The 10 Best Melancholic Movies of All Time

6. Brooklyn


Reality is diabolical, more so with the complication of the social system to conform to its rules. Personal satisfaction and happiness never stand high in regard to the collective will of society. “Brooklyn” tells us the story a disheartened young girl named Eilis Lacey who comes to the United States from Ireland in the hope of a better life; she was lured into the newfound freedom and ultimately is forced to go back to her previous life.

The film boasts an amazing performance from Saoirse Ronan with a sensitive portrayal of slow transformation that starts from the ship’s journey, which she takes alone for the first time. Eilis comes to the U.S. from Ireland in the hope of a better fortune, and after initial adjustment problems, she settles in. In the big unknown city, she seeks refuge in a young lad named Tony who she met in a library, and they slowly fall in love.

Her sister becomes ill, and she is forced to return to Ireland, but at Tony’s insistence they got married privately in a church. To make things complicated, an Irish couple spotted them in between the proceedings and noted that she had a fiance at home.

Cinematographer Yves Belanger has proficiently woven memories of her times in the U.S., which makes us sympathize with Eilis. When she returns to Ireland, she is blackmailed by her former employer for her secret wedding in the states. She breaks into tears and admits everything to her mother, and the film ends on a positive note of her returning back to the U.S. The viewer sympathizes with the fiance who, without any fault, gets dumped, but also with the sentiments of Eilis. In the return journey, a mature Eilis advises a young girl of the life in Brooklyn, and despite the positive ending note, the tone remains melancholic.


7. Aquarius


In plain sight, “Aquarius” has no melancholic quality attached to it; it is a story of an old and fierce woman who refuses to submit to the idea of old age. But for attentive viewers, it tells a wholly different story.

Clara is a fierce woman who, after her husband’s untimely death, lives alone in the old ghostly “Aquarius” apartment, even after all the other inhabitants have sold their units to a big promoter. Her children often visit the home, but they are very occasional visits, and in the meantime, she engages with male prostitutes who are her children’s age. She is also a cancer survivor who doesn’t bother about the passive-aggressive threats from the construction company that pressures her to sell her apartment to them.

But the melancholic quality comes to the forefront with the use of a unique narrative device. In the very first aprt of the film, we are introduced to the lady who was Clara’s idol, and in one of her birthday celebrations, we can see her thinking about the passionate sex escapades after fixing her glance to an old piece of furniture.

Clara stays at the same Aquarius home, earned from that inheritance, and she likewise loves to think of her lovely memories that are attached to the drawer and other pieces of furniture in the home. Her only companion is the loyal servant Ladjane who had been living with her for a long time.

“Aquarius”  masquerades as an intense feminist tale, but the emotion is largely melancholic: a story of an old woman who refuses to adapt to the new age and clings to nostalgia.


8. Doctor Zhivago

Doctor Zhivago (1965)

Here comes the time in Yuri Zhivago’s life when he is torn between two necessary emotions: passion and responsibility. Yuri, a medical surgeon by profession, met Tonya early in his life when he was taken by her family after his parent’s sad demise.

In his life as a student and medical school graduate, Yuri meets Lara by the consequence of fate. Their life was never interconnected as both pursued very different things in life, but when Yuri was working as a surgeon in the medical camps, he enlisted the help of Lara, now a trained nurse. They slowly fell in love, and Yuri shows he is a talented poet by passion. This habit becomes a problem as Yuri’s poems were declared as subversive. He is also torn between the love of Lara and the duty toward Tonya and their children.

After everything becomes clear to Tonya, she leaves Yuri and he starts his relationship with Lara. But the hot political climate again separates them and when, after several years, Yuri spots Lara in a street and tries to meet up with her, he dies from excitement.

The film starts with Yuri’s brother, who spots a woman who appears to be the daughter of Yuri and Lara, and he tells the story to the young lady despite her not knowing her origin. Panned at the time of its release, this epic melancholic tale is a bona fide classic now after reevaluation.


9. My Own Private Idaho

Even in the 21st century in many places across the country, the gay identity is a curse. Add to that the misfortune of narcolepsy, poverty, and shyness and you will know the complex life of Michael Waters.

Brilliantly played a young River Phoenix, Mike is a male prostitute who lives with a family of hustlers after his separation from the family. He is attracted to Keanu Reeves’ Scott, a spoilt rich selfish brat who volunteers his service for hormonal kicks. Mike expresses his feelings to Scott but he couldn’t care less about it.

After Scott turns 21, he flees to gain the inheritance of his family and Mike becomes more alone than ever. The film starts with a melancholic voiceover of Mike remarking about life that the road looks like someone’s face, like a fucked-up face. He feels betrayed, used as a catalyst for a necessary chemical reaction.


10. Tony Takitani

Tony Takitani

Adapted from a Haruki Murakami tale of the same name, “Tony Takitani” is a lyrical visual poem that will break the heart of even the most cynical person. The exemplary use of classical and jazz music intensifies the loneliness experienced by the protagonist.

A minimalist film with no unnecessary subplot, it feels like a novel is being unfolded in real-time, frame by frame. Tony was born with the misfortune of losing his mother, and his father’s nomadic mature was amplified because of the tragic event.

The young Tony was a creative individual who took up technical illustration as a career. He eventually marries a young woman, but tragedy doesn’t escape Tony as the woman dies in an accident. He starts the habit of accumulating her possessions in his room, but eventually discards this habit. “Tony Takitani” is a film to break the heart of its viewers and also fill their life with melancholic compassion.