In the world of film, you have horror, comedy, drama, love stories, and more. The reason we all love movies is for the same reasons we love video games. It’s because they have the ability to persuade you to love a character even though you’re aware that the character is literally an actor playing a character. When a comedy puts you into a fit of laughter until you piss your pants, that’s the power of an actor being able to play a comedic role, same goes for a drama, horror, etc. At the same time, you also have those actors that can pull the strings of your heart in some heartbreaking roles. There are countless upon countless of films that people could consider heartbreaking, while other peoples opinions would vary, due to the nature of having an opinion.
The thing is, we all have our own threshold for what we’d consider a heartbreaking story or role. Today, I’m here to talk to you about the 15 most heartbreaking movies ever made, at least to my own knowledge. Keep in mind, these are based on my own experience with the movies, and I’ve done my best to stay away from films that I have not seen, because I don’t want to make incorrect assumptions about a movie, then end up finding out that the movie isn’t sad at all. Also, please keep in mind that there may be spoilers, and if you’re not a fan of those, you can skip the movies that you don’t want spoiled.
15. The Butterfly Effect – 2004
Back in 2004, we were gifted with in my opinion the best role Ashton Kutcher has ever done. The Butterfly Effect follows Ashton Kutcher as he realizes he can change his past and his future with the use of changing his brain chemistry influenced by his journal entries as a kid. The reason these journal entries exist is because of the black outs he had at a young age, and he needed a way to remember things that happened. The movie is filled with plot points that will keep you on the edge of your seat, and will have you feeling sorry for the character Ashton plays because he realizes the consequences that come with wanting to have the perfect future. He loses best friends, romances, parents. It’s all wrapped up into a beautifully dark film, with an ending that will leave you stunned. The movie on its own really gives you a painful feeling of what can happen if you had the power to change your past, and the consequences that can occur because of it.
14. Titanic – 1997
We all know why Titanic made this list, so I probably don’t need to explain why this movie is one of the most heartbreaking movies that has ever seen the light of day. But i’m going to talk about it anyway, since that’s kind of the point. With actors like Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, and on top of being directed by James Cameron, this movie is amazing for the cinematography and the acting, while also staying true to the tragedy that took place on April 15, 1912. Where it really shines is the use of Celine Dion‘s “My Heart Will Go On” which sets the stage for the entire movie, and gives you a sense of loss in a way. It’s one of the best forms of love till death stories you’ll ever see, and I guarantee you will shed tears at least a few times throughout the entire movie.
13. Brokeback Mountain – 2005
Regardless of what you may think about Brokeback Mountain, you have got to admit that it’s a love story in its purest form. Brokeback Mountain follows two cowboys as they discover their infatuation with one another while simultaneously keeping it a secret from their families. The movie was heavily criticized upon release for the use of same gender love, but again, I stress that it’s one of the most beautiful love stories ever put on film, and the tragedy that comes with it in the end is one that will pull at your heart strings and leave you wishing things had gone differently for the characters involved. In my personal opinion, this is Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhall at their finest, and that’s with the knowledge that both actors have and had great movies under their belt before and after this movie was filmed. Brokeback Mountain will surely put you in a sea of tears whether you like it or not.
12. Schindler’s List – 1993
The first time I ever saw this movie, I remember that it was for history class back in high school. It was one of the first times I ever saw anything to do with the Holocaust and since that day, I’ve been infatuated about world history and the like. If you want a movie that will make you feel emotions far more powerful than you’ve ever felt, than you need to see this film. It’s also great if you’re a film nut, and if you’re a big fan of some of the finest work Liam Neeson has ever done. I’d personally go out on a limb and say this is easily in his top three best roles. Make sure you have some type of Kleenex around, and make sure that whoever is watching this will know what they’re in for in terms of what happened during the Holocaust. It can take a lot out of you.
11. Milk – 2008
Based on the life of Harvey Milk, Sean Penn once again delivers an outstanding and breathtaking performance that brings more to the audience than a typical film. It seems that the world doesn’t get very many opportunities to show certain parts of politics in film correctly, but Milk is the exception. It follows the life of Harvey Milk as he becomes the first openly gay person to be elected into office in California. Of course, the political process that is shown throughout the movie is nine days before the assassination of Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. The movie was beyond a huge success bringing in almost three times the budget that was used to fund the film. It received a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, and Sean Penn was once again praised for his stunning performance as Harvey Milk. Multiple reviews describe the movies overall direction as “smartly handled” and “well thought out.”
10. I Am Sam – 2001
Back when I was watching I Am Sam for the first time, it was one of the few times I had seen Sean Penn in a movie. In an instant, I was taken away by his ability to do what a lot of actors can’t do. He makes the character his own, and it doesn’t feel fake. Sean Penn plays a mentally challenged father by the name of Sam Dawson who is forced to fight for his daughter while simultaneously trying to convince everybody that he’s capable of being a father. I Am Sam is one of those movies that makes you wish you could reach in and help wherever you can, because again, Sean Penn really showcases that this character is right there asking for help. It’s a beautiful story, told in a unique style, and a lot of it will pull at the strings in your heart.
9. Marley & Me – 2008
We’ve all gone through the loss of a pet, or a loved one, or anything in-between. We all know it’s something nobody should ever have to go through. Unfortunately, that’s just how life works sometimes. Marley & Me showcases this in one of the finest forms possible, through film. The movie features Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston, and while I’m not the biggest fan of either of them, they do a wonderful job in this movie. Throughout Marley & Me, you get an example of how much of a feat it can be to take care of a dog who ends up becoming a handful, while simultaneously stealing the hearts of the family. As much of a cute dog movie that this is, it comes with a price. Unfortunately, it makes this list for what may seem like the obvious. Due to the nature order of things, Marley the dog begins to age and shows the effects of aging through sore limbs and health problems, which leads to his passing. It’s one of those things where you become so attached to an animal on the big screen that it almost becomes your own, and the feeling of loss is strong.
8. Up – 2009
There seems to always be something special and unique about Disney & Pixar movies. Always being filled with some form of charm and beauty, and still being able to follow that up with a story that draws the audience in right from the get go. Up of course is one of the finest examples of this. By now, we’ve all seen this movie, at least I’d hope. If you haven’t, it was released back in 2009, so what rock are you living under? It’s one of those movies where right from the get go, you better have your Kleenex ready, because the movie will not cater to those that can’t handle emotions. You follow the story of a 78-year-old man named Carl who loses his wife but will never break the promise they both made to travel around South America. The loss of his wife is one of the most heartbreaking things that I’ve ever witnessed in an animated film, and it’s right at the start of the movie.
7. The Fault In Our Stars – 2014
Based on the book of the same name by author John Green, The Fault In Our Stars tells the love story of Hazel Lancaster, 16 year old with thyroid cancer and Augustus Water, with osteosarcoma. Throughout the book and the movie, you feel a very powerful bond between the two characters, and it breaks your heart to watch both of them suffer through their sickness, even though they cover it with their love for one another. Unfortunately, due to the nature of Augustus’ sickness, he passes away shortly after being in the ICU for a few days prior. It could possibly be one of the most heartbreaking books ever written, and it’s very rare to get a movie adaptation on a book and have both of them perform successfully both critically and commercially. If you’re looking for a movie that is easily on par with The Notebook, be sure to watch The Fault In Our Stars. And bring tissues…lots of them.
6. The Green Mile – 1999
I remember one thing about The Green Mile that has stuck with me through my later years, the nightmares that came with seeing this film. Seriously, I think this is one of those movies that I never really got to fully appreciate when I was younger because of how scary I thought it was. While it has been a long time since I’ve seen The Green Mile, I remember bits and parts of it that I believe over qualify to be on this list, one part being the electric chair scene. Of course, to top it all off, Tom Hanks is in this. Whenever I see him in a role, I’m already convinced that this was a role that fits him, and he delivers every time. There are a lot of times when a movie just wouldn’t be the same if a certain actor wasn’t involved, and I feel that The Green Mile would be much different without Tom Hanks.
5. Toy Story 3 – 2010
We all grew up with these toys, so when we heard there would be a third installment made, it must have instantly made all of us very happy. What we didn’t know is the fact that a movie literally about talking toys could make us feel emotions. Yes, I am including Toy Story 3 in this list for a variety of reasons, but the main reason is for the love scene where we thought we’d lose the characters we’ve come to love through the years. I mentioned earlier that it’s somewhat odd that we could feel the sense of loss through the style of film, and Toy Story 3 is the prime example for that definition. It didn’t need high profiled actors, or a unique structured environment that takes us by surprise, you just needed a movie where toys can talk to each other, and you’re good to go.
4. Forrest Gump – 1994
Remember when I said The Green Mile just wouldn’t be the same without Tom Hanks? Well, Forrest Gump is up on that list as well. Forrest Gump makes this list for a variety of reasons, but one of the main reasons for my inclusion of this is mostly due to how Tom Hanks puts his heart and soul into the character he plays. You watch as a man who believes he’s not disadvantaged (although characters throughout the movie say otherwise) succeed in everything he does while simultaneously dealing with an aging / sick mother and a love life that he feels he truly deserves. Again, it’s one of those movies where you wish you could put yourself into it and help out wherever you can. The big mention here is the birth of the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company and the reason for its existence. Losing your best friend is not something anybody should have to go through and Forrest Gump showcases this very well.
3. The Fox and The Hound – 1981
If you can look at me with a straight face and tell me that The Fox and The Hound didn’t make you cry the first time you saw it, well for starters you’re not human. Secondly, get out of my face with that nonsense. This movie follows Todd the fox as he discovers his true path in life, while simultaneously being taken in by a lovely old lady, and making friends with the neighbor dog. Unfortunately, due to the nature of a fox and a dog being enemies, you follow them through their later years as they try to keep their friendship strong, while still overcoming the natural difference. And of course, you have the one scene that nobody wants to talk about. You know exactly which one i’m referring to. Remember? When the old lady is forced to leave the now grown up fox, even though he spent his younger years and most of his life with her? Yeah, that scene.
2. Click – 2006
A lot of people really don’t like any movie that Adam Sandler is in. For one reason or another, his acting style doesn’t bode well with most people. I on the other hand enjoy most of the movies he has been in, and sometimes we get a movie of his that catches us by surprise. The basic gist of Click is Michael Newman (Adam Sandler) finds out that he can control time with the click of a button on a “smart remote,” putting all other “smart devices to shame. Unfortunately, certain circumstances take place, and his life starts to get out of shambles more than it was before he possessed such a power. While the full cast for the movie is of the same caliber with his other movies, the strength of this one comes from Adam Sandler successfully pulling off the ability for us to feel bad for him when things start to go wrong, i.e. not being good to his father during his final days. Even though the movie didn’t fare well with most critics, I would go as far to say that this is one of strongest roles Adam Sandler has done.
1. Cast Away – 2000
Yet another Tom Hanks film makes this list, and I’m not sorry. Every movie I’ve ever seen him in is either breathtakingly good, or is up there with being one of my favorite movies. Cast Away tells the story of a man who is left to survive on a desolate island. The perk to this movie is the fact that the character Tom Hanks plays seems to have a somewhat good grasp in regards to knowing how to survive, but doesn’t realize how crazy one can become while being alone for years at a time. You start to see the character dwindle and turn into a different man, but the real heartbreak is when he loses his long time friend, Wilson. Makes you realize that you can have an emotional attachment to an inanimate object if all you have going for you is nothing. Seriously, it pulls at your heart strings when you see Wilson float away.
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