“Sa-a-a-d movies always make me cry,” sang Sue Thompson in her 1961 hit song of (almost) the same name. In her case, as it turned out, it wasn’t really the movie that brought tears to her eyes but the sight of her best friend and her “darlin’” making out in the dark in front of her. But movies do make people cry — and not just lovelorn teenagers, either.
What makes a movie sad? Doomed romance, dashed hopes, the demise of a beloved institution or a way of life … and death, of course — of a loved one, a self-sacrificing hero, a sad-eyed animal.
Everyone has a different idea of what’s sad and what isn’t, to be sure; like humor, it’s a matter of taste and temperament. You might be sobbing through a film’s finale, while somebody next to you is nodding off from boredom. You might be laughing at the absurdity of a cinematic twist of fate, while everybody else in the theatre is sniffling and dabbing at their tear ducts.
By researching published lists of sad movies on Internet Movie Database (IMDb) and weighing in ourselves, based on our own film-going experiences and definitions of “sad,” 24/7 Tempo was able to come up with a list of, what we think could fairly be considered, the saddest movies ever made.
The list includes everything from animations to exceptional fact-based movies — these are the 50 best movies based on true events.
In case you’re tempted to watch some of these for the first time, by the way, be forewarned, there are many spoilers ahead.
To determine the saddest movies of all time, 24/7 Tempo began with 646 movies found on the user-created lists of sad films found on Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Next, we narrowed down the list by choosing films that were the most popular with both amateur and professional viewers, considering the Rotten Tomatoes average critic and audience ratings and the IMDb average user ratings. We picked the films with at least 10,000 user ratings between IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes and 10 approved “Tomatometer” critic reviews. We averaged the user ratings from Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb and weighted by the number of votes for each. The combined user rating was then averaged with the Rotten Tomatoes critic rating.
Once we had that list, we brought editorial discretion (and knowledge of specific films) into play, deleting movies that didn’t seem sufficiently moving and adding some that we deemed essential.