16 Movies That Will Leave You Emotionally Devastated

pursuit of happynessresize

Some movies can take us on an emotional ride — and there are even films that have such a profound impact, it leaves us drained. Someone in a popular online forum started a discussion about film moments “that will always make you cry.” Here are 16 movies that film fans said left them emotionally wrecked.


1. Promising Young Woman (2020)

promising young woman
Image Credit: Focus Features.

This revenge saga is as inventive as it is tragic. After her friend commits suicide following a vicious rape, Cassie Thomas (Carey Mulligan) drops out of medical school and ends up seeking vengeance. Unfortunately, it's all come at an extremely heavy cost, one that will leave you feeling frustrated and a little hopeless, despite Cassie getting the last laugh. 

2. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)

Image Credit: Miramax Films.

In this tale, the son of a high-ranking Nazi befriends a boy in a concentration camp. Unfortunately, their friendship comes to a tragically abrupt end that contextualizes the true cruelty of the fascist regime. 

3. Real Steel (2011)

real steel
Image Credit: Dreamworks Studios.

The climax in Real Steel really hit some people in the feels. Many movie fans said the moment when the flawed father redeemed himself as his son watched had them reaching for the tissues. One person pointed out how the final match really packs an emotional punch.

4. Captain Phillips (2013)

captain phillips
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing.

Some movie fans said one of Tom Hanks' brilliant performances brought on the tears. The moment when Captain Phillips breaks down at the end when he's examined by the nurse/doctor/corpsman is powerful. Hanks is praised for his brilliant acting in that scene.

5. Dead Poets Society (1989)

Image Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

Dead Poets Society was one of the top responses in the forum. And, since Robin Williams' passing, the movie's emotional weight has only become heavier. Oh Captain, My Captain, would you please pass the tissues?

6. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

the shawshank redemption
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

After all their trials and tribulations in Shawshank State Prison, there is just something about (spoiler alert) Andy Dufresne and Red's reunion on a picturesque beach that ties together a darn near perfect movie in the darn near perfect way. I'm not crying. You're crying.

7. Field of Dreams (1989)

Field of Dreams Kevin Costner, Gaby Hoffmann
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Putting on Field of Dreams is like unleashing a firehose of tears for any father or son with half a heart.  The scene where Kevin Costner's Ray Kinsella reunites with the ghost of his father to have a catch is where most viewers lose it, especially if they have lost their pops.

8. Stand by Me (1986)

Stand By Me River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Wil Wheaton, Jerry O'Connell
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?” Want to feel the tinge of sadness that comes with nostalgia and perhaps even cry a little bit over long-lost friends? Watch Stand by Me, one of the most reliable coming-of-age films ever made.

9. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

lord of the rings return of the king
Image Credit: New Line Cinema.

After three epic films culminating in the crowning of Aragorn as the king of Gondor, one movie fan said they get choked up at the line “My friends, you bow to no one.” Aragorn speaks the line to his hobbit companions Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin.

10. Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Manchester by the Sea
Image Credit: Amazon Studios.

Anyone who has experienced loss will find that Manchester by the Sea strikes a nerve or results in a well of tears. While the film explores the complicated ways that each person processes grief, those who know grief well will likely find this film resonates with them and may conjure memories of loved ones lost.

11. Magnolia (1999)

Magnolia tomcruise
Image Credit: New Line Cinema.

Paul Thomas Anderson‘s masterpiece Magnolia intertwines several different narratives, each of which is heartbreaking in its own way. It unabashedly dives into themes of addiction, loneliness, peaking too early, and estranged loved ones. The ending of Magnolia is as poignant as they come.

12. Hachi: A Dog's Tale (2009)

hachi a dogs tale
Image Credit: Sony Pictures.

Like its predecessor Marley & Me, the pup-centric film Hachi: A Dog's Tale preys upon our affinity for domesticated canines. The filmmakers' bet that we can't resist yet another man's best friend trope is a winning one.

Rather than recycle the dog-dies-too-soon narrative though, Hachi puts a new spin on the dog film genre to the same tear-jerking effect.

13. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

Pursuit of Happyness
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Knowing that The Pursuit of Happyness is based on the true story of rags-to-riches stockbroker Chris Gardner makes your tears all the more justifiable. Cry away, you big baby. You've earned this one.

14. Up (2009)

Up (2009)
Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures.

You're crying about a kid's film? Aren't you like 30? Yes, I am, and yes, I am. However, the animation doesn't make the timeless story of Carl and Ellie Fredrickson any less touching.

15. October Sky (1999)

october sky 1999
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

October Sky is based on the true story of Homer Hickam, who loves rocket science but comes from a coal mining family. He leaves his small town to pursue his dreams. The moment when Homer's dad comes to launch the last rocket with him is especially powerful.

16. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

little miss sunshine 2006
Image Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

One fan pointed to a moment in Little Miss Sunshine that makes them emotional. They said, “Olive talking to her grandpa feeling like a loser” makes them cry every time. The movie is authentic and relatable.

Source: Reddit.

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Pop Culture Writer, Life Hack Aficionado

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  • Education: Bachelor's of Journalism from the University of South Florida - Tampa
  • Published in several international publications, including stories completed as a Wealth of Geeks geek
  • Nearly seven years' experience writing professionally

Experience: Sam Mire is a freelance writer with over seven years' experience writing about entertainment, global events, American law, and sports. He got his start as a journalism major at the University of South Florida, and has since spent weeks in the Alaskan wildlands, immersed himself in the world of Florida's homeless population, covered live sporting events, and served as a linchpin for media outlets in the legal, tech, and entertainment spaces. Sam has written news stories and Op-Eds featured in Fast Company, Forbes, Entrepreneur, AP News, Fox News, and, most notably, Wealth of Geeks.

Sam focuses on popular culture, film and television, and general life advice in his role for Wealth of Geeks. He strives to turn readers onto the directors, actors, and other creatives who deliver compelling content outside of the box-office top-ten. In his free time, he enjoys boxing, woodwork, engaging in battles of strength and wit with his dog, and spending time with good company.

Sam Mire

Author: Sam Mire

Title: Popular Culture and Film Writer

Expertise: Film and Television, Life Advice, Comedic Writing, Movies, DIY Handiwork, Books, Current Events and Popular Culture


Sam Mire is a freelance writer with over seven years' experience writing about entertainment, global events, American law, and sports. With a Journalism degree from the University of South Florida, Sam focuses on popular culture, film and television, and general life advice in his role for Wealth of Geeks.