When you're in the mood for an easy watch, romantic comedies or a classic wedding episode of your favorite TV show are ideal. But what if it's one of those days where you've been walking with a lump in your throat and just can't seem to let the tears out? You might be more in the mood for something truly moving and relatable (read: heartbreaking). On those occasions, you need a little more emotional depth, which is something a profoundly sad yet romantic movie can deliver.
We rounded up our favorite sad romances to binge-watch when we need to wallow or feel better about our own love lives. Complete with passionate yet dysfunctional relationships and unexpected tragedy, we promise these films will tug at your heartstrings.
Here are our picks for the best sad romantic movies when you need a good cry.
The Notebook (2004)
This is probably the first movie that comes to mind at the mention of a tear-jerking romance with some of the most iconic romantic movie quotes to date ("If you're a bird, I'm a bird," anyone?). But for those that don't know this Nicholas Sparks drama, it's a dual timeline story following Allie (Rachel McAdams) and Noah (Ryan Gosling) during their teenage years and many years later in a nursing home, where Allie is cared for as she suffers from dementia. The early 2000s Noah reads Allie a story from his notebook about a young couple in the '40s and how the odds were stacked against them. There isn't a five-minute span throughout the entire film that doesn't hit the viewer right in the gut and the ending will require several boxes of tissues.
The Fault in Our Stars (2014)
Adapted from the novel by John Green, this coming-of-age tear-jerker follows teenage Hazel Grace Lancaster, played by Shailene Woodley, as she battles thyroid cancer that has metastasized to her lungs. In a rather atypical meet, Hazel finds herself entwined in the world of Augustus Waters, played by Ansel Elgort, after meeting him in a cancer support group. Augustus is in remission after losing part of his leg to bone cancer and is eager to get to know Hazel. Any film based on teen cancer will unsurprisingly leave the heart aching and this love story is no exception.
Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Okay, so this is not only sad, but it's also straight-up disturbing, which is to be expected from a Darren Aronofsky film. It takes us inside the lives of four individuals, all battling different addictions. As reckless as the characters are, they're also so sweet and loveable that you'll be rooting for them, but try not to get too attached. The thematic tragedies are reflected in the heartbreakingly beautiful visuals and intensely amplified auditory effects, which will only heighten your sensory experience.
Me Before You (2016)
The film adaptation of the novel by English author Jojo Moyes is not only romantic and ultimately harrowing, but it's also an intense examination of what it means to be alive and to live. Louisa Clark (Emilia Clarke) is hired as a caregiver to Will Traynor (Sam Claflin) who is paralyzed from the neck down after being hit by a motorcycle. Will is cold, short, and distant toward Louisa at first. She learns he led an extraordinary life before his accident, which leaves him all the more cynical about what he is no longer able to do. Through Will, Louisa realizes that her own life has been wholly unfulfilling and bland. In an attempt to spark the joy of life back into Will and see the world for herself, she plans a number of epic adventures for them. Enjoy the gorgeous settings throughout the United Kingdom and beyond while discovering a tragically selfless kind of love.
Revolutionary Road (2008)
Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet just love to break our poor little hearts. In this critically acclaimed period piece, we witness the potential futility and even violence of the American Dream. Revolutionary Road presents us with a vision of domesticity that is so ugly, catastrophic, and destructive that you will probably want to hold the ones you love just a little closer.
Though there is definitely some romance in this film, it goes way beyond the romantic drama genre, grappling with issues of identity formation and belonging, all through the lens of one character's youth. It follows Chiron as he grows up in Miami and navigates his sexuality, finding mentorship and love from unconventional figures in his life. Though there are many moments of heartbreak, Moonlight, which is so aptly named, ultimately triumphs thanks to the small gestures of empathy and revealing representations of all sorts of love, both romantic and sexual, parental and platonic, along with the challenge to establish self-love when we can't seem to find it externally. It'll invite you to exercise deep introspection and empathy.
What sad romance movie roundup is complete without Titanic? It practically defined the genre. In case you don't know the tale, it's about Rose (Kate Winslet) and Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio), who cross paths while on the Titanic voyaging from Europe to New York City. She's a young socialite engaged to a wealthy man of similar rank when she falls in love with the free-spirited Jack and realizes that she doesn't want to lead a vapid, elitist existence. It's another take on the classic tale of forbidden love, as well as the immortal nature of love itself.
Blue Valentine (2010)
The thing that's so devastating about Blue Valentine is its relatability. It addresses how a love so deep can burn out and morph into something so much uglier. The film traces Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling's relationship as it progresses from youthful and loving to a strained, unraveling marriage. You'll be seduced by their genuine connection and steamy chemistry, but don't get attached. The many long, brooding silences, sweet serenades, and seriously sexy moments between the two make it an entertaining watch.
This utterly gripping true story is based on the book Red Sky at Mourning by Tami Oldham Ashcraft, the heroine of the tale. Tami (Shailene Woodley) and Richard Sharp (Sam Claflin) are sailing the Pacific Ocean when 1983 Hurricane Raymond hit. They are left adrift in the middle of the ocean with no radio and a severely damaged yacht. Adventure, survival, a shocking turn of events, and devastating heartbreak make this hard-to-watch film one you simply can't tear your eyes from.
Remember Me (2010)
This coming-of-age movie is about two young people who fall in love, and their relationship functions as a sort of salvation among the wreck—that is, until tragedy strikes again. From the beginning, we get the sense that the protagonists have been through their share of loss and heartbreak, but given that it's just the start of the movie, there's plenty more to come. It stars Robert Pattinson in his peak heartthrob days, so you'll definitely have your eyes and ears glued to the screen throughout.
Five Feet Apart (2019)
Stella Grant, played by Haley Lu Richardson, and Will Newman, played by Cole Sprouse, are both cystic fibrosis patients who meet while in the hospital. To avoid cross-contamination, CF patients are to remain six feet apart from each other at all times. Contracting a bacterial infection from someone with CF could be life-threatening to a CF patient. However, as Stella and Will fall for each other, they decide to "take a foot back" and inch closer until they are separated by only five feet, risking both of their lives. About as forbidden as forbidden love can be, the stakes are quite literally life and death.
A Walk to Remember (2002)
In classic Nicholas Sparks fashion, you can expect to shed a few (or a lot) of tears. Mandy Moore stars as Jamie Sullivan, the modest, gentle, and studious daughter of the local minister who is all but shunned from the social circles of their high school. Landon Carter (Shane West) is just the opposite: He's rebellious, popular, and doesn't seem to care about anything at all in the world, least of all school. When Landon gets in trouble, he earns himself community service that puts him in close quarters with Jamie. It's that slow-burn romance of an unlikely pair that induces the best—and worst, depending on how you look at it—movie hangover.
A Star Is Born (2018)
This remake of the classic tale stars Bradley Cooper as an aging rock star with plenty of demons, and Lady Gaga, a star on the rise. Gaga's vocals are so goosebump-inducing and Cooper's signature hand-through-greasy-overgrown-hair move is so knee-bucklingly sexy that there's no way you won't be thoroughly shaken by the heart-wrenching ending.
If I Stay (2014)
If I Stay is a romantic drama based on Gayle Forman's book of the same name. The story flashes between teenage Mia Hall's (Chloë Grace Moretz) life before a tragic car accident and her out-of-body experience afterward, where her soul must decide if she wants to stay and return to her unconscious body in the hospital, or to go. Mia is a gifted cello player with a promising opportunity to attend Julliard and bond with local band member, Adam Wilde (Jamie Blackley), over music. Mia relives cherished moments with both Adam and the family members who didn't make it after the accident. She has to make an impossible decision: live and reunite with Adam and music, but face the loss and aftermath of the accident, or pass on with her family. Between the hauntingly beautiful music and heart-wrenching story, you'll have no tears left to cry.
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Ennis (Heath Ledger) and Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal) meet one summer when they herd sheep together in the rural Wyoming mountains. They realize they have romantic feelings for one another and act on them, which evolves into a secret love affair. Throughout the years, they meet up and go on adventures in the wilderness, which disrupts both of their marriages in different ways. To Jack and Ennis, Brokeback Mountain was the only place in the world they felt safe enough to actually love each other. But they only spent that one summer there, which is devastating. When Jack tells Ennis, "I wish I could quit you," it's clear we cannot choose who we love.
The Vow (2012)
If not for the fact that it's based on a true story alone, then let the utterly heart-shattering and inspiring romance of Paige and Leo sweep you into a tearful oblivion. Paige wakes up in the hospital after a tragic car accident that leaves her memory severely impaired. She remembers nothing from the past few years of her life—including meeting, falling in love with, and marrying Leo. Starring Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum, the film painfully demonstrates just how deep one man's love is for his wife and the true meaning of a wedding vow.
The Best of Me (2014)
Another of Nicholas Sparks's famous dual-timeline dramas, The Best of Me flip-flops between high school sweethearts in 1992 (played by Liana Liberato and Luke Bracey) and their present-day, separate lives. After adult Dawson (James Marsden) and Amanda (Michelle Monaghan) each receive the news that someone beloved to them from many years passed has died, they are reunited to carry out their friend's dying wishes. A fateful day playing out before the couple's prom night led to their 20-year separation and the pair hasn't seen each other since. Old feelings start to flood back upon their reunion, but new complications threaten to prove that their love isn't any easier the second time around. The couple just can't catch a break and a shocking twist will leave viewers swimming in muddled emotions.
Truly one of the most moving and beautiful love stories ever portrayed in cinema, Amour will have you yearning for this type of genuine love. We're invited to witness a couple's relationship right when one of them suffers from a stroke. Awe-inspiring doesn't even begin to describe the bond between the elderly couple at the center of this film.
Monster's Ball (2011)
Here's a complicated and award-winning film with a ton of moving parts to keep track of. We're talking death row and an unexpected love affair between two very sexy actors (Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton) who fall hopelessly in love amidst the drama and heartbreak. It presents the stark reality and ethical battles of the incarceration and criminal justice system, so it's definitely worth watching for that reason alone. The tense social backdrop and personal desperation for connection and intimacy just make the love story even more gripping, albeit dark.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
In this fantasy, a couple, Clementine (Kate Winslet) and Joel (Jim Carrey), undergo a medical procedure to erase their memories of each other post-breakup. What happens when you erase the memory of an entire relationship? In this movie, they not only forget about each other, but they also lose the parts of themselves that grew and evolved thanks to the relationship. This sad but seductive movie will teach you that no matter how much grief you feel in the aftermath of a breakup, you can't just will away the memory of an ex.
The Danish Girl (2015)
Follow Greta (Alicia Vikander) and Einar (Eddie Redmayne) as they navigate gender identity, revealing the transcendent power of love. This film contests the accepted notion of a successful marriage as they ultimately find other partners, all the while loving one another unconditionally. It's not exactly sad in the way the other movies are on this list—it's more bittersweet and ultimately inspiring. In fact, the only thing more inspiring than this film is the true relationship it was based on between Lili Elbe and Gerda Gottlieb.
Cate Blanchett plays the namesake woman of this period film, which begins as she is doing some Christmas shopping at the department store where Rooney Mara's character, Therese, works. They have an instant attraction, and when Carol accidentally leaves her gloves on a display counter, Therese finds her address to return them. This begins their secret affair, which includes attempts to hide it from Carol's ex-husband as he fights her for custody of their daughter. Things, of course, don't go as planned, but you'll enjoy the beautiful cinematography, costumes, and performances all the same.
Most of us know a little too well how scary ghosting can be when it comes to love and dating, but this pre-dating app flick takes it to a whole new level. In this fantasy thriller, Sam (Patrick Swayze) and Molly (Demi Moore) are madly in love, only to have their relationship cut short by a murderer. Sam's spirit then roams the earth trying to protect the grieving Molly and make things right. There's also a good amount of kitschiness to the film, which makes it a little easier on the heart.