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sad movies netflix

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The best sad movies on Netflix

Sometimes you just need a good cry.

Aug 19, 2020, 12:53 pm*

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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. 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.

The best sad movies on Netflix

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 is now one of the most popular romantic dramas of recent times.

Here’s a spoiler alert if you haven’t seen it. An elderly man named Noah (played by Gosling and James Garner) visits his wife Allie (McAdams and Gena Rowlands) every day at a nursing home. Noah tells Allie, who has memory loss, the story of their romance every day in the hopes of helping her remember. One day, Allie finally has a breakthrough and recognizes Noah. —Bryan Rolli

Netflix sad movies: The Notebook
A99 Studios/YouTube

Mudbound

Adapted by Dee Rees and co-writer Virgil Williams from Hillary Jordan’s novel, Mudbound 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. Hollywood is better for taking a chance on filmmakers like Dee Rees and stories like this. 

sad movies on netflix : mudbound
Netflix/YouTube

About Time

Richard Curtis (best known for Love, Actually) is a master of the saccharine romantic comedy. 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

Netflix sad movies: About Time
Movieclips Trailers/YouTube

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

This film will resonate with anyone who’s wished they could just erase an ex from their memory—sort of erasing the “romantic comedy” part of it. Director Michel Gondry’s 2004 film is affecting more than a decade later. Its portrayal of the grey depths of a breakup balances the more depressing moments with surreal dream sequences. It also adds visually stunning flashes that show the beginnings of a relationship. —Audra Schroeder

sad movies netflix - eternal sunshine of the spotless mind
Netflix

Tigertail

Netflix’s diaspora drama Tigertail, written and directed by Alan Yang, made me cry. The film follows Pin-Jui (Tzi Ma in the present and Hong-Chi Lee in the past), a Taiwanese man looking back on his life and attempting to repair his relationship with his daughter Angela (Christine Ko).

It’s a relatable and touching depiction of an immigrant’s story, which Yang called a “fever dream” of his own father’s past. Streaming in a time when Asians and Asian Americans are violently targeted by bigots and racists during the novel coronavirus pandemic, Tigertail is a story of love across generations and continents. —Samantha Grasso

sad movies netflix - tigertail
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.

sad movies on Netflix - The Kindergarten Teacher
Netflix

Kodachrome

Kodachrome 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.

netflix original movies - Kodachrome


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.

Dallas Buyers Club does succeed 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). The direction from Jean-Marc Vallée (Big Little Lies) is stunning. 

Best sad movies on Netflix: Dallas Buyers Club
YouTube/TIFF

Blue is the Warmest Color

Steeped in controversy upon its release, 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.

There are also 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

Netflix sad movies: Blue is the Warmest Color
Sundance Now/YouTube

Alles ist gut (All Is Well)

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.

netflix alles ist gut review
Moviepilot Trailer/YouTube

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.

sad movies on Netflix - 22 July


Lady Bird

Greta Gerwig’s rise through the indie film world reached its peak with Lady Bird. Gerwig wrote and directed this coming-of-age story set in early 2000s Sacramento. It follows Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) through her senior year of high school as she navigates friendship and romance, and prepares for life after high school. Most importantly, it’s about her relationship with her mother, played by Laurie Metcalf. Gerwig and Lady Bird nail the period details and the more universal truths about growing up. E.S.

sad movies netflix - lady bird
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). His father, Norman (Bradley Whitford), 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, and Maude Apatow. It alternates between moments designed to make you laugh and cry, and it’s not short on either. 

Sad Movies on Netflix and LGBT on Netflix: Other People
YouTube/Movieclips Film Festivals & Indie Films

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. —E.S.

Sad movies on Netflix: First They Killed My Father
Netflix/YouTube

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. It’s based on Cuarón’s beloved childhood nanny.) Roma is undoubtedly one of the greatest movies of 2018, and is destined to live on as a highlight of Cuarón’s career.—Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Sad movies on Netflix - Roma
Netflix

Marriage Story

In Marriage Story, writer and 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

Netflix sad movies: Marriage Story
Netflix/YouTube

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 many need to catch up with it. —E.S.

Netflix sad movies: Moonlight
A24/YouTube

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

sad netflix movies - 6 balloons
Netflix

The Florida Project

The Florida Project is one of the best movies of 2017 and not enough people know about it. Writer-director Sean Baker follows up his iPhone-filmed Tangerine with this traditionally shot movie set at a Florida motel. It follows 6-year-old Moonee and her mother Halley, played by newcomers Brooklyn Prince and Bria Vinaite, respectively. The movie is told primarily from Moonee’s perspective, meaning many scenes of carefree kids finding fun wherever they can.

Moonee and Halley both wreak havoc in their own ways, and their put-upon building manager Bobby (Willem Dafoe) often looks out for both of them.

The movie balances the joy of childhood and the ever-encroaching realities of adulthood in a way that is so true to life it can be hard to watch at times. The Florida Project challenges you to find sympathy for people you may normally look down on. It’s a lovely movie that deserves a larger audience. —E.S.

sad movies netflix - the florida project
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 but also rewarding watch If nothing else, it’ll make you aware of how few depictions of Africa we really see onscreen, and how much needs to be corrected. It’s one of the saddest movies on Netflix, and thankfully, it’s not going anywhere.

Best sad movies on Netflix: Beasts of No Nation
Screengrab via Netflix US & Canada/YouTube

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.

sad movies on Netflix - Paddleton
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

sad movies on netflix - sunday's illness
Lucía Faraig/Sunday's Illness

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.

best movies based on true stories on netflix : To the Bone
Screengrab via Netflix/YouTube

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.

Irreplaceable You - saddest movies on netflix
Netflix/Yoube

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

saddest movies on netflix : Our Souls At Night
Photo via Kerry Brown/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.

saddest movies on netflix - okja
Netflix

The Photographer of Mauthausen

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

Sad movies on Netflix - photographer of mauthausen
Netflix

All the Bright Places

All the Bright Places is an adaptation of the 2015 young adult novel of the same name and explores how two teenagers with serious struggles and issues meet, fall in love, and lead each other to a “brighter” place.

If you follow the young adult genre, then you know the narrative of damaged teenage souls finding each other is well-trod, the best-known example being John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. —Jenny Zheng

sad movies netflix - all the bright places
Netflix

Da 5 Bloods

Da 5 Bloods, Spike Lee’s follow-up to BlacKkKlansman, is uncompromising and extraordinary. Lee blends several genres, tones, and even aspect ratios to portray a complex and nuanced war epic that isn’t afraid to shy away from the scars that Vietnam left on both the country and the Black soldiers who fought in it.

Centered around a group of four veterans who return to Vietnam to recover the remains of their squad leader and a secret cache of gold they buried, it’s filled with great performances and stunning visuals. —Michelle Jaworski

sad movies netflix - da 5 bloods
Netflix

30) Burning

Netflix sad movies: Burning
PalaceFilms/YouTube

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.

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


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