Top 5 Most Depressing Films

Posted by Oubah O. February 19, 2013 42 Comments 16639 views

Right after snatching up all the post-Valentine’s Day chocolate sales, I’m sure you, just  like me, enjoy curling up on your cozy couch and watching some depressing, tear-inducing movies. Just kidding! But seriously, there are some really sad movies out there that prompt an ugly-cry or two, so here are my top five most freaking depressing films of all time. Queue sobbing!

What are the most depressing movies you can think of? Tell us in the comments!

Top 5 Most Depressing Films

Schindler’s List

Still image from Schindler's List

I’m sure you’re not surprised to see a Holocaust film (or two if you’ve looked ahead) on this list, but what can I say? This film is so tragic and irrevocably upsetting. Without giving anything away, the film is set in Poland during the atrocities of World War II, and follows the life of Oskar Schindler as he struggles with his moral and immoral decisions during the turmoil of a deeply testing time of social upheaval and the questions of a decay in human morality.

Into The Wild

Still image from "Into the Wild"

Naturally, a film based on a man seeking to immerse himself in the wilderness of Alaska would be pretty depressing to say the least. Nonetheless, the film has a specific wisdom to it that lingers long after the misfortunes in Christopher McCandless’ (Emile Hirsch) story are complete. Yes, the film made me cry like a baby and generally hate everything, but it also made Christopher’s life seem like an important and fulfilled one in which he practiced complete freedom in an often repressive world. This is a great film to watch (once, though, because it’s actually really sad).

The Pianist

Still image from "Into the Wild"

I have to say that Holocaust films are always terrifying because everything within their frame hits close to home. The same can be said for The Pianist, which is harrowing in its portrayal of a pianist’s (played incredibly by Adrien Brody) life during World War II and living in terrifying conditions.  He slowly erodes under the constant threat of the Nazi regime and the measures he must take to ensure his survival in the meantime. The film’s main triumph is that it makes you feel real horror outside of a horror film, and puts you in the center of a time period that experienced one of the most miserable wars of all-time.

Bicycle Thieves

Still image from "Bicycle Thieves"

Bicycle Thieves is an Italian realist film made in 1948 that is incredibly realistic and really depressing. Our main character, the anti-hero/average guy Antonio Ricci can’t seem to get a break from the post-war economic pressures he faces. Just as he seems to be gaining prospects, he experiences gnawing bad luck that puts him back where he started again. The film successfully shows how depictions of small calamities can provoke more of a reaction than huge-scale catastrophes because film often allows you to relate to average characters who face realistic misfortunes. This film is incredible and a triumph of Italian realism!

Sin Nombre

Still image from "Bicycle Thieves"

The reason why this film is so upsetting is because it does not give you the happy ending that you wish you could have, especially after all the struggle that leads to its conclusion. It also doesn’t give you any sort of secure, conclusive tragedy, but just leaves you unsure. Sin Nombre deals with the movement of migrants from South America to the border as they attempt to cross into the potential prospects of the United States. Throughout the film, you begin to understand how complex illegal migration is, and just how the border represents various things for the flocks of migrants that risk their lives to cross it every day. The film’s focus on gangs and the violence that ensues because of their mentality is heartbreaking because of its volatility in the end. This is a really moving film that allows a lot of insight into the world of the South American migrant, while remaining incredibly saddening throughout.

 

What are the most depressing movies you can think of? Tell us in the comments!

About Oubah O.

Toronto-based writer/poet studying cinema and literature.

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There are 42 Comments

  1. Collin
    - February 19, 2013
      -   Reply

    Million dollar baby. What a downer.

  2. - February 19, 2013
      -   Reply

    Unfortunately, I read a little about Christopher McCandless before watching Into the Wild so instead of thinking it was a free spirit, I got a more depressed, mentally ill vibe. Sad stuff.

    Requiem for a Dream should definitely make the list. If you haven’t watched it, don’t.

  3. Brandy Dean
    - February 19, 2013
      -   Reply

    Was no one else forced to watch sad down movies with their sappy dad? I totally rank Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows high on my depressing scale.

    God, now I’m sad just thinking about Where the Red Fern Grows.

  4. - February 19, 2013
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    I would have put Eternel Sunshine in there. I cry from start to finish.

    • - April 15, 2013
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      Interesting choice! Never considered that one. I guess it’s depressing in its own warped and unique way, though.

  5. wadesheeler
    - February 20, 2013
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    Born on the 4th of July, The Yearling and Sophie’s Choice. Boom!

  6. Brandy Dean
    - February 20, 2013
      -   Reply

    I’m also going to add Lars Von Trier’s Dogville. I suppose it was supposed to be deep and thought provoking, but really it was just a total bummer.

  7. - February 21, 2013
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    The Elephant Man makes me sob every time. Also, the last 30 minutes of The Return of the King makes me boo hoo and go through an entire box of Kleenex.

  8. Victoria
    - April 10, 2013
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    Umberto D. Even though I think it’s a masterpiece of a film, I can’t bring myself to watch it a second time.

  9. Pris
    - April 10, 2013
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    Hunger is just gut-wrenching. The deplorable prison conditions, the brutality suffered by the inmates and then the hunger strike lead by Bobby Sands just tears the heart to pieces.

    • - April 15, 2013
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      I saw Hunger recently… and I had jaw pains from all the cringing moments it brought. Really heartbreaking film. The fact that it’s based on real events is tragic.

  10. Tom
    - April 10, 2013
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    “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”, “Dancing In The Dark”, “Antichrist”.

    • - July 15, 2013
        -   Reply

      They Shoot Horses, Don’t They was going to be my suggestion. I was almost literally suicidal after watching that.

      I don’t think Bicycle Thieves or Sin Nombre are that depressing. Heartbreaking, maybe, but not depressing. Grave of the Fireflies straddles that line, too.

  11. adriam
    - April 10, 2013
      -   Reply

    my life without me

  12. Charlotte
    - April 13, 2013
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    Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Detachment, they are absolutely heart wrenching.

  13. Fulmer
    - April 15, 2013
      -   Reply

    The Match Factory Girl- Astounding that it’s often listed as a comedy.
    The Nun’s Story- Audrey Hepburn pretty much gets dumped on the whole movie.
    Sounder
    The Road
    Requiem for A Dream
    The Salton Sea

  14. - May 7, 2013
      -   Reply

    Amistad
    Rosewood
    Boyz n The Hood

  15. TZ
    - May 7, 2013
      -   Reply

    Requiem for a Dream
    Nil By Mouth

  16. Helena
    - May 8, 2013
      -   Reply

    A good list, many listed in the comments I haven’t seen. My top depressing film is Farewell My Concubine – stunningly beautiful but very very depressing

  17. - May 21, 2013
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    Atonement makes me tear up when I merely think of it. So, so heart wrenching. And Grave of the Fireflies had me depressed for days after I watched it.

  18. - May 21, 2013
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    Ace in the Hole. I’ve seen it half a dozen times, and still feel like I want to curl up in a corner of the shower afterwards.

  19. Desiree
    - May 29, 2013
      -   Reply

    I agree with all of these and add The Color Purple to which I wept aloud…I think Indochine is also a sad movie but not throat pain cries I try to avoid sad movies til I need a good cry

  20. ANuB1S
    - May 29, 2013
      -   Reply

    The Elephant Man…

  21. Colinda
    - June 1, 2013
      -   Reply

    Breaking the Waves. Van Trier again. Or the Danish film The Celebration. My students convinced me to watch The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. And to agree with others, Requiem for a Dream, Elephant Man.

  22. Laura Grande
    - June 5, 2013
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    Blue Valentine left me feeling emotional and depressed. One of the most realistic depictions of a relationship falling apart that I’ve ever seen.

  23. - June 19, 2013
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    What a spot-on bunch of wrist slittingly tragic films, I’ll throw

    “Leaving Las Vegas”

    into the mix as well.

    Even worse if your name is Ben, you don’t even feel good going for a drink afterwards.

  24. Joe
    - July 1, 2013
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    “Requiem for a Dream” and “Dancer in the Dark” are both brilliant cinematically, but I have to watch a comedy immediately after viewing either one.

  25. - July 15, 2013
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    Requiem for a Dream was extremely depressing, and Mysterious Skin was a tough watch, left me feeling sad for quite a long time afterwards. Very grim.

  26. - August 4, 2013
      -   Reply

    Repulsion
    Eraserhead
    Henry:portrait of a serial killer
    The Machinist
    Eden Lake
    Times Square
    Carry on Columbus

  27. - August 7, 2013
      -   Reply

    Detachment (2011)

    Broken Blossoms (1919)

    Last Summer (1969) – http://popcultureaddict.com/pca-retro-review-summer-fun-edition-last-summer-1969/

    The Virgin Suicides (1999)

  28. James
    - October 1, 2013
      -   Reply

    “Dear Zachary” left me a wreck.

  29. DBHSF
    - October 16, 2013
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    I agree with those who said “Requiem for a Dream”. Another wonderful but absolutely heartbreaking film is Lynne Ramsay’s “Ratcatcher”.

  30. Paula
    - November 9, 2013
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    Atonement is the worst for me. I’ve never hated an ending or a character as much since.

    Requiem for a Heavyweight, also depressing.

  31. Stav
    - November 22, 2013
      -   Reply

    Dancer in the Dark.

  32. Priyanka C
    - November 22, 2013
      -   Reply

    The Piano Teacher and Amour by Haneke, Melancholia, Army of Shadows (holocaust again)

  33. Ebbe Iversen
    - January 18, 2014
      -   Reply

    “Funny Games” by Michael Haneke – in spite of the title!

  34. - January 27, 2014
      -   Reply

    Sophie’s Choice and The Elephant Man definitely. The Hunt was incredibly depressing, but wonderful. Funny Games didn’t depress me. It made me unbelievably angry though. So stupid.

  35. Sergio
    - March 8, 2014
      -   Reply

    A german-Russian film called “Schastye moe” (2010) by director Sergei Loznitsa. The English tittle is “My Joy.
    And trust me. All the films mentioned here are not as depressing as this one is.

  36. Jeffrey Robert
    - March 17, 2014
      -   Reply

    Robert Bresson’s “Au Hasard Balthazar”.

  37. David
    - March 17, 2014
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    “The Mission” (1986). After it ended, I remember just sitting in my theater seat, not moving, for 15 minutes. Just stunned.

  38. - April 16, 2014
      -   Reply

    Leaving Las Vegas could have made the list if it was the top ten instead of the top 5. I liked the film but I heard many DJ’s commenting how depressing it was for them.

  39. Paul
    - July 10, 2014
      -   Reply

    Grave of the Fireflies
    Quill: The Story of a Guide Dog

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