16 Best Sad and Heartbreaking Movies on Hulu (April 2024)

There is something so cathartic about having a good cry. Tragedy is one of the most powerful emotions that a human being is capable of feeling – it is no wonder Greek playwrights used it as an effective tool of storytelling. Be it irony, grief, a fall from pride, or complicated relationships – these movies highlight the deepest vulnerabilities. However, the nuances of storytelling have evolved over the centuries, and cinema is open to exploring a range of genres. So, if you want to watch some heartbreaking dramas, we have put together a list of films on Hulu that you might like!

16. The Worst Person in the World (2021)

Starring Renate Reinsve, Anders Danielsen Lie, Herbert Nordrum, and Ruby Dagnall, ‘The Worst Person in the World’ is directed by Joachim Trier. The film follows the emotionally tumultuous four years of a young modern woman named Julie as she maneuvers her life through love and career and tries to explore herself and find out what she really wants. This calls for indecisiveness that has its own perils. You can watch ‘The Worst Person in the World’ here.

15. The Ultimate Playlist of Noise (2021)

How many sounds do you need to hear before you can afford to go deaf? This is the question that takes forward the plot of ‘The Ultimate Playlist of Noise.’ Directed by Bennett Lasseter, this film follows high school senior Marcus Lund (Keean Johnson), who loves music and sound in general. However, disaster strikes hardest when he is diagnosed with a tumor that will take his hearing away. Lund thus decides to make a playlist of 50 sounds, aka “noise,” and sets off on a cross-country trip for the same. His experiences along the way make for the rest of this moving film. You can stream it here.

14. Three Identical Strangers (2018)

Triplet brothers who were separated at birth are brought face to face by life itself. Is this what they mean when they say life is stranger than fiction? Definitely. Directed by Tim Wardle, ‘Three Identical Strangers’ is a documentary film that showcases a story from New York in 1980, showing how three strangers, Robert Shafran, Eddy Galland, and David Kellman, found out that they were identical triplets at the age of nineteen. To this day, the reason for their separation at birth is not known, but all that is known is the result of the digging by the respective parents, who weren’t told that their adopted kids were triplets by adoption agency Louise Wise and by the boys themselves. But beneath all this lies the saddening truth of people being lied to about their kids. You can watch the movie here.

13. Dear John (2010)

Directed by Lasse Hallström, this is a Nicholas Sparks novel adaptation. Starring Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried, the film follows John, a soldier, and Savannah, a college student. John’s call of duty separates the two lovers, who promise to stay connected via letters. Six years pass, and John gets a letter from Savannah wherein she reveals that she is engaged. But this isn’t how a Nicholas Sparks story ends. Two tragedies follow, and both are connected to our lead characters. To reveal them would spoil this movie for you, but we assure you that by the end of the movie, you will have a sad smile on your face. But isn’t that what love is all about? You can watch ‘Dear John’ here.

12. Little Fish (2021)

‘Little Fish’ is a rare gem of a film that mixes science fiction with intimate pathos. Based on the 2011 short story by Aja Gabel, the plot revolves around Emma Ryerson (Olivia Cooke) and Jude Williams (Jack O’Connell), a young couple that falls in love and gets married as a deadly pandemic unfolds around them. It’s not COVID but a disease in which a patient loses their memory. For Emma and Jude, it’s initially quite fascinating as they read reports of the individual cases, but when Jude develops symptoms of the condition, it suddenly becomes all too real and immediate. The choice for Emma ultimately narrows down between staying and watching the man she loves disappear or leaving him and preserving her sanity. Feel free to check out the movie here.

11. Supernova (2020)

‘Supernova’ is a heartbreaking film in every sense of the word that emphasizes the importance of letting go. In the Harry Macqueen directorial, partners of more than 20 years — Sam and Tusker — begin to view life from a fresh perspective since the latter was diagnosed with the early onset of dementia two years ago. Therefore, time becomes precious to them, and they choose to spend it with their loved ones. In the process, the two are required to confront some uncomfortable truths about life, love, and death. You can check out the film here.

10. Minding the Gap (2018)

Directed by Bing Liu, ‘Minding the Gap’ is a documentary film that chronicles his experiences of growing up in Rockford, Illinois. Set against the backdrop of skateboard culture, Liu, along with his friends Keire Johnson and Zack Mulligan, re-examine their formative years. Through this documentary, the director tries to establish a link between an individual’s upbringing and understanding of masculinity.

While life circumstances caused the three friends to part ways, what remains common to their respective journeys is that they saw abuse at home growing up. Thus, the Academy Award-nominated documentary explores hard-hitting themes with nuance and sensitivity. Are you keen on watching the film? You can do so right here!

9. The United States vs. Billie Holiday (2021)

Image Credit: Takashi Seida/Paramount Pictures

The world as we know it today is a result of the tireless efforts and sacrifices that people before us have made. Based on the book ‘Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs,’ the biographical drama film puts the spotlight on the life of singer Billie Holiday. The film particularly underlines the final years of her life and how she found herself at the center of the War on Drugs. However, one of her biggest contributions to society is her song “Strange Fruit,” which became a call to action against the lynching of black people; this sequence is documented in the film.

However, the fact that most of the events depicted in ‘The United States vs. Billie Holiday’ actually happened in real life makes the narrative more powerful. The film uses the song at some pivotal points in the storyline, further enhancing the heartbreaking moments in the movie. Fortunately, the drama film is a part of Hulu’s streaming library, and you can watch it here.

8. Sophie’s Choice (1982)

Featuring Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, and Peter MacNicol, ‘Sophie’s Choice’ is set after World War II and tells the story of Sophie (Streep), who is a Holocaust survivor, her husband Nathan, who is an American Jew who has become unhinged obsessing about the Holocaust and a young aspiring writer Stingo who has just moved into their apartment in Brooklyn, New York. As the writer begins to know them, he is attracted to Sophie and grows closer to them. This makes him subject to Nathan’s unhinged side while Sophie reveals her horrific past. Directed by Alan J. Pakula, the film is considered a masterpiece due to the way it handles pain. Because isn’t that what we all are trying to do? You can stream the film here.

7. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

Painting a portrait takes a lot more than just looking at the subject and putting it on your canvas using a paintbrush. And the extent to which things can go for an artist making a portrait is showcased in ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ in the most intimate manner. Set in 18th France in 1770, the film tells the story of Marianne, a painter who has been brought in to make a wedding portrait of Héloïse, who is soon to be married off, although she is reluctant. To ensure that she doesn’t find out, Marianne has to spend time with her during the day, observing her carefully and then painting her during the night secretly. In the process, the two grow closer to each other, separated by one secret that finally takes the shape of a devastating yet beautiful climax. You can check out the film here.

6. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)

Sometimes, we may not see the sadness as it’s not on the surface, but that which lies beneath can be tough to comprehend. Oftentimes, this pain makes a person do weird things and behave differently. And Nicholas Cage is an actor who is a pro at pulling this stuff off. In ‘Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans,’ he becomes Terrence McDonagh, an officer at the New Orleans PD who receives commendation for his service during Hurricane Katrina. But unbeknownst to anyone, his actions have an adverse effect on his mind and body, something that gets clear to us more than it does to those around him. His descent into insanity is deeply disturbing and saddening and makes this Werner Herzog directorial an emotional ride. You can watch ‘Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans’ here.

5. The Babadook (2014)

While ‘The Babadook’ is a horror film at the surface level, the way it uses a monster to address the grief that the mother and her little son are going through after the passing of her husband in a tragic accident makes the film an exploration of suppressed pain. Written and directed by Jennifer Kent, the movie makes us question whether the monster is even real (within the film) or is just a construct of the mind that is desperately looking for a want to vent out the grief it can’t handle. You may watch it here.

4. The World to Come (2020)

Directed by Mona Fastvold, ‘The World to Come’ is set in New York in the 1850s. It centers on Abigail (Katherine Waterston), a married and depressed woman who lives on a farm with her distant husband, and her new neighbor Tallie (Vanessa Kirby), who is also married and shares a similar strained relationship with her husband. Both women are childless, and as they begin sharing their troubles, an unlikely friendship is formed, which soon takes the shape of romance. But considering the patriarchy of the time, how will the women remain so? What if someone, especially a man, finds out? We would like to tell you beforehand not to get your hopes high about this romance. However, ‘The World to Come’ deserves to be seen and heard. You can watch it here.

3. Flee (2021)

Animation is cinema. It is not a genre for kids; it’s a medium. This is what Guillermo del Toro stated when he and his team won the award for Best Animated Motion Picture at the 2023 Golden Globe Awards for ‘Pinocchio.’ ‘Flee’ will make you realize del Toro’s statement. Directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen, it is a Danish animated film that brings together animation and real archival footage to showcase the life of Amin Nawabi, who fled Afghanistan and sought asylum in Denmark. His past, laced with the tragic real depiction of a war-struck Afghanistan, as well as his personal emotional experiences, prove the dual nature of humanity. It would be wrong to tell you what happens at the end as it would ruin the experience, but we can tell you that the film tests our endurance and hope. You may watch ‘Flee’ here.

2. On the Count of Three (2021)


Directed by Jerrod Carmichael, the movie stars Carmichael and Christopher Abbott. It tells the story of two friends, Val (Carmichael) and Kevin (Abbott), both of whom intend to kill themselves. However, after Val helps Kevin escape from the mental health hospital, where the latter was admitted due to suicidal tendencies, the two shake on a suicide pact, i.e., they will shoot each other in the face. But after a failed attempt, they decide to celebrate the last day of their respective lives. What follows is how they do it and what experiences they undergo. Will their last day prove effective and allow them to kill themselves in peace? Or will the last day become the first day of the rest of their lives? To find out, you can watch the film here.

1. Nomadland (2021)

From highly acclaimed director Chloé Zhao, ‘Nomadland’ is a reflective film based on the nonfiction book titled ‘Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century.’ The movie features Frances McDormand in the lead role as Fern, a woman who loses everything, including her husband and job. Therefore, she makes the life-changing decision to sell all her belongings and travel around in her van as a nomad.

Fern comes across several people in her journey who add a new meaning to her life. Although the narrative establishes that Fern is on a path to being at peace with herself, the process is punctuated with several painful moments. Frances McDormand delivered one of her career-best performances and rightfully received the Best Actress Oscar that year for it. You can stream the film right here.

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