40 Movies to Cry – the Saddest Films of All Time

Have you ever wondered why you like watching sad movies so much? Because it makes you cry! This feeling is liberating (as well as laughing hearty tears). As a human being, you have feelings that you want to act out from time to time, sometimes with the help of movies.

Some hit a special nerve with you and move you so deep inside that you just can’t help but cry over it. Don’t be embarrassed because it only expresses your ability to sympathize with the happiness or unhappiness of the characters in the movie.

Our selection of the saddest movies consists of both classics and lesser-known films.

01. E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (1982)

Aliens who have been exploring Earth accidentally leave one of them behind during their hasty departure. He hides in a house where he is found by ten-year-old Elliott (Henry Thomas), who lives there with his mother and siblings. A friendship develops between the two. Elliott realizes that E.T. suffers from homesickness.

He wants to help him, but American government officials are on the alien’s trail. When the U.S. agent E.T. tracked them down, he severed his ties with Elliott and threatened to die. But his boyfriend and his siblings do not allow this to happen. They manage to save him at the last minute and take him to his returned spaceship.

The feeling of being lost connects the boy and the alien. Elliott, whose father has just left the family, understands the loneliness of E.T. and wants to protect his new friend. E.T. and Elliott share through telepathy their deep connection in thoughts and feelings. Not only children are unspeakably saddened by the long and final goodbye of these special friends.

02. Sophie’s Choice (1982)

Polish immigrant Sophie (Meryl Streep) lives with her boyfriend Nathan (Kevin Kline) in the same house as young writer Stingo (Peter MacNicol. They witness the destructive relationship between the two. Stingo is attracted to the reserved Sophie. As they slowly get closer, he learns of Sophie’s secret. She had to choose between her two children in Auschwitz and sacrificed her daughter to survive with her son.

You feel for Sophie whether you understand her decision or not. The realization of the suffering she has been through is so hard to bear that you can only cry watching it.

03. Terms of Endearment (1983)

Spanning three decades, the difficult mother-daughter relationship of Aurora (Shirley MacLaine) and Emma (Debra Winger) is recounted. A constant up and down, in which mother and daughter become estranged, but also find their way back to each other again and again. All disagreements are forgotten when daughter Emma is diagnosed with cancer.

The story of the mother who loses her daughter far too early is simply heartbreaking. For the scene in which Emma calls her loved ones one by one to her bedside to say goodbye, you need a large pack of paper tissues.

04. Steel Magnolias (1989)

Just before diabetic Shelby’s (Julia Roberts) wedding to Jackson (Dylan McDermott), the bride is strongly warned by her doctor not to get pregnant. Yet she has a baby, after which a kidney fails. She gets better after her mother donates her kidneys, but a few months later, she falls into a coma from which she will probably never awaken. The mother and husband have the devices turned off.

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A roller coaster ride between hope and despair that will hardly leave you cold, especially when you learn that there is a kernel of truth to the story. The screenwriter’s sister died of diabetes only a short time earlier.

05. Philadelphia (1993)

The great Tom Hanks plays successful young lawyer Andrew Beckett, who carries a bitter secret. He is homosexual and infected with HIV. When the first signs of AIDS become apparent, he is dismissed under a flimsy excuse. Beckett suspects homophobia is the real reason and wants to sue for compensation because of discrimination. His lawyer Joe Miller (Denzel Washington), is reluctant to get involved in the case because he himself is prejudiced against gays.

How humanity ultimately triumphs over prejudice gets under your skin. The main character’s struggle for dignity and understanding is endlessly sad because there is no hope for her despite a court victory. If you cry while watching, you are definitely not depressed.

06. Romeo and Juliet (1996)

The classic love drama is given a modern makeover. Romeo (Leonardo di Caprio) and Juliet (Clare Danes) come from two feuding family clans in Verona. They fall madly in love without knowing each other’s names. Secretly they get married, while the quarrel between their families escalates, and Romeo has to flee.

Through a sleeping potion, Julia escapes a marriage forced on her by her parents. She is presumed dead by the returning Romeo, who now takes poison himself. Juliet wakes up, sees Romeo die, and kills herself.

True love is beautiful, but in this story, everything really goes wrong. As a viewer, you want to stop the lovers from running to their doom and feel powerless. When you get involved, you’re devastated after the desperate ending.

07. Life is beautiful (1997)

The peaceful Life of Jewish bookseller Guido Orefice (Roberto Benigni) with his wife and son ends abruptly when he is locked up in a concentration camp by the Nazis. To protect his son from the cruel reality, he makes him believe that it is only a complicated game that everyone has to play.

How empathetically Guido cares for his son Giosuè and finally dies for him is beautiful to cry about. After a funny, light first part, the second part almost takes your breath away; so infinitely sad, is it. Benigni’s father was imprisoned in the Bergen-Belsen internment camp for three years. This touch of reality makes the story even more haunting.

08. Titanic (1997)

The romantic love story between rich Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) and poor artist Jack Dawson (Leonardo di Caprio) is the core story of several, set on the maiden voyage of the Titanic in 1912. The 101-year-old Rose tells it in retrospect. In the film, she is one of the few survivors of the catastrophe.

How the love between Rose and Jack grows and becomes more intimate despite class differences and massive attempts to keep them apart is worth a box of tissues alone. With the shipwreck, the drama increases almost to the point of unbearably. A second pack is needed here at the latest.

09. The Green Mile (1999)

In a retirement home, Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) recalls his time as head warden of a state prison’s death row in the 1930s. The new prisoner John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), is to be executed for the murder of two little girls. Paul quickly realizes that John is gifted with special abilities that he can use to do good things. He wants to let him go, but Coffey longs for death.

The prisoner’s massive appearance makes him seem dangerous at first and contrasts strongly with his gentle nature and psychic abilities. John wins over not only his guards but also the audience. That he chooses his own execution out of despair at the badness in the world takes you to the extreme. In the saddest film ending category, the film is thus sure to win an award.

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10. The Notebook (2004)

An older man (James Garner) reads a story to a woman (Gena Rowlands) who has Alzheimer’s disease in a nursing home. It’s about young Allie (Rachel McAdams) from the city who meets country boy Noah (Ryan Gosling) on her summer vacation by the sea. They fall passionately in love, to the displeasure of Allie’s parents, who stand in their way. They are separated, and it takes years until they finally get together again.

When it becomes clear that the man is Noah and the woman is Allie, you can no longer hold back the tears. You hope with Noah that Allie will remember him and their history together. A film about great love!

11. Hotel Rwanda (2004)

In 1994, a civil war broke out in the African country of Rwanda between the Hutus and the Tutsis. The hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), can’t just stand by and watch the killings and takes in as many as he can accommodate in his hotel. After tough negotiations, Paul manages to leave for Belgium with some of the rescued, while in his country, the killing continues.

This movie gets under your skin, and you can’t get it out of your head. What makes it particularly oppressive is that the story really happened. What makes you cry is the humanity that stands out in times of war.

12. Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Two cowboys, Ennis and Jack (Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal), fall in love in the Brokeback Mountains, where they herd sheep together one summer in the early 1960s. At the end of the summer, they have to separate. They marry, but neither marriage becomes happy because they can’t forget each other. All attempts to get back together and revive their happy times together fail.

In the rural society of the 60s, love between men was taboo. The deep longing for each other until the implied manslaughter of Jack by homophobic men sends you on an emotional roller coaster ride. The realism makes the film especially sad.

13. P.S. I love you (2007)

Holly (Hillary Swank) is happily married to the love of her Life, passionate Irishman Gerry (Gerard Butler) when fate strikes. Gerry dies of a brain tumor. To help his wife find her way back into Life after the shock, he leaves her 12 letters, which she receives in different ways. Each letter contains a task that Holly must complete in order to overcome her grief.

Pure emotion and something for the heart! What a dream man who cares that his beloved doesn’t get depressed after his death. This bittersweet film will still bring tears to your eyes after the fifth viewing.

14. Atonement (2007)

An old woman tells her story in flashback: the imaginative 13-year-old Briony witnesses a supposedly offensive incident between her big sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley) and Robbie (James McAvoy), the housekeeper’s son, in a mansion in 1935. Briony believes she knows the culprit when her cousin becomes the victim of a sexual assault. She blames Robbie and destroys his Life in the process. Briony regrets all her life and what she has done and writes down the story that ends with Cecilia and Robbie meeting at the end of the war and finally being together.

You are shocked when old Briony admits that Robbie and Cecilia died during the war without ever seeing each other again. To make amends she at least made amends in the book by writing a happy ending for her. Isn’t that sad enough to cry about?

15. Marley & Me (2008)

The young couple Grogan (Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson) is not yet sure if they want to have children yet, so they first get the cute Labrador puppy Marley. He proves to be uneducable and chaotic but still wins the heart of the (over the years, children are added) entire family. When the meanwhile old and sick dog has to be put down, not only the three children are devastated.

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Marley is irresistible and not only wags and romps his way into the audience’s hearts. Through his unwavering affection, the family survives many crises, and therefore his death is a great loss for the family, with whom one mourns at the end. A film to laugh and to cry.

16. My Sister’s Keeper (2009)

When two-year-old Kate (Sofia Vassilieva) develops leukemia, her parents Brian and Sara (Cameron Diaz and Jason Patric), who, like brother Jesse are not eligible to be donors, decide to have another child (Abigail Breslin) who is a genetic match for Kate. When Anna is eleven, she refuses to be a kidney donor and gets a lawyer.

The film is very emotionally involved from the beginning. You suffer with Kate and her healthy siblings, who don’t get enough care because the parents are only there for the sick child. But when it becomes clear at the end that Kate is the one who doesn’t want to be helped anymore and Anna just took the decision upon herself, the floodgates of tears are open. If you want to have a good cry, this is the movie for you.

17. Hachi (2009)

One evening, on his way home from the train station, a university professor (Richard Gere) runs into a small Akita puppy, which he cannot shake off. He takes him home, where his wife (Joan Allen) clearly does not want him in the house. When he cannot place him, he decides to keep him. From then on, Hachiko accompanies him to the train every morning and waits for him there in the evening until one day, and the professor doesn’t come home anymore.

The film tells of love and loyalty without going for the tearjerker or humanizing the dog. It is especially touching because it is based on a true incident. From 1925 to 1935, Hachiko waited every day at the same spot in front of the train station for his master (who died of a heart attack) to return home to him. For this loyalty, a monument was erected for him in Japan.

18. Remember me (2010)

Rebellious Tyler (Robert Pattinson) comes close to coping with the death of his brother. With his father (Pierce Brosnan), a successful businessman, he meets with little interest in his problems. Tyler becomes involved with Ally, the daughter of a policeman whose father arrested him in a fight. She also has to cope with her mother’s violent death ten years ago. The two grow closer and closer.

The last sequence takes place on 11.9. Set in New York in 2001, which is as surprising as disturbing. The ending is unexpected and contrasts with the first part, which is quieter but no less touching. This film will not leave you cold.

19. Still Life (2013)

The inconspicuous John May (Eddie Marsan) is in charge of the funeral home to find the relatives of people who have died alone. If this does not succeed, he is sometimes the only mourner. When austerity measures cause him to lose his job, he sets out on a final quest that changes his Life.

The theme of loneliness, embodied by Mr. May, and the hope that always resonates make the film so touching. It is quiet and deeply human and, therefore, tremendously intense. If it makes you cry, it’s understandable.

20. Still Alice (2015)

Linguist Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) suffers increasingly frequent orientation and speech-finding problems. At first, she manages to hide her condition from her husband (Alec Baldwin) and the rest of her family. But when she is diagnosed with a rare hereditary form of Alzheimer’s.

Without unnecessary sentimentality, the anguish that comes with the loss of personality due to dementia is vividly portrayed. You can easily identify with the problems that the demands of everyday life place on the sick person. What touches is the realization that love survives reason. This is sad but also touching and goes to the heart.

21. Forrest Gump (1994)

22. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)

23. The Lion King (1994)

24. The Fault In Our Stars (2014)

25. Schindler’s List (1993)

26. 12 Years a Slave (2013)

27. Blue Valentine (2010)

28. Million Dollar Baby (2004)

29. My Girl (1991)

30. Milk (2008)

31. A Walk to Remember (2002)

32. Stand By Me (1986)

33. Boys Don’t Cry (1999)

34. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

35. I am Sam (2001)

36. Stepmom (1998)

37. UP (2009)

38. Armageddon (1998)

39. Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

40. Room (2015)

Maybe you’ll find your new favorite movie among our movie suggestions to watch when you feel like letting your tears run free again.

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