We all have that one day where we’re so desperate for feeling something that we throw on a tearjerker to let the eye-faucets leak to our heart’s content. To reference the message of the Pixar film Inside Out, it’s not only okay to feel sad but essential. And though many films tend to favor the escapist nature of putting our problems behind us, it can be very soothing and satisfying to share in a relatable story worthy of weeping over. Be it a love lost, a tragic death, or a family trying to reconnect, Netflix has a plethora of options when it comes to getting your sadness on.
Don’t worry, we know that when it comes to a good cry that you’re more in the mood for a commentary on the human spirit and the heart than a depressing documentary on the Holocaust or climate change. That’s why we’ve chosen a number of somber films that work their magic best at making one tearful of what they watch but come away knowing a little more with a twinge chipperness lingering to carry on. So grab a box of tissues, your favorite glass of wine, and get ready to load up your playlist with these films to make you bawl your eyes out.
Alone in Berlin
World War II proves to be a very tough ordeal for the likes of a German couple that receives news their son was killed in combat. Not content to sit by and let the Nazis take over after their loss, the couple wage protests of demonstrations and messages encouraging the German public to resist the party’s dominance. What follows is, naturally, a tragic tale built upon another tragedy.
Though there have been many adaptations of Louisa May Alcott’s classic story, the 1994 version features some of the strongest performances from an all-star cast. It’s the same familiar story of the March sisters living amid 19th-century Massachusetts. Winona Ryder plays Jo, the sister struggling the most with her mother and sisters, in addition to dealing with all sorts of interesting characters in her life, from her cantankerous aunt to a charming professor of language.
We The Animals
Three boys live a life of absent and emotional parents, spending their days raiding the mostly empty fridge, running through the woods, and stealing from the local shops. One boy draws in secret, hiding his true feelings that he knows his brothers will mock him for and his parents will scold him if they ever found out. Seeking some connection with the local bad boy who supplies them with booze and porn, the boy escapes into his own fantasy world where he truly feels like himself amid a depressing and frustrating life of squalor.
Robert Downey Jr. plays a journalist who happens to discover a homeless violin player played by Jamie Foxx. This sounds like a great story for Downey’s character but the more he digs into this talented individual, the more he comes to learn about himself and come to terms with his struggling marriage. A solid drama with the astounding cast of Downey and Foxx delivering great performances.
Clive Owen plays an unlucky carpenter trying to do the right thing for his son. While taking his son on an adventure to find his missing tools, he comes to learn more about himself and what he needs to be for his son. In addition to finding his tools, he must also ensure that his kid makes it to his church confirmation while also trying to be a better person.
Billy Elliot is the 11-year-old son of a coal miner in north England that finds himself more fascinated with ballet than the boxing lessons he is taking. The ballet instructor, Mrs. Wilkinson, has grown weary and buried herself in cigarettes until she discovers Billy’s true talents for the art of dance. A charming and tender film with sweetness for anyone who has a dream and desire to express themselves.
Dances With Wolves
Kevin Costner stars and directs in this Civil War tale that has become such an iconic template for films about war and shifting sides. Costner plays a soldier that soon finds himself taking a liking to the Lakota tribe of North America. But when Union soldiers threaten the tribe, Costner finds himself pushing his old life aside and siding with his new home in a tragic showdown.
Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma may be the most human masterpiece of the already accomplished director, whose credits include Children of Men and Gravity. Taking place in Spain, Cleo is a maid for a large family and finds she has a good relationship with them. But all of that may come crumbling down with a pregnancy in the foreground and a violent revolution in the background.
Private Life is a tough film to get through for the middle-aged couple still struggling to conceive. Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn play the couple that is finding having a child to be a tough and expensive ordeal. But when they discover a member of their extended family may be a suitable egg donor, great sadness and awkwardness follow.
Inspiring for any plump woman with a dream, Dumplin’ follows tubby girl Willowdean Dickson, a girl who has grown up with a love of Dolly Parton being her main influence. She has a dream of being a beauty queen but will have to compete for it with her judging mother (Jennifer Aniston) and maybe win the heart of her sweet crush played by Luke Benward. An inspiring and adorable movie of triumph and tears for anyone who feels a little different and has a love of the old Dolly.
The Kindergarten Teacher
Maggie Gyllenhaal plays a kindergarten teacher who feels that the world had devalued art. That is until she discovers one of her students is a poetry prodigy that has gone unnoticed and unnourished by everyone. Gyllenhaal struggles to preserve this boy’s creativity in a world she feels devalues him, to the point where she’s tragically willing to break the law.
Nominated for the Academy Award of Best Picture, Netflix’s original period piece of Mudbound is a multi-perspective take on racism in the South amid war abroad and difficulties of farming at home. Loaded with tragedy and love, this is a fantastic drama that stars the likes of Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell, Mary J. Blige, Rob Morgan, and Jonathan Banks. It’s not afraid to showcase the worst of humanity during a time of bigotry and also the love a lucky few find amid all the hate and hardship.
Kristen Bell plays a workaholic who is so focused on work it irks her fiance and she’s left at the altar. She ends up on the honeymoon cruise with her father played by Kelsey Grammer, whom she hasn’t spoken to in years. It’s embarrassing enough to be on a couple’s cruise with father and daughter but the two reconnect and let out the painful truths of why they’ve been so distant.
Bridge to Terabithia
Kids movies are not spared from the sadness because, hey, kids deserve to experience the full range of emotions as well. Based on the classic children’s novel by Katherine Paterson, Bridge to Terabithia follows 12-year-old neighbors Jesse Aarons and Leslie Burke who together create their own fantasy world. There’s a tearful discovery to be had and we’ll spare you the spoiler but anyone who grew up watching this film knows the shocking moment we’re talking about.
Jim and Amanda were close in high school but they’ve been distant for the past twenty years. But then they run into each other at the grocery store and reconnect after new developments in both their families. A sweet but also deeply sad romance about loving the past so badly it hurts amid coffee and jellybeans.
Lou de Laâge plays a Polish doctor trying to help pregnant women in the winter of 1945. He finds himself helping a number of women at a convent that is dealing with a number of pregnancies. It’s a tragic and chilling tale from director Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel) as a provocative drama of faith and grief.
Million Dollar Baby
Hilary Swank plays an amateur boxer that is taken in by old-timers Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman to be trained like a champ. And her story starts becoming an inspiring one as she rises up in the ranks. But then tragedy strikes and the film takes a dark turn as one of the saddest films about boxing ever made.
The Theory of Everything
The life of famed scientist and theorist Stephen Hawking is given a tender take in this biopic starring Eddie Redmayne as Hawking. The film follows him from his carefree days at college to when his crippling disease claimed his mobility and voice, but not his theories on space and time that continued to be prolific over the decades. The film also accounts for his troubled relationships but ultimately ends on a somberly sweet note.
Will Smith plays a man willing to donate his body to those who need a donor. He soon falls for a young woman with heart disease and their relationship helps him open up about his deeply tragic past that has led him to a life of good deeds. A sad film for those considering what they could leave behind when they can see death on the horizon.
Into the Forest
Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood find themselves tearfully trying to carry on after the death of their father as the world comes to an end. As they run out of supplies, they’re forced to defend themselves and find it hard to keep going with nobody coming to save them. Though it has the post-apocalyptic drama angle going for it, it makes for great tragedy given how many tears come flowing from the two leads in their attempt to survive in the face of Armageddon.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Jim Carrey plays a man trying so hard to forget his ex played by Kate Winslet that he enlists for a medical procedure to wipe the woman from his mind. But while washing away his memories of his previous love, he becomes self-aware and realizes mid-procedure this was a mistake and struggles to hold onto those memories. It’s a very surreal film from director Michel Gondry but also a deeply moving film about breakups never being easy.
Hostiles begins with a tragic and graphic destruction of a family in the old west and continues on with a more somber and quiet tone about coming to terms with death. Rosalee Quaid is the only survivor when her settler home is attacked by Native Americans. The weary and reluctant Captain Joseph Blocker takes her in on his final mission of escorting a Cheyenne war chief. Filled with scenes of tragic violence and tearful realizations, Hostiles is a very contemplative Western with much tears that spill on the dusty plains.