I shit you not, the moment I sat down to write this, “Cellophane” by FKA twigs started playing on Spotify. I can’t think of a better, more depressing song to prepare me for a yarn about sad movies on Netflix. Let’s get into it, I guess.
I thought I’d start this list off with my most soul-crushing choice and then the rest are varying degrees of sadness, from completely depressing to a pleasurable melancholy. The latter is the equivalent of that sad playlist you have on Spotify, the one you switch on when you’re staring out the window on the bus ride home.
So if you feel like a good cry, have a geez at this exhaustive (and honestly exhausting) roundup of sad movies on Netflix.
What Are The Best Sad Movies On Netflix?
1. Holding The Man (2015)
To preface the film’s summary, here is a YouTube comment on its trailer.
Ophidian isn’t even exaggerating here.
Holding The Man is a 2015 Australian romantic drama based on the 1995 memoir of the same name by Timothy Conigrave.
The film traces the life of Tim (Ryan Corr) and his relationship with his husband John Caleo, played by Craig Stott.
It is heartbreaking.
2. If Anything Happens I Love You (2020)
This animated film is just 12 minutes long and not a single word is said in it. And yet here I am sobbing.
If Anything Happens I Love You won the Oscar for best animated short film at the 2021 Academy Awards.
3. All The Bright Places (2020)
Based on the internationally bestselling novel by Jennifer Niven, All The Bright Places tells the story of Violet Markey (Elle Fanning) and Theodore Finch (Justice Smith), who meet and change each other’s lives.
This is a drama about the experience of mental illness, its impact on relationships, and young love.
So yeah, it’s gonna be devastating.
4. Someone Great (2019)
Because we’re deep in “sad movies on Netflix” territory, I’ve got to chuck in a break-up movie.
Someone Great stars Gina Rodriguez as Jenny, a newly dumped music journalist struggling to get over her ex-boyfriend Nate (my husband LaKeith Stanfield). She recruits her two best mates Blair (Brittany Snow) and Erin (DeWanda Wise) to go on one last bender before she leaves New York City to start a new chapter.
I just thought Someone Great was really relatable in a sad, awful way. My single mate said this movie made her feel like she just got dumped, so there’s that.
5. Marriage Story (2019)
From Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story tracks the crumbling marriage and subsequent divorce between Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson).
I watched this one just to see what the fuss was about. I made it all the way through without crying, and then the last few scenes just caused an absolute waterfall of tears.
6. Irreplaceable You (2018)
Irreplaceable You is the story of Abbie (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Sam (Michiel Huisman), best friends since childhood who are engaged to be married. Their lives come crashing down when Abbie receives an unexpected diagnosis, totally upending their lives as they know it.
Okay, I know this is definitely supposed to be a typical sad movie, but I haven’t watched it yet and the reviews aren’t great. In saying that, I can’t think of a film or TV show with Gugu Mbatha-Raw in it that I didn’t like, so I’m going to tentatively put it on the list and hope for the best.
7. Wonder (2017)
I stupidly watched this by myself at like 2am once, and just sobbed.
Based on the New York Times bestseller by R.J. Palacio, Wonder is the story of August [‘Auggie’] Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), a boy with facial differences who is about to attend a mainstream school for the first time.
Auggie wants nothing more than to be treated like an ordinary kid, but his classmates can’t get past his different face. The film delves into the true nature of empathy, acceptance, and kindness.
God, even the trailer makes me cry. You gotta catch it as soon as it’s back on Netflix.
8. First They Killed My Father (2017)
From director/actor Angelina Jolie, First They Killed My Father is a film based on the 2000 memoir of the same name by Loung Ung.
Ung, an author and human rights activist, recounts the horrors she suffered as a child under the rule of the Khmer Rouge.
9. Your Name (2016)
If Netflix ever pulls Your Name off Netflix I’m going to be very mad (sad).
The stunning film follows a bored girl in the countryside, who starts waking up in the body of a city boy living the exciting life she dreamed of. Things become even more complicated when they try and meet.
Your Name is an extremely emotional animated film by director Makoto Shinkai. I can’t put into words how big of a shit this film did on my heart. It absolutely wrecked me, but in a nice way.
I don’t think this is a typical example of sad movies on Netflix, but it made me stare at a wall for a good hour after I watched it, so that’s why I’ve added it to the list. There’s just something about it, you know?
Even if you’re not very into anime, Your Name is just such a great film.
10. To The Bone (2017)
To The Bone follows Ellen (Lily Collins), a 20-year-old anorexic young woman who spent the better part of her teen years being shepherded through different recovery programs, only to find herself several pounds lighter every time.
Determined to help her, her dysfunctional family agrees to send her to a group home for youths, led by a non-traditional doctor played by Keanu Reeves.
This is not an easy watch, let me just say that.
11. Blue Jay (2016)
Blue Jay is an indie film starring Sarah Paulson and Mark Duplass as former high school sweethearts Amanda and Jim. As the classic romance trope goes, they run into each other at a grocery store after 20 years.
A cup of coffee turns into beer and then suddenly Amanda and Jim are spiralling back into their past and what could’ve been.
I remember watching this and thinking it was just so bittersweet.
12. Beasts of No Nation (2015)
From director Cary Joji Fukunaga (True Detective), and set in West Africa, Beasts of No Nation follows Agu (Abraham Attah), a young villager whose days consisted of playing with his older brother, making mischief with his mates at a nearby refugee camp and eating lots of dinners.
But that all changed when army troops from the capital city arrive to squelch a rebellion against the country’s corrupt regime.
Beasts of No Nation is a very, very heavy watch.
13. The Notebook (2004)
Sad movies on Netflix = The Notebook. End of story.
I don’t think I even need to summarise this movie, you all know what it’s about.
For however many years now, I watch this film up until the 1 hour and 45-minute mark, because that’s when Allie (Rachel McAdams) picks Noah (Ryan Gosling) and then I just pretend the rest of the movie doesn’t happen. Good stuff, if you ask me!
14. A Walk To Remember (2002)
If you want to take a journey back to your Year 10 religious class where we all weirdly watched this film in, come on! Let’s go!
Starring the icon that is Mandy Moore, A Walk To Remember is an adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel, which is pretty much just premium sad boy shit.
It follows Landon (Shane West), a certified bad boy who ends up falling in love with Jamie (Mandy Moore), the reverend’s daughter.
By the end of it, you’ll be boo hoo hoo’ing until the cows come home.
15. Red Dog (2012)
Oh dear lord, the amount of tears I’ve shed over dog movies. They’re just SO. PURE.
Red Dog isn’t a sad movie the entire time. In fact, it’s actually a blooming good time until the last third of it, where you’ll be sobbing into your blankies while you watch a dog search high and low for his owner.
Would my dog do that for me? Absolutely not. But Red Dog would, and that’s all that matters.
Name him as the mayor! Make him the Prime Minister! Give him jewels! Anything for Red Dog!
16. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
Who woulda thunk a movie that is called The Pursuit of Happyness isn’t, in fact, happy? False advertising!!!
Starring Will Smith, Jaden Smith and Thandiwe Newton it follows a struggling salesman who takes custody of his son, just as he’s about to begin a life-changing professional career.
If the cozzie livs and economic crisis we’re currently in is getting you down, perhaps you’d love to watch a film about yet another character struggling to make ends meet. Hooray!
17. Boy (2010)
If you’ve got daddy issues, look away now. Or if you’re anything like me and love torturing yourself incessantly, settle in, babe!
Directed by Taika Waititi (who I would love to be my daddy), it’s the perfect blend between belly laughs so hard you’ll get an ab workout and soul-crushing disappointment and devastation that’ll have you crawled up in a ball for days.
Despite the peachy exterior, you’ll want to get your tissues ready.
18. Room (2015)
Oh boy, do NOT enter into this film lightly.
It follows a woman (played by Brie Larson) and her young son (Jacob Tremblay) who are held captive in a small room for years. The movie is often told through the eyes of the young boy, making for a very emotional and gripping story.
It’s a complete and utter nightmare and honestly, you’d be tempted to turn off your TV at many intervals during it.
Now that’s my kind of sad movie!
19. Her (2013)
If you want to watch Joaquin Phoenix walk around looking sad for a couple of hours, boy, do I have the movie for you.
Her is about a moustached man (Phoenix) who falls in love with his computer (voiced by Scarlett Johansson).
With the invention of ChatGPT, this film hits even harder TBH.
Perfect for a cosy night in when all you want to do is listen to sad songs and numb the void that is within you.
20. A Dog’s Purpose (2017)
ANOTHER sad dog movie? Yes sirreee!
If you’ve ever looked at your pup and wanted to spontaneously burst into tears (same), then A Dog’s Purpose is the sad movie of your dreams.
It follows the journey of one very good dog who discovers that his meaning in life is to make his humans happy and laugh and love. A VERY GOOD DOG, INDEED.
It sounds happy and peachy but don’t be fooled, you’ll be giddy one moment and bawling your eyes out the next. The most cooked emotional rollercoaster of your life.
If your eyes are still in your head after weeping over all these movies, maybe you feel like tackling a different genre next?