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Here come the waterworks.
We all need a good cry sometimes. After a long day of work, a bad breakup, or simply because you’re feeling blue, tearjerkers are a good way to decompress—and you’ll find plenty of sad movies on Hulu when you just need to let it all out.
11 sad movies on Hulu
Get your hanky ready, because Wonder will do a number on your emotions. Based on the popular book, Wonder is about Auggie (Jacob Tremblay), a young boy with a medical condition that causes a facial deformity. After years of homeschooling, Auggie’s parents (Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson) send him off to school for fifth grade, where not everyone is so quick to accept Auggie as he is. The movie is a treatise on kindness, and is the kind of movie that will resonate with kids and adults alike. Wonder is an uplifting movie that wants to put good into the world.
Acclaimed video essayist Kogonada makes his feature directorial debut with this low-key drama about a man (John Cho) who comes home to be with his ailing father and strikes up a friendship with a young woman (Haley Lu Richardson) tethered to the titular town. Every shot of Kogonada’s film is deeply considered, and the images are as well crafted as the architecture the characters obsess over. But at the heart of it are Cho and Richardson, who gives two of 2017’s best performances.
3) The Hero
The Hero is primarily a showcase for veteran actor Sam Elliott (The Big Lebowski, We Were Soldiers), who plays an aging Western star coming to terms with his own mortality. As movies about people coming to terms with mortality tend to be, it’s pretty wrenching. Elliot is excellent, and the rest of the ensemble—Laura Prepon, Nick Offerman, Krysten Ritter, and Katherine Ross—do a great job too.
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Have you seen Viola Davis cry? You have, right? Then you already know she cries like no one else. And she’s such a great actor, when she cries, you tend to cry too. Hence the power of Fences, Denzel Washington’s adaptation of the August Wilson play about a working-class Black family in Pittsburgh and their patriarch who’s constantly trying to rise able his circumstances. Washington plays Troy Maxson, the flawed husband and father at the center of the story, and Davis plays Rose, his caring but oft-neglected wife. The film isn’t particularly cinematic; you can tell it was originally a play. But the performances are complex, nuanced, and powerful. Washington was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his role and Davis won a much-overdue Best Supporting Actress trophy for hers. It’s one of the best sad movies on Hulu.
The twist at the end of Arrival packs such an emotional gut-punch, it makes the movie hard to re-watch, knowing what’s coming. But the film, about a linguist played by Amy Adams trying to communicate with a mysterious group of aliens who have landed on Earth, is so good you may want to revisit it anyway. Adams is sublime in a difficult role, and director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Sicario, Blade Runner 2049) proves again that he approaches genre in a more interesting way than nearly every filmmaker working today.
Precious is the kind of movie so achingly sad, so completely devastating, you may be leveled for a whole day after watching it. The title character, played by Gabourey Sidibe, is an abused, illiterate, HIV-positive teenager who’s pregnant with her second child in this 2009 Sundance and Academy Award-winner from Jeff Daniels. Based on the novel Push by Sapphire (which was also at one point the movie’s clumsy subtitle,) Precious’s journey is not an easy one to watch, but by the end of the film you will weep not only out of sadness but out of joy, as she finds some peace in learning to love herself and finding others who love her too. The performances are increible across the board, earning Sidibe a Best Actress nomination for her work in the lead role and Mo’Nique a Supporting Actress statue for her work as Precious’s monstrous mother, Mary. Screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher also made history when he became the first African American writer to take home an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.
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7) Jerry Maguire
Jerry Maguire has a lot of memorable lines. “Show me the money.” “Help me help you.” “Did you know that the human head weighs 8 pounds?” But I submit to you now that none of the dialog hits quite as hard as “You had me at ‘hello.’” Cuba Gooding Jr. may have won the Oscar, but Jerry Maguire is nothing without the relationship between Cruise’s Maguire and Renée Zellweger’s Dorothy Boyd. Rarely has Cruise had such great romantic chemistry with a co-star, and if this confession of love doesn’t at least kind of melt your heart, you might be made of stone. Yes, director Cameron Crowe is at his most gloriously sentimental here. Don’t fight it. If it’s been awhile, make some time to say “hello” to Jerry Maguire again.
8) Let the Right One In
Can a horror movie also be a tearjerker? The existence of Let the Right One In would suggest so. Director Tomas Alfredson’s love story about a young boy named Oscar and his vampire crush, Eli, is as beautiful and emotional as it is deeply frightening. Let Me In, the American remake from 2010, is also surprisingly good, but purists should start with this Swedish gem.
Stronger stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Jeff Bauman, a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. Directed by indie darling David Gordon Green, the film is better than your average inspirational true story. A lot of that is thanks to Gyllenhaal, but just as much of it has to do with Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany, who delivers a powerhouse performance as Bauman’s love interest, Erin Hurley.
10) I Am Love
Where do you even start with I Am Love? There’s director Luca Guadagnino’s luscious visual palette, obviously. There’s Tilda Swinton doing classic Tilda Swinton (right before the chameleonic actor became a household name). Receiving a much-deserved Oscar nod for best costume design, everything about this 2010 Italian stunner is gorgeously over the top. Like the very clothes she lives her life in, the story of Swinton’s Emma Recchi, who experiences love and loss amidst Italy’s upper crust, is fabulous, gorgeous, sumptuous, and completely unsubtle. But it also never blinks, and it’s that blind commitment to its own self-importance that makes I Am Love such a unique watch.
Many movies are given infinite resources and still manage to feel so minuscule that they might as well not even exist. Sean Baker’s Tangerine, however, is a testament to how much filmmakers can achieve with little. Shot on an iPhone, the movie cost relative pennies to make, but Tangerine is a hypnotic, extraordinary film about the friendship between two sex workers. That bond is tested over the course of a very long day, and the plot’s simplicity masks its power. After finding out her boyfriend isn’t faithful, Sin-Dee (Kiki Rodriguez) goes off on a quest to locate his mistress. Meanwhile, Alexandra (Mya Taylor) prepares for a performance at a local club. Filmed on a stretch of Santa Monica known as a nexus of prostitution in the city, Tangerine captures the feel of Los Angeles better than any film I’ve ever seen. It’s simultaneously stylish, low-key, and groundbreaking in its authentic depiction of life on the streets. —Nico Lang
Bonus: Sad movies on Hulu
Terms of Endearment (*with Showtime add-on)
For those of you who don’t know much about Terms of Endearment, the less said the better. James L. Brooks’ 1983 Oscar-winner follows the relationship between a mother and daughter (Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger,) exploring their various struggles with each other and in their personal lives. The movie eventually gets… emotional. You should still watch it, but just know there will be tears. Like, lots and lots of tears.
The Promise (*with Showtime add-on)
A film about the Armenian genocide starring Oscar Isaac, Christian Bale, and Charlotte Le Bon, The Promise is a long overdue piece of historical cinema. Though melodramatic and overwrought, the movie is still devastating at moments. Moreover, in the larger context of the genocide and Turkey’s continued denial of it, The Promise represents a small but significant victory.
Me Before You (With Live TV)
Me Before You has one of the most absurd, borderline offensive premises of any romance film to come out in recent years. But if there’s one thing you have to admit about this movie, which is based on Jojo Moyes’ novel, it’s that it’s definitely meant to be a tearjerker. Whether this story of a paralyzed playboy (Sam Claflin) and the caretaker who falls in love with him (Emilia Clarke) and the turn it takes towards the end makes you cry or not will probably depend on how willing you are to buy into the film’s ridiculous conceit, but there’s no question that Me Before You is one of the saddest movies on Hulu.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (With Starz Add-On)
Although frequently maligned as one of David Fincher’s lesser films and an over-stuffed retread of Forrest Gump (both of which are fair criticisms), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button does nevertheless contain many lovely moments. This adaptation of an F. Scott Fitzgerald story stars Brad Pitt as the titular hero who ages in reverse, and Cate Blanchett as the love interest he “meets in the middle” of his life. The two leads both deliver fine performances, as does the film’s strong supporting cast, which includes Elias Koteas, Julia Ormond, Jason Flemyng, Jared Harris, Elle Fanning, Tilda Swinton, Mahershala Ali, and an Oscar-nominated Taraji P. Henson. The aging effects are also a technical marvel, even 10 years later.
Still not sure what to watch on Hulu? Here are the best movies on Hulu, what’s new, the best shows on Hulu, the sexiest movies you can stream on the service, Hulu documentaries, anime, and the must-see Hulu originals.
Here are the best thrillers and action movies to get your heart racing, classic movies when you want a blast from the past, sad movies when you need a good cry, and funny movies on Hulu when you need a good laugh.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
Chris Osterndorf is an entertainment reporter and movie critic based in Los Angeles. He holds a degree in cinema from Chicago’s DePaul University. His work has appeared on the Daily Dot, Mic, the Script Lab, Salon, the Week, xoJane, and more.