Although you may not set out to watch one of the most depressing movies ever made, sometimes you are just in that kind of mood. There are so many movies that deal with difficult or emotional topics, that it’s pretty gut-wretching to put this list together. So, strap yourself in for these most depressing movies. And remember, if you need a pick me up afterwards, here are our favorite feel good movies (opens in new tab) too.
Beware, there’s spoilers ahead…
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25. Dead Man’s Shoes (2004)
The movie: Shane Meadow’s brutal revenge drama is relentlessly dreary throughout. Paddy Considine plays a soldier who returns to his small hometown to seek revenge on those who tormented his younger brother (Toby Kebbell). , It’s a blood-soaked tale of violent retribution, and that’s before we get to the crushing reveal at the end of the film…
Most miserable moment: The realisation that Considine’s younger brother hanged himself years earlier, and the weight of guilt attached, form a devastating one-two punch at the close.
24. The Road (2010)
The movie: Adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s famously bleak novel, John Hillcoat brings this post-apocalyptic saga to the big screen without sacrificing any of the misery of the source material. The plot revolves around a man (Viggo Mortensen) and his young son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) as they try to navigate an empty wasteland without getting killed. Take that Hollywood!
Most miserable moment: Viggo’s tearful farewell to his bewildered son is almost too much to bear.
23. Dancer in the Dark (2000)
The movie: Roll up, roll up it’s the most soul-crushingly harrowing musical ever made! The bleak knows no bounds when it comes to bleak circumstances, as Bjork’s Czech immigrant Selma turns to crime in order to pay for an operation for her son. It’s a Lars Von Trier film, so naturally, things don’t end so well.
Most miserable moment: Found guilty for murder, Selma is led to the execution chamber and refuses to go out without a song in her heart. As she belts out her final tune it stops abruptly… because she’s been hanged.
22. Angela’s Ashes (1999)
The movie: Poverty and the demon drink are the twin villains in this Oscar-nominated adaptation of Frank McCourt’s Ireland-set memoir, that follows the destitute McCourt family as they return to Limerick unable to continue to live in America.
Most miserable moment: Any time Robert Carlyle, who plays Frank’s feckless alcoholic of a father, appears on screen. He sets about drinking his family’s meagre savings at every opportunity.
21. Precious (2009)
The movie: An unflinching portrayal of child abuse, as Gaboury Sidibe’s eponymous teen struggles with rape, domestic violence, illiteracy and pregnancy. It’s based on true events too, as if it wasn’t dispiriting enough.
Most miserable moment: Just when Precious is starting to make a go of things at a halfway house, her mother pops in to drop the bombshell that her father is HIV positive. The father who raped her, just to clarify, and impregnated his own daughter.
20. Jude (1996)
The movie: Thomas Hardy’s book, Jude The Obscure, chronicles the life of the luckless Jude and the unending tide of misfortune that lands itself at his door. This film adaptation follows a similar, cheerless direction with Christopher Ecclestone on excellently long-suffering form.
Most miserable moment: Jude’s son Juey hangs himself and suffocates his siblings, working on the logic that they are costing their parents too much. Because there were too many of us, reads his explanatory note.
19. Vera Drake (2004)
The movie: A tale of backstreet abortions was never going to be the sunniest of films, but it’s Vera’s distress and shame as her actions are brought to the public’s attention that really tugs at the heart-strings.
Most miserable moment: Her husband’s (Phil Davis) staunch loyalty in the face of Vera’s revelations won’t fail to jerk a few tears.
18. Sophie’s Choice (1982)
The movie: Meryl Streep’s Polish immigrant Sophie may have survived a spell in Auschwitz, but her life with violent, jealous Kevin Kline is hardly a bed of roses either. Plus, she’s got the whole “choice” thing to live with.
Most miserable moment: Streep’s eventual fate is heartbreaking, but the titular choice is the real hammer-blow… which you have to see to appreciate its horror.
17. Lilja 4-Ever (2002)
The movie: Teenager Lilja (Oksana Akinshina) is looking for an escape from her squalid existence in an unnamed, but unmistakably bleak corner of the Soviet Union. When an exit-route to Sweden comes her way, it seems too good to be true. Largely because it is.
Most miserable moment: A rare ray of hope in Lilja’s life comes in the shape of childhood friend Volodya. Sadly, he kills himself when Lilja leaves. Great.
16. Kes (1969)
The movie: Poor old Billy (David Bradley) is bullied at school, loathed by his half-brother and written off by his mother. Fortunately, he’s got a little feathered friend in the shape of Kes the kestrel. You can see where this is going, can’t you?
Most miserable moment: Tragically, inevitably, Kes finds his way into the great aviary in the sky when Billy’s half-brother kills him. The little shit.
Click ‘Next Page’ to see titles 16-6 in our countdown of the most depressing movies ever made.