The 20 Best Sad Movies on Netflix

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The 20 Best Sad Movies on Netflix

Sometimes you just need to cozy up and turn on a tearjerker. Sad movies can be a balm for our own pain, company for our misery, as the stories that unfold remind us that grief is part of our shared human experience and that heartache and melancholy are simply a part of life. But you don’t want to settle for any ol’ sob story. The movies we’ve selected here are the best sad movies that Netflix has to offer. Just keep the tissues handy.

Here are the 20 best sad movies on Netflix:

1. Roma

roma-movie-poster.jpg Year: 2014
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Stars: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Diego Cortina Autrey, Carlos Peralta
Rating: R

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Alfonso Cuarón’s most intimate film is also his most distancing. The camera sits back, black-and-white, focused not on the bourgeois children that represent the cinematographer-writer-director and his siblings growing up in Mexico City several decades ago, but moreso on the indigenous woman (Yalitza Aparicio) that cares for them and the household. Not even entirely focused on her, perhaps more focused on its classicist compositions of a place that no longer exists in the way Cuarón remembers it. The camera gazes and moves in trans-plane sequencing, giving us foreground, mid-ground and background elements in stark digital clarity. The sound mix is Dolby Atmos and enveloping. But the base aesthetic and narrative is Fellini, or long-lost Mexican neorealism, or Tati’s Playtime but with sight gags replaced by social concern and personal reverie. Reserved and immersive, introspective and outward-looking, old and new—some have accused Roma of being too calculated in what it tries to do, the balancing act it tries to pull off. Perhaps they’re not wrong, but it is to Cuarón’s immense credit as a thoughtful technician and storyteller that he does, in fact, pull it off. The result is a singular film experience, one that recreates something that was lost and then navigates it in such a way as to find the emergent story, then from that to find the emotional impact. So that when we come to that point late in Roma, we don’t even realize the slow, organic process by which we’ve been invested fully into the film; we’re not ready to be hit as hard as we are when the wallops come and the waves crash. It’s almost unbearable, but we bear it because we care about these people we’ve become involved with. And such is life. —Chad Betz

2. The Lost Daughter

the-lost-daughter.jpg Year: 2021
Director: Maggie Gyllenhaal
Stars: Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson, Jessie Buckley, Paul Mescal, Dagmara Dominczyk, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Peter Sarsgaard, Ed Harris
Rating: R
Runtime: 124 minutes

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On the beach that comparative literature scholar Leda (Olivia Colman) lounges on throughout The Lost Daughter, the skies are a crystal blue, the beaches a shimmering white, the water warm and translucent. But the shore is also infested with crass, noisy people; Leda’s fruit infected by a malignant rot; her bedroom contaminated with screeching bugs; a little girl’s doll corrupted by noxious black liquid and writhing insects. This tonal tension is symptomatic of the film’s spirit: It’s a glossy apple, rapidly decaying from the inside out. The film takes place over a couple of days as Leda settles into a lavish working vacation. Her relaxation is interrupted, however, when she first lays eyes on Nina (Dakota Johnson), a beautiful, inscrutable young mother. Leda becomes obsessed with Nina, as the latter inadvertently resurfaces troubling memories of Leda’s own distressing experiences as a mother. From that moment onward, Leda’s haunting memories permeate The Lost Daughter until the apple is completely black. While the narrative itself, adapted from Elena Ferrante’s 2006 novel of the same name, is relatively straightforward, debut director Maggie Gyllenhaal, who also wrote the screenplay, tackles themes of internalized and externalized sexism with agility and complexity. Leda’s subtle, complex mental state would not have been possible to convey were it not for Gyllenhaal’s outstanding visual sensibilities. Leda’s struggles are largely internal, but I’m confident that Gyllenhaal’s uniquely tactile storytelling says a great deal more than words ever could. When Leda caresses Elena’s grimy doll, her touch is gentle and somehow filled with regret. When she slides a pin into Nina’s hat, it sounds sinister like a sword being unsheathed, but her careful placement is almost sensual. And when a younger Leda slices the flesh of an orange, her smooth, tactful carving almost feels ominous. Gyllenhaal’s extraordinary direction, paired with exceptional performances from The Lost Daughter’s lead actresses, culminate in a perfect storm that yields an astute portrait of the painful expectations of womanhood.—Aurora Amidon

3. I Lost My Body

i-lost-my-body.jpg Year: 2019
Director: Jérémy Clapin
Stars: Hakim Faris Hamza, Victoire Du Bois, Patrick d’Assumçao
Rating: NR
Runtime: 81 minutes

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While we’re on board, at least passively, for however many sequels Pixar wants to give Toy Story, patient for however long another one takes, I Lost My Body is a singular animated film, increasingly of the kind that, frankly, don’t get made anymore. Partly because hand-drawn features made by small studios are rarer than ever, but mostly because it’s a defiantly adult animated film, wreathed in oblique storytelling and steeped in grief. Ostensibly about an anthropomorphic hand climbing and skittering its way across the city to find the person to whom it was once attached—the story of its severing slowly coming to light—the beauty of director Jérémy Clapin’s images, often limned in filth and decay, is in how revelatory they can be when tied so irrevocably to the perspective of a small hand navigating both its nascent life in the treacherous urban underground and the traumatic memories of its host body’s past. I Lost My Body is an unassuming, quietly heartbreaking achievement, one the Academy needs to prioritize now more than ever over expectedly competent big studio fare. —Dom Sinacola

4. Marriage Story

marriage-story-movie-poster.jpg Year: 2019
Director: Noah Baumbach
Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Azhy Robertson, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Julie Hagerty, Merritt Wever
Rating: R

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The way that Adam Driver ends “Being Alive,” which his character in Marriage Story has just sung in full (including dialogue asides from Company’s lead’s friends), is like watching him drain what’s left of his spirit out onto the floor, in front of his small audience (which includes us). The performance starts off kind of goofy, the uninvited theater kid taking the reins to sing one of Broadway’s greatest showstoppers, but then, in another aside, he says, “Want something… want something…” He begins to get it. He begins to understand the weight of life, the dissatisfaction of squandered intimacy and what it might mean to finally become an adult: to embrace all those contradictions, all that alienation and loneliness. He takes a deep exhalation after the final notes, after the final belt; he finally realizes he’s got to grow up, take down his old life, make something new. It’s a lot like living on the Internet these days; the impossibility of crafting an “authentic self,” negligible the term may be, is compounded by a cultural landscape that refuses to admit that “authenticity” is as inauthentic a performance as anything else. Working through identities is painful and ugly. Arguably, we’re all working through how to be ourselves in relation to those around us. And that’s what Bobby, the 35-year-old at the center of Stephen Sondheim’s 1970 musical Company, is doing. The scene forces the viewer to make connections about their humanity, the art they’re experiencing, and the ever deadening world in which it all exists. Charlie grabs the microphone, drained, realizing that he has to figure out what he has to do next, to re-put his life together again. All of us, we’re putting it together too. Or trying, at least. That counts for something. —Kyle Turner

5. A Silent Voice

a-silent-voice-poster.jpg Year: 2016
Director: Naoko Yamada
Stars: Miyu Irino, Saori Hayami, Aoi Yuki, Kensho Ono, Yuki Kaneko, Yui Ishikawa, Megumi Han, Toshiyuki Toyonaga, Mayu Matsuoka
Rating: TV-14
Runtime: 129 minutes

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In a medium that too often feels at times constricted by the primacy of masculine aesthetic sensibilities and saturated with hyper-sexualized portrayals of women colloquially coded as “fan service,” Naoko Yamada’s presence is a welcome breath of fresh air, to say nothing of the inimitable quality of her films themselves. Inspired by the likes of Yasujiro Ozu, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Sergei Parajanov, Sofia Coppola, and Lucile Hadzihalilovic, Yamada is a director par excellence, capable of arresting attention and evoking melancholy and bittersweet catharsis through delicate compositions of deft sound, swift editing, ephemeral color palettes and characters with rich inner lives rife with knotty, relatable struggles. A Silent Voice, adapted from Yoshitoki Oima’s manga of the same name, is a prime example of all these sensibilities at play. When Shoya Ishida meets Shoko Nishimiya, a deaf transfer student, in elementary school, he bullies her relentlessly to the amusement of his classmates. One day when Shoya goes too far, forcing Shoko to transfer again for fear of her own safety, he is branded a pariah by his peers and retreats into a state of self-imposed isolation and self-hatred. Years later, Shoya meets Shoko once again, now as teenagers, and attempts to make amends for the harm he inflicted on her, all while wrestling to understand his own motivations for doing so. A Silent Voice is a film of tremendous emotional depth, an affecting portrait of adolescent abuse, reconciliation, and forgiveness for the harm perpetrated by others and ourselves.—Toussaint Egan

6. The Nightingale

nightingale.jpg Year: 2018
Director: Jennifer Kent
Stars: Aisling Franciosi, Sam Claflin, Baykali Ganambarr
Rating: R

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Calling The Nightingale a revenge film sets an expectation of triumph, found in the satisfaction of grim justice done on the unjust. Let it be known that there’s no such catharsis in Jennifer Kent’s followup to her 2014 debut The Babadook. Revenge, while indeed a dish best served cold, tends to be prepared in one of two ways in cinema: with fist-pumping vigor or soul-corroding sobriety. The Nightingale sticks with the recipe for the latter. This is neither a pleasant movie nor a pleasing movie, but it is made with high aesthetic value to offset its unrelenting pitilessness: It’s fastidiously constructed, as one should expect from a director of Kent’s talent, and ferociously acted by her leading trio of Aisling Franciosi, Baykali Ganambarr and Sam Claflin, respectively playing Clare, an Irish convict driven by rage; Billy, an Aboriginal tracker driven by vengeance; and Hawkins, a British military officer driven by cold ambition and bottomless malice, who’s also Clare’s master and rapist. They’re three peas in a horrible pod, being 1820s Tasmania during the Black War, when English colonists slaughtered Aboriginal Tasmanians to the latter’s near extinction. It’s an altogether dark time in the country’s long history. Thus, The Nightingale is an appropriately dark film—but Kent is too shrewd a filmmaker to argue that Clare’s suffering trumps Billy’s, or to make any equivalency between them. She understands what must happen to fulfill Clare’s part in the story, and what must happen to fulfill Billy’s part. That she’s able to so seamlessly achieve both is an incredible accomplishment. The Nightingale is a far cry from The Babadook on obvious grounds of genre and style, though there are horrors here aplenty: Nightmare beats where Clare dances with Aidan, then with Hawkins and her other attackers. But the film expands on Kent’s interest in women’s stories by telling Billy’s tale alongside Clare’s, and shows once more her gift for making well-tread genre elements feel unique. If The Nightingale denies the traditional satisfactions of revenge cinema, it discovers new ones as well. —Andy Crump

7. Titanic

titanic.jpg Year: 1997
Director: James Cameron
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 194 minutes

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Decades after its theatrical debut, James Cameron’s blockbuster epic is still so ubiquitous in the pop culture zeitgeist, its filmmaking marvels are drowned out by young Kate-and-Leo nostalgia and that damned Celine Dion caterwaul (not to mention the now late James Horner’s iconic score). Cameron’s ear for dialogue may be woefully leaden, but he’s a shrewd storyteller, plunking a Romeo-and-Juliet redux aboard the doomed ocean liner and flanking the fictional romance with historical details, groundbreaking special effects and jaw-dropping visuals. The narrative lapses are at times dumbfounding—let’s face it, old Rose, who tosses a priceless artifact into the abyss after waxing ad nauseam about herself, is a thoughtless jerk—and the aforementioned dialogue is awful (to say nothing of Billy Zane doing his best mustache-twirling silent movie villain) but Titanic remains a painstaking testament to the all-in Hollywood spectacle.—Amanda Schurr

8. Philomena

philomena.jpg Year: 2004
Director: Stephen Frears
Stars: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Mare Winningham
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 98 minutes

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Philomena, follows a woman’s search for her son, who was “sold off” by the Irish Catholic church 50 years earlier. Starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, the heartbreaking twists and turns of Philomena’s journey are even more jaw-dropping as we learn the story is based on the 2009 nonfiction book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, by BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith. In 1950s Ireland young Philomena (Sophie Kennedy Clarke) is disowned by her family after a tryst results in pregnancy. Sent to Roscrea convent, she works in the laundries to pay for her room and board—and her sins. She and the other young mothers are allowed to see their children for an hour a day. Philomena and her son Anthony adhere to this limited schedule for nearly three years until Anthony is adopted, against her wishes, on Christmas 1955. Nearly five decades later, the elderly Philomena (Dench) reveals the secret she’s been keeping all these years to her daughter. They reach out to Sixsmith (Coogan), a recently fired British government flack and former BBC journalist, to help Philomena search for her lost son. Although talking about “chemistry” is usually reserved for romantic onscreen relationships, it applies here in spades. Dench and Coogan create a believable rapport for their disparate characters. They play with the yin and yang expertly, and we watch as the characters both grow from their experience together in subtle, yet substantial, ways. The bittersweet mystery could have easily strayed into maudlin, tabloid territory, if it solely targeted evil nuns or a Catholic Church coverup. But instead, Philomena adds much-needed moments of humor s it follows the journey for the truth, raising questions about faith, infallibility and family. The steady direction by Frears, coupled with the snappy and substantive dialogue, keeps the film grounded when even the truth becomes hard to believe.—Christine N. Ziemba

9. Steel Magnolias

steel-magnolias.jpg Year: 1989
Director: Herbert Ross
Stars: Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis, Julia Roberts, Tom Skerritt, Sam Shepard
Rating: PG
Runtime: 118 minutes

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Based on a stage play by Robert Harling, this story chronicles the bonds among a group of women in Louisiana. Occasioned by the death of the playwright’s sister from diabetes complications, it touches on the quotidian (but life-altering) dramas of friendship and love, marriage and parenthood, illness and lives cut short. Steel Magnolias stars Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis, Daryl Hannah and Julia Roberts and is generally acknowledged to have initiated Roberts into stardom, though Sally Field’s performance is probably the standout. Not an overwhelmingly clever film, it is certainly a compassionate one, and it presents a humble and kind-spirited testimony to the sustaining power of female friendship. —Amy Glynn

10. Little Women

little-women.jpg Year: 1994
Director: Gillian Armstrong
Stars:: Winona Ryder, Kirsten Dunst, Christian Bale, Claire Danes, Susan Sarandon
Rating: PG
Runtime: 118 minutes

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Louisa May Alcott’s timeless 19th century novel about a close-knit Massachusetts family set during and after the Civil War has been adapted many times and in many ways, but perhaps none are as iconic as 1994’s Little Women. Directed by Gillian Armstrong and written by Robin Swicord, this &#821790s dream lineup of March girls features Winona Ryder as Jo, Kirsten Dunst and Samantha Mathis as Amy, Claire Danes as Beth, Trini Alvarado as Meg, and Susan Sarandon as Marmee. The hits just kept coming with the film’s love interests, including Eric Stoltz as John Brook and Christian Bale as Laurie. A beautiful and emotional telling from start to finish, the only mark against the movie might be how much undeniable chemistry there is here between Jo and Laurie. Yes, Amy is a brat (later reformed) and Beth shatters our hearts (Danes’ chin quiver is doing work) as expected, but why would Jo ever cast this Laurie to the side when their scenes sparkle with such a fiery connection? Alas, though the Jo/Laurie faithful won’t find peace here, Gabriel Byrne’s soulful Friedrich Bhaer does help soothe the burn a little. Really the key word for this version of Little Women is warmth, from ignited passions to cozy fireside family moments of forgiveness and redemption. That coupled with an exceptional cast and a thoughtful period aesthetic renders this adaptation as enduringly charming as the classic on which it’s based. —Allison Keene

11. Mudbound

mudbound.jpg Year: 2017
Director: Dee Rees
Stars: Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell, Mary J. Blige, Rob Morgan, Jonathan Banks, Garrett Hedlund
Rating: R
Runtime: 134 minutes

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Director Dee Rees uses the uneasy partnership between a white family and a black family in postwar Mississippi as a bruising metaphor for modern-day America. In Mudbound, Jason Clarke is the patriarch of a recently relocated Tennessee clan that must work together with the Jacksons (led by Mary J. Blige) to cultivate farmland, but the poisonous economic, racial and social atmosphere surrounding them constantly threatens the crops they’re trying to sow. This somber, despairing film sees the world plainly: War veterans aren’t given the care they need when they return, bigotry runs rampant, and good people are outnumbered by the small-minded. And the performances are stellar—especially Garrett Hedlund, as a bomber pilot who’s a shell of himself now that he’s home, and Jason Mitchell as a black soldier who finds that America still won’t accept him, even though he fought valiantly for his country. —Tim Grierson

12. Big Fish

BigFish.jpeg Year: 2003
Director: Tim Burton
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Helena Bonham Carter, Robert Guillaume, Marion Cotillard
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 125 minutes

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It is hard to take a dysfunctional father/son relationship and make it into a magical fantasy world, but that’s just what Burton did in Big Fish. The director takes viewers on a journey of the life of Edward Bloom, an ordinary man who through his own storytelling has lived an extraordinary life. In just two hours Burton addresses death, infidelity and the feelings of estrangement with ease, but he never loses his sense of fantasy. By the end of the movie, Burton has you seeing magic in even the most mundane events and believing in the impossible.—Laura Flood

13. Pieces of a Woman

pieces-woman.jpg Year: 2018
Director: Kornél Mundruczó
Stars: Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, Ellen Burstyn
Rating: R
Runtime: 126 minutes

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Netflix’s Pieces of a Woman is about Martha (Vanessa Kirby) and Sean (Shia LaBeouf), a couple who suffer a neonatal death. Director Kornél Mundruczó’s movie is a tough watch and an uneven drama, but its exceptional elements keep you glued to the screen—especially a gripping, one-take scene of home birth that runs nearly half an hour. It’s a flashy move, built on the backs of its actors and the planning and choreographing of its directorial and camera team. Kirby is seriously fantastic and the fact that the Logistic never overwhelmed the Artistic when shooting is quite a feat. But while the adrenaline, hope and grief of the scene are impressive enough to overwhelm the rest of the film, the visual fallout from this loss struck me even more deeply. Martha and Sean are shocked into stillness, something that’s depressingly relatable and shown throughout Pieces of a Woman with a subtle potency. Cinematographer Benjamin Loeb captures perfect frames of domestic neglect that will be familiar to anyone that was waylaid in the past by unemployment, illness, loss, trauma, or general disillusionment with capitalism, democracy and all the ways in which we live life. Martha’s moment of trauma may be the standout scene from Pieces of a Woman, but it’s the subtle depiction of slowing rebuilding, after untold time spent stuck, that resonates in the subconscious. —Jacob Oller

14. Les Misérables

lesmisrables_poster.jpg Year: 2012
Director: Tom Hooper
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Eddie Redmayne
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 158 minutes

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The first thing you notice is the breathing. Jean Valjean is standing atop a hill in the French mountains, contemplating his future after 19 years of prison, and you can hear the weariness in his singing, the gasps between words. Director Tom Hooper quickly makes clear that his film adaptation of the hit stage musical Les Misérables will not be a collection of technically perfect, glossy renditions of its songs. The film features excellent singing, for the most part, but it also emphasizes fragility in a work that’s largely defined by its grandiosity. —Jeremy Mathews

15. A River Runs Through It

river-runs.jpg Year: 2012
Director: Robert Redford
Stars: Craig Sheffer, Brad Pitt, Tom Skerritt, Brenda Blethyn, Emily Lloyd
Rating: PG
Runtime: 123 minutes

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Based on Norman Maclean’s 1976 novel about two Montana brothers in the first half of the 20th century, Robert Redford’s A River Runs Through It captures the state’s beauty, winning the Oscar for Best Cinematography. Norman (Craig Sheffer) and Paul (Brad Pitt) are raised by their father, a strict Presbyterian reverend, who teaches them the importance of reading and writing and fly fishing, and not necessarily in that order. Norman returns home during prohibition after six years away at Dartmouth, but alcohol remains at the center of life in Missoula. It’s a heartbreaking tale of that flips the story of the prodigal son on its head with the rebellious son staying close to home and winning the praise of the father for the art of hooking trout. —Josh Jackson

16. 6 Balloons

6-balloons-movie-poster.jpg Year: 2018
Director: Marja-Lewis Ryan
Stars: Abbi Jacobson, Dave Franco, Jane Kaczmarek, Tim Matheson
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 75 minutes

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Addiction being an ugly and tragic thing, it’s a mercy that Marja-Lewis Ryan’s bleak portrait of the shockwave effects of chemical dependence is only about an hour and ten minutes long. Length doesn’t have more than a fleeting relationship to quality, mind you, but a little goes a long way, and 6 Balloons, like heroin addict Seth (Dave Franco), needs just a little to drive an audience into a state of excruciating suspense. Seth is brother to Katie (Abbi Jacobson), who is forced to drop everything while putting together a surprise party for her boyfriend (Dawan Owens) when she learns that Seth has relapsed and started injecting again after being clean for a minute. The film orbits Franco and Jacobson almost exclusively, their constant third wheel being Charlotte and Madeline Carel, twin sisters cast in the single role of Ella, Seth’s daughter. Seth and Katie bicker, when Seth is lucid enough to make an argument, though mostly he breaks her heart (along with ours). Occasionally, he makes her laugh, but the laughter is a bittersweet reminder of 6 Balloons’ cycle of enabling. —Andy Crump

17. Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll & The Movie

violet-evergarden.jpg Year: 2019, 2020
Directors: Haruka Fujita, Taichi Ishidate
Stars: Yui Ishikawa, Minako Kotobuki, Aoi Yuki, Daisuke Namikawa
Rating: TV-PG
Runtime: 90 minutes, 140 minutes

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The key to Violet Evergarden is that it’s about the future. Violet, a former child soldier who survived a war and lost both her arms, has to face that future, and she can’t help but look backward. Her day job has her ghostwriting clients’ thoughts and memories. She endures PTSD-fueled echoes of her own past constantly. She yearns for her beloved superior officer who (we think?) died. And throughout, she struggles both physically, with her prosthetic hands, and socially, with everyone she meets. So much anime, including many titles on this list, focuses on conflicts during wartime; it’s rare to see one go all in on the conflicts that come with peace. Violet Evergarden’s argument—that those aftereffects are surmountable—is a compelling, important one. —Eric Vilas-Boas

18. Irreplaceable You

Year: 2018
Director: Stephanie Laing
Stars: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michiel Huisman, Christopher Walken
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 96 minutes

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Netflix has gifted us with two Gugu Mbatha-Raw movies in the same month. One of them is a creative disaster and a sign of bad things to come for the streaming giant’s philosophy on original releases. One of them is Irreplaceable You. Upfront, Irreplaceable You is aggressively mushy and cutesy as hell, but Mbatha-Raw is an effortless charmer, and director Stephanie Laing is clearly a wizard because she found a way to scrub Michiel Huisman of his typical stubbly hipster douchiness. He’s still a brooding hottie, but an awkward nerd brooding hottie, and he’s good at playing the part. He and Mbatha-Raw match up well as Sam and Abbie, childhood sweethearts newly engaged and also staring down her terminal cancer diagnosis. In medical terms, she’s a goner. So she does what any type-A person would do in her position and interviews candidates for her replacement after she dies. She loves Sam so much she can’t stand the idea of him being alone. If you’re diabetic this synopsis probably has you reaching for an insulin dose, but for all of its obvious manipulations, watching Irreplaceable You is the equivalent of downing a heart-shaped box of chocolates. You might go into sugar shock and you’ll need to brush your teeth when it’s over, but you won’t regret the indulgence all the same. —Andy Crump

19. Other People

other-people.jpg Year: 2016
Director: Chris Kelly
Stars: Jesse Plemons, Molly Shannon, Bradley Whitford, Maude Apatow, Zach Woods
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 97 minutes

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Other People is the story of David Mulcahy (Jesse Plemons), a young man on the cusp of his 30s who takes a break from his urbane New York City lifestyle and his exciting career as a struggling comedian to take care of his mother, Joanne (Molly Shannon), back home in San Diego. Joanne has leiomyosarcoma, which in her case is sort of like saying the Great Barrier Reef has started bleaching. Her condition is advanced enough that her eldest child decides to fly cross-country to be by her side. You figure it out. Shannon’s tremendous performance establishes her as the film’s main attraction. Joanne isn’t the center of Kelly’s story, mind you. David is. But Kelly actually gives a shit about his protagonist’s relationships with his secondary characters. Interplay between Plemons and Shannon becomes key to the movie’s narrative. They have real familial chemistry that lets them bond on screen as we watch. You can give Kelly side-eye for making a movie about the effects cancer has on healthy people instead of people who have cancer, but you can’t call him callous. Cancer patients have stories to tell, after all, but so do their kids. A cheaper movie would find a treacly lesson in Joanne’s passing, but Kelly acknowledges that there are no lessons in death. His work is affecting and thoughtful without engineering fake epiphanies. It’s the kind of film with perspective that can only be derived from personal experience rather than artifice. —Andy Crump

20. The Fundamentals of Caring

fundamentals-of-caring.jpg Year: 2016
Director: Rob Burnett
Stars: Paul Rudd, Selena Gomez, Craig Roberts, Jennifer Ehle
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 97 minutes

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The Fundamentals of Caring is a typical lower-budget, rough-around-the-edges, slightly stiff coming-of-age film about loss, love and redemption. Based on the novel by Jonathan Evison, the story follows Ben (Paul Rudd), a man in the midst of a divorce and hurting from the loss of a child, as he becomes a caregiver for Trevor (Craig Roberts, Submarine), a sarcastic British 18-year-old with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Trevor is a prankster who demands constant attention and is utterly bound by his routine, yet unhappy with his place in the world. Against the better judgment of Trevor’s mother, Elsa (Jennifer Ehle), Ben takes Trevor on a road trip around the Pacific Northwest, following Trevor’s map of America’s “Lamest Roadside Attractions,” including “The World’s Deepest Pit.” Along the way, the two travelers pick up a runaway named Dot (Selena Gomez) and an expectant mother, Peaches (Megan Ferguson). What saves the film from being just another quirky indie yawner are the performances of the two leading men, Rudd and Roberts. Without this heartwarming duo and their comedic timing, banter and revealing frankness, the film sadly would not be worth watching. Director-writer Rob Burnett, better known for producing Late Show with David Letterman, Ed and other feel-good television, deserves props for making such an offbeat, heartfelt film, and landing the talent to pull the lead roles off. —Maryann Koopman Kelly