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The Saddest Movies You Can Stream on Netflix

Settle in with a blanket and some tissues for these tearjerkers.

Let's face it: There's nothing like a good cry. If you're looking for something to watch on Netflix tonight or this weekend, why not settle in with a movie guaranteed to make you sob into your blanket? We've put together a list of the most emotional films streaming on the site right now, from tragic romances to bittersweet coming-of-age stories to moving depictions of loss. There's something for everyone, as long as you've got tissues at hand. Read on for our picks of the saddest movies on Netflix now.

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Waves (2019)

This A24 drama from filmmaker Trey Edward Shults stars Kelvin Harrison Jr. as a teen star wrestler who makes a terrible, life-altering mistake, and Taylor Russell as his younger sister, who must cope with the changes that it brings. Waves grapples with loss, complex family relationships, and the burdens of adolescence and is an emotional rollercoaster that will leave you reeling.

Roma (2018)

This Best Picture nominee is a stunning portrait of the life of a live-in housekeeper (Yalitza Aparicio) in '70s Mexico City, inspired by writer-director Alfonso Cuarón's upbringing. The restrained style and tone give way to an emotional climax that will take your breath away.

Marriage Story (2019)

Another Best Picture Oscar nominee—and the film that earned Laura Dern her first Academy Award—Marriage Story is a sometimes funny, sometimes brutal look at divorce starring Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as a former couple who struggle to end their marriage without irrevocably breaking their relationship or harming their son. While it's not sad all the way through, the sheer potency of the emotions on display will provoke some tears.

All the Bright Places (2020)

When we're teens, relationships can feel all-consuming and incredibly powerful. The Netflix original All the Bright Places may put you right back in that place. It stars Elle Fanning and Justice Smith as two struggling high schoolers—her because her sister recently died in a car accident she survived, and him because he's an outcast hiding a secret—who find an unexpected source of healing in each other.

Pieces of a Woman (2020)

Vanessa Kirby was Oscar-nominated for her performance in the devastating portrait of grief Pieces of a Woman, playing a mother, Martha, dealing with the grief of losing her baby just after childbirth. The drama shows not just the trauma, but everything that happens after—from the issues it causes in Martha's marriage to the pain of considering whether to take legal action against their midwife.

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The Theory of Everything (2014)

Although The Theory of Everything showcases the real-life romance between legendary theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking (played by Eddie Redmayne) and Jane Hawking (played by Felicity Jones), it also depicts Hawking's struggle to continue his work while battling a degenerative disease, making it a powerful story of resilience.

A Single Man (2009)

Tom Ford's stylish adaptation of the Christopher Isherwood novel A Single Man stars Colin Firth as an English professor grieving the loss of his longtime partner and pondering his own death. It's gorgeous to look at, but its themes carry a heavy weight.

Tell Me Who I Am (2019)

While many of the films on this list are based on true stories, Tell Me Who I Am is a documentary featuring the actual people, which makes it a bit more challenging to endure. The film focuses on twin brothers—one of whom lost his memory in an accident—coming to terms with their traumatic childhood.

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (2020)

An adaptation of the classic August Wilson play, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom stars Viola Davis as the titular real-life blues singer and depicts one day in her life as she records at a studio in Chicago. Conflicts arise over Ma's "difficult" attitude—a response to only being valued as a moneymaker by her white producers—and within her band, until it all spills over into tragedy.

The Netflix original includes the late Chadwick Boseman's final on-screen performance, adding another heartbreaking layer.

The Land Before Time (1988)

If you can get through The Land Before Time without crying, then you are stronger than most. This 1988 Don Bluth film follows orphaned apatosaurus Littlefoot and his friends as they try to survive the journey from their decimated home to the Great Valley. You could fairly describe it as "Bambi with dinosaurs."

RELATED: The 25 Best Coming-of-Age Movies Ever Made.

If Anything Happens I Love You (2020)

Got 12 minutes to spare? That's how long it will take you to watch this short animated film about parents dealing with the loss of their child from gun violence. Warning: It will stick with you long past the 12-minute mark.

Good Grief (2023)

In his directorial debut, Schitt's Creek star and co-creator Dan Levy plays Marc, a man who unexpectedly loses his husband, Oliver (Luke Evans). His grief is complicated when he learns about some major things that Oliver was keeping from him, and that he's reluctant to share with his best friends, played by Ruth Negga and Himesh Patel.

Good Grief is refreshingly honest about what it's like to mourn someone you may not feel you truly knew—and how leaning on the love that lives on can help you cope.

La La Land (2016)

Two artists (Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone) meet and fall in love while they chase their dreams in Los Angeles. And it's a musical! Sounds pretty joyful, right? While La La Land isn't lacking in that department, it eschews the customary rom-com ending. Even if that last moment fails to get to you, we dare you to not shed a tear at Mia's moving audition story about her aunt—a song/monologue that almost certainly won Stone her first Oscar.

To Leslie (2022)

Andrea Riseborough was memorably and somewhat controversially Oscar-nominated for her performance in this tiny indie drama about an alcoholic woman who wins the lottery and drinks away her fortune. Leslie's struggle to find stability and reconnect with her teenage son will resonate with anyone who has ever battled addiction or loved someone who has.

Boy Erased (2018)

Starring Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, and Joel Edgerton (who also wrote and directed), Boy Erased dramatizes writer Garrad Conley's memoir about the abusive conversion therapy camp his Baptist preacher parents sent him to when he was a teen, believing that they were doing the right thing.

Not only is it emotionally taxing seeing Jared (Hedges) endure the horrific program, but the drama also shows him trying desperately to be understood by his mother and father, who do seem to genuinely love him. Watching this film will also remind you that conversion therapy for LBGTQ people is still shockingly legal in many states.

RELATED: 15 Documentary Movies That Actually Changed the World.

A Man Called Otto (2022)

Tom Hanks plays a crotchety widower who just wants to be left alone in this dramedy based on a 2015 Swedish film. Despite the walls Otto erects around himself, he ends up getting to know his neighbors and becoming surprisingly entrenched in their lives.

A Man Called Otto is a testament to the fact that you really never know what's going on in a stranger's life—and that a little kindness goes a long way.

The Son (2022)

In The Son, Hugh Jackman plays a father whose depressed 17-year-old son (Zen McGrath) comes back into his life after they've been estranged for years. In the midst of trying to support Nicholas, who's clearly in a lot of pain, he also has to reflect on how his actions contributed to that.

If you've seen filmmaker Florian Zeller's previous feature, The Father, then you know the kind of three-hanky family drama you're in for.

Passing (2021)

Based on the 1929 novel by Nella Larsen, Passing is set in the 1920s and stars Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga as two old friends who meet each other again as adults. While Irene (Thompson) is living her life in Harlem with her Black husband, she learns that Clare (Negga) is married to a white man who also believes she's white—and that she's been "passing" as white since she was very young.

As they reconnect, Clare tries to live a more authentic life part-time and in secret, which has tragic consequences.

Caught by a Wave (2021)

A romance between two young people where one is suffering from a degenerative disease is certainly nothing new—but this one is Italian! If you're looking for some soapy teen melodrama, you could do a lot worse than this moving recent release.

Sage Young
Sage Young is the Deputy Entertainment Editor at Best Life, expanding and honing our coverage in this vertical by managing a team of industry-obsessed writers. Read more
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