16 Tragic Teen Movies That Will Destroy Your Tear Ducts
Sometimes nothing beats an emotional teen movie that'll just put you into a cathartic fit of tears. There's no shortage of dramas geared toward the complicated high school years, but the really special ones will certainly carve a space in your heart (and flush out your tear ducts). You know, the angst-drenched films that use sob-inducing music and jump into difficult topics such as terminal illness, forbidden love, depression, and deceased family members. If you have sad movie pangs, you're just in luck. From sappy flicks like The Fault in Our Stars to serious fare like Precious, get your weepy fix now with these iconic teen tearjerkers — tissues mandatory, of course.
The Hate U Give
This 2018 film adapted from the bestselling YA novel of the same name stars Amandla Stenberg as Starr Carter, who witnesses a close childhood friend gunned down by a cop after he pulls them over late one night. It's all over in a matter of seconds, but it changes Starr's life forever as it forces her to reevaluate her friendships, family members, and the two communities she's torn between.
West Side Story
West Side Story has it all: love, drama, action, and angst. It's a classic for its catchy, iconic songs ("America" and "I Feel Pretty") as well as its Romeo and Juliet-inspired forbidden love story. The Jets and Sharks are bitter rival gangs in the Upper West Side of New York City. But love is love, and Tony, a former member of the Jets, falls hard for Maria, the sister of the Sharks' leader.
Charlie St. Cloud
Zac Efron stars in this 2010 drama that we're still weepy over. He plays the title character who survives a car accident that claims the life of his younger brother. Charlie's grieving process is complicated by the fact that he can still see his brother, along with a few other recently deceased people. Prepare to cry your face off.
A Walk to Remember
Before Mandy Moore destroyed my poor little heart on This Is Us, she damaged it pretty badly in A Walk to Remember. If you look up "tearjerker" in the dictionary, you might find this movie under its definition. Moore plays a cancer-stricken and religious teenager who falls in love with her school's resident bad boy, Landon Carter (Shane West). The story provides sufficient fuel for your tears, but it's really the music that gets to you. In case you forgot, Moore started her career in Hollywood as a singer, and she'll dazzle you with her sweet renditions of "Only Hope" and "Someday We'll Know."
The Fault in Our Stars
Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort are names that you may have heard of if you keep up with pop culture. Before enlisting in big projects like Big Little Lies and Baby Driver, the two actors portrayed two teenagers who meet in a cancer patient support group and quickly bond. Their friendship turns into love and even takes them to Amsterdam as they track down an author. It's a sweet and poignant film with an ending that's guaranteed to have you bawling hard.
Romeo + Juliet
Baz Luhrmann's modern take on this classic Shakespeare play is a lot wilder than its premise sounds. You'll hear the archaic lingo and get quality sad romance between Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio, but this isn't your typical love story. With his vibrant and snappy visual style, Luhrmann plops the story in Verona Beach and launches a full-fledged mafia war drenched with violence and debauchery.
Long before Twilight and her indie projects, Kristen Stewart portrayed the quiet protagonist from Laurie Halse Anderson's powerful young adult novel Speak. The story revolves around a teenage girl named Melinda who struggles to speak and make friends after being sexually assaulted at a party. This early performance from Stewart garnered favorable critical reviews and paved the path for her involvements in other coming-of-age movies such as Adventureland.
My Sister's Keeper
My Sister's Keeper is the movie adaptation of Jodi Picoult's sad teen novel of the same name. It follows the life of Kate, a young girl with cancer whose parents conceived her younger sister, Anna, as a potential donor. Their family falls apart when her sister sues her family for rights over her body. The film version is cowritten by Jeremy Leven, who is known for creating the script of another weepy classic: The Notebook.
The Last Song
Brought to life from Nicholas Sparks's tragic romance novel, The Last Song is about a rebellious young teenager named Ronnie (Miley Cyrus) who reconnects with her father (Greg Kinnear) when she stays with him one Summer. Her visit would become an eventful one, as she finds first love with the popular Will (Liam Hemsworth) and encounters personal tragedy. Watching this movie, it's hard not to think about the stars' real-life happy ending!
Before her critically acclaimed Netflix project Mudbound came to be, director Dee Rees helmed Pariah, a semiautobiographical film about a queer black teenage girl and her relationships with her parents and friends. It's a touching film with tense family drama that'll have you quietly sobbing.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Based on Stephen Chbosky's iconic book of the same name, The Perks of Being a Wallflower focuses on the life of a depressed and anxious teenager named Charlie (Logan Lerman) who grapples with his best friend's suicide and memories of his late Aunt Helen. At the beginning of his freshman year of high school, he befriends Sam (Emma Watson) and her stepbrother, Patrick (Ezra Miller), who are also troubled but encourage him to break out of his shell.
In comedian Bo Burnham's directorial debut, Elsie Fisher (one of the youngest Golden Globe nominees!) plays a 13-year-old named Kayla Day who struggles with anxiety around her classmates while trying to connect with her well-meaning dad. If you've ever experienced social anxiety (or been a teenager), you'll definitely empathize with Kayla's emotional growing pains.
Featuring Hollywood darlings Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling, The Notebook is a classic teen tearjerker. The romantic drama follows the love story between impoverished worker Noah and rich heiress Allie. When the former goes to fight in World War II, the two lose touch but eventually find a way back to each other. It's almost a guarantee that you'll be a soppy mess of tears after the film reveals its emotional twist.
Based on Sapphire's novel Push, Precious revolves around a Harlem teenager who leads a difficult life with abusive parents. While struggling with her tumultuous family, Precious, the main character, finds hope through the kindness in her encounters with school and hospital staff members. The film takes on domestic abuse with a simultaneously honest and sensitive approach.
Call Me by Your Name
Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer share a bittersweet romance in the drama Call Me by Your Name. The sensual film takes place in Northern Italy during the Summer of 1983 when precocious 17-year-old Elio (Chalamet) develops feelings for his father's graduate student Oliver (Hammer). Their intense relationship will leave you both mesmerized and heartbroken.
The Spectacular Now
Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller share the screen in this tender romantic film about first love and family tension. Aimee (Woodley) falls for Sutter (Teller), her local high school bad boy. As they fumble through the awkward beginnings of a sweet relationship, they bond over their complicated feelings toward their troubled fathers. While it's filled with tear-inducing drama, you'll finish the movie with a sense of hope.