(Photo by Studio Ghibli)

Blockbusters thrill, comedies kill with laughs, and horror gets the pulse a-poundin’. But for catharsis and rejuvenation, you’ll have to reach for a sad movie (along with plenty of weapons-grade tissues). Here at Rotten Tomatoes we are trying to break your heart, and the fastest way we know to getting there isn’t with food or through the sternum, but with a thoughtful catalog of the truly tragic: the 100 saddest movies ever made.

Our take on the essential and best sad movies doesn’t have a one-cry-fits-all approach. Instead, we split different tiers to flow your tears. We start with the emotional rescue from the likes of The Iron Giant and The Shawshank Redemption, to the water works guarantees offered by Titanic and The Notebook, and up to the five-alarm feeling destroyers of Fruitvale Station, Come and See, Grave of the Fireflies, and Dancer in the Dark.

Read on, as Marya E. Gates takes you through the 100 saddest movies ever.

(Photo by Focus Features/courtesy Everett Collection)

The beauty of sad movies — or the desire to watch a sad movie — is that they can work on many levels. Some movies may not be earth-shatteringly sad, but they will touch in a deeply emotional way. For example, The Iron Giant touches on themes of loneliness and community and the idea that inherent goodness can win the day. If Beale Street Could Talk looks systematic racism right in the eye while also exploring the strength that can be found in family and love. While still as deeply weird as any film in his filmography, David Lynch’s The Elephant Man asks its viewers to set aside any preconceived notions they have about Joseph Merrick, whose facial deformities made him standout in Victorian-era England, and acknowledge our shared humanity.

In Killer of Sheep, director Charles Burnett explores the beauty, the joy, the desolation, and the resilience of an economically oppressed Black family living in Watts, Los Angeles during the recession of the 1970s through the powerful images and soul-stirring music. In Celine Song’s Past Lives, the writer-director uses the Korean concept of In-Yun to explore missed connections and the powerful mysteries of love in all its many forms. Captained by an iconic performance from star Robin Williams, Dead Poets Society is an ode to the power of teachers to guide their students towards a life led with intelligence and a sense of wonder. Carpe diem!

Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck make an unexpected connection as a runaway princess and an ethically murky journalist who learn the true meaning of sacrifice for the greater good in classic romance Roman Holiday. Prickly family tensions and the steadfast power of love and partnership — as well as Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda’s captivating late-career performances — will tug at your heartstrings in On Golden Pond. Similarly, Lee Unkrich’s Coco explores changing family dynamics, forgiveness, and the power of shared memory across generations. Finally, the aging Umberto’s dedication to his dog Flike in Vittorio De Sica’s Umberto D. will touch the heart of even the biggest grinch.


Adjusted Score: 71283%

Critics Consensus: There’s not too much to it besides Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, but that’s still enough to make this An Affair to Remember.

Synopsis: A man and a woman have a romance while on a cruise from Europe to New York. Despite being engaged… [More]


Adjusted Score: 101461%

Critics Consensus: Although its reach occasionally exceeds its grasp, After Yang yields rich rewards for those willing to settle into its low-key wavelength.

Synopsis: When his young daughter’s beloved companion — an android named Yang — malfunctions, Jake (Colin Farrell) searches for a way… [More]


Adjusted Score: 116646%

Critics Consensus: Coco‘s rich visual pleasures are matched by a thoughtful narrative that takes a family-friendly — and deeply affecting — approach to questions of culture, family, life, and death.

Synopsis: Despite his family’s generations-old ban on music, young Miguel dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol Ernesto de… [More]


Adjusted Score: 89485%

Critics Consensus: Affecting performances from the young cast and a genuinely inspirational turn from Robin Williams grant Peter Weir’s prep school drama top honors.

Synopsis: A new English teacher, John Keating (Robin Williams), is introduced to an all-boys preparatory school that is known for its… [More]


Adjusted Score: 98407%

Critics Consensus: David Lynch’s relatively straight second feature finds an admirable synthesis of compassion and restraint in treating its subject, and features outstanding performances by John Hurt and Anthony Hopkins.

Synopsis: Dr. Frederic Treves (Anthony Hopkins) discovers Joseph (John) Merrick (John Hurt) in a sideshow. Born with a congenital disorder, Merrick… [More]


Adjusted Score: 100580%

Critics Consensus: Propelled by Charlie Kaufman’s smart, imaginative script and Michel Gondry’s equally daring directorial touch, Eternal Sunshine is a twisty yet heartfelt look at relationships and heartache.

Synopsis: After a painful breakup, Clementine (Kate Winslet) undergoes a procedure to erase memories of her former boyfriend Joel (Jim Carrey)… [More]


Adjusted Score: 115358%

Critics Consensus: The Farewell deftly captures complicated family dynamics with a poignant, well-acted drama that marries cultural specificity with universally relatable themes.

Synopsis: Billi’s family returns to China under the guise of a fake wedding to stealthily say goodbye to their beloved matriarch… [More]


Adjusted Score: 93979%

Critics Consensus: Ambitious and visually absorbing, A Hidden Life may prove inscrutable to non-devotees — but for viewers on Malick’s wavelength, it should only further confirm his genius.

Synopsis: Austrian farmer Franz Jägerstätter faces the threat of execution for refusing to fight for the Nazis during World War II…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 115336%

Critics Consensus: If Beale Street Could Talk honors its source material with a beautifully filmed adaptation that finds director Barry Jenkins further strengthening his visual and narrative craft.

Synopsis: In early 1970s Harlem, daughter and wife-to-be Tish vividly recalls the passion, respect and trust that have connected her and… [More]


Adjusted Score: 103079%

Critics Consensus: The endearing Iron Giant tackles ambitious topics and complex human relationships with a steady hand and beautifully animated direction from Brad Bird.

Synopsis: In this animated adaptation of Ted Hughes’ Cold War fable, a giant alien robot (Vin Diesel) crash-lands near the small… [More]


Adjusted Score: 106621%

Critics Consensus: By turns funny, sad, and profound, Killer of Sheep offers a sympathetic and humane glimpse into inner-city life.

Synopsis: In Watts, an urban and mostly African-American section of Los Angeles, Stan (Henry Gayle Sanders) spends his days toiling away… [More]


Adjusted Score: 97898%

Critics Consensus: A nostalgic charmer, Lady and the Tramp’s token sweetness is mighty but the songs and richly colored animation are technically superb and make for a memorable experience.

Synopsis: This Disney animated classic follows a pampered cocker spaniel named Lady (Barbara Luddy) whose comfortable life slips away once her… [More]


Adjusted Score: 99930%

Critics Consensus: Little Miss Sunshine succeeds thanks to a strong ensemble cast that includes Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Alan Arkin, and Abigail Breslin, as well as a delightfully funny script.

Synopsis: The Hoover family — a man (Greg Kinnear), his wife (Toni Collette), an uncle (Steve Carell), a brother (Paul Dano)… [More]


Adjusted Score: 94744%

Critics Consensus: Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn are a wondrous duo in On Golden Pond, a wistful drama that movingly explores the twilight years of a loving marriage.

Synopsis: Cantankerous retiree Norman Thayer (Henry Fonda) and his conciliatory wife, Ethel (Katharine Hepburn), spend summers at their New England vacation… [More]


Adjusted Score: 98485%

Critics Consensus: A quiet yet deeply moving kind of Western, Paris, Texas captures a place and people like never before (or after).

Synopsis: A disheveled man who wanders out of the desert, Travis Henderson (Harry Dean Stanton) seems to have no idea who… [More]


Adjusted Score: 112636%

Critics Consensus: A remarkable debut for writer-director Celine Song, Past Lives uses the bonds between its sensitively sketched central characters to support trenchant observations on the human condition.

Synopsis: Nora and Hae Sung, two deeply connected childhood friends, are wrest apart after Nora’s family emigrates from South Korea. Two… [More]


Adjusted Score: 103619%

Critics Consensus: With Audrey Hepburn luminous in her American debut, Roman Holiday is as funny as it is beautiful, and sets the standard for the modern romantic comedy.

Synopsis: Overwhelmed by her suffocating schedule, touring European princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) takes off for a night while in Rome. When… [More]


Adjusted Score: 97099%

Critics Consensus: The Shawshank Redemption is an uplifting, deeply satisfying prison drama with sensitive direction and fine performances.

Synopsis: Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison for the murders of his wife and… [More]


Adjusted Score: 103142%

Critics Consensus: Anchored by Carlo Battisti’s moving performance as Umberto D, Vittorio de Sica’s deeply empathetic character study is a bracing glimpse into the lives of the downtrodden.

Synopsis: When elderly pensioner Umberto Domenico Ferrari (Carlo Battisti) returns to his boarding house from a protest calling for a hike… [More]


Adjusted Score: 100155%

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: An Iranian schoolboy scours a neighboring village for a classmate’s home to return an important notebook…. [More]

(Photo by Focus Films/Everett Collection)

This tier of movies feature a scene that will have your eyes misting up. There have been many adaptations of Louisa May Alcott’s novel Little Women, but no scene packs the emotional wallop that Claire Danes brings to her monologue as Beth in Gillian Armstrong’s 1994 version. Similarly, there’s Gary Cooper’s Lou Gerhig addressing the stadium crowd in The Pride of the Yankees, declaring himself “the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.” Add in Heath Ledger’s Ennis as he breaks down holding his lover’s jacket at the end of Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain.

Although much of Pig follows Nicolas Cage’s isolated truffle hunter and his violent attempts to get his animal back, the revelation of the heartache at the character’s core and the soulfulness Cage brings to his performance is unexpectedly touching. And try fighting back your tears when an uncontrollable blaze threatens to undo everything the Yi family has accomplished in Lee Isaac Chung’s semi-autobiographical Minari. Or when Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) must say goodbye to her mother in Sean Baker’s The Florida Project. Families being torn apart is also at the center of the classic 1937 weepy Stella Dallas, in which Barbara Stanwyck must make the ultimate sacrifice in order to ensure her daughter’s happiness.

“We’ll always have Paris,” Humphrey Bogart tells Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca and the hearts of movie-goers for decades have yet to recover. Thankfully, not all tearjerker endings leave on a sad note, as Charlie Chaplin and Virginia Cherrill show us in the silent romance City Lights.


Adjusted Score: 91732%

Critics Consensus: Atonement features strong performances, brilliant cinematography, and a unique score. Featuring deft performances from James MacAvoy and Keira Knightley, it’s a successful adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel.

Synopsis: This sweeping English drama, based on the book by Ian McEwan, follows the lives of young lovers Cecilia Tallis (Keira… [More]


Adjusted Score: 112029%

Critics Consensus: An engrossing look at the triumphs and travails of war veterans, The Best Years of Our Lives is concerned specifically with the aftermath of World War II, but its messages speak to the overall American experience.

Synopsis: Fred, Al and Homer are three World War II veterans facing difficulties as they re-enter civilian life. Fred (Dana Andrews)… [More]


Adjusted Score: 97442%

Critics Consensus: A beautiful, epic Western, Brokeback Mountain’s love story is imbued with heartbreaking universality thanks to moving performances by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Synopsis: In 1963, rodeo cowboy Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) and ranch hand Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) are hired by rancher… [More]


Adjusted Score: 120624%

Critics Consensus: An undisputed masterpiece and perhaps Hollywood’s quintessential statement on love and romance, Casablanca has only improved with age, boasting career-defining performances from Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.

Synopsis: Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), who owns a nightclub in Casablanca, discovers his old flame Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) is in town… [More]


Adjusted Score: 96450%

Critics Consensus: Director Salles transcends road-movie clichés and crafts a film that is as moving as it is universal.

Synopsis: Bitter former schoolteacher Dora (Fernanda Montenegro) supports herself by taking dictation from illiterate people in Rio de Janeiro who want… [More]


Adjusted Score: 77416%

Critics Consensus: That’s some pig, with spirited vocal performances and a charmingly family-friendly adaptation of E.B. White’s winsome story spun around him.

Synopsis: E.B. White’s beloved children’s tale is brought to life in this animated film, which finds the young farm pig Wilbur… [More]


Adjusted Score: 103602%

Critics Consensus: One of the best underdog romance movies ever, with an ending that will light up any heart.

Synopsis: A hapless but resilient tramp (Charlie Chaplin) falls in love with a blind flower girl (Virginia Cherrill) on the tough… [More]


Adjusted Score: 107503%

Critics Consensus: Drive My Car‘s imposing runtime holds a rich, patiently engrossing drama that reckons with self-acceptance and regret.

Synopsis: Two years after his wife’s unexpected death, Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima), a renowned stage actor and director, receives an offer… [More]


Adjusted Score: 113500%

Critics Consensus: The Florida Project offers a colorfully empathetic look at an underrepresented part of the population that proves absorbing even as it raises sobering questions about modern America.

Synopsis: Set in the shadow of the most magical place on Earth, 6-year-old Moonee and her two best friends forge their… [More]


Adjusted Score: 77006%

Critics Consensus: The Fox and the Hound is a likeable, charming, unassuming effort that manages to transcend its thin, predictable plot.

Synopsis: After his mother is killed, Tod the fox (Mickey Rooney) is taken in by the kindly Widow Tweed (Jeanette Nolan)…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 85667%

Critics Consensus: Though The Green Mile is long, critics say it’s an absorbing, emotionally powerful experience.

Synopsis: Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) walked the mile with a variety of cons. He had never encountered someone like John Coffey… [More]


Adjusted Score: 103847%

Critics Consensus: Emotionally stirring, richly drawn, and beautifully animated, The Lion King is a pride within Disney’s pantheon of classic family films.

Synopsis: This Disney animated feature follows the adventures of the young lion Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas), the heir of his father,… [More]


Adjusted Score: 95719%

Critics Consensus: Thanks to a powerhouse lineup of talented actresses, Gillian Armstrong’s take on Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women proves that a timeless story can succeed no matter how many times it’s told.

Synopsis: In this 1994 adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic, the March sisters confront growing pains, financial shortages, family tragedies and… [More]


Adjusted Score: 116520%

Critics Consensus: Led by arresting performances from Steven Yeun and Yeri Han, Minari offers an intimate and heart-wrenching portrait of family and assimilation in 1980s America.

Synopsis: A tender and sweeping story about what roots us, Minari follows a Korean-American family that moves to a tiny Arkansas… [More]


Adjusted Score: 86742%

Critics Consensus: Philadelphia indulges in some unfortunate clichés in its quest to impart a meaningful message, but its stellar cast and sensitive direction are more than enough to compensate.

Synopsis: Fearing it would compromise his career, lawyer Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) hides his homosexuality and HIV status at a powerful… [More]


Adjusted Score: 110537%

Critics Consensus: Like the animal itself, Pig defies the hogwash of expectations with a beautiful odyssey of loss and love anchored by Nicolas Cage’s affectingly raw performance.

Synopsis: A truffle hunter who lives alone in the Oregonian wilderness must return to his past in Portland in search of… [More]


Adjusted Score: 98327%

Critics Consensus: The equally tragic and heroic story of Yankee’s first baseman Lou Gehrig is eloquently told here with an iconic star turn by Gary Cooper.

Synopsis: This moving biographical drama follows the life of revered baseball player Lou Gehrig (Gary Cooper). Championed by sportswriter Sam Blake… [More]


Adjusted Score: 108472%

Critics Consensus: Led by incredible work from Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, Room makes for an unforgettably harrowing — and undeniably rewarding — experience.

Synopsis: Held captive for years in an enclosed space, a woman (Brie Larson) and her young son (Jacob Tremblay) finally gain… [More]


Adjusted Score: 91121%

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: When Stella Martin (Barbara Stanwyck), a working class woman, meets and marries the wealthy Stephen Dallas (John Boles), they quickly… [More]


Adjusted Score: 32047%

Critics Consensus: Though wholesome, the Mandy Moore vehicle A Walk to Remember is also bland and oppressively syrupy.

Synopsis: Set in North Carolina, “A Walk To Remember” follows the rite of passage of a jaded, aimless high school senior… [More]

(Photo by Sony Pictures)

When you’re looking for a good cry you want a movie with a prolonged sense of longing or despair or a sense of great loss. Melodrama is a staple genre for this kind of cry, especially films about star-crossed lovers who just can’t seem to make it work, like Jack and Rose in James Cameron’s epic Titanic. Or Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung in Wong Kar-Wai’s In The Mood For Love, whose love blossoms out of the destruction of each other’s marriages. The heartbreak at the center of Geneviève and Guy’s ill-fated young romance in Jacques Demy’s musical drama The Umbrellas of Cherbourg has not only elicited tears from audiences for generations, it served as the inspiration for the ending of Damien Chazelle’s La La Land.

Going even further back to the genre’s heyday is Now, Voyager, which features Bette Davis at her most emotive as a neglected socialite who finds her own strength after finally finding true love with a married man.

Then there are movies like The Notebook which use melodrama to both explore the fraught beginnings of a passionate relationship, but also its bittersweet end. While most of Pixar’s Up is dedicated to widower Carl’s reluctant adventures with his neighbor Russell, the film’s most powerful moment is its opening sequence, which silently depicts Carl’s marriage with his wife Ellie from its inception until his death.

Films about mourning, like David Lowery’s A Ghost Story, tap into that universal feeling of loss that everyone must confront at some point in their life. Good cries can also come from bittersweet films, like Cinema Paradiso, Giuseppe Tornatore’s love letter to movies. Or 1939’s Goodbye, Mr. Chips, which follows the impact a teacher has on his students over a nearly-sixty year period. Lastly, there are movies like Hachi, which tackles both grief and the steadfast loyalty of a very good dog.


Adjusted Score: 108748%

Critics Consensus: Led by Frankie Corio’s tremendous performance, Aftersun deftly ushers audiences to the intersection between our memories of loved ones and who they really are.

Synopsis: At a fading vacation resort, 11-year-old Sophie treasures rare time together with her loving and idealistic father, Calum (Paul Mescal)…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 46432%

Critics Consensus: Not all great soundtracks make good movies, and Beaches lacks the wind beneath its wings.

Synopsis: Hillary (Barbara Hershey) and CC (Bette Midler) meet as children vacationing in Atlantic City, N.J., and remain friends throughout the… [More]


Adjusted Score: 97461%

Critics Consensus: Cinema Paradiso is a life-affirming ode to the power of youth, nostalgia, and the the movies themselves.

Synopsis: Young Salvatore Di Vita (Salvatore Cascio) discovers the perfect escape from life in his war-torn Sicilian village: the Cinema Paradiso… [More]


Adjusted Score: 88442%

Critics Consensus: It may not be the best of David Lean’s epics, but Dr. Zhivago is still brilliantly photographed and sweepingly romantic.

Synopsis: During the Russian Revolution, Yuri Zhivago (Omar Sharif), is a young doctor who has been raised by his aunt and… [More]


Adjusted Score: 92434%

Critics Consensus: Though it suffers from excessive length and ambition, director Minghella’s adaptation of the Michael Ondaatje novel is complex, powerful, and moving.

Synopsis: The sweeping expanses of the Sahara are the setting for a passionate love affair in this adaptation of Michael Ondaatje’s… [More]


Adjusted Score: 106529%

Critics Consensus: A Ghost Story deftly manages its ambitious themes through an inventive, artful, and ultimately poignant exploration of love and loss.

Synopsis: A passionate young couple, unexpectedly separated by a shocking loss, discover an eternal connection and a love that is infinite…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 85734%

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: Young schoolteacher Charles Edward Chipping (Robert Donat) imposes strict discipline on his young charges at a Victorian-era English public school,… [More]


Adjusted Score: 64233%

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: A college professor (Richard Gere) forms a lasting bond with a dog that he finds on a train platform…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 87049%

Critics Consensus: Douglas Sirk enriches this lush remake of Imitation of Life with racial commentary and a sharp edge, yielding a challenging melodrama with the power to devastate.

Synopsis: Lora Meredith (Lana Turner), a white single mother who dreams of being on Broadway, has a chance encounter with Annie… [More]


Adjusted Score: 63017%

Critics Consensus: Featuring a swoon-worthy star turn by Brad Pitt, Legends of the Fall‘s painterly photography and epic sweep often compensate for its lack of narrative momentum and glut of melodramatic twists.

Synopsis: In early 20th-century Montana, Col. William Ludlow (Anthony Hopkins) lives in the wilderness with his sons, Tristan (Brad Pitt), Alfred… [More]


Adjusted Score: 87161%

Critics Consensus: Benigni’s earnest charm, when not overstepping its bounds into the unnecessarily treacly, offers the possibility of hope in the face of unflinching horror.

Synopsis: A gentle Jewish-Italian waiter, Guido Orefice (Roberto Benigni), meets Dora (Nicoletta Braschi), a pretty schoolteacher, and wins her over with… [More]


Adjusted Score: 117525%

Critics Consensus: Moonlight uses one man’s story to offer a remarkable and brilliantly crafted look at lives too rarely seen in cinema.

Synopsis: A look at three defining chapters in the life of Chiron, a young black man growing up in Miami. His… [More]


Adjusted Score: 59811%

Critics Consensus: It’s hard not to admire its unabashed sentimentality, but The Notebook is too clumsily manipulative to rise above its melodramatic clichés.

Synopsis: In 1940s South Carolina, mill worker Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling) and rich girl Allie (Rachel McAdams) are desperately in love…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 95826%

Critics Consensus: Now, Voyager is a Hollywood swooner with Bette Davis and Paul Henreid in a melodrama to end all melomers.

Synopsis: Boston heiress Charlotte Vale (Bette Davis) is a neurotic mess, largely because of her domineering mother (Gladys Cooper). But after… [More]


Adjusted Score: 93719%

Critics Consensus: Though the costumes are beautiful and the art direction impeccable, what stands out most from this debut by fashion designer Tom Ford is the leading performance by Colin Firth.

Synopsis: George (Colin Firth) is a college professor who recently lost his lover, Jim, in a car accident. Terribly grief-stricken, George… [More]


Adjusted Score: 99441%

Critics Consensus: An exquisitely shot showcase for Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung that marks a somber evolution of Wong Kar-wai’s chic style, In the Mood for Love is a tantric tease that’s liable to break your heart.

Synopsis: In 1962, journalist Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) and his wife move into a Hong Kong apartment, but Chow’s… [More]


Adjusted Score: 106558%

Critics Consensus: A mostly unqualified triumph for James Cameron, who offers a dizzying blend of spectacular visuals and old-fashioned melodrama.

Synopsis: James Cameron’s “Titanic” is an epic, action-packed romance set against the ill-fated maiden voyage of the R.M.S. Titanic; the pride… [More]


Adjusted Score: 104664%

Critics Consensus: Jacques Demy elevates the basic drama of everyday life into a soaring opera full of bittersweet passion and playful charm, featuring a timeless performance from Catherine Deneuve.

Synopsis: Geneviève (Catherine Deneuve), a beautiful young Frenchwoman who works at a small-town boutique selling umbrellas, falls for dashing mechanic Guy… [More]


Adjusted Score: 110008%

Critics Consensus: An exciting, funny, and poignant adventure, Up offers an impeccably crafted story told with wit and arranged with depth, as well as yet another visual Pixar treat.

Synopsis: Carl Fredricksen (Ed Asner), a 78-year-old balloon salesman, is about to fulfill a lifelong dream. Tying thousands of balloons to… [More]


Adjusted Score: 78456%

Critics Consensus: Baz Luhrmann’s visual aesthetic is as divisive as it is fresh and inventive.

Synopsis: Baz Luhrmann helped adapt this classic Shakespearean romantic tragedy for the screen, updating the setting to a post-modern city named… [More]

(Photo by Columbia/courtesy Everett Collection)

Now, if you want to ugly cry, you need a movie with a scene or a final act that is so devastating you cry so hard snot and tears flow until the credits roll. These include movies in which a character has to part with a beloved animal, like in Wendy and Lucy, where writer/director Kelly Reichardt uses the central human-canine relationship to explore systems of poverty in America. In The Yearling, youngster Jody’s beloved pet deer becomes a symbol of the growing pains that happen when you are asked to put away childish things.

This feeling can also be evoked by films about the passing of a lover, like in Longtime Companion. Abbie Cornish’s reaction after hearing about the death of her betrothed, Romantic poet John Keats, in Jane Campion’s Bright Star is so visceral you feel as pained as she does. In fact, most films that will make you ugly cry including the intense emotions of grieving a loved one, sometimes even before they have left, as in Shirley MacLaine’s show-stopping performance as a mother watching her grown child lose a battle with cancer in Terms of Endearment, or even young Jackie Cooper in 1931’s The Champ, whose tender relationship with his pugilist father played by Wallace Beery comes to a brutal end after one fateful boxing match.

In the classic melodrama Penny Serenade, Irene Dunne and Cary Grant play a married couple who suffer many losses as they attempt to build a family together. There are also films with a line of dialogue that act as the breaking point before the deluge of tears take over. There isn’t a person alive who can make it through My Girl when Vada (Anna Chlumsky) insists her friend Thomas J. (Macaulay Culkin) can’t see without his glasses. Or when good boy Charlie B. Barkin tells his friend Anne-Marie that goodbyes aren’t forever in All Dogs Go To Heaven. Or in Ghost when Sam tells his grieving girlfriend Molly that when you die you take all the love inside you into the afterlife. But some ugly cries come from sadness that is conquered, as in It’s A Wonderful Life where George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) overcomes his suicidal despair and realizes that no man is a failure who has friends.


Adjusted Score: 44853%

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: In this animated feature, canine casino owner Charlie (Burt Reynolds) is killed by gambler Carface (Vic Tayback), but returns to… [More]


Adjusted Score: 98989%

Critics Consensus: Elegantly animated and deeply touching, Bambi is an enduring, endearing, and moving Disney classic.

Synopsis: In a classic Disney animation, a fawn named Bambi joins his new friends, a young rabbit named Thumper and a… [More]


Adjusted Score: 89883%

Critics Consensus: Jane Campion’s direction is as refined as her screenplay, and she gets the most out of her cast — especially Abbie Cornish — in this understated period drama.

Synopsis: In 1818, high-spirited young Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) finds herself increasingly intrigued by the handsome but aloof poet John Keats… [More]


Adjusted Score: 98624%

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: Champ (Wallace Beery) is a down-on-his-luck boxer in Tijuana whose son, Dink (Jackie Cooper), adores him despite Champ’s addictions to… [More]


Adjusted Score: 81458%

Critics Consensus: Ghost offers viewers a poignant romance while blending elements of comedy, horror, and mystery, all adding up to one of the more enduringly watchable hits of its era.

Synopsis: Sam Wheat (Patrick Swayze) is a banker, Molly Jensen (Demi Moore) is an artist, and the two are madly in… [More]


Adjusted Score: 108405%

Critics Consensus: The holiday classic to define all holiday classics, It’s a Wonderful Life is one of a handful of films worth an annual viewing.

Synopsis: After George Bailey (James Stewart) wishes he had never been born, an angel (Henry Travers) is sent to earth to… [More]


Adjusted Score: 94008%

Critics Consensus: The Joy Luck Club traces the generational divide, unearthing universal truths while exploring lives through the lens of a specific cultural experience.

Synopsis: In San Francisco, a group of aging Chinese women (Kiều Chinh, Tsai Chin, France Nuyen, Lisa Lu) meet regularly to… [More]


Adjusted Score: 92172%

Critics Consensus: Longtime Companion is a sensitive ensemble AIDS drama, lensed with sympathy which builds to a moving finale.

Synopsis: During the 1980s, a group of gay men and their straight female friend confront the spread of AIDS. Personal trainer… [More]


Adjusted Score: 70045%

Critics Consensus: Earnest and determined to make audiences swoon, Love Story is an unabashed tearjerker that will capture hearts when it isn’t inducing eye rolls.

Synopsis: When wealthy Harvard University law student Oliver Barrett IV (Ryan O’Neal) meets Jenny Cavilleri (Ali MacGraw), a middle-class girl who… [More]


Adjusted Score: 99104%

Critics Consensus: Clint Eastwood’s assured direction – combined with knockout performances from Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman – help Million Dollar Baby to transcend its clichés, and the result is deeply heartfelt and moving.

Synopsis: Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) is a veteran Los Angeles boxing trainer who keeps almost everyone at arm’s length, except his… [More]


Adjusted Score: 50579%

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: Tomboy Vada Sultenfuss (Anna Chlumsky) has good reason to be morbid: her mother died giving birth to her, and her… [More]


Adjusted Score: 100225%

Critics Consensus: Robert Redford proves himself a filmmaker of uncommon emotional intelligence with Ordinary People, an auspicious debut that deftly observes the fractioning of a family unit through a quartet of superb performances.

Synopsis: Tormented by guilt following the death of his older brother, Buck, in a sailing accident, alienated teenager Conrad Jarrett (Timothy… [More]


Adjusted Score: 95755%

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: Since marrying Roger Adams (Cary Grant), Julie (Irene Dunne) has wanted to start a family. An accident while she’s visiting… [More]


Adjusted Score: 79778%

Critics Consensus: Sophie’s Choice may be more sobering than stirring, but Meryl Streep’s Oscar-winning performance holds this postwar period drama together.

Synopsis: Stingo (Peter MacNicol), a young writer, moves to Brooklyn in 1947 to begin work on his first novel. As he… [More]


Adjusted Score: 75407%

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: Bud (Warren Beatty) and his high school sweetheart, Deanie (Natalie Wood), are weighed down by their parents’ oppressive expectations, which… [More]


Adjusted Score: 69706%

Critics Consensus: Steel Magnolias has jokes and characters to spare, which makes it more dangerous (and effective) when it goes for the full melodrama by the end.

Synopsis: M’Lynn (Sally Field) is the mother of bride-to-be Shelby Eatenton (Julia Roberts), and as friend Truvy Jones (Dolly Parton) fixes… [More]


Adjusted Score: 93546%

Critics Consensus: A classic tearjerker, Terms of Endearment isn’t shy about reaching for the heartstrings — but is so well-acted and smartly scripted that it’s almost impossible to resist.

Synopsis: Widow Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) and her daughter, Emma (Debra Winger), have a strong bond, but Emma marries teacher Flap… [More]


Adjusted Score: 67141%

Critics Consensus: The Way We Were is not politically confrontational enough for its story of ideological opposites falling in love to feel authentic, but Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford’s beaming star power gives this melodrama romantic lift.

Synopsis: Opposites attract when, during their college days, Katie Morosky (Barbra Streisand), a politically active Jew, meets Hubbell Gardiner (Robert Redford),… [More]


Adjusted Score: 93384%

Critics Consensus: Michelle Williams gives a heartbreaking performance in Wendy and Lucy, a timely portrait of loneliness and struggle.

Synopsis: Wendy (Michelle Williams), a near-penniless drifter, is traveling to Alaska in search of work, and her only companion is her… [More]


Adjusted Score: 101654%

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: Based on the novel by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, this drama focuses on the family of Civil War veteran Penny Baxter… [More]

(Photo by TWC/courtesy Everett Collection)

Lastly, there are movies that will utterly destroy. These are the movies that do not leave you with any sense of hope. They sit with you like a weight. They change your DNA completely. Often these films take you through the most extreme depths of the human experience.

Made during the Great Depression, Leo McCarey’s Make Way For Tomorrow follows a long-married elderly couple who are forced to separate after they lose their home and none of their grown children will take them. The Studio Ghibli classic Grave of the Fireflies follows two war orphans as they struggle to stay alive in Kobe, Japan during the final weeks of World War II. Louis Malle’s Au Revoir Les Enfants was inspired by his own experience as a student in a boarding school run by Père Jacques, a French priest who attempted to shelter Jewish children during the Holocaust.

Shot on location in post-WWII Rome and starring non-professional actors, a father must find his stolen bicycle or he’ll lose his job and ability to feed his family in Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves. Inspired by a Leo Tolstoy novella, Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru features a soulful performance from his long-time collaborator Takashi Shimura as a terminally ill, widowed Tokyo bureaucrat who strives to leave a meaningful impact on the world before he passes. Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar follows a donkey who passes through many owners, all of whom treat the poor creature with nothing but various forms of callous cruelty. In Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, trouble teenager Laura Palmer finds her life cut short after being used and abused by almost everyone in her life.

Adapted from the 1972 novel by Richard Adams, Martin Rosen’s dystopic animated feature Watership Down uses a society made of rabbits as a way to explore the complexity of life in all its most troubling, violent, haunting, and even joyous ways. Similarly, Mark Romanek ‘s Never Let Me Go, adapted from a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, raises questions of ethics and explores the fragility of life via the coming-of-age of a trio of teenagers who discover the stark purpose of their lives. And in a world where climate change has caused rising sea levels that have wiped out 99% of existing cities, David, a prototype child-like toy, goes on a journey to find meaning and love after he’s abandoned by his family in Steven Spielberg’s existential masterwork A.I. Artificial Intelligence.


Adjusted Score: 83222%

Critics Consensus: A curious, not always seamless, amalgamation of Kubrick’s chilly bleakness and Spielberg’s warm-hearted optimism, A.I. is, in a word, fascinating.

Synopsis: A robotic boy, the first programmed to love, David (Haley Joel Osment) is adopted as a test case by a… [More]


Adjusted Score: 103412%

Critics Consensus: With towering performances and an unflinching script from Michael Haneke, Amour represents an honest, heartwrenching depiction of deep love and responsibility.

Synopsis: Retired music teachers Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) have spent their lives devoted to their careers and to… [More]


Adjusted Score: 105473%

Critics Consensus: Au Hasard Balthazar uses one animal’s lifelong journey to trace a soberly compelling — and ultimately heartbreaking — outline of the human experience.

Synopsis: This thoughtful and unique French film reveals the surprisingly deep connection between Marie (Anne Wiazemsky), a sensitive farm girl, and… [More]


Adjusted Score: 99886%

Critics Consensus: Louis Malle’s autobiographical tale of a childhood spent in a WWII boarding school is a beautifully realized portrait of friendship and youth.

Synopsis: In 1943, Julien (Gaspard Manesse) is a student at a French boarding school. When three new students arrive, including Jean… [More]


Adjusted Score: 109933%

Critics Consensus: An Italian neorealism exemplar, Bicycle Thieves thrives on its non-flashy performances and searing emotion.

Synopsis: Unemployed Antonio Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorani) is elated when he finally finds work hanging posters around war-torn Rome. His wife, Maria… [More]


Adjusted Score: 95188%

Critics Consensus: As effectively anti-war as movies can be, Come and See is a harrowing odyssey through the worst that humanity is capable of, directed with bravura intensity by Elem Klimov.

Synopsis: The invasion of a village in Byelorussia by German forces sends young Florya (Aleksey Kravchenko) into the forest to join… [More]


Adjusted Score: 74507%

Critics Consensus: Dancer in Dark can be grim, dull, and difficult to watch, but even so, it has a powerful and moving performance from Bjork and is something quite new and visionary.

Synopsis: Selma is a Czech immigrant, a single mother working in a factory in rural America. Her salvation is passion for… [More]


Adjusted Score: 103779%

Critics Consensus: Passionate and powerfully acted, Fruitvale Station serves as a celebration of life, a condemnation of death, and a triumph for star Michael B. Jordan.

Synopsis: Though he once spent time in San Quentin, 22-year-old black man Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) is now trying hard… [More]


Adjusted Score: 103532%

Critics Consensus: An achingly sad anti-war film, Grave of the Fireflies is one of Studio Ghibli’s most profoundly beautiful, haunting works.

Synopsis: A teenager (J. Robert Spencer) is charged with the care of his younger sister (Rhoda Chrosite) after an Allied firebombing… [More]


Adjusted Score: 107337%

Critics Consensus: Ikiru is a well-acted and deeply moving humanist tale about a man facing his own mortality, one of legendary director Akira Kurosawa’s most intimate films.

Synopsis: Mr. Watanabe suddenly finds that he has terminal cancer. He vows to make his final days meaningful. His attempts to… [More]


Adjusted Score: 94106%

Critics Consensus: Powerfully acted and lovely to look at, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter offers a treat for cinephiles with a taste for the pleasantly peculiar.

Synopsis: Frustrated with her mundane life, a Tokyo office worker (Rinko Kikuchi) becomes obsessed with a fictional movie that she mistakes… [More]


Adjusted Score: 103642%

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: Retired married couple Barkley (Victor Moore) and Lucy (Beulah Bondi) struggle through the Great Depression, losing their home to foreclosure…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 78262%

Critics Consensus: With Never Let Me Go, Mark Romanek has delivered a graceful adaptation that captures the spirit of the Ishiguro novel — which will be precisely the problem for some viewers.

Synopsis: Friends Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Tommy (Andrew Garfield) and Ruth (Keira Knightley) grow up together at a seemingly idyllic boarding school… [More]


Adjusted Score: 102522%

Critics Consensus: Old Yeller is an exemplary coming of age tale, packing an emotional wallop through smart pacing and a keen understanding of the elemental bonding between humanity and their furry best friends.

Synopsis: While Jim Coates (Fess Parker) is off on a cattle drive, his wife, Katie (Dorothy McGuire), and sons, Travis (Tommy… [More]


Adjusted Score: 111250%

Critics Consensus: Schindler’s List blends the abject horror of the Holocaust with Steven Spielberg’s signature tender humanism to create the director’s dramatic masterpiece.

Synopsis: Businessman Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) arrives in Krakow in 1939, ready to make his fortune from World War II, which… [More]


Adjusted Score: 106433%

Critics Consensus: Tokyo Story is a Yasujiro Ozu masterpiece whose rewarding complexity has lost none of its power more than half a century on.

Synopsis: The elderly Shukishi (Chishu Ryu) and his wife, Tomi (Chieko Higashiyama), take the long journey from their small seaside village… [More]


Adjusted Score: 69970%

Critics Consensus: For better or worse, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is every bit as strange and twisted as you’d expect from David Lynch.

Synopsis: In the folksy town of Deerfield, Wash., FBI Agent Desmond (Chris Isaak) inexplicably disappears while hunting for the man who… [More]


Adjusted Score: 101453%

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: Mona Bergeron (Sandrine Bonnaire) is dead, her frozen body found in a ditch in the French countryside. From this, the… [More]


Adjusted Score: 82298%

Critics Consensus: Aimed at adults perhaps more than children, this is a respectful, beautifully animated adaptation of Richard Adams’ beloved book.

Synopsis: When a young rabbit named Fiver (Richard Briers) has a prophetic vision that the end of his warren is near,… [More]


Adjusted Score: 101488%

Critics Consensus: Led by a volcanic performance from Elizabeth Taylor, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a scathing adaptation of the Edward Albee play that serves as a brilliant calling card for debuting director Mike Nichols.

Synopsis: History professor George (Richard Burton) and his boozy wife, Martha (Elizabeth Taylor), return late one Saturday night from a cocktail… [More]

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