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. From musicals to animated movies, 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.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
This bittersweet romantic sci-fi film from director Michel Gondry will have you weeping over all your lost loves. When Clementine (Kate Winslet) and Joel (an uncharacteristically restrained Jim Carrey) meet on a commuter train to Montauk, they both feel drawn to each other. Neither of them remembers that they in fact share a very intimate past — after first meeting at a house in Montauk, Joel and Clementine dated for two years, before things ended bitterly. Desperate to get over the relationship, Clementine elected to have her memories of Joel erased under the supervision of Lacuna Inc.. When Joel learned of her decision via mutual friends, he also had the memory-erasing procedure done. Now, the separated pair have come together again, in a strange echo of their first meeting — and as they begin to discover their shared past, they must decide whether trying again is worth the prospect of potential heartbreak.
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.
Good Will Hunting
A classic I'm-crying-but-it-feels-so-good movie, Good Will Hunting features one of the late Robin Williams' greatest performances ever as Sean, a Boston-area therapist grieving the death of his wife. Matt Damon in his breakout role stars as Will Hunting, a mathematical genius from the wrong side of the tracks who works as a janitor at MIT. When a MIT professor discovers Will's natural aptitude, he manages to get Will a softer sentence after the struggling twenty-year-old assaults a cop: Will is spared jail time, with the understanding that he'll study with the professor and attend sessions with Sean. As Sean and Will work together, Sean finds his grief over his wife slowly healing, and Will develops new hopes for the future—including his romantic relationship with Harvard student Skylar (Minnie Driver).
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.
The English Patient
The English Patient took home 12 Academy Awards in 1997, and it's not hard to see why. 21 years later, this sweeping tearjerker about a badly burned man recollecting a past passionate love affair continues to inspire strong emotion in viewers. Ralph Fiennes plays the titular British patient, who has been severely burned in an accident in the Sahara and is now being cared for by Hana (Juliette Binoche), a Canadian nurse. Set against the backdrop of World War II-era, the movie follows connections made by lost souls staying in the ruins of an Italian monastery. As the patient begins to regain his memories, he tells Hana about the intense, overwhelming affair he had prior to his accident with married woman Katharine Clifton (Kristin Scott Thomas).
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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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.
The Lovely Bones
Although The Lovely Bones ends on an optimistic note, it opens with horrifying events that may be triggering to some viewers. Based on the bestselling 2002 novel of the same name by Alice Sebold, this Peter Jackson-directed movie follows Susie Salmon, a 14-year-old who watches her family and friends from the afterlife after she's brutally murdered by her older male neighbor. As Susie's family tries to come to terms with her death, Susie yearns for vengeance and to fulfill the final wishes she had during life. Although the movie does have a small romantic component, its ultimate focus is on the enduring, graceful love that exists between us and everyone we care for during our life, even after we're gone.
This Civil War-era drama centers on the tortured romance between preacher's daughter Ada (Nicole Kidman) and carpenter Inman (Jude Law). The two strike up a slow courtship in their small North Carolina town of Cold Mountain, but their newfound love is put on hold when Inman leaves to fight on the Confederate side of the Civil War. The movie follows the tragedies both lovers face during their time apart, and chronicles Inman's odyssey home after deserting the army at Ada's request.
Cold Mountain tells a bleakly sensuous tale about romance during wartime, and was highly celebrated at the 2004 Academy Awards. The production value and performances remain compelling 14 years later, although the movie's depiction of race — or, more specifically, its near-total exclusion of black characters in a movie about the Civil War— is increasingly glaring. Cold Mountain may still be worth a watch, but is probably best viewed with some critical distance.
Featured still from "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" via Sony Pictures Classics.