Last Updated: February 15th
Sad movies take a lot of forms, but this list of Netflix films hits the big buttons — think movies about star-crossed love, broken friendships, death, and Adam Driver yelling a bunch while punching a wall.
Regardless of what gets your tear ducts primed and pumping, there is something on this list of must-watch streaming sobfests that will find your heart’s soft spot. “Enjoy” the 15 saddest movies on Netflix right now.
Related: The Best Dramas On Netflix Right Now
Marriage Story (2019)
Run Time: 136 min | IMDb: 8.1/10
Noah Baumbach’s star-studded divorce drama is pure Oscar bait, but in the best way. The film takes a look at messy breakups with Scarlett Johansson playing an actress and mother named Nicole, who is intent on separating from her stage director husband Charlie (Adam Driver). Laura Dern and Ray Liotta play their hard-hitting lawyers, who don’t help in diffusing the tension and resentment building between the pair when Nicole moves herself and their son across the country. It’s an intimate look at the emotional wreckage of a divorce and the struggle to put a family back together again, and it’s carried by some brilliant performances by Driver and Johansson.
Run Time: 111 min | IMDb: 7.4/10
Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight will always be remembered for winning the Academy Award for Best Picture after a mix-up that initially named La La Land as the winner. But that’s just an asterisk attached to a momentous coming-of-age story set over three eras in a young man’s life as he grows up in Miami, grappling with the sexuality he feels will make him even more of an outcast while searching for guidance that his drug-addicted mother (Naomie Harris) can’t provide. The film is both lyrical and moving and won justifiable acclaim for its talented cast, including a Best Supporting Actor award for Mahershala Ali as a sympathetic drug dealer.
Fruitvale Station (2013)
Run Time: 85 min | IMDb: 7.5/10
Michael B. Jordan carries this powerful drama from Ryan Coogler. The film marks Coogler’s debut and covers the true story of Oscar Grant III, a Bay-Area resident who was killed in 2009 by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle at the Fruitvale district station of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system in Oakland. Rather than focusing solely on the tragedy, Coogler weaves a compelling story of a young man who wrestled with his past and had hope for his future just before his life was taken from him.
The Lovely Bones (2009)
Run Time: 135 min | IMDb: 6.7/10
We don’t know what’s more depressing about this crime drama — the fact that Saoirse Ronan’s character is killed off so early, or that national treasure Stanley Tucci plays the murderous bad guy. Either way, Mark Wahlberg puts in some serious work playing the grief-stricken father of a murdered teenage girl who’s trying to find answers while also holding his family together.
Run Time: 135 min | IMDb: 8.7/10
Oscar-winning writer/director Alfonso Cuaron delivers what may be his most personal film to date. The stunningly-shot black-and-white film is an ode to Cuaron’s childhood and a love letter to the women who raised him. Following the journey of a domestic worker in Mexico City named Cleo, the movie interweaves tales of personal tragedy and triumph amidst a backdrop of political upheaval and unrest.
The Pianist (2002)
Run Time: 150 min | IMDb: 8.5/10
An Oscar-winning Adrien Brody leads this World War II drama based on a true story about a Polish-Jewish pianist forced to survive during Nazi occupation. Władysław Szpilman, a talented musician, finds himself in Warsaw during the height of WWII where he helps to lead an uprising in a Jewish ghetto before being forced to flee for his life from German soldiers. Brody went full method for the role, losing a dangerous amount of weight to play a tormented, tortured Szpilman, so you kind of owe it to the guy to watch this one.
The Sky Is Pink (2019)
Run Time: 143 min | IMDb: 7.5/10
Priyanka Chopra stars in this absolute tearjerker from Indian director Shonali Bose, playing a woman named Aditi whose epic love story is told in the past and present tense by her daughter. Spanning decades, we see Aditi’s relationship with her husband play out from the eyes of her spunky teenage daughter who was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. It’s devastating yet hopeful — the perfect combo to get those tear ducts working.
Pieces Of A Woman (2021)
Run Time: 126 min | IMDb: 7.1/10
Be warned: this film is basically two hours’ worth of emotional terrorism. You should still watch it, mostly because Vanessa Kirby delivers a star-making performance as Martha, a young woman who experiences a terrible loss and goes on a year-long journey to cope with it. Shia LaBeouf plays her husband, who kind of crumbles under his own grief, and Ellen Burstyn plays Martha’s overbearing mom. The sad bits never really let up, but then again, that’s what you’re here for, right?
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)
Run Time: 118 min | IMDb: 7.8/10
Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio star in this heartbreaking family drama about a young man struggling to care for his disabled brother and morbidly obese mother. Depp plays the titular Gilbert Grape, a kid with plenty of dreams and even more responsibilities keeping him from pursuing them. DiCaprio plays his mentally challenged younger brother Arnie who relies on Gilbert and their mother — a woman whose weight threatens her health — for everything. It’s a tearjerker for sure, but it’s also brilliantly acted and painfully relatable.
The Fundamentals Of Caring (2016)
Run Time: 97 min | IMDb: 7.3/10
Paul Rudd is at his most charming and charismatic here. He plays a newly trained caregiver to a distant teenager with muscular dystrophy named Trevor. After some icebreaking, the two set out on a trip to see some of the most boring roadside attractions middle America has to offer. It’s a bit more optimistic and feel-good than others on this list but don’t let Paul Rudd’s cuddly vibes fool you — there will be tears.
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
Run Time: 117 min | IMDb: 8/10
Will Smith and his son Jaden Smith share the screen in this Oscar-nominated tearjerker about a struggling salesman trying to provide for his family. Smith plays Chris Gardner, a man at the end of his rope who’s looking to make a fresh start in a new career. When Gardner’s ex splits, leaving him to take care of their young son, we watch as he attempts to create a better life for them both despite the setbacks and roadblocks put in his path. It’s heavy, emotional work that Smith does here. It’s also some of his best.
The Florida Project (2017)
Run Time: 111 min | IMDb: 7.6/10
Willen Dafoe lends his name to this little indie that generated plenty of buzz during awards season just a few years ago. It follows the story of six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) who lives with her mother in a run-down motel near Walt Disney World. Moonee, along with a couple of kids also living at the motel, gets into all sorts of mischief while her mom works first as an exotic dancer, then resorts to prostitution when things get rough. Poor and neglected, Moonee still finds joy in her unforgiving environment and though things end on a bittersweet note, this feels like one of the more hopeful movies on this list.
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Run Time: 134 min | IMDb: 7.7/10
Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal star in this beautifully moving Queer love story that felt very much ahead of its time when it premiered over a decade ago. Ledger plays Ennis, and Gyllenhall plays Jack. The two are friends and shepherds whose bond deepens during a herding trip they take one summer. Afraid to reveal their feelings for each other, the two men go on to marry and have children, meeting up over the years as the film explores the resilient nature of true love and the cost of embracing an identity that the world doesn’t want you to have.
Run Time: 24 min | IMDb: 7.3/10
Clocking in at 24 minutes, the Oscar-nominated Extremis really would only work as a short, as its subject matter is almost unbearably heavy. Following terminal patients, their families, and their doctors, the tearjerker zeros in on the decision that many people are forced to make: whether to end a life or keep struggling to hold on. Netflix’s first foray into short documentary, it’s raw insight that can be rough for anyone who has been in similar shoes or spent any time facing dire choices in a hospital.
Les Miserables (2012)
Run Time: 158 min | IMDb: 7.6/10
Before he gave us the truly horrifying theatrical interpretation of Cats, director Tom Hooper helmed another stage-to-screen adaptation, this one centering on revolutionary-era France. Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, and Eddie Redmayne lead the cast of this star-powered vehicle which took home three Oscars and tells the tragic story of Fantine (Hathaway), a prostitute who gives up her daughter and Jean Valjean (Jackman) a man hounded by a dogged policeman. Their lives connect in interesting ways over the years but be prepared, Hathaway’s performance will break your soul.
Recent Updates Through May 2021
Added: The Lovely Bones
Removed: War Horse