduate student, whom he starts a romantic relationship with. Their relationship is full of heartbreaking turns, and the ending, where Chalamet cries silently at the camera as the credits roll, is enough of a reason to be on our list of the best sad movies.

My Sister’s Keeper (2009)

Based on Jodie Picoult’s 2004 novel of the same name, My Sister’s Keeper stars Abigail Breslin as Anna Fitzgerald, a 13-year-old who sues her parents for medical emancipation when she discovers that she’s supposed to donate a kidney to her older sister, Kate, who’s dying from acute leukemia. The film unravels the secret behind Kate and Anna’s lives, and ends with an emotional twist that won’t leave one dry eye around. My Sister’s Keeper may not have been awards contender like many of the films on this list, but it sure is one of the best sad movies.

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

The Pursuit of Happyness is a biographical drama based on the 2006 memoir of the same title by Chris Gardner, a businessman and motivational speaker who struggled with homelessness in the ’80s while raising his toddler-age son. The film stars Will Smith (who was nominated for an Oscar for his role) as Gardner and Smith’s son, Jaden Smith, as Gardner’s son, Christopher. The movie is also Jaden’s film debut.

A Walk to Remember (2002)

A Walk to Remember, based on Nicholas Sparks’ novel of the same name, follows a jade high school senior who falls in love with the local minister’s daughter, who reveals to him that she was diagnosed with leukemia. Mandy Moore’s performance of “Only Hope,” a tearjerker she sings to her love interest, is enough of a reason to rank A Walk to Remember as one of the best sad movies.

Marley & Me (2008)

If you haven’t been spoiled by Marley & Me yet, don’t read the synopsis for the film on the internet. The movie, based on John Grogan’s 2005 memoir of the same title, stars Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson as a couple who adopt a yellow Labrador retriever puppy who changes their life. As sweet as the film is, it also has a heartbreaking twist.

The Joy Luck Club (1993)

The Joy Luck Club, based on Amy Tan’s 1989 novel, is set in San Francisco and follows the women of four Chinese-American families. Divided into four parts, the film tells the story of four mother-and-daughter pairs,  from the mothers’ lives in China to the daughters’ lives in America, and how the two intersect. Told in 16 parts (one for each mother and daughter), The Joy Luck Club deserves a place in our list of the best sad movies.

Titanic (1997)

Who hasn’t cried while watching Titanic a.k.a. one of the best sad movies of all time? The film stars Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio as a Jack and Rose, two star-crossed lovers who meet aboard the Titanic. Their love story is fast and furious and meets a sad end when the Titanic crashes into an iceberg and sinks to the bottom of the sea, allowing only a select few guests to live.

The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

The Fault in Our Stars, based on John Green’s novel of the same name, tells the story of Hazel Grace Lancaster, a 16-year-old girl who’s been battling cancer for the past three years. The film follows Hazel’s relationship with Gus Waters, a 17-year-old boy who’s now in remission for a tumor he once had in his leg. Anyone who’s seen The Fault in Our Stars knows that the movie is a tearjerker and one of the best sad movies.

The Color Purple (1985)

The Color Purple is based on Alice Walker’s 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name. The film, which has also been adapted into a Broadway musical, is set in rural Georgia and follows the life of different Black women in the south during the 1930s. The film stars Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover.

Selena (1997)

Selena is a biographical drama about the life and career of Tejano music star Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, a singer who was well-known in Mexico and Latinx communities in the United States, before she was murdered by the president of her fan club, Yolanda Saldívar, at 23 years old. The film stars Jennifer Lopez in the titular role.

Sophie’s Choice (1987)

Based on William Styron’s 1979 novel of the same name, Sophie’s Choice stars Meryl Streep as Zofia “Sophie” Zawitowski, a Polish immigrant who shares a boarding house in Brooklyn, with her lover, Nathan, and a young writer named Stingo. The film follows the relationship between the three as secrets about them unravel and lead to twists and turns.

Moonlight (2016)

Moonlight, which won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2017, is based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s unpublished play, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. The film follows a man named Chiron Harris at three stages of his life: youth, adolescence and early adulthood, as Chiron explores his sexuality and identity and deals with the physical and emotional abuse he endured as a child. While Moonlight is on our list of one of the best sad movies, the film, directed by Barry Jenkins, does end with an uplifting notee.

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Based on the 1997 short story of the same title by Annie Proulx, Brokeback Mountain stars Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, two men who start a complex emotional and sexual relationship in the American West. The film follows Ennis and Jack’s relationship over 20 years.

The Theory of Everything (2014)

The Theory of Everything is a biographic drama about the life of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. The film, which was based on Anthony McCarten’s 2007 memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen Hawking by Jane Hawking, follows Hawking’s relationship with his wife, his success in physics and his diagnosis with amytrophic lateral sclerosis.

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

If Beale Street Could Talk is a romantic drama based on James Baldwin’s 1974 novel of the same title. The film stars Kiki Layne as Tish Rivers, a young woman who, with her family’s help, seeks to clear the name of her boyfriend Fonny Hunt (Stephan James), who has been wrongly charged and arrested for rape. The film follows Fonny and Tish’s relationship from the moment they meet to her fight to prove his innocence before the birth of their child.

Moulin Rouge! (2001)

Moulin Rouge! is a 2001 jukebox musical directed by Baz Luhrmann. The film follows Christian (Ewan McGregor), an English poet and writer who falls in love with the star of the Moulin Rouge, cabaret actress and courtesan Satine (Nicole Kidman.) The absurd, colorful musical turns somber when Satine reveals a deep secret she’s kept for years. Moulin Rouge is filled with colorful musical numbers, but it also has a heartbreaking plot that deserves to be on our list of the best sad movies.

Bridge to Terabithia (2007)

Based on Katherine Paterson’s 1977 novel of the same name, Bridge to Terabithia stars a young Josh Hutcherson as Jesse Aarons, a bullied 12-year-old boy who befriends his neighbor, Leslie Burke. Together, the two imagine a fantasy world called Terabithia and spend their days at an abandoned treehouse. Their friendship is perfect until tragedy happens.

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