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, or even the why-can't-they-just-be-happy-together 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 this February 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 streaming.
Searching for a devastating breakup movie? We submit Marriage Story for your consideration. The Netflix Original hit streaming December 6th, 2019 and stars Adam Driver as Charlie, a New York theater director married to actress Nicole (Sacrlett Johansson).
Charlie and Nicole are raising their young son in New York while collaborating on theater. Already struggling to feel close to each other in the way they used to, the pair face uncertainty in their marriage when Nicole moves to Los Angeles for a work opportunity, taking their son with her.
When Charlie visits his family in L.A., his sister-in-law serves him with divorce papers from Nicole. From there, Nicole and Charlie find themselves caught in the traumatic bureaucracy of divorce, even as they struggle to remain friends and preserve goodwill for the sake of their son.
Although Marriage Story will definitely be emotional for anyone who's ever gone through a breakup, or witnessed a breakup between their parents, it's also surprisingly wry and funny. Director Noah Baumbach highlights the dehumanizing legal minutia of divorce in a way that's darkly comedic and always relatable.
I Am Jonas
Available for streaming March 6.
This queer French foreign film centers around Jonas (Félix Maritaud/Nicolas Bauwens) during two key times in his life. The first timeline follows him when he’s a young teenager in the mid-90s, centering around his discovery of his sexuality as he falls for the new bad-boy, Nathan (Tommy-Lee Baïk). The second timeline occurs 18 years later, when Jonas is an attractive but chaotic adult, living his life impulsively as he remains tangled in the past. Intriguing elements of mystery are woven into this romantic drama, as the nonlinear look at Jonas’ past and present build to reveal he’s weighed down by inescapable trauma.
This film acts as both a poignant coming-of-age story and an intimate look at the psychological baggage of the past. It’s a perfect movie for those who know exactly how hard it is to let some things—especially first loves—go. This absolutely haunting, touching, and realistic film will have your heart aching by the end.
Based on the Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name, Dear John is a romantic film about a John, a soldier (Channing Tatum) who falls in love with Savannah (Amanda Seyfried) while on leave in Charleston, South Carolina during the spring of 2001. When he returns to deployment, the two decide to keep in touch by writing letters. They only need to make it to the end of the year—John’s deployment will end that December.
But once the tragic events of September 11 occur, John decides to re-enlist. After two years of continuing their relationship through letters, Savannah writes John a literal “Dear John” letter—she still loves him, but she’s fallen for someone else.
Without giving too much away, the film’s sad moments don’t quite end there—to find out whether John and Savannah manage to find their way back to one another, you’ll have to watch (or read) this one for yourself.
Another Nicholas Sparks book-turned-film, The Notebook is perhaps the most quintessential sad romantic movie ever made. (Don’t tell Titanic we said that.) From their adorable young summer romance—”If you’re a bird, I’m a bird”—to their heart-wrenching breakup, it’s a film filled with moments that still give us chills, every time.
In case you need a recap (it does get hard to see through tear-filled eyes, after all), here’s the gist: It’s 1940, and lower class boy (Noah) and upper class girl (Allie) have a magical few months together—until her family tears them apart.
When Allie doesn’t ever hear anything from Noah, she tries to move on, even becoming engaged to another man a few years later. But when she sees in the paper that Noah has built the dream home they imagined together that summer, she knows she needs to see him again.
For those viewers who love animated films and the macabre aesthetic of Tim Burton, the 2005 film Corpse Bride is the perfect romantic tearjerker. In an old Victorian village, Victor Van Dort (Johnny Depp) is about to enter into an arranged marriage with Victoria Everglot (Emily Watson). As the two of them are from completely different worlds, it should be a disaster—the Van Dorts are fish merchants who have come into new money, while the Everglots are a high society family who have fallen into poverty. Despite their nerves at marrying a stranger, upon their first meeting Victor and Victoria find themselves smitten.
However, as a nervous Victor practices his wedding vows in a forest, he makes a “grave mistake.” The titular corpse bride, Emily (Helena Bonham Carter), rises from the ground to tell Victor his vows have rendered them married. As his zombie bride whisks him away to the underworld, his true, living love waits for him—but for how long?
Any movie where one the main characters starts off dead is bound to be at least a little harrowing. This film does such a beautiful job with such a complicated situation, as you really root for both Emily and Victor, even if their goals are at odds. And for anyone who’s ever felt like they’re doomed to bounce between terrible loneliness and a life spent with the wrong person, this movie is sure to hit close to home.
1 Mile to You
1 Mile to You is undeniably cheesy, but it's also the kind of movie that will leave you an inconsolable, snotty mess. If you need some catharsis, you'll get it from this story of Kevin (Graham Rogers).
Kevin is a star track athlete whose world is shattered when his girlfriend and several of his friends are killed in a freak accident. In the wake of the devastating loss, Kevin's parents move him to a new school to give him a chance to start over. But Kevin continues to push himself as a runner, finding that it's easier to reconnect with the memory of his girlfriend in the moments immediately following a race.
His coach (Billy Crudup) and a nosy neighborhood girl help Kevin move on from punishing himself and discover a way of competing that's about celebrating life while still grieving.
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.
Arrives on streaming February 12.
“Happy families are all alike, every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” These are the famous first lines of the Russian novel Anna Karenina, on which this 2012 romantic drama was based. The film stars Keira Knightley in the title role, with Jude Law playing her husband, Karenin, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as her love interest, Count Vronsky.
From the moment they meet—ironically, while Anna and Karenin are visiting her sister-in-law, Princess Darya, to convince her to forgive her Anna’s cheating brother—Anna and Vronsky are attracted to one another. Though Anna is married and there are other women interested in Vronsky, he only has eyes for Anna. Soon, the two begin an affair.
Of course, it’s difficult for Anna and Vronsky to find happiness together—as soon as the scandals get out, Anna is ostracized from her social circles. The couple flees together to Italy...but they soon realize they can’t run from their problems indefinitely.
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.
Life as We Know It
After being set up on a blind date, Holly Berenson (Katherin Heigl) and Eric Messer (Josh Duhamel) find themselves locked in a battle of mutual hatred. But when their best friends die in a tragic car accident, they both become the guardians of their orphaned one-year-old daughter, Sophie. Linked together in a reluctant and mismatched family, Holly and Messer have to do right by the people they’ve loved and lost and put their differences aside to do what’s best for the child.
While the film is mainly framed as a romantic comedy, it definitely has its heavier and heart wrenching moments. Putting a tumultuous love story on top of a different tragedy makes every beat hit harder, and even the softer, happier moments feel a little bittersweet.
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. But 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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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.
Set in a near-future L.A., this Spike Jonze movie follows Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), a writer going through a divorce from the woman he has loved since childhood. When Theodore downloads an AI named Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) to his phone, he finds himself opening up to her more than he has to the humans in his life.
As Theodore and Samantha develop an intimate relationship, Theodore questions what it means that the woman he has the closest relationship to isn't a human at all. A bittersweet depiction of contemporary romance and loneliness, Her will resonate with anyone who's ever felt isolated during the break-up of a long term relationship.
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Our Souls at Night
This Netflix original is an adaptation of the bestselling novel of the same name by Kent Haruf. Addie (Jane Fonda), a widow, has lived next to widower Louis (Robert Redford) for years.
Tired of the isolation and lack of intimacy that have come with age, Addie visits her neighbor with an unconventional proposition: They're both lonely, why shouldn't they sleep in the same bed at night to keep each other company?
As Addie says, her idea isn't about sex, it's about getting through the night and feeling close to another person.
Although taken aback, Louis agrees to give Addie's experiment a try. Soon, the pair find that their newfound relationship is awakening forgotten feelings in them — including old griefs. Although the blossoming romance between Addie and Louis is swoon-worthy, the movie's exploration of how past traumas live on in new relationships is bittersweet.
Featured still from "Dear John" via Screen Gems