Movies With Devastating Crushing Endings That Make You Want to Weep


Sorry to arrive a few hours late to this unusually sad edition of Thursday Movie Picks, hosted by Wandering Through the shelves. Since I’m posting this late, I’ll get right down to it but I will mention that, given the topic, I will be making no effort from here on to avoid spoilers.


Citizen Kane (1941)– Often called the greatest American film of all time, Citizen kane may have one of the saddest and most profound endings I’ve ever seen. Most people know by now that Rosebud was the sled. a dying rich man who had everything he could ever want except for the ability to really connect with another person calling out for his childhood, wishing he could do it all over again, is just plain tragic. I don’t think there’s a single silver lining in this movie.

one flew over the cuckoo's nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)– There’s a bit of a silver lining here. Chief does make a break for freedom after all. But poor Jack. He was so full of life throughout the movie and had such a rebellious spirit. He’s finally broken though and the only relief he gets is when Chief euthanizes him. Depressing stuff.

blue valentine

Blue Valentine (2010)– Watching Dean and Cindy’s marraige fall apart along with the sweet excitement of new love when they first met is depressing enough. When we start to realize that it’s the things that brought them together that are now tearing them apart, the whole thing seems inevitable and tragic. When Dean and Cindy are played with such raw honesty by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, it’s just plain heartbreaking. And when it was released just two months after my own marraige fell apart, it felt personal.

31 thoughts on “Movies With Devastating Crushing Endings That Make You Want to Weep

  1. joelnox

    Citizen Kane is an intriguing choice, never would of thought of it. It never struck me that way but a great film. Now Cuckoo’s Nest that’s a tragic tale, Nicholson is great this coming before the time he became a parody of himself. I appreciated the acting in Blue Valentine though I didn’t care for the film overall but I can see how your connection to it would make it powerful for you. Terrific choices.

    The theme is a bit open to interpretation this week, to me devastating films are ones that make me feel depleted when they’re over in that one and done, sorry I ever watched it way whereas movies that make you want to weep usually have some resonance that you connect to emotionally but provide a type of release, you might not feel relieved after but you don’t feel destroyed nor hopeless.

    I’m not a fan of the former but love films that fall into the latter category, I tried to use that as my guide when I picked these:

    It’s My Party (1996)-Eric Roberts, in the best performance of his career, plays Nick Stark a man with AIDS who chooses to end his life when told by his doctor that he is entering the final stages of PML which will reduce him to a vegetative state prior to death. Before doing so though he throws one last big party to say goodbye to all his friends and family. Randal Kleiser, director of Grease, based this on personal experience and called on many industry friends to work for scale. The film is loaded with a star filled cast including Olivia Newton-John, Margaret Cho, Marlee Matlin, Lee Grant (wonderful as Roberts’ mother) and a host of others. Laced throughout with gallows humor this will still punch you in the gut by its conclusion.

    Running on Empty (1988)-In their youth protesting American involvement in the Vietnam War Arthur and Annie Pope (Judd Hirsch & Christine Lahti) bomb a napalm plant resulting in the blinding of a man who was there by mistake. They’ve been on the run ever since along with their two children. It’s now sixteen years later and the musically gifted older son Danny (River Phoenix) longs to quit running and pursue his own dreams but his leaving will tear the family apart and he may never see them again. Can the family spare him and can he handle the loss if he decides to go? The film doesn’t go for easy answers leading to an emotional workout. Phoenix was nominated for an Oscar and Lahti should have been.

    Dark Victory (1939)-Bette Davis plays Judith Traherne a headstrong somewhat reckless 24 year old heiress who lives life on her own terms until she starts suffering from crippling headaches. It’s discovered she has a brain tumor and she has what appears to be successful surgery. During her recovery she falls for her handsome doctor and they plan a life together only for her to stumble across the fact that her prognosis is negative and she only has a short time to live. How she copes with that information fuels the rest of the movie. Beautifully acted with a poignant deeply moving final act.

    Honorable Mention-All Mine to Give (1957)-A young Scot couple (Glynis Johns & Cameron Mitchell) face many hardships as well as joys as they build a life in the logging town of Eureka, Wisconsin during the 1850’s, having six children along the way. When the family is hit by a succession of tragedies the mother extracts a promise from oldest son Robbie to secure the futures of his siblings. As Christmas approaches he sets out to fulfill her wish. The audience weeps. Based on a true story the British release title of this picture was “The Day They Gave Babies Away”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. SLIP/THROUGH - Dan

      Great stuff, Joel… I had to chime in because: Running on Empty! Overall, good analysis, but this cult classic deserves it, especially if you’re curious about the performances of River Phoenix. Right on, Joel.


  2. Wendell

    3 absolutely great movies and all of them tragic. Blue Valentine is the toughest watch of the three, for me. Not only is the dissolution of a marriage a universal topic, it comes across like a sledgehammer to the back of the head. Great choices.


    1. Matt Post author

      Thanks, I am crying by the end every time I watch Blue Valentine. The other two never actually make me weep, it’s more that they’re devastating and crushing.



    Great article… These 3 are really appropriate picks. Valentine was bold, and shook me. Kane is immortal. But Cuckoo’s Nest is my fav here… Considering other genres, The Mist was totally devastating with its conclusion.


  4. reocochran

    I cry at many movies. Blue Valentine, one of them. I had read “Love Story” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” along with “The Notebook,” so expected tears. I cried when dog died in”Marley and Me” and “K-9.” My oldest daughter says, “Paper Town” and “Pay It Forward” made her cry.
    For uncomfortable I felt, “Leaving Las Vegas” with Nicholas Cage, fits this topic. I sobbed during, “Wild,” especially about losing a mother but also, thought her ex who sent her packages, was so nice and understanding. Last movie, the Hugh Jackman film with Terence Howard, was very sad how they beat up a mentally disabled man who may or may not have taken their daughters.


  5. That Other Critic

    The movie that really makes me cry every single time (and I hardly ever cry) is Marley and Me. I cannot stand it when a dog dies.


  6. Brittani

    Blue Valentine! That movie is so devastating. Citizen Kane was on my Blind Spot list last year and I was so underwhelmed by it. I think there’s almost too much hype surrounding that movie. It set my expectations too high. But when you think it about it, it is really depressing.


  7. Birgit

    Great picks! I never thought of Citizen Cane in the way you wrote it but it is so true. It is a great film in so many way. Love Gregg Toland’s photography. One Flew…is a film I got angry at because of the ending. It is so sad to me especially that the main hero doesn’t make it-really pissed me off. I have not seen Blue Valentine but will put it on my list. It never appealed to me until your review.


  8. msmariah1

    I admire your list Matt! Nice picks. If I were to add to it, I would add “Dancer in the Dark” with Bjork. I think I cried my eyeballs out. that movie was a punch in the gut. I never want to see it again it was so depressing. I would need prosac.



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