What is it about a good cry that feels so cathartic? Next time you need help shedding a few tears, these sad movies will trigger the sniffles.
While some people love to watch comedy movies that make them laugh out loud, others like seeking the thrill from horror films. And on a few occasions, all we really need is a good cathartic cry. Whether it be from heartbreak, nostalgia, or even joy, movies often have the power to elicit strong emotions. From powerful romantic films to poignant stories spun from reality, check out our list of sad movies the next time you want to just let it all out.
Grab the tissues – these sad movies will make you cry
1. Amour (2012)
A triumph from acclaimed Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke, Amour sees French acting legend Emmanuelle Riva as Anne, a retired piano teacher who suffers complications from a stroke that leaves her incapacitated. Due to Anne’s wishes to stay out of a nursing home, her care falls upon her husband, Georges. Although the film tugs on heartstrings with its portrayal of complications the elderly may go through, it really goes for the jugular in its depictions of the helplessness one feels while seeing a suffering loved one. While the movie will hit you particularly hard if you’ve witnessed an older family member go through similar struggles, this achingly realistic story will definitely have anyone and everyone reaching for the tissues.
2. Toy Story 3 (2010)
Any veteran watcher of sad movies knows that nothing makes us cry quite like nostalgia. Those who are Millennials and older have probably watched the original Toy Story films when they were kids, and would undoubtedly be excited about the third iteration, though it was released almost 11 years later. In Toy Story 3, sentient toys Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the gang from Andy’s collection find themselves largely neglected, now that Andy’s grown up. After being mistakenly donated to a local day care centre, they’re introduced to a brand new world led by Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear. The themes of love, entering adulthood, and friendship are prevalent throughout this animated movie, and famously left cinemas full of sentimental adults weeping upon its release.
3. Atonement (2007)
Set in 1935 England, Atonement follows the wealthy Tallis family through a life-changing incident and its lasting effects. For those who have not read the 2001 novel this film is based on, everything may first seem like an epic romantic saga between two lovers (played by Keira Knightley and James McAvoy) from differing social classes. However, things take a heartbreaking turn when the youngest Tallis sibling, Briony, makes an accusation that derails everyone’s lives. The beautifully shot Atonement is a classic English tearjerker, lifted by intense performances and a startling conclusion. Although the role of Briony is an extraordinary breakthrough performance by a young Saoirse Ronan, viewers may have a hard time forgiving her for the pain and tears she puts you through.
4. Marley & Me (2008)
No discussion of sad movies that make people cry can leave out emotional films about pets. Based on a bestselling memoir, Marley and Me sees the already lovable Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston outshined by a playful labrador retriever. Following the Grogan couple from their adoption of a puppy named Marley, the movie depicts the naughty antics of the dog as the couple begins to grow their family. Although most viewers can predict how the story ends, the emotional weight doesn’t sting any less when it hits. Anyone who’s ever loved an animal can count on a few rounds of cathartic cries as they witness how even the “World’s Worst Dog” can be the best dog to those who love him.
5. Close (2022)
This coming-of-age co-production between Belgium, France, and the Netherlands depicts a deeply intimate friendship between two 13-year-old boys, Léo and Rémi, in rural Belgium. Close explores how the once unapologetically affectionate relationship between Léo and Rémi soon becomes strained when schoolmates begin to draw homophobic conclusions. Through the dynamic cinematography and the powerful performances from the two young leads, your heart will ache at the growing rift between the boys. Exploring how external perceptions can affect even the closest bonds, the film’s climax will leave you stunned while gripping your box of tissues.
6. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
Legendary Japanese animation company, Studio Ghibli, depicts a harrowing tale of survival during wartime in Grave of the Fireflies. Upon the death of their mother from the bombing of Kobe in World War II, siblings Seita and Setsuko must rely on each other to survive in the war-torn land. Elegantly crafted, this film shows how animation is truly a cinematic art form as this emotional tale strikes you to your core. Some of the sequences involving Seita and Setsuko will leave you stunned from the beauty and intensity. Grave of the Fireflies’ depiction of the everyday suffering caused by war will keep your eyes wet and your mind racing long after the credits roll.
7. Life is Beautiful (1997)
Some of the most powerful sad movies that make you cry are the ones that explore the true horrors of humanity’s history. Acclaimed Italian filmmaker, Roberto Benigni, crafts a comedy-drama out of tragedy as he plays a father trying to protect his son from the realities of the Holocaust in Life is Beautiful. Set in Fascist Italy, Italian-Jewish father Guido decides to maintain a facade for his son Giosuè that the concentration camp they’re imprisoned in is just an elaborate game. Touchingly depicting the power of a parent’s love for their child even in the most terrible of circumstances, you’ll weep for both the extent of good and evil that humanity is capable of.
8. Miracle in Cell No. 7 (2013)
Loosely based on true events, Miracle in Cell No. 7 chronicles the wrongful arrest of the developmentally disabled Yong-gu, who leaves behind a young daughter on the outside. After bonding with the other inmates in Room 7, the group puts together a plan to smuggle Yong-gu’s daughter into the prison. This moving Korean movie touches on the powerful love of a parent as well as injustices in the court of law – especially for those with disabilities. Viewers will be shedding tears of joy as well as sadness as they watch Yong-gu strive to be the best father he can be no matter what.