Books

20 books, films and songs for when you need a good cry

Posted by
Katharine Busby
Published

Sometimes, crying is awkward, ill-timed and leaves make-up cascading down your face in a way that ultimately makes everything more awkward, and generally worse.

But, other times, in the comfort of your own home or underneath the protective shroud of a dark cinema, a good sob fest can be hugely cathartic and - according to scientists- good for your mental health. 

So, if you're feeling a little emotionally blocked, stressed or just a little out of sorts, we've compiled ultimate list of tear-jerkers to get you going. 

Grab a box of tissues and settle in for a sob-fest.

  • Nothing Compares 2 U by Sinead O’Connor

    “All the flowers that you planted mama, in the back yard, 
    All died when you went away…”

    There was always O’Connor’s voice. And a really sad song about a break-up. And that video with that tear. But now? Now there’s the added cruelty of Prince (who wrote the track) suddenly passing away, along with O’Connor’s personal struggles in life to think about. All in all: “Waaaaaaaaah.”

    Sob Factor: 9/10

    Get it here

  • Hurt by Johnny Cash

    “Everyone I know goes away in the end…”

    Originally a Nine Inch Nails song, Cash covered this heartbreaking track in 2002 when his health was in decline. It was accompanied by a video that reflected on the glory and sadness of his youth and life, and the country star died seven months after it was filmed.  It’s moving, it’s brilliant and you will cry.

    Sob Factor: 10/10

    Get it here

  • Into My Arms by Nick Cave

    “I don't believe in the existence of angels
    But looking at you I wonder if that's true”

    Just during the opening bars of piano you could be forgiven for welling up. Once Cave starts his melancholy crooning about how perfect the subject of his song is, you’re surely made of stone if you don’t shed a tear. (The crying lady in the video will help too.)

    Sob Factor: 7/10

    Get it here

  • Stay With Me by Lorraine Ellison

    “Remember you said you’d never ever leave me, 
    Remember, remember, I’m asking you, begging you…”

    You’ll have heard covers of this song, possibly yelled out by a youth on the X Factor, but this – first recorded in 1966 - has to be the definitive version. Ellison’s soaring pleas and the magnificent musical accompaniment could turn even the hardest of hearts into a big old pool of slush.

    Sob Factor: 7/10

    Get it here

  • Never Tear Us Apart by INXS

    “Because we all have wings, but some of us don’t know why…”

    Oh, Michael Hutchence, with your brooding good looks and your awesome 80s rock God hair, why did you have to die so young? As if this song didn’t tug at the heartstrings enough already: the strings, Hutchence’s gentle yet powerful vocal… yup, we’re gone.

    Sob Factor: 7/10

    Get it here

  • Wake Up Alone by Amy Winehouse

    “This ache in my chest as my day is done now,
    The dark covers me and I can not run now.”

    For anyone who saw the award-winning Amy documentary, this song will resonate even more than before. But even on its own, Wake Up Alone features such desperate lyrics that you’re unlikely to hear it and remain dry-eyed. Add to that Winehouse’s incredible voice and incredibly sad death and you’re basically going to be floored.

    Sob Factor: 8/10

    Get it here

  • This Woman’s Work by Kate Bush

    “All the things we should’ve said that we never said,
    All the things we should’ve done though we never did.”

    A song about how terrifying an unexpected and sudden problem during childbirth can be? Yes, that’s the perfect subject matter for a tear-jerking Kate Bush record. In fact, even if you didn’t know the subject matter, Bush’s urgent vocal and the track’s unstoppable crescendo would probably reduce you to tears anyway.

    Sob Factor: 9/10

    Get it here

  • Watership Down by Richard Adams

    “My heart has joined the thousand, for my friend stopped running today.”

    Okay, so in theory it’s a children’s book about the adventures of a group of rabbits. In practice, if as an adult you can read this tale of death, destruction and derring-do without needing a tissue, you’re made of sterner stuff than us.

    Sob Factor: 7/10

    Get it here

  • Sophie’s Choice by William Styron

    “Someday I will understand Auschwitz. This was a brave statement but innocently absurd. No one will ever understand Auschwitz.”

    It's impossible to even think of the unimaginable horror of the Holocaust without feeling utterly despondent, and Sophie's Choice adds another personal layer to it all when a mother has to make the most inconceivably awful choice a parent ever could. Approach with caution. 

    Sob Factor: 9/10

    Get it here

  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

    “You gave me a forever in the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”

    Proof that Young Adult literature is a force to be reckoned with, The Fault In Our Stars is a juggernaut of emotional turmoil. Get through it without being flattened? No, we don’t think so.

    Sob Factor: 8/10

    Get it here

  • One Day by David Nicholls

    “Whatever happens tomorrow, we had today, and I’ll always remember it.”

    A classic case of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover”, One Day lulls you into a false sense of security. If you haven’t read it yet, be prepared: the waterworks will come on fast and sudden.

    Sob Factor: 8/10

    Get it here

  • The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

    “Don’t make it worse by thinking it is more painful than it actually is.”

    While there is concern that this novel doesn’t accurately portray the horror and brutality of Auschwitz, what it does do well is portray the innocence of childhood and the strength a child’s friendship can have. These two factors, and the beauty of unconditional childhood love, are certainly the triggers for an awful lot of tears.

    Sob Factor: 9/10

    Get it here

  • We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

    “So many stories are determined before they start.”

    We Need To Talk About Kevin is so emotionally charged – covering love, remorse, guilt and blame – that it’s not so much that you’ll cry because it’s sad (although it is) but because it will get you thinking about so many aspects of your own existence and those around you. Note: NEVER give this book as a gift to an expectant or new mother.

    Sob factor: 9/10

    Get it here

  • I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

    “Can’t Do is like Don’t Care. Neither of them have a home.”

    The first in Angelou’s autobiographical series, Caged Bird features such extraordinary events, terrifying experiences and strength of character it would be easy to think it were fiction. The fact that it’s not is what really gets you blubbing.

    Sob Factor: 10/10

    Get it here

  • Boys Don’t Cry

    “I don’t care if you’re half-monkey or half-ape, I’m getting you out of here.”

    Describing Boys Don’t Cry as a “romantic drama” doesn’t really do justice to how moving this film is, in large part down to Hilary Swank’s Oscar-winning performance. The accountants at Kleenex must have been rubbing their hands with glee when this movie was released.

    Sob Factor: 8/10

    Get it here

  • Room

    “When I was small, I only knew small things. But now I am five, I know everything!”

    When you watch or read Room for the first time, you’ll cry. Fact. And you’ll think “Oh yes, I did cry. That was the bit everyone must have meant.” But then you’ll get to that other crying bit. And that one. Oh, yes, and that one. Room is so full of bits that make you cry from sheer disbelief (and the fact that it's based on the true story of Josef Fritzl, you'll need to pre-plan some recovery time.

    Sob Factor: 8/10

    Get it here

  • E.T.

    “I wouldn’t let anybody hurt you. We could grow up together, ET.”

    Once you’ve got over the fact that this film is now 34 years old (HOW?!), you can focus on its touching story of the alien, the boy who found him and their sweet friendship. Will you feel your eyes moisten as a grief-stricken Elliott is faced with a motionless ET? Or are you waiting for the ending to really let loose those tears? The choice is yours.

    Sob Factor: 9/10

    Get it here

  • Brokeback Mountain

    “This thing, it grabs hold of us again… at the wrong place… at the wrong time… and we’re dead.”

    Forbidden love between two ridiculously attractive cowboys doesn’t sound like the most successful recipe for a dramatic, tense and beautiful movie. But in the hands of director Ang Lee, and with Jake Gyllenhaal and the late Heath Ledger in the leading-role saddles, this was the tear-jerker of 2005.

    Sob Factor: 8/10

    Get it here

  • Hotel Rwanda

    “We’re here as peace-keepers, not peace-makers.”

    Reminding us all of the crushingly devastating, pointless and indiscriminate violence of the Rwandan conflict, 2004’s Hotel Rwanda – with its beautiful soundtrack alone likely to make you well up – is not only an important film but also a very, very emotional one.  

    Sob Factor: 10/10

    Get it here

  • About Time

    “The real troubles in your life will always be things that never crossed your worried mind.”

    Rather like One Day, on the face of it, About Time doesn’t look as if it’s anything more than a light bit of filmic fiction. Don’t be fooled. Lead character Tim may think anything can be fixed by a spot of time travel but when it really matters he comes unstuck, as do the tears.

    Sob Factor: 7/10

    Get it here

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Katharine Busby

Katharine Busby is a writer and editor. She knew she was a feminist when she realised it didn’t mean chucking away her lipstick, but having the choice to do so should she wish.

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