Last Updated: September 22nd
Sad movies take a lot of forms, but this list of good Netflix films hits the big buttons, including some of the most powerful movies to watch about love, star-crossed love, concentration camps, death, and Brie Larson.
Regardless of what gets your tear ducts primed and pumping, there is something in this list must-watch streaming sobfests that will get at your heart’s sorrow spot. “Enjoy” the 15 saddest movies on Netflix right now responsibly.
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.
The Notebook (2004)
Run Time: 123 min | IMDb: 7.9/10
It wasn’t over and it still isn’t over … our love for this sticky-sweet melodramatic romance from Nicholas Sparks that is. Netflix knows what the people want — a rain-soaked Ryan Gosling professing his undying love for Rachel McAdams — and the streaming platform is giving it to us. The movie is a staple of the romance drama, and, whether you love it or hate it, Gosling and McAdams have chemistry and talent that’s undeniable. Be warned though, as sweeping as this love story is, it’s also devastatingly heartbreaking, and there are more than a few scenes that require an abundance of tissues as a viewing companion.
War Horse (2011)
Run Time: 146 min | IMDb: 7.2/10
Horses, like dogs, make for worthy emotional fodder and this Steven Spielberg World War I epic proves it. There’s plenty of front-line action here, but it’s filtered through the lens of a young boy named Albert (Jeremy Irvine) and his connection to his beloved horse. When the animal is sold to the cavalry, Albert enlists and leaves his small English village to track down his best friend. Tom Hiddleston and David Thewlis also star as Spielberg uses sweeping shots of tattered battlefields to give us a birds-eye-view of the devastation war can cause.
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.
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Run Time: 132 min | IMDb: 8.1/10
Clint Eastwood directs and stars in this sports drama that catapulted Hillary Swank into the ranks of Oscar-worthy echelon. Swank plays Maggie Fitzgerald, a woman determined to dominate inside the ring. To do that, she needs to put in hard work and find herself a hardened coach who believes in her. Enter Eastwood. The two have a combative, emotionally heavy relationship that only gets more complicated as Maggie begins taking on dangerous fights and the film’s ending will have you blindly grasping for all the tissues.
Schindler’s List (1993)
Run Time: 195 min | IMDb: 8.9/10
It took decades in the industry for Steven Spielberg to finally earn an Oscar for one of his movies, but his win for Schindler’s List is well deserved. The film focuses on wealthy businessman Oskar Schindler, who spends his fortune and risks his life to save the lives of 1,100 Jewish men and women after taking in the horrors of WWII and the concentration camps. Between the three hour running time, the cold, unrelenting cruelty of Ralph Fiennes’ portrayal of Amon Goeth, and its realistic style, it’s a bleak film. But there’s hope to be found in the grim black and white images. It’s an important story told movingly by a filmmaker at the height of his powers.
Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Run Time: 117 min | IMDb: 8/10
Matthew McConaughey’s Dallas Buyer Club is a searing look at how the world failed the LGBTQ community during the devastating AIDS crisis. McConaughey stars as Ron Woodruff, a man diagnosed with the disease in the ’80s during a time when the illness was still misunderstood and highly stigmatized. Woodruff went against the FDA and the law to smuggle in drugs to help those suffering from the disease, establishing a “Dallas Buyers Club” and fighting in court to the right to aid those in need. The story is all the more powerful because it’s true and McConaughey delivers one of the best performances of his career as Woodruff, a man who changes his entire outlook on life after being dealt a tragic blow.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Run Time: 108 min | IMDb: 8.3/10
Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet star in this sci-fi romance about a couple reliving their romance following a painful break-up. The movie stars Winslet as the free-spirited Clementine, who decides to have her memories of a past relationship with beau Joel (Carrey) erased. Once Joel learns of this, he too decides to erase their time together, and the film is a reverse narrative of their love story, charting their break-up and all the things that led up to it. It’s a quirky romance, one that ends on a hopeful note.
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.
A Walk To Remember (2002)
Run Time: 101 min | IMDb: 7.4/10
Is there any movie more soul-crushingly tragic than this Nicholas Sparks gem from the early 2000s? Answer: no. Mandy Moore plays a cancer-stricken teen named Jamie Sullivan who attracts the attention of school jock Landon Carter after he gets into a bit of trouble and is forced to do community service to make up for it. It’s a tropey opposites-attract love story, but Moore’s rather exceptional in it and the soundtrack doesn’t suck either.
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.
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (2012)
Run Time: 100 min | IMDb: 8/10
This coming-of-age indie is based on a beloved book, but if fans were worried that the story of a depressed teenager who finds friends and a sense of belonging in a group of lovable misfits wouldn’t translate on screen, they shouldn’t have been too concerned. Stephen Chbosky wrote the novel, but he also penned the screenplay and directed this flick, which sees Logan Lerman play Charlie, the social outcast, and Emma Watson play Sam, the alt-pixie-dream girl he falls for. Everyone’s good in this, but it’s Ezra Miller’s Patrick who really stands out.
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 September 2020
Added: Blue is the Warmest Color
Removed: Fundamentals of Caring