There are few things as therapeutic as a good cry. You know the kind of cry we're talking about–it’s the Jim-and-Pam-finally-got-together cry or the that’s-so-sad-it’s-beautiful cry, not the I-just-closed-my-finger-in-the-door cry. It’s the kind of cry that you can virtually guarantee when you press play on a tearjerker like Blue Valentine or any of the other movies on this list. So prepare your tear ducts, cancel your plans, and get both the movies and the tears streaming tonight with this list of super sad movies to watch on Netflix for romance fans. From breakup movies to stories of romance that endures despite all odds, all of these films will inspire the kind of catharsis that only a good cry (and sometimes, laughter through tears!) can.
This article will be updated periodically to reflect changes to Netflix Streaming.
A surprisingly steamy period film, Becoming Jane is the gripping story of a real-life romance between author Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway) and Thomas Lefroy (James McAvoy), an Irish barrister of ill repute. Much like the first meeting between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, Thomas makes a terrible first impression on Jane. As the pair become more acquainted during a series of chance meetings, Tom and Jane realize that they have found an intellectual equal in the other. Crucially, Tom is also genuinely supportive of Jane's dream of becoming a writer. But when the pair are ready to admit their feelings for one another, their path to marriage is blocked by Tom's uncle and mentor, a judge who deems Anne's family too poor to make a suitable match. Tom and Anne struggle to continue their romance even as the demands of the world threaten to tear them apart. A heartbreaking and hot story of love that endures long after lovers are separated, Becoming Jane will delight fans of Jane Austen and regency romance in general.
Nights in Rodanthe
Based on the Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name, Nights in Rodanthe stars Diane Lane as Adrienne. After recently learning her husband (Christopher Meloni) had an affair, Adrienne heads to a bed and breakfast her friends owns on the North Carolina coast to consider whether to leave him or stay in the marriage and keep their family together. A fellow guest at the inn, Paul (Richard Gere), is a surgeon who is visiting Rodanthe to wrestle with demons from an operation he performed that ended in tragedy. When a hurricane unexpectedly blows in, Adrienne and Paul ride out the storm together. As they brave the elements, they bond over their similar family dramas — and give in to passion they each thought they were long past. But when Paul heads to South America to reunite with his son, Adrienne finds their love challenged by a cruel blow of fate.
This bittersweet breakup movie follows a relationship from meet-cute to heartbreaking but necessary goodbye. Nate (Lakeith Stanfield) and Jenny (Gina Rodriguez) have been together for nine years, since their passionate first meeting at a New York University party. But when Jenny gets a once-in-a-lifetime job offer with Rolling Stone in San Francisco, Nate breaks up with her rather than do long distance. Eager to distract herself from the reality of her breakup, Gina gets her three best friends together for a day of raucous partying. Although the movie is bawdy and very, very funny, it's ultimately a tear-inducing exploration of the pain of choosing one's own future over a relationship. Ultimately, Nate and Jenny's decision to separate is a healthy one. But watching them accept that their relationship is truly over despite the fact that they still love each other is gut-wrenching and, for most viewers, all too familiar.
The Theory of Everything
This biopic chronicles the love between Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his first wife, Jane Hawking (Felicity Jones). The pair quickly fall in love after meeting at Oxford, despite their obvious differences: Jane is religious and a student of literature, while Stephen is an atheist studying astrophysics. The pair both challenge and support each other, and marry soon after Stephen is diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. Over the years, even as Stephen and Jane's lives begin to pull them apart from the other, the movie shows the couple maintaining a respect for each other and a gratitude for the time they spent together even after they've separated. A bittersweet breakup movie that also offers fascinating insight into one of the most influential scientists of the modern era, The Theory of Everything makes perfect streaming for a night when you feel like learning something while you have a good cry.
An intimate portrait of an unraveling young relationship, 6 Years is Blue Valentine for the late-teens and early-twenties set. Dan (Ben Rosenfield) and Melanie (Taissa Farmiga) have been together for six years. Now that they're approaching the end of college in Austin, Texas, their relationship is beginning to crack under the pressure of impending changes. Most tellingly, Melanie pushes Ben in a moment of drunken anger after he chastises her for driving drunk. The couple wind up spending the night in an emergency room, concerned about Ben's head injury and questioning what this moment of anger reveals about their future. When a surprising opportunity arises for Ben in New York, the two must reckon with their doubts head-on. Spanning a period of two weeks, 6 Years will undoubtedly be a cathartic watch for anyone who's still a little in mourning for lost relationships from their college days.
Based on the novel of the same name by David Nicholls, One Day's mere presence on this list is a spoiler—but given how brutal the ending is, maybe it's best to have some warning. The movie follows friends Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Jim Sturgess) over the course of the same day annually for eighteen years. It chronicles them from their graduation at the University of Edinburgh onwards, as they weather respective familial tragedies, breakups, and volatile careers, while each in denial of their feelings for the other...until they can't hold back any longer.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is an award-winning adventure fantasy film by Ang Lee that chronicles two tortured, tragic romances. Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-fat) is a renowned fighter who has long harbored feelings for Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh). But because Shu Lien was once engaged to Mu Bai's now-deceased closest friend, the pair have always denied their feelings. The movie follows the pair's quest to retrieve the stolen "Green Sword" of destiny, while weaving their story together with the unlikely relationship between Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyi)—the governor's daughter—and the desert bandit Lo (Chen Chang). A gripping blend of incredible martial arts and heartbreaking drama, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon continues to enthrall nearly two decades after it first hit theaters.
One of the saddest depictions ever on film of a dysfunctional relationship between two very attractive people, Blue Valentine switches back and forth from the early romance between Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams), and the final days of their longterm relationship. When they first meet, college dropout Dean is a mover, and Cindy is an aspiring doctor dating fellow student Bobby. After several chance meetings, the two start dating and soon fall head-over-heels for each other. When Cindy learns she is pregnant with Bobby's baby, Dean says he wants to raise the baby as his own, and Cindy and Dean marry.
Five years later, the couple live in rural Pennsylvania with their daughter, Frankie. Both Dean and Cindy struggle with the ways their current life differs from the life they had dreamed of. Dean tries to revive some of the intimacy that was once between them, but his desperate attempts at romance only lead to frustration for both of them.
Ultimately, the conflicts between Dean and Cindy will likely be uncomfortably familiar for anyone who has ever endured a breakup (in other words, the vast majority of viewers). Gosling and Williams' incredible performances make this mundane suffering luminous, and cement Blue Valentine as possibly the #1 Sad Relationship Movie out there.
Abbie (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Sam (Michiel Huisman) are childhood sweethearts engaged to be married. But their idyllic romance faces unexpected tragedy when Abbie is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Concerned that Sam—a notoriously awkward dater—won't be able to pick up the pieces after she passes away, Abbie throws herself into trying to find a new partner for him to fall in love with. Predictably, though, Abbie becomes so focused on trying to save Sam from future grief, that she's unable to be present in the time they have left.
Irreplaceable You is a predictable movie that never quite takes off—but if you're looking for a romance that will leave you helplessly sobbing, look no further.
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For '90s babies, this is the definitive adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel Little Women. The story centers around the vivacious, headstrong March sisters, five girls raised by their mother Marmee (Susan Sarandon) in Massachusetts during the Civil War era. Although they're not as wealthy as their best friend and next-door neighbor Laurie (a very young and floppy-haired Christian Bale), the March sisters are rich in creativity and good company. That's what makes the loss which ultimately befalls the March family so heartbreaking. For many millennials, Little Women may have been one of the first movies they watched without a conflict-free happy ending.
Y Tu Mamá También
Teenagers Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna) are best friends despite the class divide between them—Julio comes from a middle class family, while Tenoch's father is a government official. With their girlfriends away in Italy for the summer, the two invite older woman Luisa (Maribel Verdu) to join them on a roadtrip to a secluded beach. Having just learned of her husband's infidelity, Luisa surprises the boys by taking them up on their offer, and the rag-tag group set out on a journey that will be marked by sexual manipulation and revelations of unfaithfulness. Simultaneously erotic and unsettling, the movie takes a heartbreaking look at a woman determined to finally live her life on her own terms, and at the way masculinity can both bond and divide men.
The Place Beyond the Pines
Another tearjerker from the director behind Blue Valentine, The Place Beyond the Pines follows the doomed, toxic romance between Luke (Ryan Gosling) and Romina (Eva Mendes). Luke turns to bank robbing to support Romina and their child, and his decision creates a legacy of pain and frustration that will echo across generations and families.
Featured still from "Becoming Jane" via Buena Vista International