26 Movies Guaranteed to Make You Cry Every Time
BY ADAM SCHUBAK
It doesn’t matter how you’re feeling—sometimes you just need a good cry. Whether they’re happy or sad tears, it’s always a good sign if you feel so connected to a movie’s characters that you experience that tickle behind your eyes. Here are the best tearjerker movies to watch if you want to weep.
1. Toy Story 3
This movie franchise has gotten deep! Woody and Buzz’s owner Andy is all grown up in Toy Story 3, which leaves the toys trying to figure out their purpose. Kids will laugh; adults will weep.
This story of two childhood best friends who maintain their friendship throughout adulthood is so powerful thanks to the performances by Barbara Hershey and Bette Midler. The soundtrack will make you tear up just as much as the movie does.
3. The Notebook
Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams got most of the attention in this 2004 drama, but it was Gena Rowlands and James Garner who really brought home the emotional impact of this love story.
4. Brokeback Mountain
Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal star as cowboys who fall in love while working together as sheepherders. The fact that the world lost Ledger far too soon adds an extra layer of sadness to this 2005 Oscar winner.
5. Mr. Holland’s Opus
Here’s one for all of the teachers out there. This gem from 1995 follows the career of a music teacher (Richard Dreyfuss) and the young lives he impacts along the way. It’ll make you want to go back and thank the educators who made a difference in your life.
6. The Joy Luck Club
This 1993 drama about Chinese-American daughters and their mothers was based on Amy Tan’s bestselling novel of the same name. You’ll be grabbing your phone to call your own mom as soon as the end credits start to roll.
Co-parenting with an ex isn’t always easy…especially when there’s a third person in the equation. We won’t spoil this 1998 tearjerker if you haven’t seen it, but the twist will break your heart.
The real-life story of this shipwreck is tragic enough without the fictional love connection between Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet). The rich girl/poor boy romance still draws you in, over 20 years after its release. “You jump, I jump…remember?”
9 The Lion King
There are plenty of scenes in this movie that will make you laugh—and then there’s Mufasa. Just writing that name chokes us up a little.
10 The Fault in Our Stars
If you aren’t reduced to a blubbering mess by the end of this drama about two teens (Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort) who fall in love while fighting cancer, you probably weren’t paying enough attention. Their sweet, tentative connection is sure to bring on the waterworks.
11 The Hate U Give
Police brutality, racial injustice: This drama will make you simultaneously angry and sad. Amandla Stenberg plays a girl from a predominantly black neighborhood who attends a mostly white private school; she questions her identity after witnessing her friend being shot by cops.
12 The Pursuit of Happyness
How did Will Smith not win an Oscar for this one? It’s based on the true story of a homeless man trying to rebuild his life to provide for his young son. The fact that his actual son (Jaden Smith) stars alongside him makes this even more of a doozy.
13. What Maisie Knew
This intense drama from 2012 flew largely under the radar. It stars Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan as a married couple at odds with one another, and their six-year-old daughter is caught in the middle. Watching this little girl being used as a pawn by her feuding parents is gut-wrenching.
A young Indian boy gets separated from his family, borne away on a train that takes him thousands of miles from home. He is taken in and raised by a loving family, but as a grown-up (played by Dev Patel), he yearns to find the family he lost.
Trust Disney/Pixar to make an animated kids movie about death that entertains children while reducing adults to sobbing messes. Coco focuses on themes of family and preserving the memory of those who came before you. It’s also visually stunning, taking you through the world of the dead as well as the living.
16 Marley & Me
Marley, a mischievous little pup, grows up in front of our eyes over the course of this two-hour film. Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston are in it, too, but the rascally Labrador Retriever is the star.
17 Steel Magnolias
This classic from 1989 about a group of southern women at a beauty salon boasts top-notch talent including Sally Field, Julia Roberts, and Dolly Parton. It’s the kind of movie you have to watch whenever it’s on, regardless of how many times it has coaxed tears from your eyes.
18 My Girl
Any kid who went to see this movie in 1991 because “the boy from Home Alone” (Macaulay Culkin) was in it got a huge surprise. As traumatizing as its big twist may have been, this coming-of-age tale about 11-year-old Veda (its sequel works too) is basically comfort food in movie form.
19 Other People
People know Molly Shannon best for her work as a cast member on Saturday Night Live. Don’t let that fool you—she gives an award-winning performance as a matriarch battling cancer in this under-appreciated indie gem from 2016.
20 The Way We Were
The floodgates should open up just hearing Barbra Streisand singing the movie’s theme song, but there’s a whole sad love story that comes with it. The singer/actress and Robert Redford play two total opposites who attempt to make a relationship work despite their differences.
21 The Color Purple
Based on Alice Walker’s award-winning novel and directed by Steven Spielberg, this unforgettable movie follows Celie (Whoopi Goldberg), a young African-American woman in the south trying to overcome years of abuse. Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, and Danny Glover deliver classic, affecting performances.
22 A Star Is Born (2018)
Not every artist can make the jump from music to acting, but this is Lady Gaga we’re talking about. Gaga wrecks us as her character Ally achieves the fame she’s been fighting for—but at a cost. Her chemistry with Bradley Cooper is undeniable and that’s exactly why audiences and the awards circuit loved it.
23 If Beale Street Could Talk
If you didn’t catch this one during award season, rectify that now. The drama follows a black couple in Harlem during the 1970s, showing the injustices they face while simply trying to build a life together and chase the American dream. Regina King took home a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance.
The far-too-short life and career of Selena Quintanilla will always hurt to think about. Jennifer Lopez brings the Queen of Tejano music’s achievements to light in this 1997 biopic. The film has helped carry on Selena’s legacy, reminding us what a talent we lost when she died in 1995.
25 Angel of Nanjing
This real-life story has huge stakes on an intimate scale. The documentary’s filmmakers followed Chen Si, a man who has devoted his life to preventing people from taking their own lives on the Yangtze River Bridge in Nanjing, China.
26 Sophie’s Choice
Meryl Streep won an Oscar for her role as Sophie, a concentration camp survivor trying to rebuild her life with a Jewish American man (Kevin Kline) who is fixated on the holocaust. Like many other films on this list, it’s not easy to sit through—its emotional heft is undeniable.