10 Sad Movies on Netflix for Those Moments You Just Need to Cry
Sad Movies on Netflix – Sometimes you simply need to cry for a while. A moving movie has a way of being incredibly therapeutic, whether it be for a difficult breakup, a horrible day at work, the condition of the world, or simply because. In that case, Netflix’s selection of heartbreaking films (opens in new tab) offers a tonne to choose from to make you feel everything. See Marie Claire’s entire list of the saddest Netflix films below, which includes a helpful “ugly cry” ranking so you can stock up on tissues, ice cream, and water—you know, to rehydrate.
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Stars: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Diego Cortina Autrey, Carlos Peralta
The most personal and distant films by Alfonso Cuarón are both intimate. When the cinematographer-writer-director and his brothers were growing up in Mexico City decades ago, the camera sat back in black and white and was more interested in the indigenous lady (Yalitza Aparicio) who looked after them and the home.
Not even totally centred on her, rather more on the classical compositions of a location Cuarón remembers but which no longer exists. The foreground, mid-ground, and background features are shown to us in sharp digital clarity as the camera scans the scene and moves in trans-plane sequencing. The Dolby Atmos sound mix is immersive.
However, the fundamental aesthetic and story are Fellini, long-forgotten Mexican neorealism, or Tati’s Playtime, except sight gags have been replaced by social concern and introspective thought. Some have criticised Roma for being overly premeditated in what it wants to do, the balancing act it tries to pull off. Roma has been described as reserved and immersed, inward-looking and outward-looking, ancient and modern.
Maybe they’re right, but the fact that Cuarón actually succeeds in doing so speaks something about his skill as a careful technician and storyteller. The end result is a unique cinematic experience that reconstructs something that was lost and then navigates it to discover the emerging tale before discovering the emotional effect.
Because of this, when we reach that part of Roma late in the movie, we aren’t even aware of the gradual, organic process by which we have been completely immersed in the story; as a result, we aren’t prepared to be hit as hard as we are when the wallops arrive and the waves smash. Although it’s nearly intolerable, we put up with it because we care about the individuals we’ve been close to. This is how life is.
2. The Lost Daughter
Director: Maggie Gyllenhaal
Stars: Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson, Jessie Buckley, Paul Mescal, Dagmara Dominczyk, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Peter Sarsgaard, Ed Harris
Runtime: 124 minutes
The Lost Daughter’s Leda (Olivia Colman), a researcher of comparative literature, spends the most of the film’s time relaxing on a beach where the water is warm and transparent, the skies are a clear blue, and the sands are glistening white. However, the coastline is also overrun with rude, obnoxious people, Leda’s fruit has a deadly rot, her bedroom is filled with shrieking bugs, and a young girl’s toy has been tainted by an offensive black liquid and writhing insects.
The essence of the movie may be characterised by this tonal tension as a shiny apple that is quickly rotting from the inside out. Leda embarks on a luxury business holiday as the story unfolds over a few days. However, when she first sees Nina (Dakota Johnson), a stunning, mysterious young mother, her peace of mind is disturbed.
Leda gets fixated by Nina as she unintentionally triggers memories of her own unpleasant experiences as a mother. The eerie recollections of Leda begin to pervade The Lost Daughter at that point and continue until the apple is fully black. Although the storyline, which was adapted from Elena Ferrante’s 2006 novel of the same name, is rather simple, Maggie Gyllenhaal, the film’s first female director and screenwriter, approaches issues of internalised and externalised sexism with dexterity and subtlety.
Without Gyllenhaal’s exceptional visual sense, it would have been impossible to express Leda’s nuanced, complicated mental condition. Although most of Leda’s troubles are internal, I’m sure that Gyllenhaal’s distinctively tactile storytelling speaks far more than words ever could. Leda gently strokes Elena’s filthy doll, her touch seemingly tinged with remorse. The sound of the pin being inserted into Nina’s hat makes a menacing, sword-like sound, yet her meticulous placement is almost seductive.
And when a younger Leda carves orange flesh, her deft, careful cutting seems almost foreboding. The Lost Daughter’s major women have outstanding performances in addition to Gyllenhaal’s superb directing, creating a perfect storm that creates a sharp depiction of the harsh demands of femininity.
3. I Lost My Body
Director: Jérémy Clapin
Stars: Hakim Faris Hamza, Victoire Du Bois, Patrick d’Assumçao
Runtime: 81 minutes
I Lost My Body is a unique animated feature, increasingly of the sort that, honestly, don’t get created anymore. While we’re on board, at least passively, for as many sequels Pixar wants to give Toy Story, patient for however long another one takes. Mostly because it is a proudly mature animated picture, wrapped in obtuse narrative and drenched in melancholy, and partly because hand-drawn movies produced by tiny studios are rarer than ever.
Director Jérémy Clapin’s images, frequently limned in filth and decay, are beautiful in how revelatory they can be when tied so irrevocably to the perspective of a small hand navigating both its nascent life in the treacherous urban underground and the traumatic memories of its host body’s. The film is ostensibly about an anthropomorphic hand climbing and skittering its way across the city to find the person to whom it was once attached—the story I Lost My Body is a modest, quietly moving accomplishment that the Academy should give more priority than the usual decent large studio fare right now.
4. Marriage Story
Director: Noah Baumbach
Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Azhy Robertson, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Julie Hagerty, Merritt Wever
Adam Driver’s character in Marriage Story just finished singing “Being Alive” in its entirety, which included interaction from the characters’ friends. The way he closes the song feels like he is draining his remaining spirit in front of his little audience (which includes us).
The concert gets off to a kind of silly start when the uninvited theatre kid takes the stage and belts out one of Broadway’s greatest showstoppers, but then he adds in an aside, “Want anything… want something.” He starts to get it. He starts to comprehend the gravity of life, the disappointment of lost closeness, and what it could mean to truly grow up: to accept all those inconsistencies, all that loneliness and alienation. After the final notes and belt, he exhales deeply as he finally understands that he needs to mature, let go of his old life, and create something new.
The difficulty of creating a “genuine self,” whatever meaningless the concept may be, is made worse by a cultural environment that refuses to acknowledge that “authenticity” is as much a performance as anything else these days. Identity work is unpleasant and difficult. Everyone, I believe, is figuring out how to be themselves in relation to people around them. Bobby, the 35-year-old protagonist of Stephen Sondheim’s 1970 musical Company, is currently engaged in doing just that.
The setting compels the observer to draw links between their humanity, the artwork they are enjoying, and the planet that is eroding away around them. Charlie grabs the microphone as he realises he needs to decide what to do next in order to put his life back together. He is exhausted. We’re all putting it together collectively. or at least attempting to. That is significant in some way.
5. A Silent Voice
Director: Naoko Yamada
Stars: Miyu Irino, Saori Hayami, Aoi Yuki, Kensho Ono, Yuki Kaneko, Yui Ishikawa, Megumi Han, Toshiyuki Toyonaga, Mayu Matsuoka
Runtime: 129 minutes
Naoko Yamada’s presence is a welcome breath of fresh air in a medium that too frequently feels at times constrained by the primacy of masculine aesthetic sensibilities and saturated with hyper-sexualized portrayals of women coded as “fan service,” to say nothing of the unmatched quality of her films.
Yamada is a master director, able to capture viewers’ attention and evoke melancholy and bittersweet catharsis through delicate compositions of deft sound, quick editing, ephemeral colour palettes, and characters with rich inner lives rife with knotty, relatable struggles. Yamada is inspired by filmmakers like Yasujiro Ozu, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Sergei Parajanov, Sofia Coppola, and Lucile.
One of the best examples of all these sensibilities in action is the movie A Silent Voice, which was adapted from Yoshitoki Oima’s manga of the same name. In primary school, deaf transfer student Shoko Nishimiya is bullied mercilessly by Shoya Ishida, much to his classmates’ enjoyment.
When Shoya goes too far one day, causing Shoko to move again out of concern for her safety, his classmates label him a pariah and he withdraws into a condition of self-imposed isolation and self-hatred.
Years later, Shoya runs across Shoko again, this time as teens, and makes an effort to atone for the hurt he caused her, all the while struggling to comprehend his own reasons for doing so. A Silent Voice is a moving depiction of teenage abuse, reconciliation, and forgiveness for the wrongs done by others and by ourselves. It has a great deal of emotional depth.
6. The Nightingale
Director: Jennifer Kent
Stars: Aisling Franciosi, Sam Claflin, Baykali Ganambarr
When The Nightingale is referred to be a vengeance movie, the audience is led to believe that it would ultimately succeed in exacting harsh retribution on the wrongdoers. Let it be known that Jennifer Kent’s sequel to her 2014 breakthrough film The Babadook lacks such catharsis. Even while revenge is a dish that is best served cold, in movies, it is either prepared with fist-pumping zeal or soul-crushing sobriety.
The Nightingale continues to follow the latter’s recipe. Although this film is neither enjoyable nor agreeable, it is produced with great artistic value to counteract its unyielding pitilessness: The leading trio of Aisling Franciosi, Baykali Ganambarr, and Sam Claflin, who play Clare, an Irish convict driven by rage, Billy, an Aboriginal tracker driven by vengeance, and Hawkins, a British military officer driven by cold ambition and bottomless malice and who also serves as Clare’s master and rapist, deliver ferociously performed performances in this meticulously constructed film.
In 1820s Tasmania during the Black War, when English colonists massacred Aboriginal Tasmanians to the point of near extinction, they were three peas in a hideous pod. In the lengthy history of the nation, this is a distinctly dismal period. Thus, The Nightingale is a suitably gloomy movie; but, Kent is too astute a director to claim that Billy’s pain is equal to or superior to Clare’s anguish. She is aware of what must occur in order for Clare’s and Billy’s roles in the narrative to be fulfilled.
She has accomplished a remarkable feat by balancing the two so expertly. There are lots of horrors in The Nightingale, although it differs greatly from The Babadook in terms of genre and style: Clare dances with Aidan, then with Hawkins and her other assailants, in the beats of her nightmare.
But by narrating Billy’s story alongside Clare’s, the movie deepens Kent’s interest in women’s experiences and once again demonstrates her talent for making familiar genre components feel fresh. While The Nightingale rejects the typical joys of vengeance movie, it also unearths fresh ones.
Director: James Cameron
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane
Runtime: 194 minutes
Even decades after it first screened in theatres, James Cameron’s blockbuster epic is still so pervasive in popular culture that its technical achievements are overshadowed by nostalgia for young Kate and Leo and that damned Celine Dion caterwaul (not to mention the now-deceased James Horner’s iconic score).
Cameron is a skilled storyteller who places a Romeo and Juliet remake aboard the sinking ocean liner and surrounds the made-up romance with historical details, ground-breaking special effects, and jaw-dropping images despite his painfully leaden ear for speech. The dialogue is terrible, the story lapses are occasionally mind-boggling (let’s face it, old Rose is a selfish jerk who throws a priceless artefact into the depths after waxing lyrical about herself), and Billy Zane gives his best mustache-twirling silent movie villain performance, but Titanic is still a painstaking testament to the all-out Hollywood spectacle.
Director: Stephen Frears
Stars: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Mare Winningham
Runtime: 98 minutes
The story of Philomena centres on a woman’s search for her son, who the Irish Catholic church “sold off” 50 years prior. The narrative is based on the 2009 nonfiction book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, written by BBC journalist Martin Sixsmith. It stars Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, and it is much more tragic than it already is. After a tryst culminates in pregnancy in 1950s Ireland, young Philomena (Sophie Kennedy Clarke) is abandoned by her family. She was sent to the Roscrea convent, where she works in the laundry to cover her living expenses as well as her sins.
She and the other new mothers are given one hour each day to be with their kids. Prior to Anthony being adopted on Christmas 1955, Philomena and her son Anthony follow this strict routine for over three years. The elderly Philomena (Dench) tells her daughter the secret she’s been harbouring for over fifty years. To assist Philomena in her quest for her missing kid, they contact Sixsmith (Coogan), a recently sacked British government spokesman and former BBC journalist. Even while discussing “chemistry” is typically reserved for romantic on-screen interactions, it definitely applies here.
Their dissimilar roles develop a convincing connection between Dench and Coogan. They skillfully manipulate the yin and yang, and we observe as the characters both change as a result of their shared experiences in little but significant ways. If the bittersweet mystery had focused exclusively on bad nuns or a Catholic Church cover-up, it may have easily veered into maudlin, tabloid territory. Instead, as it chronicles the hunt for the truth and poses doubts about faith, infallibility, and family, Philomena injects much-needed comedy. Even when the reality seems impossible to believe, Frears’ steady directing and the sharp, thought-provoking language keep the movie grounded.
9. Steel Magnolias
Director: Herbert Ross
Stars: Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis, Julia Roberts, Tom Skerritt, Sam Shepard
Runtime: 118 minutes
The relationships among a group of women in Louisiana are documented in this novel, which is based on a theatre play by Robert Harling. The play explores the common (and life-altering) tragedies of friendship and love, marriage and parenting, disease and lives cut short as it was inspired by the playwright’s sister’s death from problems related to diabetes.
Although Sally Field’s performance is perhaps the centrepiece, Steel Magnolias also stars Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis, Daryl Hannah, and Julia Roberts. It is widely considered as having launched Roberts into prominence. Although it isn’t very smart, the movie is empathetic and offers a modest and gracious testament to the strength of female friendship.
10. Little Women
Director: Gillian Armstrong
Stars:: Winona Ryder, Kirsten Dunst, Christian Bale, Claire Danes, Susan Sarandon
Runtime: 118 minutes
There have been several and varied adaptations of Louisa May Alcott’s classic 19th-century book about a close-knit Massachusetts family living through and after the Civil War, but perhaps none are as well-known as 1994’s Little Women. This 󈨞s dream cast of March girls includes Winona Ryder as Jo, Kirsten Dunst and Samantha Mathis as Amy, Claire Danes as Beth, Trini Alvarado as Meg, and Susan Sarandon as Marmee.
The film is directed by Gillian Armstrong and written by Robin Swicord. With the movie’s love interests, notably Eric Stoltz as John Brook and Christian Bale as Laurie, the hits simply kept coming. The only thing holding this story back from being perfect and completely moving is how much unmistakable connection there is between Jo and Laurie.
Yes, Beth breaks our hearts (Danes’ chin quiver is working) and Amy is a brat (later rehabilitated), but why would Jo ever toss this Laurie to the side when their interactions gleam with such a ferocious connection? Sadly, Gabriel Byrne’s poignant portrayal of Friedrich Bhaer helps ease the burn a little bit, though the Jo/Laurie faithful won’t find peace here.
Warmth, from stoked emotions to comfortable family moments of forgiveness and atonement around a fireside, is really the operative word for this adaptation of Little Women. This makes the adaptation just as endearing as the original, especially when combined with an outstanding ensemble and a well-considered historical style.
Watch These Sad Movies on Netflix