The Best Sad Movies on Netflix

The Best Sad Movies on Netflix

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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.

15. The Nightingale (2018)

7.1

Country

Australia

Director

Female director, Jennifer Kent

Actors

Aisling Franciosi, Anthony Phelan, Baykali Ganambarr, Ben McIvor

Moods

Challenging, Dark, Depressing

From The Babadook director Jennifer Kent comes another horror, although this one is more about the horrors of humanity. Set in 1825 Tasmania, The Nightingale follows Irish settler Clare as she seeks bloody revenge on the monsters who wronged her and her family. She teams up with an Aboriginal guide named Billy to accomplish her goal.

Because of its often violent and disturbing tone (the film is rated R for its potentially triggering scenes), The Nightingale understandably polarized audiences upon its release. But it’s also an excellent conversation piece, best watched with friends or anyone up for a discussion-filled movie night.

14. Eternal Summer (2006)

7.2

Country

Sweden, Taiwan

Director

Leste Chen

Actors

Joseph Chang, Kate Yeung, Ray Chang

Moods

Character-driven, Depressing, Dramatic

Though Eternal Summer isn’t able to fully engage with its queer characters—maybe due to its being released in the mid-2000s—it still makes for a more interesting character study than you’d expect. This romance between three school friends has more on its mind than simply pitting two romantic pairings against each other. Unrequited feelings, unspoken secrets, and identities that are constantly in flux make Eternal Summer compelling just for the way these people try to dance around one another’s emotions. And since it’s shot in the muted colors of early digital filmmaking, this is a love story that becomes all the more melancholic just in the way it looks.

13. Your Name Engraved Herein (2020)

7.7

Country

Taiwan

Director

Kuang-Hui Liu, Liu Kuang-hui

Actors

Barry Qu, Cheng-Yang Wu, David Chiu, Edward Chen

Moods

Depressing, Emotional, Raw

Your Name Engraved Herein is a melancholy and emotional film set in 1987 just as martial law ends in Taiwan. The film explores the relationship between Jia-han and Birdy, two boys in a Catholic school who are in a romantic relationship. The movie tackles homophobia and social stigma in society which evokes a bleak and rather depressing atmosphere, emphasised by the movie’s earthy aesthetic. There is a rawness in the film’s narrative and dialogue, topped off by the lead actors’ successfully raw performances. Your Name Engraved Herein is tender as well as heartbreaking, occasionally depicting the joy of youth.

12. On My Skin (2018)

7.7

Country

Italy

Director

Alessio Cremonini

Actors

Aleksandros Memetaj, Alessandro Borghi, Alessio De Persio, Andrea Lattanzi

Moods

Depressing, Touching, True-story-based

This Netflix production is based on a case that rocked public opinion in Italy. Stefano Cucchi was arrested for a minor drug charge and died five days later from police brutality.

The movie takes its time to expose what Cucchi went through, which might lead some viewers to find On My Skin slow, and rightfully so. Thinking about the issues at hand here, it’s easy to understand why the director made that choice. In fact, Italians’ complex relationship with the Carabinieri, a division of the Italian army that carries out domestic policing, is delicate to explain and requires meticulous unveiling.

Nominated to nine David di Donatello Awards (the equivalent of the Academy Awards in Italy), of which it won three.

11. A Ghost Story (2017)

7.9

Country

United States of America

Director

David Lowery

Actors

Augustine Frizzell, Barlow Jacobs, Brea Grant, Casey Affleck

Moods

A-list actors, Challenging, Dark

Twisted yet deep. Sad yet interesting. Slow yet exhilarating. A Ghost Story is an incredible artistic achievement. With hardly any dialog, and breathtakingly long takes in its first half, it manages to bring you in its own creepy world and not let go until you feel completely lonely. Starring Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck as a loving couple who are hit with a horrible tragedy, the beginning is slow, and it’s not a plot driven movie, but if you give it a chance it will blow your mind.

10. Snowpiercer (2014)

7.9

Country

Czech Republic, Korea, South Korea

Director

Bong Joon-ho

Actors

Adnan Haskovic, Alison Pill, Chris Evans, Clark Middleton

Moods

Action-packed, Depressing, Dramatic

Snowpiercer is an under-the-rader post-apocalyptic thriller that offers the grittiness that many times only Asian cinema may achieve. South Korean director Joon-ho Bong forces audiences to forget that Chris Evans was ever a Marvel superhero, as he leads a revolt of his fellow “low-class” citizens against the self-appointed gentry in a train that contains all remaining members of the planet. With immersive environments and a layered script, this film melds together social commentary and moral discourse in a visually arresting and vastly entertaining package.

9. 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.

8. Like Crazy (2011)

best

8.0

Country

UK, United States of America

Director

Drake Doremus

Actors

Alex Kingston, Amanda Carlin, Anton Yelchin, Ben York Jones

Moods

Depressing, Dramatic, Raw

See, low budget films do work! Like Crazy schools other romantic films on what they should all be: cute and sweet but also frustrating and nerve-wracking. Felicity Jones is absolutely fantastic here, she stars as a British girl who falls in love with an American, Jacob, while in college. On a whim, she overstays her visa to be with him, and then return to England to face the consequences. The intimacy this film explores really distinguishes it from others and makes for an authentic experience, as it is based on its writer/director’s own 8-year long-distance relationship. A great option if you’re in the mood for the type of suspense that pulls at your heartstrings.

 

7. Wildlife (2018)

8.1

Country

United States of America

Director

Paul Dano

Actors

Bill Camp, Blaine Maye, Carey Mulligan, Darryl Cox

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.

6. Tell Me Who I Am (2019)

8.2

Country

UK, United Kingdom

Director

Ed Perkins

Actors

Alex Lewis, Andrew Caley, Evan Milton, Laura Obiols

Moods

Challenging, Depressing, Discussion-sparking

This documentary starts with Alex Lewis, who gets into a motorcycle accident and wakes up in the hospital not knowing who he is. He doesn’t remember anything (not even what a bicycle or a TV is, or who his mother or father are), but he remembers his twin brother, Marcus. When Alex gets back into his childhood home, he’s full of questions, and Marcus is full of answers. However, slowly, Marcus realizes his power to reshape Alex’s version of their past. Marcus leaves one important detail from Alex’s life that makes this documentary (as if it wasn’t already) such an insane story. I know I said it’s a sad movie, but it’s also fascinating and, ultimately, humanizing of the brothers’ experience.

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