The 12 Saddest Movies on Netflix

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Everybody needs a good cry once in awhile. Maybe you’ve just been through a breakup. Maybe the holidays are getting to you. Or maybe you’ve cried so much about 2016 already that you’re looking for literally any other reason to shed your tears. No matter what your reason is, we hear you, and we want to help you let it out. To that end, here are the best sad movies available to stream on Netflix right now, available instantly for your weeping pleasure.

1) An Affair to Remember (1957)

An Affair to Remember is one of the all-time weepies. A remake of the 1939 film Love Affair, this movie also had a huge influence on Nora Ephron’s classic rom-com, Sleepless in Seattle. But it is this 1957 classic really summons the water works. Starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr as a couple who fall in love and vow to reunite six months down the road atop the Empire State Building, the ending of this one is completely melodramatic but will still knock the wind out of you.


2) To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Although there are elements of To Kill a Mockingbird that feel dated today, the book and the film’s core principles continue to ring true. Perhaps it’s hard not to look at Atticus Finch differently in light of the 2015’s controversial Go Set a Watchman. Perhaps the text has lost some of its relevance as more black artists have gotten the chance to shape their own narratives over the years. Nevertheless, the film adaptation of Harper Lee’s classic tale of Boo Radley, Scout, and Atticus Finch still feels designed to tug at the heartstrings, all these years later. Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Atticus, in particular, remains an archetype for cinematic “good guy.” To Kill a Mockingbird may no longer be as vital today as it surely seemed in 1962, but if you’re looking for something that’ll elicit a good cry in the classic film department, it should still get the job done.


3) Forrest Gump (1994)

Oh man, what a bunch of sentimental fluff Forrest Gump is, huh? The quotable lines, the history, the Tom Hanks of it all. I mean, yeah, the movie gets pretty dark in some moments too, but was there ever a film so emotionally manipulative? Ultimately, you’re either the kind of person that gives into Gump’s sentimentality wholesale, or you’re the kind who prefers to avoid it altogether. And if you are in the former category, you have to admit that there are few films that provide such an effective mix of tragic, comic, joyful, inspirational, and yes, sad moments as Forrest Gump. When a movie can manipulate your emotions this effectively, does it matter if you realize they’re being manipulated? I think not.


4) Good Will Hunting (1997)

“It’s not your fault.” Ouch, right? Even if you’re tired of looking at the smug face of Matt Damon’s Will Hunting, even if the obnoxious mass of Boston accents has started to get to you, even if the movie’s general earnestness drives you crazy, by the time Good Will Hunting arrives at that one scene, even the hardest and most cynical hearts will also start to melt. Among Good Will Hunting’s considerable powers are Gus Van Sant’s deft but subtle direction and Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s Oscar-winning script. But it is Robin Williams’ crushing performance, for which he also received the Academy award, that makes the movie worth revisiting. The late Williams showed he could tone his more over-the-top antics way down in this, his most acclaimed role. The result is breathtaking and the one element of the movie most likely to make you shed a tear or two (or many.)


5) Titanic (1997)

To go with some of the classic weepies on this list, it is only appropriate to include the most famous modern weepie, too. James Cameron’s 1997 epic, which fully lives up to its name, is about half typical Cameron action thriller, and half melodrama that’s so corny, Douglas Sirk himself would think twice before touching it. Each part is equally effective. As young Kate and Leo fall in love, only to have it float away (pun intended) as quickly as it came, all set to the sounds of James Horner and Céline Dion, you’ll remember when you first fell in love with Titanic, too. Of course, it might not be as grand watching it from your computer screen, but it’s still just as sad.


6) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is the rare movie which is happy/sad. Like the relationship at the center of the film, it is the kind of experience that often makes you sad while it is happening but happy to have experienced when it’s over. Containing career-best performances from Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman’s sci-fi romance about love and memory feels just as ahead of its time today as it did when it was released. It’s debatable whether the end of Eternal Sunshine is hopeful or hopeless, but either way, the cumulative effect of the film is devastating. There may never be a movie quite as astute about love, and all its various jubilations and defeats. Hence, like love itself, the movie is not happy or sad. It’s both.


7) Atonement (2007)  

Atonement is the kind of old-school tragedy that spans generations, separates lovers, and plunges whole countries into war. Or, to put it another way, it takes itself pretty seriously. However, as opposed to fellow Oscar darlings No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood, both released the same year, Atonement at least has some romance to get swept up in. It also has a prestigious (not to mention beautiful) cast, featuring talents such as James McAvoy, Keira Knightley, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juno Temple, Alfie Allen, Tobias Menzies, Saoirse Ronan, and Vanessa Redgrave. And like most of director Joe Wright’s movies, the cinematography is absolutely stunning, and the score from composer Dario Marianelli won an Oscar. Is Atonement pretentious? Undoubtedly. This Ian McEwan adaptation is a sweeping piece of work in the vein of Doctor Zhivago. But it’s pretension is part of its charm.


8) The Road (2009)

Like the Cormac McCarthy novel it’s based on, John Hillcoat’s 2009 adaptation of The Road is not for the faint of heart. Starring Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee as a father and son trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, The Road is punishing from start to finish. Though not quite as viscerally haunting as its source material, the images the film leaves behind are both painterly and pessimistic. And yet, like all the best tragedies, it ends on a note of hope. And with that hope, stories like The Road remind us to keep going, to keep pushing on.


9) Short Term 12 (2013)

The formidable debut feature from Destin Cretton, Short Term 12  is also notable for announcing the arrival of last year’s Best Actress Oscar-winner, Brie Larson. As she does in Room, the film she won an Oscar for, Larson shines here as a counselor for troubled children with a tumultuous past herself. Also like Room, Short Term 12 is equally depressing and uplifting, a kind of highwire act that Cretton and Larson somehow make look easy and unassuming in this too-little-seen indie drama.


10) Fruitvale Station (2013)

There are films on this list that are melodramatic weepies, and others which are highfalutin tragedies, but few contain such intense, real-world pain as Fruitvale Station. Given the country we live in, any drama about the shooting of an unarmed black man by a law enforcement officers is sure to stir up emotions. This one, based on the 2008 killing of Bay Area citizen Oscar Grant, is no different from any other—except it is. Like all stories of police violence against the black community, Fruitvale Station’s details are unique while also fitting into a larger pattern. What makes the film work is that director Ryan Coogler (who was just 26 when Fruitvale Station debuted at Sundance) chooses to focus on the last few hours of Oscar Grant’s life, rather than just the moments surrounding his death. In that way, the movie becomes equal parts celebration as well as indictment. Fruitvale Station was a monumental debut on Coogler’s part, as well as turning point for star Michael B. Jordan (who had previously appeared on such TV shows as The Wire, Friday Night Lights, and Parenthood.) Coogler and Jordan went on to reteam for big movies such as last year’s sublime Creed and next year’s Black Panther. But as the initial calling card for both artists, and a wakeup call for movie-watchers everywhere, Fruitvale Station is still a devastating breakout.


11) August: Osage County (2013)  

Critical consensus on the adaptation of this Pulitzer Prize-winning family drama from playwright Tracey Letts found it wanting in comparison to the original stage version. But despite the watering down the text suffers, the movie version of August: Osage County still has more genuine bite and sadness than half the melodramatic Oscar contenders that arrive year after year. That’s thanks in no small part to the film’s performances. Julie Roberts and Meryl Streep, both nominated for Oscars, are especially noteworthy in their respective roles. As she often does, Streep goes big as matriarch Violet Weston, occasionally teetering over the top. She’s saved from going into camp territory by Letts’ brilliant dialog. The real star here, however, is Roberts, who’s better than she has been in years as Barbara Weston, the secret glue holding her messy family together.


12) The Imitation Game (2014)   

The Imitation Game isn’t that different than any Oscar candidate in any given year. It’s a true story about a British man who overcomes incredible difficulty to triumph against all odds. Except in The Imitation Game, Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) doesn’t triumph in the end, not really. He cracks the Germans’ enigma code, effectively ending WWII and winning the war for the allies. But as a homosexual man living in the first half of the 20th century, his own ending is far from happy. Of course, the movie downplays Turing’s sexuality for most of its runtime. But like the man himself, The Imitation Game would not be what it is without its tragic ending. It’s a movie that falls peril to the “inspirational” Oscar clichés, undoubtedly. But by telling the most painful part of Turing’s story among with the more triumphant moments, it manages to give the man some of the justice and credit he so desperately deserves.  



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