The 10 Best Sad Movies To Watch When You Need A Good Cry

Sometimes, the best way to feel relief is with a good cry. I like to joke about how relatable the beginning of James L. Brooks’ Broadcast News (1987) is. Holly Hunter’s character has a routine of showing up to work five minutes early just to, therapeutically, cry at her desk before instantly getting into work mode once the clock hits 8:00 AM.

Whether you’re overwhelmed personally or sad from a recent incident, it just feels good to get your emotions off your chest. Just like when we need a good movie to cheer us up, we can find plenty of films to reflect our bum mood. So let’s take a look at our options out there.

Once again, famous spoilers be ahead.

Love Story

Previously, with my ‘break-up movies’ listicle, I included Arthur Hiller’s Love Story (1970), which is also probably the most famous tearjerker of all time. Nearly every tragic YA melodrama to follow since its release was most likely influenced by the young romance, most notably Adam Shankman’s A Walk to Remember (2002). Whether it’s Ali MacGraw or Mandy Moore terminally ill with a troubled boyfriend played by Ryan O’Neal or Shane West, you’re guaranteed to dampen your cheeks if this kind of subgenre is up your alley.

Love Story now on Paramount+

Terms of Endearment

The other big classic in the tearjerker category is James L. Brooks’ Terms of Endearment (1983); which was not only a big hit with critics and award shows, but also paved the way for many mother-daughter or similar relationship melodramas. Once again, there’s a terminal illness, and it’s fated to Debra Winger’s character as she navigates her marriage to on-screen husband, Jeff Daniels, and dysfunctional relationship with her neurotic mother, played by Shirley MacLaine. Both Debra and Shirley were nominated for Best Actress at the Oscars for their teary-eyed performances, with the latter taking the award. 

Terms of Endearment now on Amazon Prime

Steel Magnolias

Usually treated as an appropriate double feature with Terms of Endearment is Herbert Ross’ Steel Magnolias (1989). Julia Roberts is the seriously sick adult daughter, Sally Field is the concerned mother, Dylan McDermott is the good-looking husband, and Shirley MacLaine returns as one of Sally’s amusing friends. Dolly Parton and Daryl Hannah round out this all-star cast for a very homey, Southern family drama. 

Steel Magnolias now on Hulu


One of the later hits from the weepy family drama trend in the 1980s is Garry Marshall’s Beaches (1988). Barbara Hershey and Bette Midler play lifelong best friends who go through the best and worst periods of life together. Things come to a halt when — you guessed it — Barbara’s character suddenly gets a fatal diagnosis, and Bette rallies around to support her BFF and her young daughter. 

Beaches now on AppleTV

My Girl

And my last recommendation for family-friendly melodramas where a character has a fatal condition is Howard Zieff’s My Girl (1991). A staple for anyone who grew up in the 1990s, My Girl is a retro mix of bittersweet and lighthearted sentiments through the eyes of tween Anna Chlumsky, 20 years before “Veep” (2012-19). Macaulay Culkin, at the prime of his child superstardom, plays the best friend whose fate gives the film its sad turn, and Dan Aykroyd and Jamie Lee Curtis are the main grown-ups in the movie. 

My Girl now on Netflix

Blue Valentine

For a semi-modern romantic drama that’s a little less sappy, but definitely depressing, there’s Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine (2010) with Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. A hit with critics, I remember seeing this film in theaters and just feeling so defeated for the rest of the day. The flashback sequences of Blue Valentine have a sweet quality but, most of the time, you’re just given a stark reminder that you can’t force a marriage because of circumstance and could make the relationship worse by doing so. Michelle was the co-star to rack up the nominations for this bleak tale, but Ryan deserved just as much attention, too.

Blue Valentine now on Amazon Prime

Manchester by the Sea

For more Michelle Williams in another exercise of challenging your emotions, see Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea (2016). A downbeat tale of a divorced father, played by Casey Affleck, who is estranged from his family until he gains custody of his recently deceased brother’s (Kyle Chandler) teenage son, played by Lucas Hedges. Michelle plays the ex-wife of Casey’s character, who is included in a shocking and traumatic flashback sequence that is likely to stick with you for a while. Though the subject matter is serious, there’s also a unique blend of stark comic relief that makes this drama stand out.

Manchester by the Sea now on Amazon Prime


Joe Wright’s modern classic Atonement (2007) is another I saw opening weekend when it was released, and one of those times where I could sense I was viewing a future classic. It has everything from the WWII setting, to the period romance, to the tragic misunderstanding, to the frustrating plot progression, to the ick factor with a certain subplot. James McAvoy and Keira Knightley are the leads as the attractive, but ill-fated couple, while 13-year-old Saoirse Ronan shot to stardom and gained her first Oscar nomination with this costume drama. 

Atonement now on HBO Max

Dead Poets Society

A rare cry-worthy flick for the boys is Peter Weir’s Dead Poets Society (1989) starring Robin Williams, and pre-famous Robert Sean Leonard, and Ethan Hawke. We follow Robin as an eccentric and charming professor to a class of teenage private school boys, including Leonard and Hawke. Like with Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me (1986), the film ends on a somber, yet optimistic note, and will make you both smile and shed a tear. 

Dead Poets Society now on AppleTV

Brokeback Mountain

And finally, the landmark romance that changed the period drama and cowboy movie genres, Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain (2005). The film launched Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as leading men in Hollywood and helped Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams transition from teen movies/shows. Brokeback made a lot of movie fans tear up with its then-original take of a tragic gay romance in a western setting almost two decades ago. Ang’s direction and the four main performances still hold up today, and Heath, in particular, will tug at your heartstrings in the third act. 

Brokeback Mountain now on Amazon Prime

So, if you need a good cry and want to get into your ‘feels,’ there are plenty of iconic options out there for you!


Do you have a favorite sad movie or like to cry during movies? Did I mention it in my list? Tell us in the comments!

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