The 20 Saddest Movies for When You Want to Cry Your Eyes Out

Maybe the thing you need right now is a sad, poignant film that can unravel your soul and get you bawling like never before.
The 20 Saddest Movies for When You Want to Cry Your Eyes Out

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Even the most toxically positive person still cries now and again—and that's a good thing! It's important to cry and let your feelings loose.

While some of us might be natural weepers, the rest of us need a bit of a push to crack open our hardened hearts from time to time. Fortunately, heartbreaking films are a great way to do that!

Here are my picks for the saddest movies of all time, guaranteed to open the floodgates for even the coldest, most callous viewers.

Warning: Knowing that a movie is super sad is a bit of a spoiler. We'll avoid major plot reveals, but proceed with caution!

20. Marley & Me (2008)

Directed by David Frankel

Starring Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Eric Dane

Drama, Family (1h 55m)

7.0 on IMDb63% on RT

Marley & Me might not be a war-torn tragedy or terminal cancer downer, and some people can even sit through it without feeling a thing. But for everyone else? It's a classic tear-jerker. It all depends on whether you have a soft spot for dogs!

Pet owners are the target audience for Marley & Me, in which director David Frankel masterfully coaxes out tears. I won't spoil the ending for you, but I'll say this: if you believe dog is man's best friend, then make sure you have tissues at the ready when you watch.

19. Pieces of a Woman (2020)

Directed by Kornél Mundruczó

Starring Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, Ellen Burstyn

Drama (2h 6m)

7.0 on IMDb75% on RT

Vanessa Kirby really stole the show and proved herself in Kornél Mundruczó's tough yet tender drama Pieces of a Woman.

The opening long take is a feat of both cinematography and acting, where we witness Martha (played by Vanessa Kirby) sweat and struggle through a problematic home birth alongside her husband Sean (played by Shia LaBeouf).

When the resulting stillbirth cracks the young Boston couple to "pieces," we get an unflinching look at the the nature of grief and loss, where the first urge is to blame.

18. My Girl (1991)

Directed by Howard Zieff

Starring Anna Chlumsky, Macaulay Culkin, Dan Aykroyd

Comedy, Drama, Family (1h 42m)

6.9 on IMDb50% on RT

Remember Home Alone? Part of what made that film so successful was Macaulay Culkin's adorable little face, who was one of the most famous child stars in Hollywood history.

Well, Macaulay Culkin also starred in the lesser-known-but-far-more-tragic My Girl. Howard Zieff's coming-of-age drama is so heartbreaking because nobody foresaw how it would end.

This comedy-drama might seem like a breezy watch, but that's all just setup for the twist that packs a full-on gut punch.

17. Seven Pounds (2008)

Directed by Gabriele Muccino

Starring Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson

Drama, Mystery, Thriller (2h 3m)

7.6 on IMDb27% on RT

We could have easily put The Pursuit of Happyness on this list as Will Smith's most famous, most hard-hitting drama. But given the optimistic ending to that, it's more fitting to include Seven Pounds instead.

Seven Pounds is a tragic film that doesn't swing into a happily-ever-after ending. Will Smith stars as Ben Thomas, an IRS agent who turns his own personal tragedy into happiness for others. I can't tell you more than that without ruining Ben's story.

16. The Pianist (2002)

Directed by Roman Polanski

Starring Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finlay

Biography, Drama, Music (2h 30m)

8.5 on IMDb95% on RT

Adrien Brody's performance in The Pianist is so distressing because he, as a method actor, went to such extremes to perfect it!

For his role, Brody sold his apartment, his car, his phone, and most of his possessinos. He also lost 30 pounds and dumped his girlfriend! All to strip back his life and get into the mindset of a Holocaust survivor.

Roman Polanski's war-ravaged drama is based on the real memoirs of Władysław Szpilman. Who knew a man chasing a pickle jar could be so heartbreaking?

15. Interstellar (2014)

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain

Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi (2h 49m)

8.7 on IMDb73% on RT

When Interstellar first dropped, everyone thought it would be another Christopher Nolan sci-fi that relied on pure spectacle and complex plots to impress us. And while it did impress—using Nolan's trademark manipulation of time—it also made us cry like a baby.

Science can explain the nature of empathy and the emotional contagion that makes us tear up when we see others crying. Interstellar takes advantage of this, forcing us to weep alongside astronaut Cooper (played by Matthew McConaughey) who unsuspectingly loses touch with his daughter back on Earth.

14. Beautiful Boy (2018)

Directed by Felix van Groeningen

Starring Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney

Biography, Drama (2h)

7.3 on IMDb68% on RT

Addiction is a merciless disease that affects thousands—millions—of people across the globe. And that doesn't just mean the people who suffer with addiction, but their families, too.

David Sheff is super close to his son Nic, living an idyllic coming-of-age life in sunny Los Angeles. Sadly, addiction has no preferences, and Nic ends up hooked on crystal meth in high school.

Felix van Groeningen captures the essence of desperation and loneliness in this biographical drama. Steve Carell proved his ability for serious roles and Timothée Chalamet gave Leonardo DiCaprio's performance in The Basketball Diaries a run for his money.

13. Life Is Beautiful (1997)

Directed by Roberto Benigni

Starring Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Giorgio Cantarini

Comedy, Drama, Romance (1h 56m)

8.6 on IMDb80% on RT

The words "comedy" and "Holocaust" don't exactly go together, but Roberto Benigni manages to sensitively bring them in sync through his hit Italian drama Life Is Beautiful.

Guido Orefice (played by Roberto Benigni) is a Jewish bookshop owner who gets sent to a concentration camp with his four-year-old son Giosuè (played by Giorgio Cantarini).

In order to shield Giosuè from the horrors of their reality, Guido pretends the Nazi camp is one big game that they're playing. Guido's unfailing will and spirit—despite being stuck in the most horrific situation known to man—is deeply inspiring, to say the least.

12. Boys Don't Cry (1999)

Directed by Kimberly Peirce

Starring Hilary Swank, Chloë Sevigny, Peter Sarsgaard

Biography, Crime, Drama (1h 58m)

7.5 on IMDb90% on RT

Sad movies always sting that much more when you know they're based on true events, and Boys Don't Cry is one such movie.

Hilary Swank gave the performance of a lifetime as Brandon Teena, an American trans man who fought against all sorts of prejudice during his short life. I'm not just talking about name-calling, but brutal physical and sexual violence.

Despite Brandon's refusal to back down, he doesn't make it out alive. Director Kimberly Peirce adopts the bleak, neo-realist aesthetics championed by Martin Scorsese to tell this grim tale.

11. The Notebook (2004)

Directed by Nick Cassavetes

Starring Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, James Garner

Drama, Romance (2h 3m)

7.8 on IMDb54% on RT

Cinema is littered with meant-to-be couples who, for whatever reason, end up on different paths. The kind of couples who yearn to drive off into the sunset together but never actually make it.

The same is true for Noah and Allison in The Notebook, although one could argue that they do get to share a brief, bittersweet sunset.

Played by Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams—who actually didn't get along despite their steamy on-screen chemistry—Noah and Allison bridge the social divide for a glittering summer of love in 1940.

Unfortunately, they're eventually torn apart by parents, war, dementia, and other life issues that crop up. Nick Cassavetes directs this classic, post-break-up romance wailer.

10. The Green Mile (1999)

Directed by Frank Darabont

Starring Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Morse

Crime, Drama, Fantasy (3h 9m)

8.6 on IMDb79% on RT

There are a number of scenes and quotes from The Green Mile that stand out in cinema for their tragic poignancy. An innocent man in the electric chair, crying in fear of the dark; another being fried from the inside out in a botched execution.

Frank Darabont adapted the supernatural-infused drama from the Stephen King novel, written from the POV of a death row security guard played by Tom Hanks.

Between the child murderers and corrupt cops, everything about The Green Mile is pretty dreary, but a prisoner with the mind of a child at the center of it all of it takes the cake.

9. Atonement (2007)

Directed by Joe Wright

Starring Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, Brenda Blethyn

Drama, Mystery, Romance (2h 3m)

7.8 on IMDb83% on RT

Here we have another couple torn apart by circumstance, except this time there's no sunset—unless you count the fictional one that Briony (played by Vanessa Redgrave) writes for them in her book.

"I wanted to give Robbie and Cecilia what they lost out on in life. I gave them their happiness."


Atonement centers on a misjudged accusation by Briony, which ends up sending Robbie (played by James McAvoy) off to war, who hallucinates his lost love Cecilia (played by Keira Knightley) while on the sands of Dunkirk.

Director Joe Wright poignantly adapts Ian McEwan's 2001 novel with a poetic sort of melancholy that you'll feel in your heart.

8. Into the Wild (2007)

Directed by Sean Penn

Starring Emile Hirsch, Vince Vaughn, Catherine Keener

Adventure, Biography, Drama (2h 28m)

8.1 on IMDb83% on RT

Christopher McCandless did something most people only dream of: he followed his heart and dared to step out "into the wild."

Away from television screens, credit cards, and urban crowds, Chris dedicated his life to exploring nature, connecting with nature, and living off nature. But as idyllic as it sounds, it didn't end well for him.

Prior to his death, Chris came to a realization about the nature of happiness and what it really means. We won't spoil it for you; you'll have to watch the film to find out what he realized!

Director Sean Penn gracefully navigates Christopher's moving story—based on real events—and discloses a haunting snapshot of the real Christopher smiling beside his eventual deathbed.

7. The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

Directed by Josh Boone

Starring Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff

Drama, Romance (2h 6m)

7.7 on IMDb81% on RT

The Fault in Our Stars is one of the most famous film adaptations of a YA novel, so much so that it launched a domino effect that led to the original author John Green's books all selling out.

Although it's mostly geared towards tweens and teens, The Fault in Our Stars crossed age divisions—adults were seen flooding out of theaters with streams running down their cheeks.

The Fault in Our Stars stars Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort as Hazel and Gus, respectively, who are both still in high school yet diagnosed with cancers. But that doesn't stop them from making the most of their young love.

6. Titanic (1997)

Directed by James Cameron

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane

Drama, Romance (3h 14m)

7.9 on IMDb88% on RT

Jack (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (played by Kate Winslet) are lovers from opposite ends of the social class spectrum in Titanic, an epic period drama that has stood the test of time.

The sinking of the Titanic in 1912 remains one of the most famous disasters in recent history, which director James Cameron has our hearts racing all the way through.

Titanic might be over three hours long, but all that character and relationship building is essential for full impact come the climax. It's a heart-wrenching end to one of cinema's greatest love stories.

5. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)

Directed by Mark Herman

Starring Asa Butterfield, David Thewlis, Rupert Friend

Drama, War (1h 34m)

7.7 on IMDb65% on RT

Is there anything more depressing than a concentration camp? How about kids in a concentration camp?

In The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, there's a barbed wire fence. On either side of that fence sits two eight-year-old boys, both of whom are blissfully unaware of the Nazi party's evil intent.

Shmuel (played by Jack Scanlon) is a Jewish prisoner who believes he's due home any day, while Bruno (played by Asa Butterfield) is the son of an SS officer who doesn't understand why Shmuel wears "pajamas."

You can probably see Shmuel's harrowing death coming, but brace yourself for some extra. John Boyne's 2006 novel is potently brought to screen by Mark Herman.

4. Come and See (1985)

Directed by Elem Klimov

Starring Aleksey Kravchenko, Olga Mironova, Liubomiras Laucevicius

Drama, Thriller, War (2h 22m)

8.4 on IMDb90% on RT

Come and See is NOT for the faint-hearted! This chilling Soviet anti-war film has been dubbed a horrifying masterpiece that exposes the true agony and barbarism of war.

The power and distress of Come and See is rooted in the headshots of characters, showing their faces that have been ravaged by torture (both physical and mental).

Director Elem Klimov somehow makes Come and See hyperrealistic yet surreal at the same time. Some have called it the scariest film ever made, and it had to battle eight years of censorship upon release.

3. Manchester By the Sea (2016)

Directed by Kenneth Lonergan

Starring Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler

Drama (2h 17m)

7.8 on IMDb96% on RT

Casey Affleck won an Oscar for his portrayal of a mourning father in Kenneth Lonergan's piercing drama Manchester By the Sea.

Before Lee (played by Casey Affleck) became the depressed, isolated janitor that he is, he had a joyous family home that caught fire. Inadvertently responsible for his children's deaths, Lee attempts suicide before divorcing his grief-stricken wife and moving away.

Now that his nephew (played by Lucas Hedges) needs a guardian, Lee must face his traumatic past—and the accompanying PTSD—and journey back to his haunted former home. Prepare the tissues!

2. Schindler's List (1993)

Directed by Steven Spielberg

Starring Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley

Biography, Drama, History (3h 15m)

9.0 on IMDb98% on RT

War is a catastrophe that has plagued our world for all of human history, which is why there are so many movies about it.

The same year that he changed cinema with Jurassic Park, Steven Spielberg brought us the black-and-white epic Schindler's List.

Oskar Schindler was a real-life industrialist and member of the Nazi party, who gave up his wealth to save the lives of more than a thousand Jews during World War II.

The "List" in the title refers to 850 Jewish people, whom he saved by routing them away from Auschwitz to a munitions factory in Brünnlitz. Schindler's only regret was not being able to save more lives.

1. The Champ (1979)

Directed by Franco Zeffirelli

Starring Jon Voight, Faye Dunaway, Ricky Schroder

Drama, Sport (2h 1m)

6.8 on IMDb40% on RT

It might surprise you to see The Champ in our number one spot, especially if you've never heard of it. But here's the thing: The Champ is literally the saddest film ever made.

In 1995, behavioral researchers at the University of California published their findings that this neo-noir boxing drama evoked the strongest reaction of sadness in viewers. The hardest-hitting scene comes at the end, which we won't spoil for you.

Just know that critics around the world have long been in agreement that The Champ offers an emotional slap unlike any other film. If you need to cry, this is the film that'll get the job done.