We all have a soft side and tearjerkers on Netflix touch us there. We all have a side to our personality that tears up watching a beer commercial about a group of friends who rent wheelchairs, so they can play a basketball game with their paraplegic friend. We all get choked up when a dog cries at the first sight of his human coming home after a lengthy tour of duty in Afghanistan.
There are some things that inexplicably get to us, and some that are universally touching. Whatever chokes you up, if you’re in the mood for an emotionally cleansing afternoon, these heart-wrenching movies are just the ticket. This first set is a list of movies available through Netflix streaming.
Tearjerkers on Netflix Streaming
1. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Ang Lee directed this haunting adaptation of Annie Proulx’s novella about the secret, forbidden love between Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, two sheep wranglers, in the early 1960s. Unable to be together due to social conventions of the era, the two men carry on their romance via occasional “fishing trips.”
As their relationship becomes increasingly more strained from the separation due to their family and employment obligations, Ennis withdraws deeper and deeper into the isolation of his longing. Fantastic performances, especially from Heath Ledger.
Robert Redford won the Oscar for this film in his directorial debut. Timothy Hutton also won a Best Supporting Actor award for his first feature film performance as Conrad Jarrett, the younger brother of star athlete Buck, who died during a boating accident while Conrad survived.
Guilt-ridden to the point of suicide, Conrad returns from hospitalization and struggles to put his adolescent life back together with the support of his loving father, Cal (Donald Sutherland). His mother, Beth (Mary Tyler Moore), however, has only thinly veiled contempt for the son she wishes had been in his brother’s place.
3. Agnes Browne (1999)
The simple story of the titular Agnes, a working mum in 1960s Ireland who suddenly finds herself with seven children to bring up on her own when her husband dies unexpectedly. With her best friend Marion by her side to keep her laughing, Agnes deals with everything well enough to even hope to go to the upcoming Tom Jones concert.
But just when things start to get better for Agnes, the greatest tragedy of her life hits her like a ton of bricks. Directed by and starring Anjelica Huston.
4. Safe Haven (2013)
Katie is new in town and won’t tell anyone where she’s from, exactly. But Alex doesn’t care because she’s the first woman he’s liked since his wife’s death from cancer a few years ago. The two begin a fairy-tale courtship and Katie decides to stay on in the little North Carolina resort community just as her mysterious past starts catching up with her.
If you liked “The Notebook“ or any of the other Nicholas Sparks fare, you’ll love this adaptation directed by Lasse Hallström.
5. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)
Another adaptation of how young Bruno learns the horrific truth behind the barbed wire in his backyard, and the boy he befriends and tries to help.
6. Life is Beautiful (1997)
In a similar vein to “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” this movie features Roberto Benigni’s Oscar winning performance as Guido, the Jewish father who, along with his young son Joshua, is thrown into a concentration camp on Joshua’s birthday.
In order to prevent the boy from being frightened or harmed, Guido, despite his own physical pain and emotional anguish, goes through elaborate and committed antics to convince the boy that their imprisonment is actually a giant role-playing game Guido has organized as a birthday present.
7. What Dreams May Come (1998)
This film, starring Robin Williams and Cuba Gooding Jr, poses the question, “What’s the point of heaven if you’re there without your soulmate?” The visual effects might be a bit dated now, but the emotional impact still resonates. With Annabella Sciorra and the incomparable Max Von Sydow.
Another Lasse Hallström offering, starring Richard Gere as the professor who finds the Akita puppy abandoned at the train station and takes him in.
Based on the real life story that happened in Japan in the 1920s, this family-friendly film also stars Joan Allen and Jason Alexander in a moving account of the undying loyalty of the dog who waited at the train station every day for nearly a decade for the human companion who would never arrive.
Tearjerkers on Netflix DVDs
These tearjerkers on Netflix are currently only available in DVD/Blu-ray format. However, Netflix frequently changes the rotation of their streaming content.
9. Sense and Sensibility (1995)
Emma Thompson’s Oscar-winning adaptation of the Jane Austen novel was directed by Ang Lee and stars both Thompson and a young Kate Winslet as the sisters with polar opposite approaches to romance.
Gorgeous cinematography, and pitch perfect performances by the entire cast, which includes Alan Rickman, Hugh Laurie, Greg Wise, Imelda Staunton, and Hugh Grant.
10. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Arguably the epitome of a Steven Spielberg film, about the friendship between 10-year-old Elliot and the titular alien he bonds with and helps try to get back home.
11. Beaches (1988)
For me, this one has never been a favorite — but for many people, the film that made Mayim Bialik a star still tops their list in the tearjerkers subgenre. Hillary and C.C. meet as girls while at the beach with their respective families and form a lifelong friendship, despite frequent estrangements.
12. The Way We Were (1973)
Directed by Sydney Pollack and starring Robert Redford (then in his glorious super-hunk years) and Barbra Streisand, the film is fraught with plot holes and continuity errors. But who cares when you’re looking at Redford in Navy dress whites?
There are certainly many more tearjerkers on Netflix that were not included on this list, so let us know what is your personal go-to movie in the subgenre?
Photo Credit: Pan08