Culture / Film

Cry your way through this roundup of sad movies

sad movies

Feeling emotionally constipated? As a Cancerian, all I can say is welcome to my life. For those days when you're feeling pent up or are in need of a good, guttural cry, there's nothing like a sad movie to unlock your tears and open the floodgates.

There are the classics. The Notebook, A Walk To Remember, Marley and Me, come to mind. But chances are you've already wrung those sad movies dry. So take this list of sad movies instead, because I'm yet to meet anyone who finishes Aftersun and isn't a pathetic sobbing mess.

Aftersun (2022)

It's actually sickening how much I cried in Charlotte Well's directorial debut. Under Pressure is ruined for me forever probably. The same sentiment is shared among the RUSSH office. So why all the blubbering? Well, first of all, Barry Jenkins, the director responsible for Moonlight, helped produce. But the film follows Paul Mescal who plays a young father that takes his tween daughter Sophie for a holiday to Turkey. The film is shot through her childlike gaze and cuts to Sophie two decades from the trip, finally coming to terms with the reason behind her dad's body language, silences and moments of moodiness.


Brokeback Mountain (2005)

sad movies

A cowboy love story. Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger moved us all to tears in this bittersweet romance about two shepherds falling hopelessly in love with each other, and the courage it takes to be out in a hypermasculine world. As a result, their desire can only be realised in the idyllic landscape of middle-of-nowhere Wyoming, until it can't. Continue by reading the gloomy collection of short stories from Annie Proulx that it was based on.


Bicentennial Man (1999)

sad movies

Is this movie very sad? Or do my 5-year-old eyes just remember it that way? I honestly couldn't tell you. I'm sure a rewatch now would spur on anxiety about AI and robots gaining sentience, but considering it stars Robin Williams, an actor that has always served up sorrow that pierces the heart, I'm certain this will tug out a few tears.


Call Me By Your Name (2017)

sad movies

By now, I'm certain you're sick of us running our mouths about how much we love Call Me By Your Name. But that's just too bad, because he we are telling you again. Luca Guadagnino's stirring and not to mention, stylistically beautiful, film about a wrenching love story set in southern Italy over the course of one summer in the 80s is all time. It will also make you melt like that snowman from Frozen. Particularly that scene between a heartbroken Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and his father.


Rocks (2019)

sad movies

When her mother suddenly leaves her, 15-year-old Rocks and her little brother Emmanuel have to fend for themselves and avoid going into foster care with the help of her close-knit friendship group and the small stash of cash her mother left in her wake. Set in east London with a cast of deeply charismatic newcomers selected from a series of workshops conducted by director Sarah Gavron, this is a truly original film about girlhood that offers ample opportunity for tears.


The Father (2020)

sad movies

Anthony Hopkins gives a wrenching performance in The Father as a retired engineer with dementia, while Olivia Colman plays his daughter and eventual caregiver, Anne. With a deft touch, Florian Zeller ropes the audience in to experience the confusion Hopkins' character undergoes, with a muddled timeline, shifting faces, and changing locations. Prepare to weep.


Last Train Home (2009)

sad movies

Lixin Fan's documentary tracks the world's largest human migration, the period around Chinese New Year where an estimated 130 million factories workers in China migrate from their city of employment back to the village they grew up in. This macro phenomenon is documented by its micro implications through the personal story of the Zhangs. Parents Suqin and Changhua work in the factories at Guangzhou while their two children finish their schooling in the villages, living at their grandparents. But when their daughter leaves school to pursue her own career, tension erupts and family sacrifices and resentments are aired.


Past Lives (2023)

By the time you've finished Past Lives, you will have spent the entire movie waiting for its main character to choose between her current husband and her childhood sweetheart. You'll then come to the realisation that it was never about the choice. Drawn from the texture of Celine Song's own experience, Past Lives meditates on the roads not taken and all the potential realities that exist, if not in this world, then another. This makes it sound akin to the brain-splitting work of Christopher Nolan, but that couldn't be further from the truth. In-yun, a Korean concept of which its nearest English translation is fate, grounds the romantic drama by offering hope and purpose. In-yun serves as an anchor, preventing its characters from floating away into the ether of what ifs and what could have beens.


Fish Tank (2009)

sad movies

Andrea Arnold has an eye for teenage coming-of-age dramas. Hers is precise, skin-scent intimate, tender, and concerned with life taking place in the gutters, backstreets, and confines of government housing. Fish Tank is no exception. Arnold trails Mia, a rough-around-the-edges teen kicking about town after being booted out of school. She drinks a lot, but not as much as her mother Joanne, who is as messy as the parties she throws. There's a feisty younger sister too. When Joanne gets a new boyfriend Conor, played by Michael Fassbender, the three women can lose themselves in a white picket fantasy, that is until Conor goes off script. There will be tears, followed by a hot shower to rub yourself of the muck.


Queen & Slim (2020)

sad movies

While on a forgettable first date together in Ohio, the title characters, played by Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith, are pulled over for a minor traffic infraction. The situation escalates, with sudden and tragic results instantly making the duo fugitives. The unflinching new drama is a powerful, consciousness-raising love story that confronts the staggering human toll of racism and the life-shattering price of violence.


Fruitvale Station (2013)

Michael B Jordan reconstructs the final 24 hours of Oscar Grant's life for audiences across the world to witness. Unarmed, handcuffed and clearly not a threat, Grant was shot by police officers at point blank in 2009. The film captures the brutality and injustice of the act, while humanising Grant and drawing attention to the racism experienced daily by Black people in America.


Two Hands (1999)

Our love for Two Hands is two-fold. First the films sense of place and time will have you itching to return to Kings Cross, Bondi and Chinatown in the 90s, if only to ride the monorail and listen to Powderfinger. The second? Yummy. That's all we have to say about the steamy pairing of Heath Ledger and bleach blonde Rose Byrne. RUSSH editor in chief Jess Blanch submitted it as her favourite film to cry to.


The Body Remembers When The World Broke Open (2019)

Shot in a single take, save for the opening minutes, on grainy 16mm film, this Canadian indie is tough to watch. It builds off an encounter between two Indigenous women at a bus stop, who hail from different social classes. Rosie is battered from domestic abuse, and Aila intervenes, taking the woman back to her home in a desperate bid to protect her. There's a tension between the two, it stems from class but also Rosie's desire to not be treated like a victim. The film is taut, Aila knows if she misspeaks the fragile bond will be broken. But ultimately, it's Rosie's decision to return home, which is complicated by pregnancy.


Muriel's Wedding (1994)

sad movies

Whoever pitched Muriel's Wedding as a comedy needs to get a grip. Sure the social awkwardness, humour and gall of Rachel Griffiths pulls it into that territory, but one of the central stories – the one about Muriel's mum – is shattering.


Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

Most of us will remember Kramer vs. Kramer for Meryl Streep's trench coats and the costumes courtesy of Ruth Morle. If you're the child of divorced parents, you'll remember the film for how it captures with accuracy the strain, messiness and tension of separation.


CODA (2021)

Winner of Best Picture at the 2022 Oscars and recognised with Best Supporting Actor for Troy Kotsur's performance. CODA is the acronym used to describe the specific and yet individual experience of being a 'Child Of Deaf Adults'. Adapted from the 2014 french film La Famille Bélier by Sian Heder, CODA follows the Rossi family, all three of whom are Deaf, except for the 17-year-old daughter Ruby. We shadow Ruby, who, in her final years of high school is negotiating her desire to attend college for singing and the impact she knows leaving her hometown of Gloucester, Massachusetts will have on her family. After all, Ruby is an important link between her community and her brother and parents. We see this manifest throughout the film as Ruby attends doctor appointments with her parents, translating their symptoms to the doctor for diagnosis. CODA earns every tear it takes.


Ginger & Rosa (2012)

sad movies

Set within the climate of the Cold War and Cuban Missile Crisis, we're introduced to Ginger and Rosa, inseparable friends since birth. Warm vignettes of their closeness contrast with their bleak surrounds. Elle Fanning is Ginger, bookish and cerebral, while Alice Englert plays Rosa, charismatic and the one instructing how to kiss boys, smoke cigarettes and do as teenagers do. In the meantime, both girls mothers are weathering their own storms, and Ginger's pacifist father Roland appears a bohemian, free-spirited figure until it's this quality that drives a wedge between the two girls.


Close (2022)

Lukas Dhont's tearjerker opens with 13-year-old Léo and his best friend Rémi. It's summer on Léo's family flower farm, offering up a picturesque backdrop for the extent of their friendship to take shape. Just like the farmer's working schedule, the narrative follows the seasons over one year. When the two enter their first day of high school, their closeness is greeted with critical eyes – the cruelty of children – and it takes one homophobic slur for Léo to begin quietly separating himself from Rémi.

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