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.
Updated in July 2021: Every month, Netflix makes major changes to its platform, removing several movies and adding numerous new ones to replace them.
Luckily, we are here every month to check the lists and update them by removing movies that have left the streaming service and replacing them with other options.
What Dreams May Come (1998)
What Dreams May Come is a very sad movie that also has very uplifting and touching moments.
Robin Williams stars as pediatrician Chris Nielsen. He meets a woman named Annie and they marry and have two children. However, both of their kids die in a car accident, which sends Annie to a sanitarium for a short time.
Four years later, Chris also dies in a car accident. He has no idea he is dead, though, and wanders through the afterlife before deciding to move on when he realizes trying to contact Annie causes her more pain.
While Chris goes to Heaven, but when Annie takes her own life because of survivor’s guilt after losing her husband and children, she ends up in Hell. Chris then has to find a way to save her soul so they can finally reunite on the other side.
The Lovely Bones (2009)
Peter Jackson directed one of the saddest movies, based on an equally sad novel, about a young girl who is raped and murdered, her body left unfound.
Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz plays the grieving parents, with Wahlberg’s Jack Salmon unable to go on with his life without his obsession in finding the truth about what happened to his daughter.
Meanwhile, the killer, George Harvey, is moving on with his life, a serial killer who has never been caught.
The twist here is that the dead girl, Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) is unable to move to the other side as long as the emotions surrounding her death are so strong and she tries to find a way, as a ghost, to help her loved ones move on.
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.
Kiss & Cry (2017)
Kiss & Cry tells the true-life story of Carley Allison, a teenager who developed an extremely rare form of cancer.
Carley was only the second documented case which made her one in 3.5 billion to be diagnosed with clear-cell sarcoma of the trachea.
However, she refused to just give up and die and she started posting videos on YouTube playing the piano with a trachea-tube and picked up attention from celebs like Selena Gomez and Hilary Duff.
Sarah Fisher stars as Carley in Kiss & Cry.
Nights in Rodanthe (2008)
For a sad movie night, look no further than Nicholas Sparks adaptations.
The guy has made a fortune writing books with strong romantic plots but almost always ends up a tragedy, with some glimmer of hope for one of the people in love.
In Nights in Rodanthe, Diane Lane is a wife in a marriage that is falling apart. With her daughter rebelling against her mother for the possible divorce and her husband wanting a second chance, she heads off to Rodanthe to watch over her friend’s bed and breakfast, where she meets another man (Richard Gere).
This story does not have a happy ending.
Pieces of a Woman (2020)
Pieces of a Woman stars Shia LeBeouf and Vanessa Kirby as a couple preparing to deliver their first child.
However, when a substitute midwife arrives after the baby starts to arrive early, everything goes horribly wrong. The result is a story about the tragedy of losing a child and how it affects her, her husband, and the negligent midwife.
This should carry a trigger warning for anyone who has lost a child, but it is a powerful and moving film with Kirby delivering one of the best acting performances of 2020.
A Monster Calls (2016)
A Monster Calls is a fantastic drama movie on Netflix, but it is also a very sad movie.
The movie stars Lewis MacDougall as Conor, a 13-year-old whose mother (Felicity Jones) is terminally ill. He ends up living with his grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) while his mother is taken into a care facility.
A giant monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) visits the boy and offers to tell him three stories, and Conor has to tell him a story at the end.
The monster, and its stories, are allegories for what Conor is going through as a child and his story at the end is equally poignant yet hopeful.
All the Bright Places (2020)
All the Bright Places was a 2017 Netflix movie about death and its effects on teenagers.
Violet (Elle Fanning) is struggling to get past her sister’s death and is almost suicidal due to survivor’s guilt. Theodore (Justice Smith) has bipolar disorder and finds Violet standing on the edge of a bridge.
When he learns this was the bridge where her sister died in a car accident, he tries everything he can to get her to focus on other things, mostly a school project he partners with her on.
However, as he helps her recover from her pain, his disorder starts to overwhelm him, and Violet realizes she might not be able to help him the way he did her.
Irreplaceable You (2018)
Irreplaceable You is another movie about death and how it affects those it leaves behind. The movie also shows how it affects the person dying, knowing they are leaving a hole in the heart of those they love.
Abbie and Sam are engaged to be married when she receives a terminal cancer diagnosis.
Abbie loves Sam and doesn’t want him to be alone when she dies, so she sets out to find someone for him to love and move on with after she passes.
However, when she becomes friends with other terminal patients who want to focus on living, she questions how she wants to spend her last days.
The Florida Project (2017)
The Florida Project was an Oscar-contending movie from 2017 about a single mother’s struggles to make ends meet.
The movie follows a six-year-old girl who lives with her unemployed mother in a motel in Florida. They do everything they can to stay out of trouble and make ends meet.
What is strong is that their hardships and lack of suitable living conditions are contrasted with Disney World, which is nearby. When they find jobs hard to come by, and things take a turn for the worse, it threatens to destroy their entire family.
Fruitvale Station (2013)
Michael B. Jordan and Ryan Coogler have teamed up for some great movies, including Creed, where Jordan played Apollo Creed’s son in the Rocky franchise, and Black Panther, where Jordan was the villain Killmonger.
However, what might be their most important movie was their first together and Coogler’s directorial debut, Fruitvale Station.
The movie tells the true story of the murder of Oscar Grant by a BART police officer in 2009. Chad Michael Murray stars as the cop who shot Oscar in the back and claimed he thought his gun was a taser.
The movie won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and picked up the Best First Film award at Cannes.
Remember Me (2010)
Released in 2010, Remember Me starred Robert Pattinson and Emilie de Ravin as two young people who fall in love.
They both have rough pasts, with Ally’s mother murdered by muggers while she was a child and Tyler’s brother who died by suicide. Both are lost and then they find happiness with each other.
There is one big problem.
This movie takes place in New York City and it culminates in a significant event on September 11, 2001, which causes this movie to have a very real, very tragic end.
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.
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.
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.