sad movies on netflix : The Place Beyond the Pines

Focus Features

30 movies on Netflix guaranteed to make you cry

Sometimes you just need a good cry.

Mar 9, 2020, 12:01 am*

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Chris Osterndorf 

Chris Osterndorf

Everybody needs a good cry once in awhile. Sometimes you just need the absolute saddest movie on Netflix. Maybe you’ve just been through a breakup. Or maybe you’ve cried so much lately about the state of the world 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 on Netflix right now, available instantly for your weeping pleasure.

30 sad movies on Netflix

1) The Notebook

Netflix sad movies: The Notebook

Love or hate it, you’re definitely familiar with The Notebook. With a heart-wrenching plot and standout performances by Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, the 2004 film adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ novel has become one of the most popular romantic dramas of the last 16 years. For those of you who haven’t already watched the film, spoiler alert: an elderly man named Noah (played by Gosling and James Garner) visits his wife Allie (McAdams and Gena Rowlands), who has memory loss, every day at a nursing home. Noah tells Allie the story of their romance every day in the hopes of jogging her memory. One day, Allie finally has a breakthrough and recognizes Noah. —Bryan Rolli

2) Mudbound

sad movies on netflix : mudbound

Adapted by Dee Rees and co-writer Virgil Williams from Hillary Jordan’s novel, Mudbound, a sad Netflix original movie, traces the stories of two families during WWII, one white, one black. They intersect when the McAllan clan buys the farm the Jackson family has worked on as sharecroppers for years. It’s worth watching Mudbound for its devastating ending alone. It’s impossible to deny that Hollywood is better for taking a chance on filmmakers like Dee Rees and stories like this. 

3) About Time

Netflix sad movies: About Time

Richard Curtis, best known for Love, Actually, is a master of the saccharine romantic comedy, and About Time is an overlooked gem in his filmography. When Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) learns that he as the ability to travel back in time and relive moments from his past, he uses that ability to charm Mary. As their life progresses, Tim learns the true power of his ability and the ramifications of his actions. Despite the icky implications of the premise, About Time uses its conceit to seek out emotional honesty. The movie will make you laugh and make you cry. —Eddie Strait

4) Blue Valentine

saddest movies on netflix - blue valentine

Blue Valentine is the kind of movie that’s so sad, it occasionally feels like it’s trying to rip your heart out through your chest. The film stars Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as Dean and Cindy, a couple whose relationship we see disintegrate as it cuts back and forth between when they first got together and their older, more damaged selves. Director Derek Cianfrance, who would go on to make The Place Beyond the Pines and The Light Between Oceans shot the flashback scenes in a kind of grainy, Instagram-worthy style that ultimately serves to make them more romantic, while the present-day scenes look sleeker and colder, reflecting a kind of harsh realness. Both performances are heartbreaking (Williams was nominated for an Oscar for hers), probably because the two leads actually spent time living together like a real couple between filming the scenes set in the past and the ones set in the future. By the time their characters had to break up, it feels all too real. 

5) The Place Beyond the Pines

saddest moves netflix : The Place Beyond the Pines

Though not as utterly soul-crushing as his breakout film, Blue Valentine, director Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines is still a tour de force in sadness. Telling three different stories over two generations, Pines is a movie about the bond between fathers and son and how the choices we make resonate well into the future. Though it falls short of its epic ambitions, the film is a great throwback to the gritty American dramas of the 1970s—not to mention the rare “guy cry” movie, i.e. it has action but will also put you in touch with your emotions. Co-lead Bradley Cooper is good in the movie’s second section, but the film never quite gets over Ryan Gosling’s towering performance in the first. As a carnival bad boy skilled in motorcycle stunts, Gosling (reteaming with Cianfrance here following the success of Valentine) is the tattooed heart of gold at the center of this picture. 

6) The Kindergarten Teacher

sad movies on Netflix - The Kindergarten Teacher

When Lisa, a teacher frustrated with her life, discovers one of her students, Parker, has a talent for poetry, she takes a special interest in him. As it becomes clear to her that no one else values his gift as much as she does, she becomes obsessed. Her determination to nurture Parker’s talent leads her down a dark path. Maggie Gyllenhaal gives a tremendous performance as Lisa, and writer-director Sara Colangelo makes a strong impression with tricky material. —E.S.

7) Kodachrome

netflix original movies - KodachromeKodachrome is like going to your childhood home to play a game of catch in your backyard: It’s comforting and you fall right back into the routine. What starts as a paint-by-numbers story of an estranged father and son working out their issues during a long road trip morphs into a genuinely affecting tale of family and mortality with a satisfying emotional payoff. Ed Harris plays the role of a father and renowned photographer, Ben, with customary elegance, but Jason Sudeikis steals the show as his son, Matt. Jonathan Tropper’s script pulls no punches, and director Mark Raso allows the scenes to breathe, making Kodachrome one of the better Netflix releases of 2018. —E.S.

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8) Dallas Buyers Club

Best sad movies on Netflix: Dallas Buyers Club

As a movie about LGBTQ subject matter, Dallas Buyers Club leaves something to be desired. Not only does it omit elements of the real Ron Woodroof’s story, it fails to clearly define whether Rayon, the film’s second lead, is transgender, a cross-dresser, or identifies in some other non-binary way. Where Dallas Buyers Club does succeed is in its depiction of the AIDS crisis, stigmatization that came with an HIV-positive diagnosis, and the far-reaching effects it had in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Dallas Buyers Club provides a raw snapshot of a watershed moment. Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto’s Oscar-winning performances as Woodroof and Rayon, respectively, are also among the best of their careers (particularly in Leto’s case), and the direction from Jean-Marc Vallée (Big Little Lies) is stunning. 

9) Blue is the Warmest Color

Netflix sad movies: Blue is the Warmest Color

Steeped in controversy upon its release (and for good reason), Blue Is the Warmest Color is nevertheless a nearly unparalleled achievement in 21st-century filmmaking. Discussions about male gaze and directorial ethics are sure to follow many people’s viewing, but we also don’t get many epic, three-hour lesbian love stories. There are elements of Blue Is the Warmest Color that still feel essential, if for no other reason than that we need more of what the film gets right, even while needing less of what it gets wrong. And of course, there are the performances from lead actresses Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos, who rightfully became the first actors ever to be awarded the Palme d’Or when the film premiered at Cannes. Playing the two halves of young couple Emma and Adèle, Blue Is the Warmest Color’s leading ladies are both so good, it’s not just that they have created an indelible cinematic love story—it’s as if they’ve reinvented the cinematic love story itself. —Chris Osterndorf

10) Alles ist gut (All Is Well)

netflix alles ist gut review

Writer-director Eva Trobisch tackles heavy subject matter with deftness and clarity in her debut feature Alles ist gut, about a woman, Janne, trying to move forward after being raped by her boss’s son-in-law. Alles ist gut portrays the devastating effects of casual violence and the isolation that comes with being a victim. It’s a quiet, intimate film so nuanced in its writing, direction, and performances that it envelops the viewer and puts them right in Janne’s shoes. Trobisch’s film is specific in its vision and universal in its themes, and it never stoops to proselytizing to make its points. —E.S.

11) 22 July

sad movies on Netflix - 22 July

Director Paul Greengrass (United 93, Captain Phillips) tackles yet another real-life tragedy. On July 22, 2011, Anders Behring Breivik carried out a terrorist attack in Norway that left 77 people dead and injured over 300 others. The film covers the two-pronged attack, as well as the aftermath, and Breivik’s trial. It’s a tough film to watch because the trauma is so recent, but Greengrass’s respectful approach keeps the film from being maudlin. If you enjoy Greengrass’s other work (he also directed three Bourne films), 22 July is on par with those works. —E.S.

12) The End of the Tour

sad_movies_on_netflix_the_end_of_the_tour

Although many close to the late writer denounced the film upon its release, The End of the Tour’s portrayal of acclaimed author David Foster Wallace doesn’t necessarily need to be accurate to be affecting. Following journalist David Lipsky’s unpublished chronicle of Wallace in the last days of his book tour for Infinite Jest, the film is a powerful work on art, interviewing, genius, depression, and the way creative people view each other. Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel do some of the best work of their careers as Lipsky and Wallace, bringing authentic chemistry to this brief but powerful relationship. 

13) Other People

Sad Movies on Netflix and LGBT on Netflix: Other People

Based on Saturday Night Live writer Chris Kelly’s real-life experiences, Other People tells the story of struggling comedy writer, David (Jesse Plemons), who moves back home to Sacramento to take care of his dying mother, Joanne (Molly Shannon). Complicating matters is his father, Norman (Bradley Whitford), who refuses to accept David’s sexuality, even 10 years after he came out. The lead performances are all great, and the film features strong supporting turns from familiar character actors and comedy mainstays, including June Squibb, Matt Walsh, Maude Apatow, and more. It’s a movie which alternates between moments designed to make you laugh and moments designed to make you cry, and it’s not short on either. 

14) First They Killed My Father

Sad movies on Netflix: First They Killed My Father

Angelina Jolie’s continues to grow as a director. After her attempt at Oscar bait, Unbroken, the commercially successful but non-player at awards season, Jolie works on a smaller scale with First They Killed My Father. It tells the true story of Luong Ung (who co-wrote the screenplay with Jolie and wrote the memoir the film is based on), whose family was one of many that suffered under the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. The film is contemplative without being boring and emotionally devastating without being manipulative. It’s a tough watch but a strong film. —ES.

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15) Roma

Sad movies on Netflix - Roma

Inspired by his childhood in 1970s Mexico City, Roma is the latest film from visionary writer/director Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity; Children of Men). It’s a moving autobiographical drama about a young woman who works as a housemaid for a wealthy Mexican family, based on Cuarón’s beloved childhood nanny. It’s undoubtedly one of the greatest movies of 2018, destined to live on as a highlight of Cuarón’s career.—Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

16) Marriage Story

Netflix sad movies: Marriage Story

In Marriage Story, writer/director Noah Baumbach takes a well-covered subject—a young couple on the brink of divorce—and turns it into a film that feels completely original. The couple in this story are Charlie and Nicole, played by Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, in performances that netted both of them Oscar nominations. It’s hard to take a side here, as the film portrays the couple as sympathetic characters who once loved each other but have since grown apart. —Tiffany Kelly

17) Moonlight

Netflix sad movies: Moonlight

Barry Jenkins’ Best Picture-winning film tells the story of Chiron in three parts as he grows up and comes to terms with his sexuality and learning to be comfortable in his own skin. Chiron may be black and gay, and the movie’s focus may be narrow, but its themes are universal. There are moments so empathetic that I’m welling up a little just thinking about it. The cast is remarkable, from the three actors who play Chiron to Naomie Harris, Janelle Monae, and Oscar winner Mahershala Ali. Its status as one of the lowest grossIng Best Picture winners means a ton of people need to catch up with it. —E.S.

18) 6 Balloons

sad netflix movies - 6 balloons

In Marja-Lewis Ryan’s 6 Balloons, one long night tests the limits of compassion. It tells the story of Katie (Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson) a woman who’s trying to plan a surprise birthday party for her boyfriend. But as the day goes on she collides with her brother Seth (Dave Franco), a heroin addict who’s using again. “The loneliness inside those dark moments is almost more crippling… not being able to talk about the things; not knowing where to talk,” Ryan told the Daily Dot. “If this isn’t your story, then maybe you can gain a little empathy for people who are experiencing this. And if it is your story, hopefully, you can feel a little less lonely.” 6 Balloons is very much about middle-class addiction, based on a similar night Ryan’s best friend (and the film’s co-producer) Samantha Housman experienced: Her brother, a lawyer, was addicted to heroin. —Audra Schroeder

19) Room

Netflix sad movies: Room

Not The Room, just Room. Drop the “The” and trade Tommy Wiseau for the infinitely more charming Brie Larson. Room is based on the bestselling Emma Donahue novel of the same name and it’s about a woman who was kidnapped and has spent five years living in a room with her son. It’s unquestionably harrowing, but the film opens up in the second half when mom and son (Jacob Tremblay, doing some strong kid acting) regain their freedom. It’s an emotional gauntlet, but one that is worth going through for Larson’s Oscar winning work. —E.S.

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20) Beasts of No Nation

Best sad movies on Netflix: Beasts of No Nation

Netflix’s first major foray into film distribution, at least in terms of narrative filmmaking, was this child soldier drama from 2015. Upon its release, Beasts of No Nation immediately declared that, in addition to giving you daily doses of ‘90s nostalgia, the streaming giant was committed to socially engaged stories too. Directed by True Detective’s Cary Joji Fukunaga and starring Idris Elba in what should’ve been an Oscar-nominated performance, Beasts of No Nation is an intense watch but also a rewarding one. If nothing else, it’ll make you aware of how few depictions of Africa we really see onscreen, and how much that needs to be corrected. It’s one of the saddest movies on Netflix, and thankfully, it’s not going anywhere.

21) Paddleton

sad movies on Netflix - Paddleton

Paddleton follows Andy and Michael, two best friends who must grapple with Michael’s diagnosis of terminal cancer. The two men stick to their routine, which includes watching kung fu movies and playing their made up game called Paddleton. Mark Duplass and Ray Romano give terrific performances in the leading roles, capturing what it means to be a friend, even if their characters have a hard time expressing themselves. Paddleton is a small, intimate movie that’s both funny and sad without ever becoming overly sentimental. —E.S.

22) Sunday’s Illness

sad movies on netflix - sunday's illness

In Sunday’s Illness, the raw emotions between a mother and the daughter she abandoned 35 years ago are on full display as they spend 10 days together, showing what could have been and what will never be with painstaking beauty. Mother Anabel (Susi Sánchez) and daughter Chiara (Bárbara Lennie) constantly push and pull at one another even when they aren’t in each other’s orbit. Sunday’s Illness could have taken its concept into a number of directions with the backdrop—and impeccable cinematography—of an isolated house located on a wooded mountain that helps set the tone. Instead, the film goes down a more emotional and sometimes uncomfortable path, climaxing in a profoundly life-changing experience. Like the snapshots we see, we’re left wondering what it might all say. —Michelle Jaworski

23) To the Bone

best movies based on true stories on netflix : To the Bone

It may be hard to convince yourself sit down for a harrowing story about a young woman’s struggle with anorexia. Despite To the Bone’s dour subject matter, Marti Noxon’s script has enough humor to act as a release valve. The performances from lead actress Lily Collins to supporting players Alex Sharp, Keanu Reeves, Retta, and Lily Tomlin are great. The story is based on Noxon’s past experiences and that comes through in the intimate and empathetic approach she takes. —E.S.

24) Irreplaceable You

Irreplaceable You - saddest movies on netflix

Netflix’s cancer drama Irreplaceable You is a formulaic movie with enough good moments to make it worth your time. Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Michiel Huisman star as Abbie and Sam, who have been in love with each other since they were 8 years old. All of their plans are derailed by Abbie’s terminal diagnosis. Instead of planning the rest of their lives together, they’re forced to plan for the end of their relationship. —E.S.

25) Our Souls at Night

saddest movies on netflix : Our Souls At Night

Louis Waters (Robert Redford) has lived a quiet life since his wife’s death years before. Then one night his neighbor, Addie (Jane Fonda), herself a widow of many years, knocks on his door with a simple proposal: “Would you like to sleep with me?” Our Souls at Night would be worth watching even if it was just to see Redford and Fonda working together again, but thankfully, it also serves as a gentle reminder that it’s never too late to find love. Sometimes you just have to get out of your comfort zone and knock on some doors. —David Wharton

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26) Okja

saddest movies on netflix - okja

A Netflix original movie, Bong Joon-ho’s Okja is an odd and oddly touching story about a girl, Mija, and her genetically enhanced superpig, Okja. Set in Korea and the U.S., Okja features a diverse cast, thrilling set pieces, and enough emotional moments to keep you engaged even when the film indulges its weirder aspects. Despite the film’s tonal shifts, Joon-ho’s agility and prowess as a filmmaker ties everything together and makes it feel if a piece. Okja is easily the best Netflix original movie to date. —E.S.

27) The Photographer of Mauthausen

Sad movies on Netflix - photographer of mauthausen

Netflix honors a World War II hero and photographer Francisco Boix in Spanish film The Photographer of Mauthausen. The film, which follows Boix as he attempts to smuggle photos that incriminate the Nazi party of war treason while in the Mauthausen concentration camp, is predictably dark, somber, and incredibly difficult to watch—but an essential film about the Holocaust and the importance of upholding the truth. —Tess Cagle

28) Irreplaceable You

Netflix sad movies: Irreplaceable You

Netflix’s cancer drama Irreplaceable You is a formulaic movie with enough good moments to make it worth your time. Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Michiel Huisman star as Abbie and Sam, who have been in love with each other since they were 8 years old. All of their plans are derailed by Abbie’s terminal diagnosis. Instead of planning the rest of their lives together, they’re forced to plan for the end of their relationship. —E.S.

29) Hell or High Water

Netflix sad movies: Hell or High Water

In the oppressive heat of West Texas a pair of desperate brothers decide to rob banks in order to pay off their mortgage. It’s a simple plan and one that might work if weren’t for the Texas Rangers on their heel or one brother’s reckless tendencies. Hell or High Water is a movie that lives in the little moments: Out of towners being schooled by an old waitress, brothers sharing a meal, partners bantering, and cops and robbers having standoffs. There’s a reason this movie became a sleeper hit at the box office and scored a slew of Academy Awards nominations. Times may be tough for the characters, but the audience reaps the riches. —E.S.

30) Burning

Netflix sad movies: Burning

South Korean director Lee Chang-dong is one of the world’s best filmmakers, and Burning is a perfection introduction for anyone unfamiliar. Burning is a haunting drama about a love triangle riddled with mystery. When Lee Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in) reconnects with an old schoolmate, Shin Hae-mi (Jeon Jong-seo), a potential romantic relationship starts. But when the wealthy, charming, and mysterious Ben (Steven Yeun) enters the picture, everything in Lee’s life is knocked askew. Burning is an engrossing drama that will have you under its spell. —E.S.

Still not sure what to watch tonight? Here are our guides for the absolute best movies on Netflix, must-see Netflix original series, documentaries, docuseries, and movies.

Looking for something more specific? Here are our Netflix guides for the best war movies, documentaries, anime, indie flicks, true crime, food shows, rom-coms, LGBT movies, alien movies, gangster movies, Westerns, film noir, and movies based on true stories streaming right now. There are also sad movies guaranteed to make you cry, weird movies to melt your brain, old movies when you need something classic, and standup specials when you really need to laugh. Or check out Flixable, a search engine for Netflix.

Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.

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*First Published: Jan 1, 2017, 7:00 am