“YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!” I yell, causing my dog to jump off my lap and retreat into my bedroom. I forcibly restrain myself from chucking my glass of wine at my television as the tingling/stinging sensation rears up behind my eyes, the telltale sign that I’m about to start bawling. “WHAT KIND OF CRACKPOT MOVIE IS THIS?!” I continue to yell as something heartbreaking happens on the screen and I proceed to ugly cry over fictional characters.
I actually do this, yelling and everything.
Why is this event so weirdly enjoyable? Even though in the moment, I truly hate this movie, I know I will most likely watch it again and tell all my friends about how awesome it was. There’s just something about sad movies that seems to hit the spot. The freedom to sob at will in my empty living room might have something to do with it - crying is a stress reliever.
I had a friend recently tell me she was stressed and needed to cry and she wondered if I knew of any good sad movies to do the trick, giving me Marley and Me as an example. I thought of films I'd seen recently that produced a good amount of tears and, based on that alone, ended up recommending the bottom two titles on this list. I got a message from her later thanking me for the awesome choice, and that she did indeed cry after watching Adrift, below.
If anyone asks me for a recommendation like this, I typically base it off how their example film made me feel. What emotion did it evoke? In this case, it was sadness. If someone told me they loved 50 First Dates, an Adam Sandler comedy on Netflix, I would probably recommend other Adam Sandler comedies, like The Wrong Missy (also on Netflix), because odds are they'll elicit the same type of reaction. I'll also base it off of who stars in the film, or who produced and/or directed it because actors, producers, and directors tend to stay within a niche so you know what to expect when you see the name.
However, if I blank on recommendations, I would suggest typing in the name of a movie into the Netflix search bar and browsing through all their suggestions based on that one title. This often happens when I want to watch something specific, but Netflix doesn't have it so they give me suggestions of what they do have within the same genre. How nice of them! If I can't find anything good from this method, then I just go to Google and type in "movies like..." and it'll give me a list, though I prefer the Netflix method because I know I have access to those ones.
After reflecting on my recommendation to my friend and my own love of sad movies, I have developed a small list of go-to sad movies that I watch when I’m in need of a good cry but when nothing in my life is actually worth crying over. I prefer to cry over fiction anyway!
These films are so wonderfully terrible in the sense that they will have you sitting on your couch, hugging a throw pillow and screaming, “I HATE THIS MOVIE” at your TV. But you actually love it.
First on our list is The Fault in Our Stars.
This is a widely known and loved film, which is why I am starting with it. If you loved this, then you’ll love the rest on this list.
This terribly sappy yet awesome love story portrays a teenage girl (Shailene Woodley) with cancer in her lungs who must carry around an oxygen tank everywhere she goes. The beginning of the film (and the book) pretty much talks up how boring her life is - it consists of hospital visits, her living room, and America’s Next Top Model.
That is, until her parents make her go to a teenagers-with-cancer support group in the basement of a church to listen to a dude play the guitar and tell stories about his testicular cancer. To be honest, it’s no wonder she didn’t want to go.
But this is where she meets the featured heartthrob, Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), who she ultimately falls in love with and is the source of many tears throughout the movie, both good and bad. I won’t reveal the whole story, but by the end of the film, all those who possess a soul will be bawling their eyes out.
Next on our list is My Sister’s Keeper.
My Sister’s Keeper is similar in that it revolves around the difficulties of a teenager living with cancer, but the main character of the story is the sister of the girl with cancer, who was born to be a donor baby (Abigail Breslin). The film begins with this twelve-year-old girl hiring a lawyer to sue her parents for the rights to her own body so that she wouldn’t be forced to undergo painful medical procedures to donate organs, bone marrow, and who knows what else. Flashbacks give the viewers an insight to something akin to torture as doctors hold her down at five years old to take bone marrow from her to help her sister.
The film follows this family’s ups and downs and includes other flashbacks into the life of the teenager with leukemia (Sofia Vassilieva) as she deals with boyfriend drama alongside life with cancer. This film is high on my list of must-see tear jerkers because of a great plot twist (actually a couple) inserted into a heated courtroom cliche scene that I’ll let your TV reveal for you. This film also shows Cameron Diaz in one of the most uptight and serious roles I’ve ever seen her in.
Up next is a total classic that pretty much everyone I know has seen: A Walk to Remember.
Like My Sister’s Keeper, this film does not portray the teenager with cancer (Mandy Moore) as the main character, but this time the main character is her boyfriend (Shane West). This is the classic, cliche “popular kid goes for the quiet outcast and they fall in love” trope. But then part way through the movie, PLOT TWIST! She has cancer, and only told him after he'd already fallen in love with her.
Cue a good ugly cry as this hot-shot popular kid starts frantically trying to come up with some sort of miracle to save her and ends up sobbing in his deadbeat dad’s arms. That scene in particular made my chest ache, and I pretty much didn’t stop crying for the rest of the movie.
However, something that this film has that the first two lack, at least in my opinion, is a super uplifting, feel-good moment that makes you really happy before it all comes crashing down. I won’t reveal what that moment is, but it’s super cute and I adore the way it was done.
In the end, you might still be sniffling a bit as the credits roll, but they finish out the movie in such a way that does leave you thinking “okay, that wasn’t so bad.”
That point about the feel-good moment brings me to one of my absolute favorites, Clouds, available on Disney+.
I’ll warn you, this one is a doozy. Like, the Marley and Me-style doozy that had me crying so loudly in my living room that I was thankful I live alone.
This one is based on the true story of Zach Sobiech, who was made famous for his song, “Clouds,” which he wrote as a way to say goodbye after he learned he was terminal. Just that little synopsis should be a good hint at how wonderfully awful this one is, I mean come on.
He was one half of the two-part band, A Firm Handshake, which featured himself alongside his best friend, Sammy Brown. Both the film version and the real Zach Sobiech version of “Clouds” is available to stream on Spotify, and after watching this film, I blasted that song on repeat.
Back to my point, this film also has a spectacular feel-good moment placed right smack in the middle of the sobbing. Once again, I will not reveal what it is, but here’s a hint: it has to do with his music and his fans, and makes you go “AWWWWWW.” My chest ached from this one as well.
If you’re not a fan of the cancer-themed sad movies, Adrift, on Netflix, would be a good one for you and is also based on a true story.
I am obviously a fan of Shailene Woodley and her amazing capabilities to make me cry uncontrollably.
Woodley stars alongside the fantastic Sam Claflin, who we all know and love as Finnick from the Hunger Games films. Throughout this movie, we follow Tami Oldham (Woodley) and Richard Sharp (Claflin) as they are stranded on a small boat that doesn’t work after an intense hurricane all but destroyed it. They have no way of moving themselves, all they can do is steer, float, and try and calculate in which direction to float to get to land.
Interspersed throughout the movie, we also see flashbacks which tell us how they met, how their relationship progressed, when they got on the damn boat in the first place, all the way up until the aforementioned hurricane, coming full circle.
Be warned, there is a plot twist that will send you over the edge from thinking they’ll survive and get home safe, to wanting to throw your wine at your TV, crying and yelling “HOW COULD YOU?!” I posted on Facebook after watching this that I highly recommend having a stiff drink before hitting play, or at least take an intermission in the first half.
In conclusion, if you’re like me, and love inflicting harsh emotional rollercoasters upon yourself for no reason whatsoever, any one of these films will do the trick. Get yourself some popcorn, a glass of wine to hold firmly in your hand, a fluffy pillow to cling to, and a box of tissues and you’re good to go. Happy sobbing!
Thanks for reading! If you liked what you read, please hit the heart, share with your friends, or consider leaving a tip to support my work!
Please take a look at some of my other stories! Here is one to get you started: