On August 21, 1942, Bambi lost his mother to a man. To honor the tragic occasion, IndieWire is curating some of the saddest films ever made.
If watching a movie can be compared to walking around with your emotions, then sad movies give audiences the opportunity for a full sprint. From Rose saying goodbye to Jack to even Bambi losing his mother, tragedy has played a vital role in cinema’s most beloved stories.
For romance, the possibility of heartbreak ups the ante, pitting lover against lover or, even worse, lovers against time in dazzling depictions of humanity’s ongoing quest for acceptance. ‘Titanic’, ‘A Star is Born’, ‘Moonlight’, ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’, ‘Brokeback Mountain’ and countless other legendary tracks have created couples so heartbreaking that their joyful reunions and painful partings have provided powerful parallels with ours.
Epic tales of war and survival place utter devastation equally, swinging devouring grief and loss like juicy narrative carrots motivating the laborious agony of movies from “War Horse” to “Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey.” . (Unsurprisingly, most films are made much sadder by the inclusion of animals, with “Charlotte’s Web” as a particularly brutal standout.)
On a smaller scale, intimate family tragedies have inspired detailed portraits of society’s failure to adequately support those who suffer. “Still Alice,” for example, examines the staggering loneliness of a middle-aged woman who succumbs to Alzheimer’s disease. Or take “Pieces of a Woman”: an extremely detailed portrait of a young mother mourning the loss of her newborn daughter.
The saddest films view the myriad beauties of life through the lens of unimaginable suffering. Many of the best of them use surprising bursts of comedy to help their heavier beats land. Check out comedy dramas like “The Farewell,” “Steel Magnolias,” or “Dead Poets Society” to get started.
In honor of “Bambi” celebrating his 80th birthday in August 2022, here are 40 of the saddest movies ever made. Please note that this is not a list of the Definitive 40 saddest films, but rather a selection of melancholic and brooding titles that consider a wide range of types of tragedies. The selections are listed in alphabetical order.
Jude Dry, William Earl, David Ehrlich, Steve Greene, Jenna Marotta, Michael Nordine, Chris O’Falt and Jamie Righetti contributed to this report.