Sad films on Netflix: 22 tearjerkers, for those in need of a good cry

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From Tallulah and First Match, to Moonlight and The Notebook.

Updated on 17 November: Sometimes, when the weather is gloomy or we’re feeling low, we crave nothing more than a good cry. And a devastatingly sad film isn’t just one of the easiest ways to release all of that pent-up emotion; researchers at Oxford University say that a good tearjerker also increases pain tolerance by upping levels of feel-good, pain-killing chemicals produced in the brain, too.

“The argument here is that actually, maybe the emotional wringing you get from tragedy triggers the endorphin system,” Robin Dunbar, a co-author of the study and professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Oxford, told The Guardian.

With that in mind, then, we’ve trawled Netflix to bring you our pick of the best sad movies. From dramas that will hit you right where it hurts, to romances that will make your heart swell, each of these films promises to be every bit as emotional as they are entertaining.

(Un)happy viewing…

Someone Great

Anyone who’s ever had their heart broken will fall in love with Someone Great. The film kicks off as music journalist Jenny (Gina Rodriguez) is offered her dream job in San Francisco – some 2,572 miles from her home in New York City. But, when her boyfriend of nine years dumps her, it’s up to her two best friends to take her out on one last outrageous NYC adventure.

Stepmom

When Isabel (Julia Roberts) becomes engaged to a divorced man, she finds it difficult to forge a relationship with his children –especially as his ex-wife, Jackie (Susan Sarandon), loathes her. Everything changes, though, when Jackie is diagnosed with cancer.

Beasts Of No Nation

A harrowing vision of modern warfare, the critically-acclaimed Beasts Of No Nation sees a fierce warlord train a young orphan to join his group of guerrilla soldiers.

The Impossible

Movies about a massively destructive event are always difficult to watch, and The Impossible, which charts one family’s experience of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, is no different. Prepare to sob as the film recounts the true story of Maria (Naomi Watts) Belón, her husband, Henry (Ewan McGregor) and their three children, as the deadly wave tears through their Christmas celebrations and causes them to become separated.

The Green Mile

If you don’t cry for John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), an innocent man on death row who stands accused of murdering two girls, then you have a heart of stone. A thoughtful, intelligent, and emotionally-draining movie.

Holding The Man

As reported on 11 June: Adapted from Timothy Conigrave’s 1995 memoir of the same name, Holding The Man offers an achingly beautiful portrayal of his 15-year romance with John Caleo.

A Silent Voice

This critically-acclaimed animation sees a grade school student with impaired hearing is bullied mercilessly, she transfers to another school. Years later, one of her former tormentors sets out to make amends.

First Match

First Match is not your typical coming-of-age story, weaving a tale about Monique (Elvire Emanuelle), a young teenage girl from Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighbourhood, who’s desperate to find a way back to her estranged father. How? By joining the all-boys wrestling team, of course.

The Notebook

“If you’re a bird, I’m a bird.”

Basically everyone already knows the bittersweet love story of Allie (Rachel McAdams) and Noah (Ryan Gosling) by heart, but Nicholas Sparks’ tale of two lovers separated by fate never fails to make us cry.

Steel Magnolias

Robert Harling wrote salon-centred tale Steel Magnolias as a way of coping with the death of his sister, Susan. Starring Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Dolly Parton, and more, expect nothing but wit, warmth, optimism, and heartbreak in this award-winning drama.

Boyhood

The wistful Boyhood, which created a media buzz upon its release in 2014, depicts the childhood and adolescence of Mason Evans Jr. from ages six to 18 as he grows up in Texas with divorced parents.

The Pursuit Of Happyness

In this heartfelt biopic, Chris Gardner takes up an unpaid internship in a brokerage firm after he loses his life’s earnings selling a product he invested in. His wife leaves him and he is left with the custody of his son. Will Smith and his real-life son, Jaden Smith, star.

Moonlight

moonlight
Moonlight, which tells the story of a bullied child taken in by a crack dealer and his girlfriend, has been nominated for a clutch of awards including Best Screenplay.

In this Academy Award-winning tale of love and identity, we follow Chiron from childhood to adulthood, and meet the people who shape him along the way.

Marriage Story

Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson won acclaim for their depiction of a once-happy couple’s struggle through a gruelling, coast-to-coast divorce.

50/50

Inspired by a true story, 50/50 – starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anna Kendrick, Seth Rogen, and Bryce Dallas Howard – is all about friendship, love, survival and finding humour in unlikely places.

Lion

In 1986, five-year-old Saroo climbs into a freight train and falls asleep. After several days, he finds himself thousands of miles from home and utterly lost in Calcutta. Unable to speak the language, and with no way home, he ends up being adopted by an Australian couple. However, 25 years later, adult Saroo (Dev Patel) decides to return to India and embark on a desperate search for his biological mother.

Dreamgirls

Overwhelmingly emotional, Dreamgirls follows the story of a young female singing trio from Chicago, Illinois called “The Dreams”, who cross over to the pop charts to become music superstars.

Tallulah

When Tallulah (Ellen Page) impulsively takes a baby from a neglectful mother, she decides to pass the child off as her own. Without a place of her own, she asks for the help of her ex-boyfriend’s mother, Margo (Allison Janney), telling her the baby is her granddaughter – thus beginning an uneasy friendship.

The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind

Based on a true story, this film sees a 13-year-old boy thrown out of the school he loves when his family can no longer afford the fees. Against all the odds, though, he invents an unconventional way to save his village from famine.

The Theory Of Everything

Eddie Redmayne won Best Actor for his portrayal of astrophysics student Stephen Hawking, who learns that he suffers from motor neurone disease and has around two years to live.

Roma

The exquisitely tragic Roma follows the life of a live-in housekeeper of a middle-class family, as a semi-autobiographical take on Cuarón’s upbringing in the Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City.

Miss You Already

A searing tale of female friendship, Miss You Already follows two best friends Milly (Toni Collette) and Jess (Drew Barrymore) as the former undergoes treatment to battle breast cancer and the latter tries to get pregnant.

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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