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13 Great Movies That Will Make You Completely Depressed

10 August 2015 | Features, Film Lists | by Ines Bom

grave of the fireflies

This is a very subjective list which does not aspire to a universal or official cataloging of its topic. It’s an assembly of movies which compiles some features and peculiarities which provoke a certain feeling of despair in the spectator. This includes striking emotions which haunt the viewer before the film is a memory.

There might be those whose emotions remain completely unaltered by some of the following films. Cinema, like other art forms, has a way of penetrating the most intimate and deep places of its viewers. The way a person connects with and receives art varies from one person to another, depending on personality, lifestyle, memories and state of mind.

The following films are grouped together because they are considered by many to be painful. They have in common the power to leave the viewer numb, dazed and suffering from a lack of hope, not only during the film, but moments after the viewing. Content such as shocking scenes, gloomy plots and bleak finales end up becoming a cruel memory to those who view.


13. Goya’s Ghosts (2006)

Goya's Ghosts (2006)

Milos Forman and Jean-Claude Carrière make use of the famous painter Goya to illustrate a troubled time filled with horror and tragedy. The film opens in 1792, an age dominated by the fearful Spanish Inquisition and its acts of torture and oppression, cruelty and fanaticism.

The story centers around Goya, the most famous and controversial painter of that time, who was worshiped by nobles and burghers and feared and hated by the clergy. Also of importance are his muse Inez, the daughter of a wealthy merchant, and Brother Lorenzo, a vain priest who faithfully serves the Holy Office and admires Goya’s talent.

One night Inez is spotted by spies of the Inquisition declining a dish of pork in a tavern, which immediately raises serious suspicions about acts of Judaism. After being arrested, she’s mercilessly tortured by the Holy Office to “confess” the crime of which she was accused. Her father asks Brother Lorenzo for help. The priest takes advantage of Inez’ helplessness in jail. After several years, there is a change not only in the political and social climate, but in the situations of each of the three characters.

The fictional drama unfolds against the backdrop of a series of the dark deeds of the Inquisition, Napoleon’s conquest of Spain, and the lowest and most degrading aspects of human nature. The title “Goya’s Ghosts” alludes to the burden that Goya carries over the years after witnessing such atrocities and inhumanity.


12. Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (2009)

Hachi A Dog’s Tale (2009)

Only those who have or have had dogs can understand the emotional impact of this film. Those who have not owned dogs but feel a great affection for them can also be moved in another way. The relationship of owner and dog is such a special, unique and personal bond that it can only be understood by those who have shared their homes with these wonderful creatures.

In the film Parker Wilson (Richard Gere) one day finds little Hatchi, a dog who has accidentally strayed from home, ending up in the middle of the street. He initially has no intention to keep dog, but quickly becomes attached to him. The bond that is created between them is shown in the following scenes. Among the small details which make up relationship between owner and his dog is the fact that Hatchi goes every day to take and receive Wilson at the train station.

After delighting the viewer with these moments of tenderness, the worst happens. Parker suddenly dies of a heart attack, leaving behind wife, children and his faithful friend. However, Hatchi continues the tradition, going every day to wait for his owner at the train station, even after the family moved, until the end of his days.

Based on a true story (which amplifies the tragic tone of the film), the film depicts the unconditional love and loyalty of the dog. It’s a huge lesson about the connection between dogs and men and the respect they deserve to get from those they love without restrictions.


11. Amour (2012)

Amour (2012)

Amour, written and directed by the Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke, tells the story of an elderly couple, Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva). After Anne suffers a stroke which affects her physically and leads to more serious consequences, the couple’s peaceful life is deeply shaken. In light of the gradual deterioration of Anne’s condition, the couple has relied on their bonds of intimacy and love in order to overcome this crisis.

Despite the visits of their daughter and others who care for them, there’s a clear atmosphere of profound solitude enveloping the movie. It’s as if Anne and George were the last two people on the earth, embarking on a last journey of aging.

Amour is extremely pessimistic in its outlook about death. Death is the natural end of a cycle. The film leaves the viewer fearful of certain inevitable realities of life. Getting older is a fact and death is certain. The last stage of life can be happy, but the truth is that, in most cases, it is tragic. The film ends and the viewer feels distressed and can not help but wonder how to deal with suffering at the end of life.


10. Children of Men (2006)


The action takes place in 2027. The world has been devastated by several natural disasters, and is largely uninhabited due to both pollution and the anarchy it generated. England is one of the few inhabitable places. Worst of all is the fact that humanity is on the brink of extinction due to some unknown phenomenon that has led to an infertility epidemic.

The main character in this gloomy scenario is Theon Faron (Clive Owen), a former radical protester, who now lives without hope for a better future, under the pressure of a government police force. One day after rediscovering an old comrade (Julianne Moore), Theon wakes up from his apathy and joins an activist group. These wanted “terrorists” safeguard a miraculously pregnant young girl.

Taking place in a frighteningly near future, the film has many action scenes which project a tension and despair so strong as to suck all joy from the viewer immersed in this believable world of the future. The climax posits the possibility of a happy outcome, of purposes fulfilled and salvation for humanity, but it is never known if such a victory is achieved.


9. Blue Valentine (2010)

emotional draining movies

This Derek Cianfrance’s film is an honest, complex and painful portrait of a dying marriage. The couple’s story is told in intercut segment of past and present.

When the pair were younger, they believed everything was going to be okay because they were in love. Despite some setbacks, everything works well. Cindy is a damaged girl who needed to be loved and Dean is a clumsy funny boy ready for loving her unconditionally. The present time is a dramatic contrast to the past. They are married, they have a six-year-old daughter, and all love and happiness has disappeared.

It is virtually impossible for a viewer, after seeing the film, not to put some personal romantic beliefs in perspective. The parallels made throughout the film between the time when the two met and fell in love and the end of the relationship, six years later, creates a sense of shock. Unlike many films, the disintegration of this marriage does not have a concrete reason or an inciting event. It took place over the course of time, due to emotional distress and the fact that the two people who met and fell madly in love have remained faithful to what they were at the beginning and have changed the way they begin to view each other.

Cindy always had plans and opportunities for the future and Dean was always content with the happiness he has already. The situation reaches a point where Cindy can’t remember the overwhelming passion that led her, in the past, to marry Dean. Awakened from the apathy in which he was immersed, Dean does not understand what suddenly began to fail. He desperately fights to regain his wife’s love, but he already knows he’s just going against the current.

It is clear to the viewer from the start, especially in light of a magnificent performance by Michele Williams, that Cindy is unhappy and emotionally drained and the relationship between those two is beyond saving.


8. Irreversible (2002)


Gaspar Noé is known for making movies that are hard to digest and Irreversible may be the best example of that. “Extremely difficult to watch” is the simplest way to describe this movie. This fact is not due to the plot being related in reverse chronological order, but because of the content of the movie itself, which is violent and gruesome, well-made and innovative.

Due to its unique construction, the movie opens at the climax and flashes back to a series of events leading to that situation. Two friends (Vincent Cassel and Albert Dupontel) decide to take justice into their own hands are hunting down the man who raped and beat their girlfriend and friend (Monica Bellucci). From that point the viewer begins to see what has occurred, who these characters are and to understand the relationship between them.

The script is very simple. What was supposed to be a normal night out with friends turned into a tragedy. As the film proceeds backwards in time, it is possible to see the characters before all the misfortune, when they were well and happy. That fact plus a considerable amount of violence creates an unpleasant sensation towards the end of the film in which atmosphere is the complete opposite of the film’s earlier scenes. By the end, the main characters are portrayed as joyful and in love full of romance, tenderness and light further accentuating the despair felt throughout the rest of the film.



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  • Uneto Xhaferaj

    The sequence showing the Universe and Creation of life in the movie Tree Of Life made me really depressed thinking how unimmportant we are.

    • Dylan Bonnar

      That actually uplifted me, as it also shows how interconnected with EVERYTHING we are.

    • Bryton Cherrier

      I think your watching it wrong way.
      Every Terrance Malick film I’ve seen so far, while the subject matter of his certain films can be depressing

  • Yolanda Anne Brown

    Melancholia is even more depressing since it tells you from the opening what’s going to happen.

  • disqus_kOiQcyN7dK

    The original japanese version of Hachiko (1987) is much more depressing…

  • Bryton Cherrier

    The Road was the first film in my life where I just stopped watching it because it was too much. When it got to the point where SPOILERS dies near the end is where I told my dad that I couldn’t really handle it anymore. He told me the end wasn’t that bad but it was too late for me.

    Really solidly made film though.

  • Bryton Cherrier

    (Insert witty ironic joke about how depressing a film was due to it’s disappointment)

  • Andre Troesch

    Why are almost all of these films from the last 15 years?

  • Dimitrije Stojanovic

    Don’t Look Now is probably the most depressive movie I ever saw. Especially last 15 minutes. I tried to watch it again couple of times, but I am always stopping there.

  • Roger

    I think “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” should be on list!

  • David Potskhverashvili

    where is oldboy?

    • Gargi

      Hmm, I see what you mean. Some films on this list didn’t exactly fit as ‘depressing’ perhaps ’cause they didn’t make use of sentimentality. Oldboy doesn’t simply count as ‘depressing’, Park Chan Wook said it was greatly inspired by Kakfa. Something to think about, innit?

  • mattwpbs

    This needs some Cold War nuclear depression in it. I’d suggest Threads, When The Wind Blows, The War Game, and Miracle Mile as good examples.

    • SupernaturalCat

      Miracle Mile is a unique little film! …quite unrealistic airburst-over-Los Angels sequence, although a very nice underlying theme of finding true love well within the foreboding eleventh hour. Tough luck, that. Sorta reminds me of the recent, Finding A Friend For The End Of The World (highly recommended for romantics!)

      Testament (1983) is the nuclear war movie that will depress viewers, bring them to tears, even. Hard, emotional wallop in that one.

      Threads, I’ve always considered drastically overrated in terms of how so many movie buffs cite it and praise it when discussing doomsday movies. The nuclear winter stuff is indeed grim, but everything prior to, including the actual nuclear war (which is nothing but stock footage of hydrogen bomb tests in the ’50s) didn’t strike me as particularly convincing or intriguing at all.

      Fail Safe ….”the matador, the matador.” Grim movie.

      The Day After is still scary to watch. The f/x are obviously lo-fi by today’s standards, yet still horrifying as hell.

  • Péter Varsányi

    I would add The Hours to the list.

    • David Jarner

      One of my favorite depressing movies. I’ve watched it many, many times and I listen to Phillip Glass’s perfect score frequently.

  • Alkis3

    Maybe “Johnny Got His Gun”…?

  • Debra Van Deusen

    Boy in the Striped Pajamas

    • Sam Mantori

      True that was a beautiful yet profoundly disturbing film…

    • Kosta Jovanovic


    • Jules F. Melo Borges

      A cheap tear-jerker that doesn’t tear-jerk anyone with some viewing experience.

  • Youssef Ksentini

    time of the gypsies ?

  • vaguely

    No On Th Beach? No Never Let Me Go?

  • Sam Mantori

    I totally have to agree with “Grave of the fire flies” that movie had me in tears for ever, an even now just thinking about it… powerful stuff.

  • Mauro de Martino

    Toto le héros

  • Gamolly

    Biutiful, perhaps?

  • Joan Quigley

    Leavin Las Vegas

    • Joe Trudnak

      Most DEFINITELY!

    • Joe Montoto

      One of the greatest love stories told on film.

  • Gabriel Bebing

    Will you idiots quit using the word “depressed” in this manner? No movie will make you “completely depressed”. Really? You saw a movie and you’re literally depressed? Quit exaggerating stuff.

    • Tom Oscar McGlinchey

      Synecdoche New York did it for me, not for a terribly long time, but I was genuinely surprised a movie could do that.

    • Nancy Hall

      You’re right. I think it trivializes depression, which is a terrible disease. These movies are disturbing, but they cannot create depression in someone who does not already have it. They cannot even create the kind of grief that comes from loss.

  • Ted Wolf

    I always liked the movie Fat City for it’s feeling of desperation it left me

  • Abdeldjalil E.

    Mother and Child , one hell of a depressing film.

  • Rabbit Hole is one that got to me.

  • Jecar Donoso Villaseca

    I cry like a b*tch every single time i saw “Dancer In The Dark”. One of them in a cinema.

    • Babak Ghereghloo

      It is the only movie that made me sob (so far)!

  • David Jarner

    3 of my favorites deserve to be on this list: The Hours, The Ice Storm and The Sweet Hereafter. I’ve watched all 3 many, many times and my other half always exclaims “oh gawd, not this depressing crap again”. Depressing, yes. Crap, no.

  • Bárbara Rosa

    Miss Violence 🙁 I got sad just remembering it exists.

  • mokiszin

    Az ötödik pecsét – The Fifth Seal

  • Henrik Vinther Sørensen

    How’s children of men depressing? It has a very optimistic ending!

  • Jhinuk Chowdhury

    Akira Kurusawa’s “Ran.”

  • Cygnifier

    I would add Shoeshine (1946), directed by Vittorio de Sica. This tale of two boys in post-WWII Italy is heartbreaking, leaving one disillusioned.

  • lelya troncoso

    Jude (1996), Incendies (2010), Boys don’t cry (1999), The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012)

  • Guido Von M

    What about Submarino by Thomas Vinterberg?

  • Pica Lima

    Dancer in the Dark is number one

  • Filippo Schiaffino

    elephant man

  • Noah Garner

    Come and See

    • Tiago Nunes


    • Andrés Álvarez

      Yes… Come and see will tear your soul apart.

  • Saurabh Goyal

    Well, we should not just term them as depressing movies, they are all works of art “Grave of the Fireflies, “Camino”, La strada, The Double Life of Véronique, The Soul Keeper!
    This movies “Camino” literally sent me into a stupor, I kept on crying for hours uncontrollably, during and after the movie.

    • Sophiaso

      exactly. I was crying a lot during and after Camino. And I always cry on Grave of the Fireflies.

      • Saurabh Goyal

        I relate to it too Sophiaso. The human tragedy conveyed in the form of deprivation, physical suffering, war and bereavement in these movies is all about aesthetics of true global cinema! really like these so much..

  • Christian Gulldén

    Dancer in the dark should be number one. And yeah, Leaving Las Vegas should be on that list.

  • Christian Gulldén

    And I forgot 21 Grams. One of my favorites.

    • moss

      I first saw that back in college days, the night before one of my most important exam. I wasn’t aware of what’s happening to me until I sat for the exam, when I just burst into tears and left.

  • Nancy Hall

    Sophie’s Choice bothered me for a while.

  • Vaz zy

    Prisoners The Divide Last house on the left, Servian Film to name a few in the thriller genre

  • Gargi

    I’m a simple woman, I see GOTF, I hit like.

  • Rodrigo Liceaga Sota

    The Apu trilogy.

  • FAS

    Hachiko Monogatari is more depressing than Hachi: A Dog’s Tale.

  • Dimitri Poenaru

    What about Synecdoche New York? Or American History X?

  • Johannes Runge

    Breaking the Waves, Nymphomaniac and Melancholia. Lars von Trier is the king of depression. And I totally agree with Grave of the Fireflies on this list.

  • Joe Montoto

    King Kong (1933) and The Wrestler

  • Zuzu Petals

    Tangerines, Everything is illuminated, Kamikaze…

  • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

    The greatness of Dancer in the Dark, Irreversible or Requiem for a Dream is highly dubious.

  • mzungu

    Always thought “White Dog” is pretty depressing as well.

  • Ulises Córdova Jr.

    It’s not a list without at least one Charlie Kaufman movie. I’d have Synecdoche New York on here. That one messed me up for weeks

  • Dominyka

    I would also add “Biutiful” (2010), “The Turin Horse” (2011) and “12 Mile Road” (2003). Actually there is more, but I can’t remember

    • ton

      Biutiful, YES!

  • lauramoreaux

    Vénus Noire by Abdellatif Kechiche

  • Hernan Paz

    Has anybody seen Angela’s ashes?

  • Ted Wolf

    Another one for me is au hasard Balthazar

  • Carl Edgar Consiglio

    Couldn’t agree more with Lilja Forever on this list..downright depressing.

    • Louiselle Pace Gouder

      should not make you feel too different from your normal state of being.

  • Tiago Nunes


  • Kosta Jovanovic

    Ah, hachi, the worst piece of manipulation I’ve seen on film

  • Yoarkey Guerra

    Betty Blue and Braking the waves are to me the most depressing ones.

  • Maria Spelleri

    Most people don’t think it’s a great movie, but I found “Perfect Sense” (Eva Green and Ewan Macgregor) to be a a total bummer!

  • Alicja Derleta
  • Franco Gonzalez


  • Alan Damir

    What’s wrong with you, you don’t know what a depressing movie is untill you see Johnny got his gun!

  • Jules F. Melo Borges

    The Changeling (1980). It’s a ghost horror movie and all, but something about it just makes me sad…

  • Carlos Silva

    Breaking the Waves, Dogville, Dancer in the Dark. Lars von Trier has the Touch…

  • Infinity

    For some reason, Dark Horse by Todd Solondz got me incredibly depressed…I don’t know why, it’s not even as dark as his other films, but it just hit me hard for some reason…Anyway, at least one movie by Todd Solondz should definitely be on this list…Depressing comedies (if you could call them that) are his staple

  • moss

    good list. I would add “Vera Drake” and “me, Earl and the dying girl” to the list