Everybody needs a good cry once in awhile, and that’s where the best sad movies on Netflix come in.
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 best sad romantic movies
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
2) 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
3) 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
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.
South Korean director Lee Chang-dong is one of the world’s best filmmakers, and Burning is a perfect introduction for anyone unfamiliar with him. It’s also one of the best sad movies on Netflix.
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.
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
The best sad movies on Netflix with female lead
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
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
9)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
10) 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.\
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.
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
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. They do this 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. He plays his role 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.
14) First They Killed My Father
Angelina Jolie’s continues to grow as a director. Unbroken was 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). Their 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.
15) To the Bone
It may be hard to convince yourself sit down for a harrowing story about a young woman’s struggle with anorexia—even if you’re scouting out the best sad movies on Netflix.
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.
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
The best sad movies on Netflix featuring difficult themes
17) 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
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.
19) 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.
20) The Florida Project
The Florida Project is one of the best movies of 2017 and not enough people know about it. It’s also one of the best sad movies on Netflix.
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.
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.
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. (And ultimately one of the best sad movies on Netflix.) —E.S.
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.
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.
As one of the best sad movies on Netflix, 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
25) 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
Netflix’s cancer drama Irreplaceable You is a formulaic movie with enough good moments to make it worth your time—and to make our list of the best sad movies on Netflix.
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.
27) Other People
This film is based on Saturday Night Live writer Chris Kelly’s real-life experiences. Other People tells the story of struggling comedy writer David (Jesse Plemons). He 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. 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.
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