17 Heart-Wrenching Movies That Made Us Cry

Joseph Thornton

Updated on:

Sometimes, a movie can break your heart and leave you in tears long after the credits have rolled. In this post, we’ll showcase the top 17 most heartbreaking movies of all time, from tragic love stories to devastating dramas that will leave you emotionally drained.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)

The Boy In The Striped Pajamas (2008) - Miramax Films
Photo Credit: Miramax Films.

This film tells a heartbreaking story of friendship between two boys during the Holocaust. Despite their vastly different circumstances, the boys form a bond that leads to a devastating and unforgettable conclusion. It’s a stark reminder of the brutality of war and the innocence lost in its wake.

Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

This story of a determined woman who aspires to be a professional boxer, and her trainer, culminates in a devastatingly tragic ending. The themes of perseverance, regret, and the struggles with physical disability make this an emotional rollercoaster of a film.

The Green Mile (1999)

The Green Mile (1999) _ Warner Bros
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

This is a deeply moving film about a death row corrections officer who develops a unique relationship with one inmate who possesses a miraculous gift. The film’s exploration of humanity, justice, and supernatural elements results in a profoundly emotional cinematic experience.

Schindler’s List (1993)

Schindler’s List (1993) - universal Pictures
Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.

This film’s portrayal of the Holocaust and the incredible actions of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who saved the lives of over a thousand Jews, makes for a haunting and deeply emotional viewing experience. Spielberg’s masterful storytelling intensifies the heartbreaking realities of this historical tragedy.

Atonement (2007)

Photo Credit: Relativity Media.

This is a tale of love and tragic misunderstanding set against the backdrop of World War II. The consequences of a young girl’s lie ripple through time, leading to a devastating ending that underscores the power of truth, forgiveness, and unfulfilled love.

Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (2009)

Hachi_ A Dog_s Tale (2009) Inferno Production
Photo Credit: Inferno Production.

In this movie based on a true story, a faithful dog named Hachi waits every day at the train station for his deceased owner to return. The loyalty and unending love Hachi has for his owner is bound to make even the toughest movie-goers tear up.

The Elephant Man (1980)

Photo Credit: Brooksfilms.

David Lynch’s biographical film about Joseph Merrick, a severely deformed man in late 19th century London, elicits deep empathy for its protagonist. The portrayal of Merrick’s life, the cruelties he endures, and his indomitable spirit make it a deeply affecting watch.

Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Photo Credit: Amazon Studios.

This film tells the story of a man who, after the death of his brother, is entrusted with the guardianship of his nephew. The film explores subjects such as grief, guilt, and the struggle to heal.

Sophie’s Choice (1982)

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.

The title refers to the impossible decision Sophie, a Polish immigrant and Holocaust survivor, had to make in a Nazi concentration camp. This choice and its lasting impacts on Sophie’s life make for an unforgettable and heartrending film experience.

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Brokeback Mountain (2005) - River Road Entertainment
Photo Credit: River Road Entertainment.

This story of a forbidden and secretive relationship between two cowboys spans two decades. Their struggle with feelings for one another amidst societal norms and expectations leads to a deeply emotional and tragic conclusion.

Romeo + Juliet (1996)

Photo Credit: Bazmark Productions.

Baz Luhrmann’s modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragic love story remains as heartbreaking as the original play. The tale of the star-crossed lovers caught in a cycle of violence between their families continues to break hearts to this day.

Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

Photo Credit: Toho Company.

This animated movie tells the tale of two siblings trying to survive in Japan during World War II. It’s a poignant reflection on the horrors of war and the enduring spirit of humanity.

The Pianist (2002)

The Pianist Focus Features
Photo Credit: Focus Features.

This film, based on the true story of a Jewish pianist during World War II, is a harrowing portrayal of survival and loss. The degradation and inhumanity suffered by the protagonist amid the chaos of war is immensely heartrending.

Dancer in the Dark (2000)

Photo Credit: Zentropa Entertainments.

This musical tragedy features a factory worker who suffers from a debilitating eye condition. Her love for musicals and her sacrifice for her son is what makes this a tragic cinematic experience.

Never Let Me Go (2010)

Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

This dystopian film about a group of children raised for the sole purpose of being organ donors is a deeply emotional exploration of humanity, love, and the fleeting nature of life. The quiet acceptance of their tragic fate by the characters is utterly heartbreaking.

Terms of Endearment (1983)

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

This film’s portrayal of the complex relationship between a mother and daughter over 30 years is packed full of humor and heartache. The themes of love, loss, and the fragility of life will leave you reaching for the tissues.

Life is Beautiful (1997)

Life Is Beautiful Melampo Cinematografica
Photo Credit: Melampo Cinematografica.

This Italian film tells the story of a Jewish man who uses his humor and imagination to protect his son from the realities of their internment in a Nazi concentration camp. The blend of comedy, romance, and tragic realities of the Holocaust makes for a heart-wrenching movie experience.