First of all, it needs to be said that this article will be full of spoiler alerts. So read at your own risk! Now, let’s get down to business.
Movies can give us all sorts of feels, from elated happiness to utter heartbreak. While life itself can be an emotional rollercoaster, on-screen representations of our emotional experiences are typically bigger, bolder and brighter. The success of any movie, whether traditional or an avant-garde experiment, is measured in how effectively it makes us really feel something.
Of course, by this token, most of us love comedies – they make us laugh, and they usually have a feel good ending. But life is all about balance, and most of us don’t sit around all day watching comedies. Aristotle wrote that catharsis – the notion of purging our emotions – is in fact healthy to do, and cleanses our inner toxins. Maybe that explains our penchant for a good weepy every now and then?
IMDB recently conducted a survey, polling readers on the saddest, or most depressing, movies, and several of their top results have made it onto this list. Our top ten is further sourced from general consensuses which have emerged from various articles, polls and comments across the movie critics-sphere – of course, ‘sad’ is always subjective so feel free to comment below with your opinions and suggestions. Looking for some emotional purging right now? Any one of these ten movies will have you reaching for the tissues and comforting chocolates.
10. Toy Story 3 (2010)
If you haven’t seen this movie yet, you’re probably wondering why an adorable Disney movie is included in a list about heartbreakers. In fact, though, Disney is no stranger to sad movie moments – Mufasa’s death in “The Lion King” and Bambi’s mother’s death are moments that stand out as particularly painful. “Toy Story 3” is considered as one of the saddest movie endings in Disney and in movies in general. Why? It reminded all of us – many of whom watched the first and second installments as kids – of the fact that we’ve said goodbye to our childhood and become adults. As Andy said goodbye to his toys that we all fell in love with over the years, there likely wasn’t a dry eye in the movie theatre.
9. Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (2009)
As movie watchers, we’re basically desensitized to seeing people die on screen – but when an animal suffers, the emotional floodgates begin to open up. Hachi is based on a true story, and tells of a college professor named Parker who comes by an Akita puppy by accident at the train station and decides to adopt him. The two bond, but after Parker suffers a fatal heart attack Hachi returns to the train station everyday to wait for his owner. This continues for ten years, and the last shot leaves Hachi still, alone, and in the snow.
8. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)
“The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” is a tragic holocaust film that tells the story of Bruno, the son of a high ranking Nazi officer, who’s assigned to oversee a concentration camp. Bruno and his family live next door to the camp, with a barb wire fence separating the family from the tragedy. Bruno, however, makes friends with a boy named Shmuel who is wearing prisoner’s clothing, which Bruno interprets as pajamas. The film concludes with Bruno changing into an extra pair of pajamas so he can help Shmuel find his father, and the two boys end up being led into a gas chamber -and both the young boys die.
7. Marley & Me (2008)
For anyone who has had to make the extremely difficult decision to put down their pet, getting through the ending of “Marley & Me” is tough. About 30 minutes of the movie are dedicated to Marley’s decline in health leading up to the decision to put him to sleep. Tears will inevitable flow as Owen Wilson‘s character whispers to the dog just how much he meant to the family. Watching the rest of the family say goodbye, and witnessing Jennifer Aniston’s tears as she puts Marley in the back of the car – sending him off to die – it’s impossible to hold back the tears.
6. United 93 (2006)
“United 93” was released after the horrific September 11th attacks and chronicled the events on the United Airlines Flight 93 which crashed in a rural area of Pennsylvania. Perhaps this ending hit audiences so hard was because it was real. The actual events of what happened on Flight 93 will always remain a mystery, but this film attempts to shed some light on the final moments. The film was made in cooperation with the families of the victims, and was one of the most critically acclaimed films of 2006.
5. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
The last part of the 2004 film “Million Dollar Baby” is an uphill struggle with no hope of a happy resolution to the story. After being taken on Maggie’s journey (played by Hilary Swank) to becoming a boxer, viewers witness her quick decline as a sucker punch turns Maggie into a quadriplegic. As she deals with a leg amputation and a family that is only interested in her money, she begs her trainer Frankie (played by Clint Eastwood) to kill her. He eventually gives her a fatal dose of adrenaline, and tells her that she was family to him.
4. Requiem For a Dream (2000)
Many people have said that “Requiem For a Dream” is one of those movies that you only watch once, and never want to watch again. It’s not because it is a bad movie, but it’s because it strikes a dark chord in depicting the devastation of lives changed because of drugs. The movie’s ending is probably one of the most depressing in cinematic history and leaves you in a daze, wondering what to do next with your life as you recover.
3. Life Is Beautiful (1997)
“Life Is Beautiful” tells the story of Jewish bookshop owner Guido Orefice, who uses his imagination to shield his son Joshua from the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp. Instead of letting his son face the horrors, he convinces Joshua that it’s all a game and that he must earn one thousand points, and then he will win a tank. Eventually, a Nazi soldier executes Guido just as the Americans are liberating the concentration camp. Joshua is reunited with his mother, and the film ends with an older Joshua telling his father’s story.
2. The Green Mile (1999)
As we see John Coffey placed in the electric chair, and watch him decline the black hood because he was afraid of the dark, why are audiences consistently hit so hard? John Coffey was a gentle man in the body of a giant, and wrongly accused of a heinous crime that landed him the death sentence. The audience and the characters know that killing Coffey is emblematic of one of the world’s all too common and most horrendous injustices.
1. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
“Grave of the Fireflies” was released in 1988 and tells the story of a 14-year old boy named Seita, and his younger sister Setsuko, who were orphaned during World War II. As the two orphans struggle to survive, it’s a battle they ultimately lose. Setsuko dies of malnutrition and Seita cremates her body and puts her ashes in a candy tin, and then dies a few weeks later of malnutrition as well. It’s a grim, painful tale veiled in pretty animation.