10 popular sad movie classics from Les Misérables to Marriage Story

Here are 10 sad tear-jerking films to watch when you just need to let some emotions out ·

A great movie allows us to slip into some feelings for a bit, kind of like putting on an old, reliable coat. Sometimes we seek the feel of something whimsical and romantic. Other times we want a thrill that’ll give us goosebumps. Still other days, all we crave is the embrace of the warm and fuzzy. But sometimes, you just want to slide into the sad, slipping into a tearjerker for the sopping, snot-sleeved comfort they can provide.

A good cry can be good for you. So, when you’re looking to let loose with sobs, we’ve got the perfect selection of movies for your queue.

Grab a box of tissues and check out the 10 saddest movies now streaming on Netflix.

1. Les Misérables

Based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 historical novel, Les Misérables offers a sprawling tangle of stories of crime, love, pain, and revolution. This moving movie musical (adapted from the West End theatrical production) stars Hugh Jackman as a noble thief on the run from a tenacious lawman (Russell Crowe). Anne Hathaway won an Academy Award for her tearjerking turn as the ill-fated factory worker Fantine. Meanwhile, Samantha Barks sounded off for unrequited love and Eddie Redmayne belted out about romance and rebellion. While Tom Hooper’s direction of this classic tale has been criticized for its flourishes (and some questionable casting, considering the difficulty level of some of these beloved songs), you can deny this sweeping drama won’t leave a dry eye in the house.

2. Steel Magnolias

If there’s any movie that’s emblematic of the necessity of laughing through pain, it’s Steel Magnolias. The loss of a loved one is beyond devastating, especially when that loss is as slow and foreseen as it is with Julia Roberts’s Shelby, a young Southern woman whose type 1 diabetes puts her life at risk when she decides to have a baby. But the beauty of Herbert Ross’s tragic dramedy is how it finds comfort and relief in processing grief with comedy. The film bookends each painful blow with warm, infectious humor courtesy of the electric chemistry shared by Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, Dolly Parton, Olympia Dukakis, Daryl Hannah, and Roberts. Take Field’s iconic breakdown scene, a reminder that the way to get through the unimaginable tragedies of life is to have people around you who can break up the anguish with a little laughter and sweetness.

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3. A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls is a modern fable about loss, suffering, and childhood. In it, a young boy (Lewis MacDougall) copes with the prospect of losing his mother by befriending a tree monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) that tells him three illuminating stories in exchange for one story from the boy. The movie is based on the fantasy novel by Patrick Ness, who wrote the story based on an idea from Siobhan Dowd, a writer who died of cancer before writing the book herself.

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4. The Nightingale

As follow-up to her critically heralded monster movie The Babadook, writer/director Jennifer Kent shocked and awed her fans with The Nightingale. Set in an Australian penal colony in 1825, this devastating drama stars Aisling Franciosi as a young Irish wife and mother, whose tough but happy life is destroyed by the insatiable blood lust of a sneering English lieutenant (Sam Claflin). Her only path forward is vengeance, and leading the way is an Aboriginal tracker (Baykali Ganambarr), who has also suffered at the cruel hands of the English colonizers. Critics were stunned but the onslaught of brutality — including racism, violence, sexual assault, and infanticide — in Kent’s film. However, this grim movie doesn’t relish its carnage or make a gory spectacle of it. Instead, Kent dares us to recognize the true horrors in this inhumanity. So, be warned, this one is not just a tearjerker. Steeped in tragedy, injustice, and wrath, The Nightingale delivers an unapologetic gut punch.

5. Marriage Story

Writer-director Noah Baumbach’s tense tale of a couple ending their marriage divided audiences, with some viewers reporting they were surprised by whose “side” they ended up on. But critical reception for Marriage Story was almost universal in its praise of the story’s execution and impact. Leads Scarlett Johannson and Adam Driver were singled out for their magnetic scene work. This artful depiction of intimacy remains a triumph of romantic storytelling, venturing far beyond the Happily Ever After audiences know so well.

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6. Pieces of a Woman

The Crown‘s Vanessa Kirby stars in this heartbreaking movie about a woman whose life is changed forever when her child, delivered at home, dies shortly after birth. Pieces of a Woman explores the emotional complexity of grief, marriage, and blame while telling a devastatingly real story of loss.

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7. Other People

Molly Shannon and Jesse Plemons star as mother and son in this semi-autobiographical movie from writer/director Chris Kelly about a young gay man who returns to his childhood home to help take care of his dying mother. Other People finds the humor and beauty in the moments that lead up to experiencing loss and features one of Plemons’ best performances.

8. The Sky is Pink

The Sky Is Pink is told from the perspective of Aisha ‘Aishi’ Chaudhary (Zaira Wasim), a girl who dies young and narrates the story of her parents’ lives from the afterlife. It’s based on a true story. So yeah, it’s pretty sad. This Hindi language film is one of many Indian gems on Netflix and is a sure tearjerker starring Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Farhan Akhtar.

9. All the Bright Places

Fans of The Fault in Our Stars will like All the Bright Places, another tearjerker about teens who find love through their personal sufferings. Elle Fanning and Justice Smith deliver heartbreaking performances from a screenplay co-written by Jennifer Niven, who also wrote the novel upon which the movie is based. (opens in a new tab)

10. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is based on the eponymous stage play by August Wilson. In it, Viola Davis portrays real-life blues singer Ma Rainey over the course of one day of recording for her album, during which the personal relationships between her lover, her band, and her producers spill out into a poignant examination of race, betrayal, and ownership. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom also features the late Chadwick Boseman’s final performance, for which he won a posthumous Golden Globe award.

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Adam Regan
Adam Regan
Deputy Editor

Features and account management. 3 years media experience. Previously covered features for online and print editions.

Email Adam@MarkMeets.com

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