The 14 Goopiest, Most Beautiful Movies You'll Wish To Hell You Never Watched
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The 14 Goopiest, Most Beautiful Movies You'll Wish To Hell You Never Watched

By Joanna Robinson | Seriously Random Lists | October 30, 2013 | Comments ()

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In a scene from the 1993 film Sleepless In Seattle, Rita Wilson famously breaks down while describing the plot of An Affair To Remember to a skeptical Victor Garber and Tom Hanks. The boys go on to mock her mercilessly by giving The Dirty Dozen the same tear-soaked treatment. But, despite its beauty, I can’t put An Affair To Remember on this list. That ending? That emotional ending? Oh it’s a cake walk compare to this list. They life happily ever after for f*ck’s sake! Where’s the soul-scraping despair in that?

And what is it, exactly, that drives us to revisit movies that have made us weep? Or, worse yet, why would we watch a movie in the first place knowing how devastating it will be? If you know anything about the tragic history of Alan Turing, you’ll know that there’s not enough tweed and buttery leather attaché cases in the world to make up for the tears that are going to gush from your face when you see the upcoming biopic starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

So why? Why do we put ourselves through this? Is any exquisitely composed shot or searing performance worth reducing ourselves to gibbering idiots? I’m not talking about that gross, manipulative Nicholas Sparks nonsense; I’m talking about movies that really earn your sobs. If you’re going to lose it over any films, these 14 are a good place to start.

Land Girls: This overlooked ’90s gem stars Rachel Weisz, Catherine McCormack and Anna Friel as three young women who do their bit for the war effort during World War II by joining the Women’s Land Army. The movie pulls no punches in showing the devastating affect the war had on the home front, for men and women alike.

Brief Encounter: A classic tear jerker about two married people who fall in love and decide to do the right thing. A mere shoulder squeeze shouldn’t break your heart, but it does.


Head-On: Anyone who thinks Game Of Thrones’s Sibel Kekilli is a terrible actress obviously hasn’t seen this bloody, German valentine. Blame the role (Shae) not the performer, because she’s stunning in this.

Cranford: Before George RR Martin there was Elizabeth Gaskell, who made 19th century readers caution “everyone you love will die.” (Dickens and Hardy knew that trick, too.) I don’t think I’ve ever cried as much as I did while watching this BBC miniseries …
… and no amount of Hiddleston forehead crinkles in the sequel could make up for it.

A Single Man: Why Colin Firth won the Oscar for The King’s Speech is beyond me when this was clearly the finest work of his career. Gorgeous and devastating.

Bright Star: As with Turing, I knew the Keats story before I went into this movie. You’d think that would prepare me, harden me somehow. No, this movie will daintily, poetically rip your guts right out and then dance a little jig on them.

The English Patient: Most of what people remember of this movie is Juliette Binoche and Sayid from Lost scampering about peering at frescos. But Kristen Scott Thomas died alone and cold in a cave somewhere because Ralph Fiennes couldn’t get to her in time. It’s a heart pulper.

Moulin Rouge!: Baz Luhrmann’s pageantry should get in the way of the story here (basically a retelling of Camille). But Ewan MacGregor is just the right amount of over-wrought to break you into smithereens.
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Splendor In The Grass: A tragedy that wouldn’t exist were it not for the sexual politics of the time. Once again, we get the perfect amount of melodrama from Natalie Wood and a soul-shaking, unhappy ending.

Brokeback Mountain: Thankfully, you can’t tell a story like Splendor In The Grass set in the modern day. In fact, you can’t even tell a story like Brokeback Mountain set in the modern day. The sexual politics are too liberal for such angst. But Brokeback takes place in the not-too-distant past, when the shame and burden of this socially unacceptable love was enough to ruin many lives.

Once: Restrained and upsetting. I can barely listen to the soundtrack let alone rewatch the film.

Atonement: I read the book so I knew what to expect, but something about the way Kiera Knightley and Janes McAvoy played this story out absolutely wrecked me.

In The Mood For Love: Possibly the most devastatingly beautiful movie ever shot. No happy endings for anyone. Just beauty and noodles and longing and noodles and despair.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Mimi Honeycutt

    Anyone see The Fall? It's not a heartbreaker all in all but the part around the climax when the stuntman is destroying his story because he's so depressed just kills me. Darwin...T_T

    Oh, and while the movie's morbidly funny most of the time, the last five or so minutes of Sweeney Todd break my heart. "Lucy, I've come home again." *dies*

    As for Homeward Bound, dang, I think only Joffrey Baratheon didn't squeal in emotional pain when Shadow fell through the timber.

  • Piper

    The Wind That Shakes the Barley
    About two brothers fighting for Irish independence in the 1920s. Cillian Murphy will WRECK YOU.

  • BiblioGlow

    Oh my gosh, that movie is so relentlessly, Irish-ly sad, it disturbs me even now.

  • Premie

    The Reader had me blubbering

  • BizzyBzz

    This list is basically all the movies I love watching over and over because I love when things make me sad! What does this say about me? "Brokeback Mountain" - definitely! And I am so happy you included "In the Mood For Love" and "A Single Man." Two of my absolute favorite movies. I would also add "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly." Every viewing ends in sobs for me.

  • Cree83

    Anybody see the French movie Ponette? That kid, man. That kid.

  • jeannebean

    Little Victoire won the French version of an Oscar for that, and rightly so.

  • oilybohunk7

    I'd like to share the dumbest movie I ever cried in, I cried during AI when the little mecca kid powered down and his teddy bear friend was alone at the bottom of the ocean. My friend was completely bemused by it. I have a weird ability to feel empathy for something that is essentially an inanimate object.

  • Kim Stephens

    I cried most of the way through that movie. From the second the mother abandoned him until that weird ending, I was sobbing.

  • oilybohunk7

    I really thought I was the only person emotionally bothered by that movie.

  • Calvinthebold

    I guess as a human being, and not just a father of two grammar school aged boys, the scene where she abandons him in the forest is gut-wrenching. I can't watch it again.

  • oilybohunk7

    When I saw it I was pretty young, 16 or 17, I'm not sure why the teddy bear part hit me the worst over that scene because that is awful.

  • Boo_Radley

    Did anyone else look at this picture and think, "They're using urinals"?

  • The Replicant Brooke

    Well, NOW I am.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Yes, but I didn't want to say.

  • Good lord that is a gorgeous sport coat Cumberbatch is wearing! Want so bad!

  • cgthegeek

    The Color Purple.

    There are several moments that make me tear up. When Celie and Nettie get ripped apart. When Sophia meets her daughter after 10 years of servitude... and then has to leave 5 minutes later. Or when Celie discovers Nettie's letters.

    But the moment I cannot handle, the one where even thinking about it makes me tear up is this:

    *sobs uncontrollably*

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    That is a beautiful moment. It even got me in the Broadway show.

  • Uriah_Creep

    I keep my heart in a lead-lined box to protect it from emotions brought on by such movies (and from Superman's x-ray vision, obviously), but The Iron Giant wrecked me, as did the Pixar movies mentioned by NateMan. Animated movies seem to be my kryptonite (to continue a very tenuous connection).

  • P.S. - I'm just gonna say this one line: "Oh, Jerry.. don't let's ask for the moon. We have the stars."

  • Modernlove

    I was going to comment with this one! I'm so glad someone beat me to it.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Heavens, yes!

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    Ugh. I love you for that reference.
    I saw that when I was young and I just couldn't comprehend a movie with an ending like that. The idea that people don't get everything they want just blew my little mind.


  • Berry

    "I saw that when I was young and I just couldn't comprehend a movie with an ending like that. The idea that people don't get everything they want just blew my little mind."

    That was me after seeing The Umbrellas of Cherbourg for the first time. And I won't lie, I saw Now, Voyager as an adult, and it still made me want to throw a little hissy fit at the unfairness of it all. But at the same time, it's the perfect ending.

  • I know it's not a bona fide "heartbreaker" entry because all the tears at the end are joyful ones (wet and copious nonetheless), but....the scene in Music of the Heart where Meryl Streep reassures her student that it's okay for a man to cry (after a classmate is killed by a stray bullet)...GAH. "And I bet Justin's daddy cried..." Release the waterworks.

    In the same "not quite, but" category: the scene in Dangerous Minds where Michelle Pfeiffer walks into class and tries to face the girl whose boyfriend was just killed. My face crumples right along with the girl's, every time.

  • I can't even think about Brokeback without my heart contracting. It's so intensely beautiful and heartbreaking, I can't even stand it.

    And The English Patient is not for everyone, but it's still one of my favorites. It has a perfect soundtrack and some gorgeous visuals. And it's so, so sad.

  • "In the Mood for Love" and "Once" are two of my all-time favorite movies. And "Moulin Rouge." And "The Iron Giant." God, I'm a sap, but I could watch any of them over again and again.

  • Yocean

    I'd like to submit Takeshi Kitano's Hanabi (Fireworks) about an ex-cop who pulls most brilliant bank robbery to have one last trip with his dying wife. His now disable ex colleague's beautiful paintings. Gorgeous violence. And the end when you see through a child eyes and hear the gunshot and comprehend what happens and you just melt in paddle of tears. Also Sonatine.

  • Maguita NYC

    The Mission - when the Portuguese and Spanish attack the mission at the end, I was wailing loudly at the injustice of it all. Also, the score by Ennio Morricone is pure heaven.

  • jeannebean

    At the very end of the closing credits, Ray McAnally's character looks into the camera with rage, despair and shame pouring out of his eyes. I'd like to kiss whoever green-lit that final shot.

  • Maguita NYC

    Oh so much this! I don't want to spoil the movie with the ending, but here is Altamirano rather with the opening sequence. I will definitely be watching this movie again over the week-end!

  • AvaLehra

    I saw The Mission when I was little kid and was unconsolable for days afterwards.

  • Yocean

    Sweet Hereafter anyone? That hits you numb numb numbbbbb

  • AvaLehra

    The book made me a slobbering mess.

  • Yocean

    If you watch In the mood for Love like 3 times you get that they most likely had a baby together. Though they really make that subtle. It's Asian style story telling...

  • marigi

    Oh! In the Mood for Love!!! I don't find it fits into this list. I watch it regularly, hypnotised by its beauty and the feelings expressed with such poise... No need to scream or cry out. It draws a tear, but the satisfaction and the feast for the eyes is too great.

  • dilwazr

    I gotta go with Steel Magnolias: "I can jog all the way to Texas and back but MY DAUGHTER CAN'T!"

  • The Replicant Brooke

    Ohh god, that scene. I could probably quote that whole damned movie, but that scene kills me.

  • Leelee

    Oh god that film only gets brought out when I know I will not be leaving the house for the night. My face after such an epic ugly-cry is not suitable for public spaces.

  • Mariazinha

    Ohhh boy!
    I suppose we all have that movie that just breaks us!!
    And Atonement.... what can I say? You either feel it or you don`t but I think it`s a fvcking masterpiece! Everything about it is perfect and it KILLS me!
    And it made me adore Mcavoy for life!!!!

  • PDamian

    I saw Land Girls years ago and liked it, but I don't remember it being quite so moving. I'll have to give it a second chance.

    The English Patient and Atonement are my go-to movies for when I need a good cry. And I just realized something: both movies feature scenes in which the leads have sex while standing and leaning against some shelves. Beautiful in the films, but rather uncomfortable in real life for whoever has to brace him or herself against the shelves, I'd imagine. I remember some wit in Vanity Fair magazine saying about The English Patient, "That movie made me want to wear a lot of white and make love to Ralph Fiennes standing up."

  • AvaLehra

    This post is really an excuse to rejoice in each other's sadness -- in a totally good way.

    I always say the best movies are the ones where someone dies at the end.

  • AvaLehra

    The English Patient and In the Mood for Love*. You done me proud, Pajiba.

    *When he whispers into the hole in the wall, I lose my shit every time.

  • That whispering scene kills me. So heartbreakingly perfect.

  • PDamian

    Oooooh, The English Patient.

    "You're wearing the thimble."

    "Of course I'm wearing it. You idiot. I always wear it; I've always worn it. I've always loved you."

    And Ralph Fiennes's face goes to pieces. So did mine, when I saw that.

  • AvaLehra

    YES! The pain on his face...tears, I tell you. Tears! That movie actually made me dislike Colin Firth for a while there.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    Oh god that scene. THAT SCENE.

    ...and now I'm sad.

  • NateMan

    Up... The first 5 minutes, the last 10. I cry every single time. Monsters, Inc., when Boo has to leave and then at the end when we hear her go "Kitty," so softly. Wall-E, when EVE is trying so desperately to make him who he was.

    Damn you, Pixar, for reminding me I'm human.

    Oh, and you too, Dreamworks, for letting a cartoon character actually have consequences for doing the right thing in How To Train Your Dragon. And Rise of the Guardians, for sheer beauty and the reminder that fun and joy are always so important.

    All these make me cry, and I don't even feel bad when I do it. I'm glad some children's stories can still make me feel hopeful and sad.

  • BiblioGlow

    The ending of How to Train Your Dragon lifts it to a whole new level of good kids' movies. It was pretty high before, but that ending is brave.

  • Bodhi

    Burst into tears just thinking about re-watching Up!.

  • Listening to those four notes from "Ellie's Song" kills me every time.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    Saw Up on a date while my grandmother was very sick. I don't think he expected me to start wailing on his shoulder 10 minutes into a Pixar movie.
    And the end of Monsters Inc. is so perfect and lovely, and teary all at once.

  • foolsage

    Oh Good Lord, yes. The intro credits scene in "Up" is especially devastating.

  • Rob

    I know its something of a cliche, me being a guy and all, but "Dead Poets Society" wrecks me. Every. Time.

  • Maguita NYC

    "Captain oh my Captain!"
    Breaks me every time. That, and the kid's suicide.

  • raeraefred

    At the end of last school year during the final, my honours class "oh captain, my captain!"-ed me. It was sad and wonderful and heart-tugging all at the same time.

  • Maguita NYC

    Dude! That is beautiful.

  • raeraefred

    On a weirder note, I suppose I should mention that a. I wasn't leaving the school, and b. it was my Honours Algebra II class. Still, wonderful.

  • anikitty


  • polly

    Cinema Paradiso -- the last scene...I am tearing up just writing this.

  • PerpetualIntern

    Oh! Yes! One of my favorite movies of all time, and I end up a weepy mess every single time.

  • John W

    Good one. Yeah that one always tears me up.

  • Mrs. Julien

    God, yes! It just keeps going and going and getting more and more heartbreaking.

  • Zirza

    I love Brokeback Mountain. It's a fantastically restrained film, beautifully shot and skillfully acted. It's heartbreaking. And A Single Man? Colin Firth is incredible.


    Nothing gets to me quite as much as James McAvoy, dying in a dank basement surrounded by drunks, hallucinating a better life in a seaside cottage.

  • Joseph Finn

    I just about threw something at the TV, not in hatred but in appreciation of how heart-rending that was.

  • I rewatched Bright Star a few days ago. I had been having a terrible, emotional day, so I decided that it would be an excellent idea to watch it and gain a little perspective. At least I am not dying of tuberculosis and forced by social class away from the one I love? No. It just made me sadder. Not even Ben Whishaw's perfect hair can make that one anything but gut wrenching.

    I would add The Painted Veil to this list too. That one is such an overlooked gem.

  • Maguita NYC

    AvaLehra said it, but I've got to tell you how much I loved the Painted Veil as well! And the soundtrack, just typing those words gave me goosebumps. Alexandre Desplat just translates sweet yearning with a slow agony that just breaks your heart.

  • Yes! The music is astonishingly beautiful. The scene where they float down the river together? Damn.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    My favorite scene is still when they angrily eat salad. There's just something so real and silly about that moment, I could see myself doing that.

  • F'mal DeHyde


  • AvaLehra

    Oh my god, YES! The Painted Veil. Talk about shriveled little legs. That last scene, where all you see is Walter's little feet.

  • "There is nothing to forgive." *sob*

  • Mimi Honeycutt

    I saw this with a friend and jeez my heart was keening.

  • AvaLehra

    And when little Walter says, "Who was that, mummy?" And she says, "No one important."

  • jaimejoshi

    "He can't see without his glasses!"

    Reduces me to a quivering mess every damn time.

  • manting

    Ive seen part of atonement but besides that Ive seen no other movies on this list. Am I unique in that?

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    There are several great choices here, but In the Mood for Love is up there with Remains of the Day for most devastating love story. I watch these movies rarely, because they make me feel physically upset. My stomach hurts, my eyes tear, and yet I continue to watch them because the pain and the storytelling are so perfect.

    Also, my secret shame: I can't get through Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey without bawling like a lunatic. When Shadow crests the hill and runs toward his boy, it's like a pipe has burst under my eyelids.

  • Sassy Pikachu

    In the mood for love is one of those movies that I can only watch once. Same went for Atonement. Loved it, saw it, can't bring myself to go through it again.

    Seriously, that devastated and gutted feeling these movies left you with afterwards is ROUGH.

  • Mz Black Widow

    my mum and I used to sob our way through Homeward Bound regularly, in the distant past when I was a kid and it was a new movie.
    I have not watched it for many years and I don't think I shall .. animals still make me cry much more than people and these days I cry over people movies way too much ...

  • Gabs

    There is no shame in Homeward Bound.

  • Tinkerville

    Homeward Bound. Oh good god. There was a time during my childhood when I was completely obsessed with the movie and watched it every single day for months. I recently rewatched it for old time's sake and bawled like a damn baby.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    Why on earth did this get a downvote? How can anyone resist that happy old dog finding his boy?
    Also, totally named my dog Shadow after that movie.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Och, Remains of the Day:

    "Moreover, as you might appreciate, their implications were such as to provoke a certain degree of sorrow within me. Indeed - why should I not admit it? - at that moment, my heart was breaking."

    Oh, you meant the movie, didn't you? It makes no difference. Everything I just quoted can be seen in Anthony Hopkins' eyes.

    The scene where they struggle over his book? GUT PUNCH!

  • Berry

    "Moreover, as you might appreciate, their implications were such as to provoke a certain degree of sorrow within me. Indeed - why should I not admit it? - at that moment, my heart was breaking."

    Late, but... After reading those lines, I had to get up and pace around the living room for a while. I physically couldn't sit still, it was so devastating.

    Ishiguro is hell of a writer. It takes real skill to write something so ostensibly melodramatic and do it with such restraint and beauty.

    The ending of Byatt's Possession had a similar effect. I was reading it in bed, and had to get up, walk to another room and cry inconsolably for a little while.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    I have a soft spot for the book because a dear teacher gave it to me in school and I just devoured it.

    However, Anthony Hopkins' eyes are just killer, there's just so much want and sadness there. Especially during the book scene where he looks at her mouth - my stomach goes swimmy and I just want to scream "KISS HER PLEASE!"

  • PDamian

    Oh, sweet Jeebus ... when Miss Kenton has her hand on the book, and Mr. Stevens puts his hand out, so very close to her hair, yet almost as if to ward her off. The man I was dating at the time and with whom I saw the film kept muttering to himself, "Get in there ... get in there ... c'mon man, you both want it ... you need it ... aw, shit, you blew it." I love that scene, but I love the memory of a macho man having a sensitive moment more.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    My husband had a similar response to the movie. All night he kept bringing it back up.

    "Why didn't he take the chance?"
    "Didn't he see how much she cared for him?"
    And finally...
    "Why did you make me watch that? It's so sad!"

  • fluff_fluff

    Is this the place where we talk about how ADORABLE it is that Ben Whishaw married the guy who wrote beautiful music for him to waste away tragically to in Bright Star?

  • JoannaRobinson

    I didn't know. Ahhhhhhhh wail.

  • damnitjanet

    My daughter and I, at the end of Atonement..."Well, fuck THAT!!!!"

  • oilybohunk7

    I'm still not over it.

  • Kala

    It killed the film for me. "It was all A LIE?!?!" *Throws Chair Through Window*

  • PerpetualIntern

    My reaction too.

  • foolsage

    "You are who you choose to be."



  • This and UP! break me Every. Single. Time.

  • "You...stay....I...go...."

    "....No following."

    "I love you"

  • foolsage


  • TK

    And yet, it also has one of the most amazing, uplifting, goddamn-holy-shit-fuck-yeah-hooray moments of pure happiness in the history of film. It remains to this day one of my favorite scenes.

    "You can fly? YOU CAN FLY!"

  • My God. I need to sit my 6 year-old down and watch this movie with him again right now.

  • Mrs. Julien

    I think I just found what we are watching for movie night this week.

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