There are movies that you go into knowing that you’re going to cry. And then there are movies that surprise you by how emotionally charged they are. These are by far the most gut-wrenchingly emotional movies you ever saw or will see. And keep in mind that crying doesn’t have to be out of sadness. Sure, there are truly sad movies in which you’re compelled to tear up. But there are also films that bring happy tears. This list includes both as well as simply touching movies that force you to really feel something. This list is rated according to the rankings on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes, and we’re going to save the best for last. Oh, and there may be some spoiler alerts.
So you can go ahead now and pop open the microwave, heat up some popcorn, and grab the box of tissues. Why? Because we all need a good cry sometimes.
50. Terms of Endearment (1983)
Anyone who saw this movie can attest to its gut-wrenching quality. Aurora and Emma are mother and daughter who don’t necessarily get along. Aurora shows how both difficult and loving she is. it’s definitely a sad movie, but it’s also a love story between a mother and a daughter.
But instead of being totally depressing, James L. Brooks (the writer/director) managed to create a film that is sharp, smart, and convincing and all the more heartbreaking.
49. The Basketball Diaries (1995)
This is one of those movies that grips you and has you captivated from the moment it starts, and it’s not only due to Leo DiCaprio’s phenomenal acting.
Source: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc
It’s based on Jim Carroll’s autobiographical book of the same name, telling the true story of his teenage years as a high school basketball player and writer who became addicted to heroin.
Next, a movie that surprised every audience member by how emotional it was!
48. The Wrestler (2008)
People definitely didn’t expect to be moved as much as they did when this movie came out. We were all caught off guard when we found ourselves tearing up at Mickey Rourke’s raw portrayal of a struggling wrestler.
The Wrestler may not be a blockbuster hit, but it’s a genuinely human portrait of a broken soul. And the final scenes make the wrestler’s pain and heartbreak almost too real to bear.
47. The Terminal (2004)
You can’t help but feel for poor Victor Navorski who gets to JFK airport and ends up being stuck there for a period of time that no one would ever want to be in an airport for.
Believe it or not, this movie is actually based on a true story! Mehran Karimi Nasseri, an Iranian refugee, lived in Terminal One of the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris from 1988 until 2006!
The next touching movie is a serious one, with two actors that have the best on-screen chemistry we’ve ever seen!
46. Revolutionary Road (2008)
The movie is set in 1955 and the Wheeler family seems as perfect as can be. But that’s the furthest from the truth as looks are deceiving. Frank and April Wheeler are in the ‘seven year itch’ of their marriage.
Their on-screen chemistry makes it all too believable and we can’t help but feel everything that both Frank and April feel individually. They’re just that good.
45. 127 Hours (2010)
If you’re a sucker for true stories, this one will move you. Or has considering you may have already seen the film. The true story of mountain climber Aron Ralston is remarkable.
After a boulder crashes on his arm and traps him in a canyon, he faces death and has to make the biggest decision of his life. If you don’t feel moved by a story like this, then we wonder if you’re human!
44. My Sister’s Keeper (2009)
This is probably the most touching film that Cameron Diaz starred in. An eleven year old girl fights to earn medical freedom from her mother who wants her daughter to donate her kidney to her sister.
Source: Warner Home Entertainment
Her sister has leukemia. So all this together means tears are going to be shed. Which means keep tissues next to you when watching.
The next film is intense but very gut-wrenching and full of emotion.
43. American History X (1998)
Edward Norton plays an ex neo-nazi who is essentially trying to prevent his younger brother from going down the same wrong path that he did.
So you know that touchy subjects are played out in this film. And we will only say one thing about the ending: tragic.
42. Mystic River (2003)
Sean Penn who plays the father needs to find out who murdered his daughter. Any father, let alone parent, holds their breath throughout this movie.
It moves you and makes you thankful for having your children safe at home with you. So after seeing this movie, go give them a hug, a phone call, or FaceTime them if they’re far away!
41. Amelie (2001)
Amélie is a story about a girl whose childhood was less than ideal as had hardly any real life contact with other people. So she resorted to her own fantastical world and dreams of love and beauty.
As an adult, she decides to devote her life to the people around her. The movie isn’t very sad, but it’s touching and the soundtrack is perfect.
Next, a movie that marks off every genre out there!
40. Armageddon (1998)
Okay, when it comes to movies that make you feel, Armageddon is up there. It basically covers all genres: thriller, comedy, romance, sci-fi, action, and drama. After laughing here and there, you suddenly find yourself tearing up.
Photo by Walt Disney Studios
The saddest part of the movie? We can go with Liv Tyler’s hand on the TV set when her dad (Bruce Willis) decides to sacrifice himself for the planet. Or, we can go with the part when Chick sees his son playing with the toy airplane on the porch. You can decide what’s more emotional.
39. The Land Before Time (1988)
That’s right, an animated movie is on the list. Who said cartoons can’t make us feel real emotions? When Littlefoot, the little brontosaurus, is orphaned, he goes on a journey with his friends to escape a famine and find The Great Valley where they can be safe.
They just have to get there before the T Rex that killed his mother doesn’t get him first. And if you remember, the theme song “If We Hold on Together” by Diana Ross is a tearjerker.
The next touching movie has one scene with the late great Robin Williams. Can you guess which film?
38. Good Will Hunting (1997)
The movie that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck wrote and won an Oscar for is one of the best. To remind you, Will is the janitor at a top university and solves a complex equation. A professor discovers his genius and takes him under his wing. Will’s psychiatrist (Robin Williams) meanwhile tries to save him from throwing his life away.
Photo by Miramax Pictures
We can’t help but wonder if there is anyone who saw the movie who didn’t feel something deep in their gut during the “It’s not your fault” scene.
37. My Girl (1991)
This coming-of-age drama is about an eleven-year-old death-obsessed Vada and her friend Thomas (Macaulay Culkin). Remember his allergy to bees? Well, that led to the saddest part of the film.
The last 20 minutes of the film will have you wiping away tears without a doubt. That’s all we’ll say without any spoilers.
Next up, a recent movie that moved almost every audience member at the theaters.
36. Pay it Forward
Remember the feel-good movie with a real feel sad ending? The little boy who made a plan for “paying forward” favors, helping a single mother, and starting a wave of human kindness.
But then there’s the end, which left us speechless in all its tragedy. We’re going to spare the spoiler alert to those who may not have seen the movie. Just one thing: watch it.
35. A Star is Born (2018)
Considering the newness of this movie, and the fact that not everyone has gone to see it, we won’t include any spoilers. That would just be cruel. So we’ll tell you that Bradley Cooper both directed and starred in the film.
Warner Bros. Entertainment inc. And Metro-Goldwyn-Gayer Pictures Inc.
And we will say one more thing: the last scene is going to move you to tears. Just see it and you’ll see.
34. Green Book (2018)
Speaking of new movies, Green Book is another one that many haven’t seen yet, but it is definitely a moving one. Vigo Mortensen is a bouncer from a neighborhood in the Bronx who’s hired to drive Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a world-class Black pianist on his concert tour.
The film touches upon the touchy subject of racism of 1960s America, leaving the audience feeling more human than ever.
The next film is based on a true story, which adds to its emotional quality.
33. Into the Wild (2007)
This journey of a movie is about the true story of Christopher McCandless, a son of wealthy parents who graduates from as a top student and athlete. But he decided to give his $24,000 of savings to charity and embark on a journey to Alaska.
Aside from the soundtrack, which is moving on its own (by Pearl Jam), the particular scene in which everyone watching has either tears or goosebumps is that last scene. Haven’t seen the film? Watch it. It will make you feel. Period.
32. The English Patient (1996)
Spoiler alert! Considering this film came out in 1996, we’re going to take the liberty to talk about one of the most tragic endings of a movie ever. So if you haven’t seen it, go to the next page now.
The ending is one to remember when Katharine Clifton died in a cave in the middle of a desert. Almásy failed to save to her, but he had to get her body back, trading maps to the Germans.
Next, a movie about a woman and her dog. Do you know which one we’re going to name?
31. Marley and Me (2008)
If you had to name a Jennifer Aniston movie that made you cry, chances are its Marley and Me.
Whether you’re a dog lover or not, the ending will leave you in a tear-filled mess. So don’t watch the movie on a first date or right before you go out for a night on the town. Because all you’re going to want to do is lie down and cry.
30. Steel Magnolias (1989)
The film revolves around six small-town Louisiana women who meet at a local beauty salon to gossip about the latest, but there’s a lot more going on under the surface.
For all the women reading this, the movie really resonates with not just women in general, but with those who watch the movie again as mothers. It’s a whole new level of emotion. And Sally Field? Wow.
The next movie is rather underrated, but one of the most poignant ever.
29. Seven Pounds (2008)
Spoiler alert! After accidentally killing seven people in a car accident because he was on his cell phone, Tim (Will Smith) aims to save the lives of seven ‘good’ strangers by donating his organs after his planned suicide.
This movie has too many moving scenes to count. We challenge anyone who sees the film not to cry at least once. How is Will Smith so good?
28. The Elephant Man (1980)
One of the most poignant, sad, and beautiful movies is The Elephant Man. It’s about a man known as “The Elephant Man” for his grotesque physical features.
Spoiler Alert! The last scene is the one that everyone talks about. He decides to sleep lying down, as opposed to being propped up, the way he’s always had to sleep his whole life in order not to choke to death on his own saliva which pools in his lungs when his body his horizontal. So basically, his final wish was to sleep like a ‘normal’ human being, even if it means ending his life. We told you it was sad!
The next touching film stars Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler. Remember that one?
27. P.S. I Love You (2007)
It’s devastating that her husband died from a brain tumor, but the movie doesn’t dwell on it. It actually opens with it. The whole film is about the messages he planned to send her on her 30th birthday. And they all end with ‘P.S I Love You’.
The mere fact that their love stopped in its tracks too soon, as well as the fact that he was truly selfless, is what makes audience members feeling all the feels.
26. E.T. (1982)
This was a groundbreaking movie altogether. It was the first time we got to really feel for an alien and even cried at certain parts. When it comes to one scene, many of us definitely got goosebumps.
Remember the scene when E.T. pointed to the little boy, his new friend, and said: “I’ll be right here”? Yeah, that’s the scene.
Next, as touching as a movie can get.
25. I Am Sam (2001)
Sean Penn does a phenomenal job at playing a dad with an intellectual disability. The movie follows him through his mission to keep custody of his daughter.
Not only is his acting so spot on, or that the storyline itself is moving, but the fact that the whole soundtrack is covers of Beatles songs only makes it more emotional. This movie has a combination of both happy and sad tears.
24. Philadelphia (1993)
Isn’t Tom Hanks just one of the best? His depiction of a gay man dying from AIDS in this movie is one that leaves you with chills at certain moments.
This is one of those films that allows men to cry too, and not be teased by the women in the room.
The next movie is one quite relevant today, with Alzheimer’s disease as unfortunately prevalent as it is.
23. Still Alice (2014)
University professor (Julianne Moore) is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s and has to learn to come to terms with it as well as her family.
Her performance won her well-deserved Oscar. And you will find yourself in pieces in this chillingly realistic depiction of the all too familiar disease.
22. An Affair to Remember (1957)
This movie managed to combine sadness and romance in a way that only could have been accomplished in the 1950s. The two lovers were meant to meet but she was hit by a car while crossing a street and then rushed to a hospital.
Meanwhile, he was waiting for her, unaware of the accident and thought she rejected him. Talk about emotional!
The next movie is another one that warrants a good man cry.
21. Dead Poet’s Society (1989)
Here’s another movie that guys can feel no less manly for when crying when watching. This movie is as much feel good as it feels sad.
The look of satisfaction when Robin Williams sees his students stand on their desks to salute him with “O Captain! My Captain!” is the closest you’ll get to see a man simultaneously cry happy and sad tears.
20. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
Will Smith just has a way of bringing real emotion to every role he ever plays. This true story is an emotional one on its own. Seeing his dedication and motivation play out while he has to care for his son and keep his hopes up is truly touching.
The most tearful scene? It’s a tie between the moment when they have to sleep in the subway and the last scene in his moment of triumph. We dare you not to shed a tear!
19. Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl (2015)
The word is in the title, okay? So we can’t really spoil anything by saying that the girl dies. But the sentiment built up around it is what makes this movie so emotional.
Do you know how soundtracks can really pack in the emotions of a film? Well, the scene where the two buddies are watching the film they made for Rachel and the song by Brian Eno plays over it….tears. Tears and goosebumps.
18. Beaches (1988)
This is the story of two friends who met as kids but stayed in touch for the next 30 years. And of course, the sad part is when her friend died. So yeah, that’ll do it.
Walt Disney Productions
After seeing this movie, the opening to the song “The Wind Beneath Your Wings” will forever put pressure on your tear ducts.
Next up, a feel good – feel sad classic from 1986.
17. Stand By Me (1986)
A beautiful coming-of-age story that follows four pre-teen friends who go on a hike to find the body of a missing boy they heard about on the radio.
Hearing the voice of narrator Richard Dreyfuss is one reason that this movie moves us so much. And when you remember how River Phoenix died prematurely, the film’s underlying sadness resonates even more.
16. The Fault in Our Stars (2014)
What’s more poignant than two teenage cancer patients who meet in a support group, fall in love, and plan a trip to visit their favorite author?
Their journey is interrupted by all the treatments they have to endure.
The next movie is one of the greatest, a classic from 1980 with Demi Moore.
15. Ghost (1990)
Watching a film about a husband who is murdered and his spirit communicates with his wife is going to move you whether you like it or not.
Seeing all those close-ups of Demi Moore will give you goosebumps every time. Try not to cry at one point during this movie. We care you.
14. The Way We Were (1973)
The fated love story is one for the books. If you’re in the mood to curl up on the couch and crawl into the fetal position, this is the movie to watch. This classic tear-jerker is one the most ultimate break up movies.
The movie is about a woman with a strong sense of justice who has to free herself from a traumatic love affair with a man who should naturally be her enemy.
13. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
This is one of those movies that captivates you from the moment it starts and stays with you until this day. For anyone who has been in a serious and complicated relationship, this movie will resonate with you on many levels.
When their relationship goes sour, the couple undergoes a medical procedure to have each other erased from their memories. We promise you’ll feel something.
Next, a classic from 1946. Try to guess the black and white classic!
12. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Leave it to Christmas classics from the 40s to give people the feels. The story is about a failing businessman on the brink of suicide meets his guardian angel who shows him what the lives of the people around him would be like if he’d never existed.
That’s a story that will always make viewers young and old alike well up with happy/sad tears.
11. Lion (2016)
Oh, little Saroo, the cutest five-year-old boy from Calcutta who gets lost thousands of miles away from home. After surviving, getting adopted by Australians, and eventually searching for his parents makes any normal human being feel moved.
Spoiler alert! At the end, when he reunites with his mother and then you see the real footage of the real person (it’s based on a true story, people)… all the tears and all the tissues!
10. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
There are tons of war movies, but this one is unique. The cast, the acting, the story, and everything in between is pretty much flawless. Not to mention the sentiment of it all.
Let’s not forget the elderly Private Ryan visiting the grave of the leader of his group in Normandy, asking his wife if the life he led is worthy of the men’s sacrifice they men made for him to come home all those years ago. You can add this movie to list of movies men are allowed to cry at.
9. The Green Mile (1999)
This extraordinary film goes down in history as one of the most moving movies ever. And yet another one starring Tom Hanks.
The most moving part? There are a few, but when he’s the electric chair, John requests that Paul leave the traditional black hood off, because the big guy’s afraid of the dark. Goosebumps.
Next, a movie considered to be the best ever made. It’s also moving as hell.
8. Shawshank Redemption (1994)
This unforgettable and moving film causes every movie watcher to either tear up or feel something deep in their gut when watching it. Seeing a bond form between Red and Andy is moving on its own.
And then when Andy finally succeeds to escape, we all root for him in the famous rain scene. It was pretty phenomenal if you ask us.
7. A River Runs Through It (1992)
The story of two sons being raised by a strict minister and eventually growing up, one becoming a professor, while the other becomes a rebellious journalist gets into gambling and liquor.
This true story depicted on screen is one that manages to move its audience to this day. The last scene at the river is one that makes many of us weepy.
Next, a rather beautiful and touching depiction of a horrible part of history.
6. Life is Beautiful (1997)
You might remember when Roberto Benigni, the writer, and star of the movie, won an Oscar for this film and jumped on all the chairs in the grand theater. His real personality isn’t far from the character he played in the movie.
He was the Jewish librarian who entertained his son during the Holocaust, combining will, humor, and imagination to protect him from the dangers around them. The film is nothing short of moving.
5. The Notebook (2004)
Ah, the tale of two lovebirds who grow old together. We can’t help but feel both in love and in despair while watching this classic romantic movie.
What part did you cry at? We don’t want to give any spoilers. But we will say that one of the saddest parts might just be when older Noah starts to cry when Allie suddenly remembers.
4. Love Story (1970)
The romantic tragic drama and is definitely one of the most touching of all time. The two lovers get married and then she’s diagnosed with a terminal illness. So you know it’s not going to end well.
The quote that came from this movie, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” is a quote that on its own shows you how sentimental the film was. And should be on everyone’s “must see” movie list.
3. Forrest Gump (1994)
Chances are you’ve already seen Forrest Gump, the feel-good movie about a simple man with a low I.Q., without a bad bone in his body. We go through his childhood, his service in the army, and follow his journey, hoping he gets to finally be with his sweetheart Jenny.
But when it comes to naming one tear-jerking scene, it’s tough. Most of the movie moves you. But if we had to pinpoint one particular scene that brings the tears, it would be when Jenny tells Forrest that he has a son, and he’s right there watching TV. Hats off to you, Mr. Hanks. Well done. This movie warrants both happy and sad tears.
We’re almost there – almost at the #1 most moving film of all time.
2. The Champ (1979)
The classic movie starring Jon Voight as a boxer has one of the saddest scenes ever that occurs at the end of the movie. Yes, you remember it. The part when Voight’s character, Champ, dies in front of his son.
Back in 1988, a psychology professor from the University of California-Berkeley, Robert Levenson, set out to find movie clips that could prompt strong emotional reactions from their test subjects in psychological experiments. The Champ scene took the top spot for eliciting sad emotions.
1. Titanic (1997)
That’s right, folks. This list wouldn’t be legit if it didn’t have Titanic listed as the most moving film of all time. Guy, girl, young, old; this movie touched us all.
Aside from screaming at the screen, telling Jack to just get on the damn board, everyone, and we mean everyone, was tearing up or whimpering at the moment Rose said: “I’ll never let go.” Some may call it cheesy in retrospect, but even those people won’t admit that when they first saw the film, their eyes were welling up too.
So that’s it! Now, if you haven’t seen any of these films, go watch them!