If you’re looking for the best sad movies to watch on Netflix, you’ve come to the right place.
From relationship dramas that don’t always end up right to tearjerkers featuring the death of a loved one, there is plenty on the streaming giant to choose from.
While there’s a time and place for funny movies, sometimes we just need to let ourselves cry as we get swept into a story that — whether or not it has a happy ending — always leaves a mark in your heart.
Marriage Story (2019)
The Netflix original Marriage Story was one of the saddest movies of 2019.
Many people call the film a modern-day Kramer vs. Kramer, as Marriage Story showed a deteriorating marriage and the effects it not only had on the couple but on their young son who was caught in the middle.
Director Noah Baumbach partially based the film’s story on his divorce from Jennifer Jason Leigh, as well as the separation of his parents when he was young, which was also the basis for his 2005 movie The Squid and the Whale.
Blue is the Warmest Color (2013)
Released in 2013, the indie French romantic drama movie Blue is the Warmest Color is based on a comic book.
There are no superheroes or city-wide battles in this movie. Instead, it tells the story of a young introverted girl named Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos) who meets a gay woman named Emma (Lea Seydoux) and begins to come out of her shell.
The movie details their sensual love affair and the eventual breakup that left both women devastated. There are no happy endings in this story, but by the end, both women have come to terms with their new place in life.
The 2016 drama film Moonlight was the first movie with a predominantly African-American cast and LGBTQ+ storylines to win the Oscar for Best Picture.
It tells the story of a man called Chiron through three parts of his life. He goes through his childhood, where he discovers his sexuality while also learning that he can’t count on those people he loves.
The film moves on to his teenage years and then finally to his adult years as he has drifted from a hopeful child into the same kind of person he used to fear.
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
Will Smith took a break from his action-based film roles to take on a rare dramatic film turn in The Pursuit of Happyness.
In the movie, he plays a salesman whose wife leaves him, and he takes sole custody of their child around the same time he loses his job and ends up homeless.
Smith’s real son Jaden stars in the movie as his son, and the film is an uplifting tale of Smith’s character rising from being homeless into being a father who can take care of his family, despite the world always trying to hold him down.
Before she took the world by storm as Captain Marvel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Brie Larson won an Oscar for her role in The Room.
Larson starred as Joy, a woman who was abducted years before and lived in captivity where she had a child named Jack due to the constant rape by her captor.
While that seems like enough to make for a very sad movie, it gets almost worse when they escape and find that the real world might not be ready to accept these two individuals back into it.
Anna Karenina (2012)
In 2012, Joe Wright (Atonement, Hanna) directed an adaptation of the Leo Tolstoy novel Anna Karenina.
As anyone who knows the source material will already realize going in, this was not a happily ever after story. However, Wright, a brilliant auteur, created the entire movie to feel like a play with one set leading to another in a dazzling kaleidoscope of images.
However, all the style and flair did little to take away from the shocking ending where socialite Anna Karenina (Kiera Knightley) finds her life falling apart and meets a tragic end.
Blue Valentine (2010)
Released in 2010, Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams received critical acclaim for their performances in Blue Valentine, easily one of the saddest movies on Netflix.
Dean is a high school dropout who meets a pre-med student named Cindy, and the two fall in love. When Cindy ends up pregnant from an abusive former relationship, the two decide to get married and raise the child together.
Sadly, the entire movie then shows the couple as problems weigh them down and eventually destroy their relationship when the two realize that their differences are too strong to help them stay together.
The Pianist (2002)
Roman Polanski directed the Holocaust movie The Pianist in 2002 and watched as the film won him an Oscar while actor Adrien Brody picked up one as well.
Brody stars as a Jewish pianist living in Poland during World War II. Just when it looks like Britain and France might save Poland when they join the war, Germany overruns the country.
Through the movie, the pianist loses everything, including his family, to the Nazi extermination camps, and has to go into hiding thanks to protection from a sympathetic member of the Jewish Ghetto Police.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)
An even more depressing World War II-era movie hit in 2008 with The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.
This movie focuses on two children, one the son of a German prison camp officer and the second a prisoner of the camp itself. They meet through a fence without anyone else knowing and strike up a friendship.
However, the harsh realities of what these camps do to prisoners caused this film to have a tragic ending, not only for the boy in the prison yard itself but the young boy who became his friend without understanding the purpose of the prejudice and fears.
Tallulah was a Netflix original movie that premiered at Sundance in 2016.
Ellen Page stars as the eponymous Tallulah, a street hustler who has survived by stealing credit cards with her boyfriend, Nico. However, when Nico leaves her and says he is going back home to his mom, she is left alone.
Tallulah then sets out to find him, but instead finds Nico’s mom (Margo) and, more importantly, kidnaps a baby from a mother who admitted she does not care about the child.
Tallulah then strikes up a relationship with Margo as the police start to close in, searching for the missing child.
The Spectacular Now (2013)
The Spectacular Now is a coming-of-age love story that has a hard-edge and likes to twist the knife into the viewer to make the ending seem worth the wait.
Miles Teller is Sutter, a charming 18-year-old who likes to party. Shailene Woodley is Aimee, a girl he meets that starts to make him question his direction in life.
The hardest part of this movie is watching the real life of the partying Sutter, especially when he tries to reconnect with his dad (Kyle Chandler), and the genesis of Sutter’s hard-partying is identified.
Lady Bird (2017)
In much the same way that director Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story) mastered realistic dialogue and making everyday situations seem extraordinary, Greta Gerwig has done the same for female-centric movies.
In Lady Bird, Gerwig found two great actresses to tell the story of a mother and daughter who just can’t seem to connect. Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf both picked up Oscar nominations for their roles.
This sad movie, currently available to stream on Netflix, also picked up nominations for Best Picture, and Gerwig became only the fifth female film director in history to pick up a Best Director nomination.
Dear John (2010)
When looking at the saddest movies to ever hit theaters, and the saddest drama novels to ever hit shelves, look no further than anything written by Nicholas Sparks.
While most romantic novels demand a happy ending for the lead characters, Sparks never gives his characters happily ever afters and his books, and the numerous movies based on his work, often deal with the death of a loved one.
Dear John is no different, as Channing Tatum stars as John Tyree, an Army soldier shot in Afghanistan and his memories of a relationship he had before his deployment with a girl named Savannah (Amanda Seyfried).
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
It might be easy to look at the scary-looking monsters and creatures in Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth and think it is just another horror movie.
This fantasy tale is much more than a horror film. Having more in common with fairy tales than horror, this is a movie that looks at the real fear based in the real world, and sees the world of creatures as a place to escape.
Ofelia is a 10-year-old girl whose mother marries Captain Vidal of the Francoist Spanish military, hunting down rebels. He takes his new family to a remote destination to live, as the war rages around them.
It is here that Ofelia finds a way into the underworld and discovers her destiny.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
Anyone who thought The Perks of Being a Wallflower was just another teen coming-of-age movie missed out on one of the best young adult films of 2012.
Logan Lerman stars in the movie as Charlie, a young man with no friends and clinical depression. He started his freshman year of school and met new friends in Sam (Emma Watson) and her stepbrother Patrick (Ezra Miller).
However, the struggles with high school life, relationships, and keeping friends all remain secondary to the battles that Charlie has with his depression issues, and which almost cause him to drown despite those around him.