The Best Sad Movies on Netflix

The Best Sad Movies on Netflix

April 11, 2024

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Sometimes we all just need a good cry. Even though an algorithm such as Netflix’s is, in theory, designed to keep scratching the itch for entertainment that makes you feel good and satisfied, there’s still something cathartic about watching stories that just hurt. The streaming giant’s wide range of popular content designed for a broad, international viewership (with the odd selection or two for particularly niche audiences) means that this list we’ve created offers films that should leave you aching but not miserable—and should inspire a greater sense of empathy that trumps any hopelessness.

11. Society of the Snow (2023)

best

8.2

Country

Spain, United States of America

Director

J.A. Bayona

Actors

Agustín Berruti, Agustín Della Corte, Agustín Lain, Agustín Pardella

Moods

Challenging, Character-driven, Dark

Real life tragedies, especially one that’s as sensationalized as the Miracle in the Andes, can be tough to depict on screen. On one hand, the film has to keep true to the story but also maintain some form of spectacle to keep people watching. Past depictions of the 1972 crash are preoccupied with the cannibalism portrayed by big name actors, but Society of the Snow takes a different route. The actors are newcomers, the threats to their lives don’t require daring action stunts, and the cannibalism is limited to small chunks indistinguishable from animal meat. Instead, the spectacle of Society of the Snow is the human spirit– the vulnerability, the respect, and the generosity they’ve given each other in order to survive. It’s still an uncomfortable watch, especially since we get to know some of the survivors before the crash, but it’s definitely a transcendent addition to the genre dedicated to the miracle of existence.

12. Wildlife (2018)

8.1

Country

United States of America

Director

Paul Dano

Actors

Avery Bagenstos, Bill Camp, Blaine Maye, Carey Mulligan

Moods

A-list actors, Depressing, Sunday

A powerful but quiet movie directed by Paul Dano and based on a novel of the same name by Richard Ford. It stars Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal as a couple who move to a new town with their only child during the 1960s. Their relationship transforms after Gyllenhaal’s character loses his job as a butler and chooses to leave for a more dangerous profession, firefighting. This movie is about his wife’s response to this event and the implications of both parents’ behavior on their kid. There are no twists or turns, exciting action or plot; but Wildlife doesn’t need any of that. This moving story about a decaying family unit is portrayed in the sadness that comes with such events. The only joy comes from watching the outstanding (but expected) performances of the cast.

13. We the Animals (2018)

best

8.0

Country

United States of America

Director

Jeremiah Zagar

Actors

Amelia Campbell, Evan Rosado, Giovanni Pacciarelli, Isaiah Kristian

Moods

Depressing, Dramatic, Sunday

Three half-Puerto-Rican, half-white boys grow up in suburban New York in this personal movie shot on stunning 16mm film.

This movie follows the boys, often literally with the camera behind their backs, as their parents’ relationship goes through turmoil. The kids are often left unattended and have to fend for themselves. The beauty of We the Animals is illustrating how they grow-up swinging between the angry character of their father and the protective nature of their mother.

This is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time, and I think I loved it so much because I was able to relate and feel for the main character (one of the boys). I really hope you will too.

14. Holy Spider (2022)

best

8.0

Country

Denmark, France, Germany

Director

Ali Abbasi

Actors

Alice Rahimi, Arash Ashtiani, Ariane Naziri, Majd Eid

Moods

Challenging, Depressing, Discussion-sparking

As a crime thriller, Holy Spider is taut and terrifying, a modern noir that manages to unnerve despite the familiar moves it employs. The cat and mouse chase between serial killer and investigative reporter, for instance, is a classic tale, but that doesn’t make Holy Spider any less gripping. The film benefits from artful camerawork, considered acting (as the daring journalist Rahimi, Zar Amir Ebrahimi nabbed the Best Actress award at Cannes), and most of all a nuanced take on the situation in Iran. 

Despite having a clear stance against violence and corruption, nothing in Holy Spider is black and white. Contradictions abound, and even when presented with brief moments of justice, we’re left scratching our heads looking for more. Such is the case when the system, and not just an individual, is the true pest. 

15. Farha (2021)

best

8.0

Country

Jordan, Sweden

Director

Darin J. Sallam, Female director

Actors

Ali Soliman, Ali Suliman, Ashraf Barhom, Sultan Alkhail

Moods

Challenging, Dark, Depressing

Based on a true story, Darin J. Sallam’s controversial debut feature Farha is, at heart, a brutal coming-of-age film. Set in 1948, the film is about a girl who gets locked into her family’s storeroom at the start of the Nakba, the Palestinian Catastrophe. Sallam’s choice to limit most of the film’s perspective to that small storeroom is brilliant – in some ways, it echoes the surrounding discussion about the conflict. Most of what the world knows of Palestine is limited due to having to deal with censorship, lost records, and only hearing word-of-mouth stories from ancestors who just barely survived. But what we see is already too horrific to begin with. And what the film knows is the tragedy of losing your home – having to leave childhood, leave your dreams, and leave a vibrant and living culture in order to survive.

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