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Saddest Movies of All Time

Updated on June 9, 2014

Sarah's Key

This sub-titled French film based upon the book by Tatiana de Rosnay is an emotionally poignant piece following the adventures of a journalist searching for answers to her family's long-lived in home. She soon discovers the home was invaded by French officials who captured the Jewish family and placed them in concentration camps. This family consisted of two children - Sarah, and her younger brother, whom she locks in the closet to protect upon French invasion. Little does she know, her family will not be returning home anytime soon. What journalist, Julia, unravels will have you in pieces as you must face the stark reality of mass genocide and loss.

Pay It Forward

Released in 2000, this film stars Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and The Sixth Sense star Haley Joel Osment. Osment stars as Trevor, son of dancer and alcoholic Hunt. When teacher, Mr.Simonet, played by Spacey, assigns a project in which the students must change the world, Trevor takes this to heart. Before his mother realizes it, the boy has taken in a homeless man. It is his idea of "paying it forward" that propels him to do this. If he can help three people, and each of those people help three more, these acts of kindness will reach millions. When his mother and teacher discover a new-found romance, things become even more complicated for Trevor as he continues his "pay it forward" project. Without realizing it, however, Trevor saves lives as his mission spans the globe. The ending will have you breathless as you witness the culmination of these boys deeds as well as the faults in the world in which we live.

My Sister's Keeper

Based on the book by Jodi Picoult, this film follows the story of a family plagued with Leukemia. Their daughter, Kate, is diagnosed at a young age, and her parents make the decision to produce a test tube baby. A baby that will be the exact match, that will undergo multiple surgeries to help save Kate. Anna, played by Abigail Breslin, files for medical emancipation, sending this family places they never thought they'd have to go. Their mother, played by Cameron Diaz, stubbornly tries to stop Anna so her other daughter Kate will survive. What the mother doesn't know, however, will force her to accept her eldest daughters wishes.

Captain Phillips

This thriller, following Captain Phillips, played by Tom Hanks, tells the true story of the US Maersk Alabama ship hijacked by Somalian pirates. The ship is taken by four pirates, who, upon finding little in the ship itself, plan to hold the Captain hostage for ransom. This brings the five guys into a rescue boat, whereupon they begin heading for the coast. They then reach a face to face battle with the US Navy and the SEALS. As tensions run high between the pirates, Phillips tries all he can to escape. These all seem to fail; his life is in the hands of the merciless pirate.

This film does not stray too far off the tracks of reality - depicting the true story extremely well. As Phillips is trapped inside the rescue boat, not only does the suspense resemble that of the film Argo, the emotion that Hanks conveys will make you feel as if you are trapped in that boat with him. Lives are lost; and the audiences sympathy not only lies with the Captain, but also a small number of the Somalian pirates.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Set during World War II, Bruno is the son of an SS Commandant put in charge of a concentration camp. Bruno notices the barbed wire fence from his window, it is at that fence where he befriends Shmuel, a Jewish boy at the camp. They soon develop a close friendship as Bruno brings the boy food behind his fathers back. Bruno's family soon realizes that their father and husband is in command of a death camp. As Shmuel confesses to Bruno that his father is missing, Bruno concocts a plan that could endanger both of their lives as he digs a hole to enter into the concentration camp.

Anyone looking for a heartbreaking dismal movie, filled with the ugly truths of history, look no further. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas does not contain one once of happiness. Yet it tells a compelling story of friendship, family and the realities of World War II.

Donnie Darko

Donnie Darko is a truly unique science fiction film that will have you saddened and confused by the end. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal as Donnie, this movie showcases the troubled boy mysterious crimes and mental state. As he is approached by a large, frightening, bunny, Donnie is instructed that not only the world will end, but that he must commit several crimes. Donnie attempts to uncover the truth of this destiny that has been cast upon him. It is believed Donnie soon discovers his mission - he must restore the natural order though a time loop; he, however, may not make it to see the end if he's not at the right place at the right time.

My Girl

This classic stars Anna Chlumsky as Vada and Macaulay Culkin as her best friend, Thomas, who is "allergic to everything". Both children are outcasts, Vada being a pre-teen girl who blames herself for her own mother's death. Her father does not understand her and the rift between the two continues throughout the majority of the film. Vada's father is a funeral director and when he hires a woman for make-up, the two soon form a romantic bond. Vada does everything in her power to separate the two of them, while she herself, begins to fall in love with her English teacher. Vada must undergo the tragedies of adolescence and loss as she copes with her grief and understanding of the past.


Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey star as childhood best friends who have grown up in two very different lifestyles in this 1988 film. Hilary is a privileged child who grows up to go to law school, and CC is a struggling performer living in New York. When Hilary leaves her life behind and joins CC in New York their friendship kicks off right where it left off. That is, however, until they fall for the same man. A fight ensues and Hilary leaves to return home and CC ends up with the guy. Hilary finds love as well and the two friends lead their separate lives on opposite sides of the US. When both relationships fail the two friends join back up again. When Hilary becomes pregnant a series of tragic events forces CC to take on a role she never thought possible. This story of love and friendship will require a box of tissues as the characters are forced to deal with loss and new-found everlasting relationships.


What would this list be without the 1997 classic, Titanic. This movie is set upon the elegant ship on a fateful trek right into a deathly iceberg. While on board, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack, and Kate Winslet, Rose, begin an unlikely intense romance. Within days, the two are experiencing a case of young love. This love is short lived, however, as the mighty Titanic begins to sink on impact with the iceberg. As Jack is locked away for a crime he didn't commit, Rose risks her life to save her love. This favor is soon returned as Jack does the same. Only one of them survives this fatal tragedy and lives with only the remembrance of the other.

A Walk to Remember

Yet another tragic love story, this Nicholas Sparks film adaptation follows the unlikely pairing of intelligent, talented, giving preachers daughter, Jamie, and troubled, bad-boy Landon. This high-school duo fall in love in unlikely circumstances as Landon is forced to participate in the same school activities as Jamie. Despite her warning, Landon falls in love with Jamie and convinces her father that he is suitable to date the girl. Landon helps Jamie complete her bucket-list as Jamie opens Landon up to a world of love. Jamie, however, has been hiding something from Landon - something that could cause their connection to come crashing down. The ending to this film will have all members of the family in tears.

Bridge to Terabithia

AnnaSophie Robb and Josh Hutcherson star as childhood friends who develop a close friendship when Leslie, Robb, moves next door to Jess, Hutcherson. The two, along with Jess's sister take on the school bullies together. At the same time, Leslie opens Jess's world to imagination as the two create their own world of fantasy in their backwoods. The name it, Terabithia , and return day in and day out, building a fort and fighting the made-up creatures. This serves as an escape for Jess as his poor farming family struggle with money and his father forces him to grow up quickly. The two form a friendship backed by love. An unlikely event will bring most on a roller coaster ride of emotions upon this films conclusion.

More Sad Films

Looking for more movies? Here's an extended list of several others that will bring on a flood of tears.

  • I am Sam
  • Dear John
  • P.S. I Love You
  • Remember Me
  • The Notebook
  • Marley & Me
  • The Lovely Bones
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • One Day
  • The Lion King
  • Hope Floats
  • Up


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    • alyssagoesgreen profile imageAUTHOR

      Alyssa S 

      7 years ago from USA

      Thank you, Bridge to Terebithia is probably my favorite as well. I'll have to check out your hub!

    • Thief12 profile image

      Carlo Giovannetti 

      7 years ago from Puerto Rico

      Good list. I liked a lot of these. I even have a hub about Bridge to Terabithia, which is probably my favorite from the ones you mentioned.

      I haven't seen Beaches, My Girl, My Sister's Keeper, or A Walk to Remember though.

    • Kate Durkin profile image

      Kate Durkin 

      7 years ago from Scranton, PA

      Did you look into any movies that were made prior to 1985? This list seems limited.

    • Bk42author profile image

      Brenda Thornlow 

      7 years ago from New York

      Great hub! I remember when Pay it Forward came out but in never knew much about it. Sounds very touching! The rwo on this list that were particularly heart breaking fir me were My Girl and Beaches. Especially My Girl! Anna Chlumsky's performance towards the end was phenomenol! Voted interesting.


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