Grab the tissues, and possibly some wine
Most of the time choosing a movie comes down to one thing: it's all about escapism. I mean, who doesn't like The Wizard of Oz to cheer them up? It's always a blast to visit an upbeat world where... err... hook-nosed witches command armies of murderous evil monkeys? When you think about it, there's a lot of films that end up getting a bit bleak. That's the thing: no-one ever decides to watch a movie that'll make them feel like someone's vomited all over their soul. But sometimes, it's those movies that can actually be the most compelling. The ones that dare to go into the really dark places. Here's our run-down of the most gut-wretching, soul-destroying films committed to celluloid, aka the 25 most depressing movies ever made. And if you need a pick me up afterwards, here's our favourite feel good movies too.
Beware, there's spoilers ahead...
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.
15. The Elephant Man (1980)
The movie: Poor John Merrick (John Hurt) is ridiculed from pillar to post over his grotesque appearance. After a lifetime of ill-treatment, he is diagnosed with a terminal disease and kills himself. Thoroughly disheartening stuff.
Most miserable moment: Merrick's suicide is obviously distressing, but his heartfelt plea to the baying mob is perhaps more affecting still: "I am not an elephant! I am not an animal! I am a human being! I am a man!"
14. Melancholia (2011)
The movie: This list could easily have been titled "Ranking every Lars Von Trier movie." Yes, Melancholia is another stark entry from the Danish filmmaker. The world is on the cusp of apocalypse as a planet threatens to collide with Earth extinguishing all life as we know it. And it's right on Kirsten Dunst's wedding day, too!
Most miserable moment: There's about a million. But, the worst has got to be the moment when Dunst's brother-in-law (Kiefer Sutherland) realises the optimistic reports about the comet avoiding Earth were a lie - everyone is going to die. Instead of comforting his family, he kills himself.
13. Hotel Rwanda (2004)
The movie: A harrowing account of Rwanda's modern-day holocaust in which around one million Tutsis were murdered whilst the UN stood by and watched, it's a raw watch, but utterly necessary.
Most miserable moment: Stomach-churning horrors wait around every corner, but the machete-led slaughter of a group of Tutsi women is particularly shocking.
12. Revolutionary Road (2008)
The movie: A striking portrayal of domestic misery, as Kate and Leo find themselves suffocated in suburban hell, a place of hopeless emptiness. Thwarted ambition, failed love and an unwanted pregnancy add up to a far less romantic yarn than the star duo's last collaboration
Most miserable moment: Winslet's self-administrated, and ultimately fatal abortion brings things to fever-pitch. The shot of Di Caprio as a broken man sitting on a park bench, is also gravely upsetting.
11. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
The movie: This animated Japanese film tells the tale of a pair of orphaned children struggling to keep their heads above water in war-ravaged Kobe. A powerful piece of anti-war propaganda, its not one to watch if you're feeling a bit low.
Most miserable moment: Having seen his sister die of malnutrition, Seitsuke wearily cremates her body, before decanting her ashes into a small tin. Cheerful stuff.
10. House of Sand and Fog (2003)
The movie: Ben Kingsley's retired Iranian colonel wrestles with Jennifer Connelly's washed-up addict over ownership of the titular dwelling. It doesn't turn out particularly brightly for either of them.
Most miserable moment: Having seen his son accidentally killed by the police, Kingsley's character fatally drugs his wife before slipping a plastic bag over his head and asphyxiating himself. Grim in the extreme.
9. Irreversible (2002)
The movie: Gaspar Noe treads down a harrowing path in this grim-as-fuck cautionary tale about being a good samaritan. The lesson, in short, is don't be one, which we soon learn when Monica Bellucci's Alex tries to help a woman being harassed by a stranger in a dark, underground walkway.
Most miserable moment: The agonising, ten-minute-long uninterrupted shot of Bellucci being brutalised.
8. Happiness (1998)
The movie: Oh Todd Solondz, you funny guy. Happiness is one of those 'ironic' titles as there's nothing remotely happy about the sad, uncomfortable interactions that take place here. If you can manage to sit through one of the most difficult-to-watch films ever made, you'll know it explores the lives of three sisters and their families. They're all proper fucked up.
Most miserable moment: Any time Dylan Baker's character, a pedophile, spends time with his son's friend.
7. Scum (1979)
The movie: This account of life inside a borstal, in all its grisly detail, is every bit as depressing as it sounds. Bruising, bleak and brutal, it's still an incredibly gruelling watch more than thirty years later.
Most miserable moment: The gang-rape of the timid Davis shows a broken system at its most appalling.
6. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
The movie: Hilary Swank's tough-as-nails boxer Maggie ends up a paraplegic, burdened by a heartless family and reduced to biting through her own tongue in the hope of bleeding to death.
Most miserable moment: Well, aside from Maggie's devastating predicament, when Clint Eastwood cries! A weeping Clint is the icing on the cake here. It's all wrong!
5. The Killing Fields (1984)
The movie:: Roland Joff's masterpiece is predictably upsetting, given its concern with the atrocities committed by Cambodia's Khmer Rouge. Less frequently documented than the troubles in neighbouring Vietnam, it's a horrific look back at a dark and very recent passage of history.
Most miserable moment: The scene in which Dith Pran awakes in a field full of rotting corpses will stay with you long after the final credits roll.
4. The Passion of the Christ (2004)
The movie: Mel Gibson's divisive look into the last days of Jesus Christ. Regardless of your religious beliefs, watching a man brutally beaten, tortured and killed for the best part of two hours will likely leave you feeling a little down.
Most miserable moment: Jesus' repeated collapse under the weight of the cross is as sickeningly painful as it is frustratingly drawn out.
3. Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
The movie: Nicolas Cage plays a profoundly miserable man on the brisk of suicide who opts to take his leave of this mortal coil in Las Vegas. He befriends Elisabeth Shue's hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold but even she can't save him. You're essentially using your Friday night trip to the movies to watch a deeply unhappy man drink himself to death for two hours. Uplifting, it ain't.
Most miserable moment: You know it's coming, but when Cage snuffs it in Elisabeth Shue's arms. Oh, its just too sad!
2. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
The movie: Darren Aronofsky's waking nightmare follows four lives as they slowly descend into desperation. Ravaged by various forms of addiction, Jared Leto, Marlon Wayans, Ellen Burstyn and Jennifer Connelly all get put through the emotional wringer. Electro-shock therapy, intravenous drug use, prostitution... it's not exactly a laugh riot.
Most miserable moment: That end-of-movie montage when all four of the main characters succumb to misery and assume the fetal position. You'll feel like doing the same.
1. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008)
The movie: You might think you know what you're in for when you sit down in front of a Holocaust movie, but nothing can prepare you for the incredibly shocking ending to Mark Hermans film. It'll leave you speechless.
Most miserable moment: Two little boys, a terrible mix-up and a gas chamber. All you need to know.