Family movies are always jam-packed full of laughter, some zany adventure and bright colors, but there are also some that pack some truly sad and depressing moments, causing little kids to feel sad, but causing the older kids and parents to sit in their seats and let tears run down their faces like waterfalls. Let's take a moment to revisit these movies, and appreciate which ones were the best of them all. (WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!!)
1. Toy Story 3, Up and Inside Out (2010, 2009 and 2015)
Now, when I mentioned sad movies for the whole family to watch, these three movies probably popped into your head, and for good reason. They're all Pixar films, and Pixar loves to rip audiences' heart into pieces and hit the feels hard.
Of all of the animation company's films, however, these three are famous for making audiences cry the most, and it's all thanks to an infamous moment in each film.
Toy Story 3's famous moment was the ending, in which our heroes are all left at their new home with little girl Bonnie, and as Andy drives off to college, Woody says the final lines, "So long...partner." The "conclusion" to the highly-acclaimed trilogy really sealed things up by giving the toys a new owner, but it was seeing the original drive off into the sunset forever that really brought fans to break down and cry.
Up's truly depressing moment was actually the opening ten minutes of the film, in which we are introduced to our elderly protagonist Carl Fredrickson, however we start off when he's 8 years old and meets Ellie, a fellow fan of explorer Charles Muntz, and we see them grow up and get married, try to save up for a trip to their dream Paradise Falls, but have to spend the money on more important issues, as well as their struggle with a miscarriage and the realization they can't have another kid, and things come to the truly sad end when Ellie is diagnosed with an illness (never identified) and dies, leaving Carl all alone in his home. This was Pixar's first realistic dealings with the adult world in terms of growing old and adult issues including money problems and miscarriage, but what made it all the more sad was getting this great love story, and then seeing it come to the tragic end.
Inside Out was a film all about people's emotions and getting into what drives people in their decisions, as well as what happens to people's emotions and memories over time. The memory removal came into play when the protagonist Riley's emotion Joy and her childhood imaginary friend Bing Bong are trapped in the Memory Dump, where everything goes to disappear and fade from existence. The two try to make it out using Bing Bong's rocket wagon, but due to their combined weight, Bing Bong sacrifices himself to help Joy escape, telling Joy to "Take her to the moon for me. Okay?" Not only is the sacrifice heart-warming and heroic, but it's also incredibly sad to see as the pink elephant fades out of existence.
2. The Iron Giant (1999)
Before Warner Bros. Animation found large success with The Lego Movie in 2014, they released the critically acclaimed, but box office failure The Iron Giant about an alien robot that crashes near Maine in the late 1950's and befriends a young boy who tries to hide him from the paranoid U.S. government that want to destroy him. The movie was smart and funny in the way it used the time period to its advantage, whether it be the Red Scare affecting the mindset of many people, as well as having the boy Hogarth reading Superman comics to the Giant. However, as the government caught onto Hogarth and the Giant, that's when things go chaotic and took a turn for the worse.
Hogarth, his mom and artist/junkyard owner Dean race to rescue the Giant from the army, as well as explain to them that he's a peaceful visitor, as long as he is not attacked. But, before he can tell the army, they attack the Giant as Hogarth is near him. The Giant, wanting to protect his new friend, tries to cover him from the gunfire and missiles being shot toward them both, and after thinking Hogarth dies, he retaliates and attacks many of the army.
But Hogarth, still alive, goes back and calms the Giant down, bringing him back to his peaceful state, but not before the weaselly Kent Mansley orders a nuclear attack on the Giant, which would in turn kill the whole town. The Giant, wanting to be the hero like Superman, flies off towards the missile in space and crashes into it, but not before showing one final smile. Seeing the Giant be able to return to a friendly state thanks to Hogarth, and be influenced by his comic books to save the town, is really a happy ending, but a sad one nonetheless that is sure to draw tears.
3. The Lion King (1994)
Regarded as one of the best Disney animated films of all time, The Lion King takes many influences from the classic play Hamlet, as well as the biblical stories of Joseph and Moses, and one of the biggest things it takes is the tragic death of a major character.
In this case, the moment comes when the lion that rules over the land, Mufasa, is betrayed by his younger brother Scar during a stampede of wildebeests, as Scar drops Mufasa into the stampede, causing him to be trampled to death. This is obviously a sad moment to see, but what makes it tear-worthy is that Mufasa's son, Simba, walks up to his father's dead body and, not having experienced death before, tries to get him to wake up, thinking he is only sleeping.
4. Bridge to Terabithia (2007)
Disney is just a studio that knows how to pull the heart strings, but in this case, it was actually them taking an already heart-breaking story and turning it into a theatrical film, which they did to perfection. The story follows Jesse Aarons and Leslie Burke, two ten year old kids who become friends after Leslie moved to his town and they create an imaginary world together, which they call Terabithia. The events that transpire are mostly fun and energetic, but it's towards the end when we reach a heartbreaking conclusion.
One day, Jesse is invited to go the arts museum by Ms. Edmunds, his music teacher whom he has a real crush on. Because of his crush for Ms. Edmunds and his want to be away from her briefly, Jesse doesn't invite Leslie to go with them to the museum. When he comes back home, he finds his whole family distraught, not having known where he was the whole time. Confused by their fear, it turns out that Leslie has died after the rope leading to Terabithia snapped as she tried to swing across the rain-swollen creak, hitting her head on a rock. Death is always a sad thing to handle, but when it's a best friend at such a young age, and when it feels like you could've prevented, it's even tougher and more heart-breaking, which is why seeing Jesse have to do it is enough to break us down into tears.
5. The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004)
Judge me all you want on this one, or try to argue that since the ending turned out happy, it shouldn't count, but this is on the list for good reason. The first film adaptation of the famous television show saw our heroes be tasked with journeying outside of Bikini Bottom to find the crown of mermaid King Neptune before he executes Mr. Krabs, who Plankton has framed for the crime so that he could steal the Krabby Patty formula and take over the town with mind-controlling helmets. As they continue on their journey, they are ridiculed for being "just kids" and learn what it takes to be men. But, it's one stop on their trip that truly brings tears to the eyes of viewers.
SpongeBob and Patrick reach Shell City and find Neptune's crown, however it turns out that Shell City is a knick-knack shop run by an evil man in a diver suit that turns sea creatures into little souvenirs. In order to prepare them for it, the man puts SpongeBob and Patrick under a heat lamp to dehydrate them, and the two sing their favorite Goofy Goober song one last time, with a tear from each forming a heart under them as they completely dry out.
Trying to lighten the mood for kids and parents alike, the camera cuts to the pirate audience in the movie watching it, as the main pirate's parrot points out that the tear is moving and is short-circuits the heat lamp, which then causes the sprinkler system to activate and revive both our heroes and the rest of the creatures previously turned into knick-knacks.
Now, it may just be from the nostalgia of having been raised with the show, or from being more open to sad moments, but seeing SpongeBob and Patrick die, even for a couple of minutes, is very heartbreaking and sad to watch.
6. Rugrats in Paris: The Movie (2000)
In a cartoon targeted for even younger kids than SpongeBob SquarePants, you may be asking yourself and me, "How is it Rugrats can make all ages ugly cry?" Well, stick with me and you'll understand, if you haven't seen the movie for yourself.
The film follows our young friends as they travel to Paris accompanying Stu Pickles as he works on the animatronic Reptar at EuroReptarland, and the chaos that ensues. But one of the film's major themes and plots in the film is what truly makes this a tear-jerker for the list.
Chuckie Finster, our ginger-headed, glasses-wearing hero has lived with his father his whole life, but it isn't until this movie that we discover that his mother passed away shortly after he was born. The movie deals especially with his and his father's loneliness, and his father's attempts at giving Chuckie a new mother. The saddest and most difficult moments to watch are the ones in which Chuckie tries to remember his mom and thinks about the loss, including the mother-child dance at the opening wedding, and when he sees a cloud forming as his mother holding him. I mean, how do you not just break down into uncontrollable crying at that.