By Sylv T

I never know which is worse–sensing the terrible fate that awaits characters, or seeing it register on their faces (and in some cases, the regret weighing on their hearts). The only thing I know for sure is to expect a tingling sensation in my heart, and for tears to creep up, ready to launch their sneak attack.

Whenever I’m feeling down, having a good cry while watching a sad movie miraculously helps. Perhaps it’s the implicit permission these movies grant, showing that it’s okay to grieve and process through life’s undesired experiences. Or maybe, it’s the courage I get from the characters, knowing we’re all in this together and can survive through unimaginable pain. Sometimes, these movie-viewing experiences even feel like a therapy session I didn’t know I needed.

If you’re looking for a good cry too, here are some of the all-time saddest movies that won’t disappoint.

The Pianist

A tale of horror and humanity, Szpilman, a Polish-Jewish pianist, clings on to life amid Germany’s invasion of Poland. Surviving many near-death encounters, yet having to see the Jews’ final fightback completely fail, Szpilman’s broken body and spirit are barely rescued from mortal peril by the most unlikely candidate–Hosenfeld, a German officer. The unlikely duo demonstrates an almost unimaginable (yet thoroughly believable) care for one’s “enemies”, even during the most perilous of situations. However, during a war, a win-win outcome is impossible…

The Green Mile

“I’m tired of people being ugly to each other.” Blessed (and perhaps also, cursed) with psychic powers to experience the pain those around him are feeling, John Coffey, an innocent prison inmate on the death row, is caught between escaping his impending execution, or finally being freed from the emotional torture of his powers. And for Paul, his prison officer turned friend, it was either going through with this undeserved punishment or seeing a dear friend suffer in that constant agony.

One Day

Have you ever met someone briefly, yet have an uncanny feeling that they have become someone special to you within just the first few moments? Meeting only for one day each year, Emma and Dexter quickly grow fond of each other, yet life seems to be bent on pulling them apart. After almost two decades, their paths finally seem to collide. But, for how long? The certainty of mutual love, coupled with the uncertainty of a future together, pulls the viewer’s heart in opposite directions. Perhaps, the lesson here is to fully cherish every present moment we have with our loved ones.

Freedom Writers

“Hurt people hurt people” is a saying I’ve found to be spot-on time and again. The kids this movie revolves around are conditioned to think that those different from them are to be feared and hated. It took a teacher’s tireless patience and utmost sincerity to change their perspective, but it also changed hers. Based on a true story, this inspiring tale unravels both privilege and prejudice, making way for the understanding that we, as fellow humans, have much more in common compared to the differences we tend to highlight.

The Lion King (1994 Original)

In a bid to usurp the throne of the king of the animal kingdom, Scar, the brother of then-king Mufasa, lured Mufasa’s son towards a wildebeest stampede. To save his son Simba, Mufasa ran head-on into the oncoming danger with “Run!” being his parting word to Simba. I realised in that instant that my parents would willingly do what Mufasa did–a thousand times over–if it meant rescuing me from danger. [Cue all the tears and heartache]

The Theory of Everything

What’s a brilliant mind to do, trapped in a body being destroyed by a terminal disease, and given the medical death sentence of a mere two years? Stephen Hawking’s life story shows the harsh reality of a decades-long struggle–a strong, independent wife trying her best to care for an equally strong-headed, but invalid, husband. Their tragedies and triumphs in plain sight feel like something that could happen to any of our families. Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones’ riveting acting brings home its message–“while there’s life, there is hope”, but reminds us we don’t always get the outcome we so wish for despite our utmost efforts.


The unexpected sinking of this “invincible” ship must have been the worst nightmare come true for its passengers. Scene after scene showed people fighting to stay alive, and the terrible sacrifices the ship’s crew make for their passengers. It is heartbreaking thinking that this was a real-life tragedy that snatched the lives of over 1,500 people. The fate awaiting an elderly couple still very much in love–one of the quietest scenes amid the roar of the invading waters–haunted me with what-ifs and could-have-beens.

“A reader lives a thousand lives”, bestselling author George R. R. Martin once wrote. And so, I believe, does the movie-goer.

Although most cinemas are now closed because of COVID-19, online streaming subscriptions provide an endless supply of tear-wrenching (and uplifting!) movies for your choosing. Get your tissues ready.