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30 Saddest Movies on Netflix Right Now

January 1, 2019
23 min read

Sad movies not only make you cry, but they also make us empathize with the characters in a way that we feel their pain ourselves. The thing about sad films is that they stick in our minds for longer than any other type of films. Take for instance, movies like ‘The Fault in Our Stars’, ‘Hachi: A Dog’s Tale’ or ‘Never Let Me Go’. These films are absolute tear-jerkers and I still get emotional whenever I watch them. After all, who does not enjoy a good cry from time to time? Not many movies manage to achieve such an emotional response from viewers. So after considering all these factors, we decided to come up with a compilation of some of the most devastatingly beautiful films you’ll ever see. Here’s the list of really good sad movies on Netflix that are available to stream right now:

30. The Sea of Trees (2015)

Featuring Matthew McConaughey and Naomi Watts, ‘The Sea of Trees’ begins with Arthur Brennan, who has traveled to the base of Mount Fuji in Japan to the infamous Suicide Forest to kill himself. While he is at it, he meets Takumi, a man of Japanese descent who’s there to kill himself too. Arthur cites his wife’s death as the reason for his suicide while Takumi is troubled by issues at his workplace. As both of them have decided to commit suicide by drug overdose and slitting the wrists respectively, Takumi realises he cannot die too soon leaving his wife and child. Takumi and Arthur try to find a way out of the 12 square mile forest, amid hypothermia and flash floods. ‘The Sea of Trees’ is a tale of becoming and yet, despite McConaughey’s signature performance, it somehow fails in the narrative.

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29. Like Father (2018)

Kristen Bell is Rachel, a girl who is left at her altar. Given the workaholic and planner she’s always been, she had planned for her memorable honeymoon after her marriage, which is in cold water now. After a drunk night with her father Harry, she somehow ends up in the cruise boat she had booked for her honeymoon, with her father. While she despises the choice initially, she starts pondering over the differences she always had with her father and soon, she realizes that she wasn’t very fair to her dad. After a few bonding, tear-jerking moments, all is well between Rachel and Harry, while the former is still trying to find her first true love. ‘Like Father’ is both funny and sad, albeit sporadically, but makes for a watchable father-daughter tale.

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28. Alex Strangelove (2018)

Alex Truelove and Claire have always been best friends, if not lovers. As they sail through their high school, Alex’s mother is diagnosed with cancer. Unable to find anyone to go to when Alex is feeling all alone and by himself, he resorts to his all-weather friend Claire. Soon after, they start dating and plan to have their first sexual encounter. Alex also meets Elliot who is gay and begins to have mixed feelings for Elliot, much to the disappointment of Claire. Alex and Claire decide to go to the prom together, even though Alex has mixed feelings about this whole relationship thing. Secretly, Claire has asked Elliot to be Alex’s prom date, much to Alex’s surprise and both Alex and Elliot share their first kiss. ‘Alex Strangelove’ focuses on a closeted gay teenager who has social anxiety and his inner self is unable to accept the societal norms around him — everything that subtly forms a part of the narrative.

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27. Irreplaceable You (2018)

Abbie and Sam have been in love since they were teenagers. Abbie is working for a publisher while Sam is a teacher. As they both plan their wedding and their future together, Abbie finds out that she’s pregnant. When they pay a visit to the doctor, her world comes crashing down upon knowing that it wasn’t her pregnancy but a tumour that’s causing her belly to swell. Abbie joins support groups and begins her chemotherapy, but she’s well aware of the fact that she won’t make it. She takes it upon herself to find another girl for Sam who can take care of him after her passing away.

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26. The Other Woman (2010)

A wholesome family drama at the outset, ‘The Other Woman’ revolves around Emilia (Natalie Portman) and her husband Jack as they share a troubled relationship which is on a slippery slope. Emilie and Jack had a daughter who had passed away due to negligence, as she was choked to death while breastfeeding; something which Emilie blames on herself. Jack’s son from his previous marriage with Carolyne, William, has never developed a liking for Emilie and despises her. He thinks of her as the reason behind the separation of his parents. Emilie is stuck in a catch-22 situation, for she can’t grieve her daughter’s death while dealing with a troubled husband and stepson. ‘The Other Woman’ is replete with woes and boasts of superior storytelling, something which has always been the characteristic feature of movies with Natalie Portman in the lead.

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25. Brain on Fire (2016)

A real-life story based out on a novel, ‘Brain on Fire’ is fascinating as far as the premise is concerned. The story begins with Susannah Cahalan, a real-life character, who is celebrating her 21st birthday with her now-separated parents and her boyfriend. As an interning reporter with the New York Post, Susannah’s life seems all sorted out. However, her world comes crashing down when she begins experiencing strange manic behaviour, albeit involuntarily. This is followed by seizures and there are constant voices in her head all the time. What doctors initially think of as schizophrenia turns out to be a rare brain condition called “Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis” that begins with a headache, followed by a deep state of psychosis. ‘Brain on Fire’ sets out to create something exceedingly brilliant, but disappoints due to the incoherence in the premise.

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24. The Lovely Bones (2009)

Featuring the ever-talented Saoirse Ronan, ‘The Lovely Bones’ is everything but lovely. The sad, remorseful tale begins with Susie, a 14-year-old girl in her prime who has a positive outlook on life. She lives with her parents and aspires to be a photographer one day. All doesn’t go as planned as she is coaxed into an underground den by her neighbour George Harvey while she is walking past a cornfield. Harvey murders her, leading her soul to go to the “in-between” or a state of limbo, from where she can watch over everyone. Jack, her father, collaborates with the investigating agencies while her mother Abigail abandons the family. Susie’s soul is trapped between a vengeance-seeking and a sad state. While she roots for her family, she also wants to avenge her own murder. ‘The Lovely Bones’ was nominated for multiple awards and very few know that it is directed by none other than Peter Jackson.

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23. Before We Go (2014)

‘Before We Go’ is the directorial debut of Chris Evans, who also plays the lead in the film. The movie begins with Nick, a jazz trumpeter/street musician who plays his trumpet at the New York’s Grand Central Station. He kills his time by doing nothing all day. Brooke, an art consultant, closely misses the 1:30 train to Boston and drops her phone while running in a desperate attempt to catch the train. Nick offers his help to Brooke to find her way back to Boston. As they begin their journey, they indulge themselves in all sorts of adventures, including gatecrashing and try and connect on an emotional level. Though there is no dearth of good performances in the film, the uneven story and the lack of any build-up make it a very average love story.

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22. The Lake House (2006)

In what can be termed as a quaint love story, ‘The Lake House’ revolves around Kate and Alex. Kate is a doctor at a hospital, while Alex is an architect. Alex lives in a glass Lake House gifted to him by his father, which is, at a later point in the film, occupied by Kate. The movie follows a chronologically reverse timeline and the catch is, both Kate and Alex belong to different timelines when they occupy the same house. Before Kate vacates the house, since she’s moving to another address, she leaves a note in the mailbox for the new tenant, asking him/her to forward her letters to her new address. Turns out, Alex picks up the note, but two years earlier. The rest of the movie follows Alex and Kate who communicate through the mailbox across timelines. Though the romance is endearing, the story has no logical lead whatsoever.

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21. To the Bone (2017)

20-year-old Ellen is struggling with anorexia nervosa. After an appointment with an unorthodox doctor, Ellen is placed in a group home with people suffering from other eating disorders. She is then confronted with the truth of her disease and her life perspective changes. ‘To the Bone’ is a fantastic drama that raises awareness for eating disorders and other diseases often ignored by society. This Netflix original is an absolute gem of a film, with several memorable performances.

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20. Kiss and Cry (2017)

A tear-jerker and an emotionally moving flick, to an extent, ‘Kiss and Cry’ revolves around Carley, an 18-year-old girl, who is passionate about figure skating and singing and wants to pursue her career on those lines. Based on an emotionally wringing true story, wherein the lead actress Sarah Fisher was the friend of Carley Allison, the protagonist of the movie. Carley’s world comes crashing down when she’s diagnosed with a rare form of throat cancer, thus putting her dreams and the love of her life in jeopardy. As she begins her treatment at the hospital, her loving boyfriend John and her family help her in all the ways possible to battle the rare disease. Despite the adversities in her life, Carley’s signature smile never leaves her face. ‘Kiss and Cry’ is a must-watch for the lovers of sad romantic movies.

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19. Bright Star (2009)

‘Bright Star’ follows the romance between struggling poet John Keats and Franny Brawne. The couple face many adversities, such as the fragile careers of Mr Keats, his health problems and Brawne’s insistence to keep them apart. This biographical drama not only has a superb cast, but also a brilliant script that balances witty humour and sorrow perfectly.

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18. P.S. I Love You (2007)

Gerry and Holly are a happily married couple. While Gerry is a fun-loving, charismatic Irishman, Holly is equally beautiful and has a positive outlook towards her life, for she’s married to her love. Grief strikes when Gerry is diagnosed with brain tumour and dies shortly after, sending Holly into a deep state of sorrow.

With her birthday around the corner and nothing to look forward to, Holly’s life is a seemingly unbelievable hell on earth. Apparently, Gerry had planned ahead for Holly despite his illness and on Holly’s 30th birthday, she receives a letter penned by Gerry. He insists Holly break free from all sorrows and celebrate life, with friends and family. Eventually, Holly hooks up with another man on the behest of many post-dated letters she receives from Gerry, unbeknownst of the fact that it is Holly’s mother who was the custodian of those letters. A heartwarming, intense yet fairytale-like love story, ‘P.S. I Love You’ is meant for niche audiences. Are you one of them?

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17. The Spectacular Now (2013)

Sutter Keely is a party animal, a spendthrift and a carefree teenager who loves to drink his life away and immerse all the sorrows in alcohol. While he works as an attendant at a men’s clothing store during the day, he becomes the life of the party during the night. After getting dumped by his girlfriend, who in turn, is after the most popular lad in the high school, Sutter drinks and wakes up in the front yard of Aimee’s house. Aimee is a timid, unpopular girl whom Sutter doesn’t recognise at the very first instance.

As Aimee and Sutter get to know each other, they’re also wary of their differences. While Sutter is more of a “living in the present” kind of a person who believes in ‘The Spectacular Now’, Aimee bears a futuristic outlook for her life. Whether Sutter and Aimee gel together as a part of their relationship or not forms the rest of the story. ‘The Spectacular Now’ has widely been praised by critics for its practicality and decent performances, along with a romantic drama that’s like a breath of fresh air.

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16. First They Killed My Father (2017)

Straight from the kitty of actor-director Angelina Jolie, ‘First They Killed My Father’ is set in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and revolves around the Ung family. As the soldiers of the Khmer Rouge advance upon the city, members of the Ung family, Pa and his little girl Loung have very less time to evacuate their comfortable home. As they head out into the city and end up in a refugee camp, the members of the Ung family are wary about not revealing Pa’s true identity, which would otherwise land them in trouble.

Meanwhile, Loung is recruited and indoctrinated as a child soldier while Pa is executed for being associated with the government. Although Loung doesn’t like the circumstances, she still tries to find ways to hope for a better future. Vietnamese bombing follows, destroying their army, freeing Loung and many other children who’re then sent to another comfortable safe house. ‘First They Killed My Father’ is a triumphant tale of Loung and her braving the odds. It is also one of the saddest movies on this list.

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15. The Place Beyond the Pines (2012)

Luke is a motorcycle stuntman working with a carnival from town to town. After he reconnects with his former lover Romina, he discovers he has a son named Jason. With a new perspective on life and a new sense of responsibility, Luke decides to provide for his new family by organizing bank robberies. But when an ambitious police officer comes in his way, his life changes completely. ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’ is a compelling and unique drama starring Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes, and Bradley Cooper. Exploring themes of revenge, family, and ambition, this film will certainly make you emotional.

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14. Revolutionary Road (2008)

Frank and April Wheeler were once very much in love but now, in their seventh year of marriage, they are struggling to deal with each other’s tantrums and flaws. Their life appears to be perfect from the outside but the two are terribly unhappy. Frank hates his job and April has given up on her dream of becoming an actress, getting accustomed to the idea of simply being a housewife. However, when April decides she must do something to become happy again, the lives of the whole family change forever. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, this film was nominated for three Academy Awards.

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13. Tarzan (1999)

A young English man and his wife have been washed ashore following a shipwreck and they are now in a densely covered forest, somewhere in Congo. To protect their infant son, the couple build a treehouse using the wood from the shipwreck. While they’re at it, the couple is killed by a tiger named Sabor, who has also killed many other animals in the jungle. The infant, who is miraculously spared, is adopted by Kala, a gorilla who also had lost her son to Sabor. The infant grows up to be known as Tarzan, who has to choose between the jungle and its animals and the humans, where he truly belongs. He is smitten with Jane, an explorer who’s on a visit to the jungle, and is put up against Clayton, a vile hunter. ‘Tarzan’ was deemed overrated in many circles, but it still makes for a bittersweet childhood tale with elements of both laughter and sorrow, intensity and light on the heart.

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12. Palm Trees in the Snow (2015)

In the present day, a woman named Clarence finds diaries, photographs and other artefacts, which point to her family’s colonial past. Back in the day, in Equatorial Guinea, where her uncle Kilian had moved to from Spain in the ’60s, the country is enslaved and is in a deep state of despair. Kilian joins his brother who oversees a cocoa plantation that is tended by slave workers. Kilian develops a liking for Bisila, a woman working at a hospital. Apparently, Bisila is already married to another man and her affair with a man superior to their race (considerably, during the time), triggers a series of events leading to a major revolt in the country. The torrid love affair is surrounded by the grief-stricken nation that has been boggled by decades of slavery.

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11. Milk (2008)

This is the story of Harvey Milk (Sean Penn), San Francisco’s first openly gay elected official. We accompany him from his early days of civil rights activism to his assassination, only a few months after his election. Directed by Gus Van Sant, this biopic is extremely emotional and inspirational. Unless you are a rock, the life of Milk will make you cry tremendously. This happens not only because of Van Sant’s talent and humility but also because of the incredible performance of Sean Penn. Although the story happened forty years ago, the struggle and its message make the film relevant even today.

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10. Seven Pounds (2008)

Ben Thomas is the only survivor of a fatal car crash that has killed all the others involved, including his family members. Ben, a grief-stricken IRS officer, takes it upon himself to help “good” people out, as an act of benevolence. He begins with Emily, a woman who’s been suffering from a deadly ailment, and forgives her back-taxes, donates his organs to a local basketball coach out of sheer generosity and helps a single mother and her children escape from her abusive partner by donating the beach house that was gifted to him. Turns out, his real name is Tim Thomas and he’s been using his brother’s alias all the while. Before committing suicide in the end, he preserves his heart which is to be donated to Emily, that would save her life. If you don’t cry your heart out while watching ‘Seven Pounds’, you probably won’t cry upon watching any movie under the sky.

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9. The Theory of Everything (2014)

The real-life story of the most famous theoretical physicist of the world, the legendary Stephen Hawking, who himself called Eddie Redmayne’s performance in the film, along with the story, very close to his own life, ‘The Theory of Everything’ also went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for Eddie Redmayne.

The movie begins with Hawking as a young astrophysics student at the University of Cambridge, who meets with Jane Wilde (later Jane Hawking), a literature student. As they fall for each other, Stephen is diagnosed with the motor neurone disease, also known as the ALS syndrome, and is given two years’ time to live, before his bodily functions will cease. An adamant Jane still marries Hawking and bears his children, while Hawking’s health deteriorates and is completely dependent and wheelchair-ridden. The movie is replete with many of Hawking’s mind-boggling theories, outstanding speeches, and a tumultuous relationship shared by Hawking and Jane, followed by their separation. The movie is a grueling, intense narrative which will make you feel sad and happy at the same time.

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8. Atonement (2007)

Briony (Saoirse Ronan) witnesses something she doesn’t understand and tells a lie that sends her sister’s boyfriend Robbie (James McAvoy) to prison (and eventually the army). The film mainly follows how Briony’s claim ruins her relationship with her sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley). Joe Wright’s adaptation of Ian McEwan’s acclaimed novel is a rich drama with remarkable performances and stellar direction. Although not a war movie, it is set during World War II, which is a huge influence on the atmosphere and the characters. This is not a fast-paced film, it is rather a character study with a plot that slowly unravels, allowing you to be immersed in its atmosphere without even realizing it.

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7. Changeling (2008)

Based out on a real-life story, ‘Changeling’ is a riveting tale of a sullen mother and her endless search for her lost child, amid the corrupt police department of Los Angeles in the late ’20s. Christine’s son is missing and the police department, at the behest of their chief Captain J. J. Jones, convinces her that after five months of searching, they have found her child. Although Christine knows the boy isn’t her son she is pressurized to take him or face dire circumstances. Upon insisting that the police should re-initiate the search for Walter, Christine is sent to a mental correction facility where she’ll have to rely on the help of a preacher who vows to take upon the corrupt system.

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6. Boyhood (2014)

And now to a movie which took almost 12 years to finish filming. Richard Linklater’s critically-acclaimed masterpiece is all about growing up, facing the odds and making the right choices. The centrepiece of the movie is obviously the titular “boy”, the 6-year-old Mason back in 2002, who lives with his sister Samantha and single mother Olivia in Texas. Olivia marries an abusive alcoholic man, who changes in due course and the three of them have to escape the house again. Mason receives support from his father who takes him for camping, watching sports and rekindles his interest in photography as he enters college. Life isn’t that bad, is something that Mason learns, as Olivia is looking forward to getting into another relationship yet again. ‘Boyhood’ has been hailed as “epic” and had a perfect 100 score on Metacritic. It is only the sixth movie to accomplish the milestone.

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5. Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

In the 1980s, in Dallas, Ron Woodroof leads a careless life, doing drugs and having sex with hookers and promiscuous women. But suddenly, one day he discovers he has AIDS and, therefore, has only thirty days left to live. Woodroof refuses to give up on his life, desperately seeking alternative therapies and drugs. The man goes against the FDA to get drugs for himself from across the border, opens a club and makes good money, while still fighting his inner disease. ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ tells a fascinating true story that will leave no one indifferent. The performances of Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto are incredibly heartbreaking and mind-blowing.

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4. Lion (2016)

Grab your tissues before you start watching this one. ‘Lion’ is the story of Saroo, an Indian boy who gets separated from his family at the age of 5. He gets on board a train which takes him to Calcutta and becomes homeless. He wanders around, trying to find his way home back to his parents. He is placed in an orphanage from where he’s adopted by an Australian couple, John and Sue. Twenty years later, Saroo is narrating his story to his friends who urge him to use Google Earth and find the place he actually belongs to, in order to trace his parents. The rest of the story follows him as he scourges places to find his biological parents. ‘Lion’ is an uplifting drama, replete with mindblowing performances and memorable scenes. Watch it before it’s too late!

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3. Room (2015)

‘Room’ is the heartbreaking tale of a young boy who was born and brought up in a small room and has seen nothing of the outside world except the sunlight that comes in from the roof. As the story unfolds, it turns out that 5-year-old Jack and his Ma have been the captives of Nick, who keeps them in a small shed in his house’s backyard. Nick had kidnapped and raped Ma years ago and she’s been held captive ever since, even after giving birth to Jack. Nick occasionally comes to the shed when Jack hides in the closet while he has sex with Ma. As things go awry, Ma encourages Jack to escape and follow her instructions by the letter, which he does. He calls in the police and has Nick arrested. Then begins an uphill task for Jack to accommodate to the outside world like an infant does when he’s born. With a chilling narrative amid the backdrop of a tragic story, ‘Room’ is one of the best tear-jerkers I personally have ever watched.

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2. Cinema Paradiso (1988)

Winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, ‘Cinema Paradiso’ tells the story of a famous director who returns to his native village after receiving news that an old friend has died. This makes him reminiscence about his childhood and the relationships with their family and friends. He also remembers how he fell in love with cinema through the fatherly influence of Alfredo. This Italian coming of age film will make you fall in love with cinema even more. With beautiful cinematography and a heartbreaking story, ‘Cinema Paradiso’ is a film that will surely change the way you look at the world.

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1. Schindler’s List (1993)

‘Schindler’s List’ focuses on wealthy businessman Oskar Schindler, who spends his fortune and risks his life to save the lives of 1,100 Jewish men and women in German-occupied Poland. Winner of seven Oscars, ‘Schindler’s List’ tells an important story that reminds us that there are good people in the world trying to correct the mistakes of others. Steven Spielberg created a three-hour moving story that is cold and cruel but will win your heart. Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson deliver incredible performances and define the tone of the film.

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