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Top 10 Documentaries That Will Make You Cry

VO: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Jessica Walsh

Sometimes we’re just in the mood for a really sad, true story. From We Were Here to The Bridge, WatchMojo is counting down the heartbreaking documentaries that will have you reaching for the tissues.

Special thanks to our user alexholmes615@gmail. for suggesting this idea! https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Documentaries+That+Will+Make+You+Cry


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Script written by Jessica Walsh

Top 10 Documentaries That Will Make You Cry

Sometimes we’re just in the mood for a really sad, true story. Welcome to and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Documentaries That Will Make You Cry.

For this list, we’re looking for the saddest stories told by documentaries. Since we know that sometimes the ending is the saddest part, we’re also putting up a large spoiler warning. We’ll be excluding documentaries that made us ‘happy cry,’ so as much as we may have loved Mr. Rogers, we can’t be his neighbor today. Get your tissues ready!

#10: “Earthlings” (2005)

Animals are part of our everyday lives and all around us, woven into nearly everything we do. While many of us have pets or love a trip to the zoo, few really think about what roles animals really play in human life. This documentary looks at the uglier sides of how animals ‘help’ mankind. Not just puppy mills and pet stores but also how we use them to create our food, clothing, entertainment and research. This film isn’t just about animal cruelty, it also draws parallels between humankind’s treatment of animals and their treatment of each other - and the truths are certainly not pretty.

#9: “Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die” (2011)

Conversations about death are never happy subjects. Whether one believes in assisted suicide or not, the truth of the matter is there are people in this world who are suffering enough that they no longer want to be alive. Presented by author Terry Pratchett, this documentary gives an intimate look into the lives of some of these people and the motivations behind their choices. Most controversial is the ending of the film where viewers get to witness one of the interviewees take a lethal drug and pass away, surrounded by the author, the interviewee’s wife, and the Swiss company overseeing the whole process.

#8: “We Were Here” (2011)

The HIV/AIDS epidemic and its ravages on the LGBTQ community are generally thought of as a contained moment and disease. While most documentaries such as “Silverlake Life” explore this idea with tear-filled results, “We Were Here” takes a notably different approach. It still tells the stories of those affected by the epidemic and those who died, but it’s through the eyes of five individuals who moved alongside the victims. Because of this, we’re given an idea of how their deaths affected the community and humanity as a whole and weren’t just contained to a single community.

#7: “The Times of Harvey Milk” (1984)

The first openly gay man elected to public office in California, Harvey Milk was notably in the middle of the gay rights movement in the ‘70s, working toward those in the queer community being able to keep their jobs even if they were outed. He was also assassinated by his coworker and fellow town supervisor, Dan White, who stood trial and was convicted of manslaughter. The documentary tells Milk’s story with a collection of news reports, archive footage and interviews as if Harvey Milk were still alive to tell his story and defend his, and all, queer rights.

#6: “The Cove” (2009)

The world fell in love with dolphins, in part – perhaps – thanks to a small TV show called “Flipper”. Dolphins, of course, are known for their childlike antics and cute fishy smiles – which might actually be a problem. Told by Ric O’Berry, one of the trainers from the series, “The Cove” looks at the treatment of dolphins off the coast of Taiji, Japan. This is not a documentary for the faint of heart as the footage of animal cruelty is shown in a raw and shocking fashion, reminding us that when humans come in contact with animals, it’s not always fun and games.

#5: “The Bridge” (2006)

There’s no mistaking the beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge with its bright orange color and long graceful suspensions. One only has to show its image to make others think of San Francisco, California with its sunlit beaches and stunning coastline. However, under that beauty, the bridge is also known as one of the most famous places in the US to commit suicide, by which people plunge into the waters below. This documentary explores the many reasons people have chosen to jump off this bridge, and those who are left behind by such tragic actions.

#4: “Bulgaria’s Abandoned Children” (2007)

The subject of adoption is generally painted as a rosy world, where well-off parents give a home to children who just have to wait for the right family to come along. What is generally ignored are the conditions these children come from and what happens to those who are never adopted and forgotten. In Mogilino, Bulgaria, the home of these children is one of the largest employers and yet still the children live in deplorable conditions with no hope of change or relief in sight. Equally heartbreaking is the documentary “Children Underground”, which follows the consequences of Romania's controversial banning of birth control and abortion.

#3: “4 Little Girls” (1997)

In 1963 the KKK bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham Alabama, resulting in the deaths of the four titular little girls. Made by Spike Lee, this documentary covers that initial event, and the resulting Civil Rights Act of 1964 along with other racially charged attacks until the '90s. Hatred and racial divides have a habit of returning to the public consciousness again and again, no matter what the time period. With events such as the Charleston Church Shooting, which happened years after this film, documentaries like this one have a sad and timeless message to tell.

#2: “Shoah” (1995)

The longest documentary on our list, “Shoah” took 11 years to make to be ultimately edited to something approaching nine and half hours. This run time allows the film to explore the sheer tragedy of the Holocaust in excruciating depth. Woven between interviews with survivors and witnesses is the story of notorious sites in Poland beyond the scope of the often-mentioned concentration camps. It shows that the deaths and atrocities weren’t limited to those sectioned-off camps, and their effects on people and the country as a whole are still very real issues being dealt with.

#1: “Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father” (2008)

Not just focused on the singular death of Andrew Bagby, this documentary runs the gamut of emotions. What started as a film memory for Andrew’s yet to be born son twists into a story of separation, deceit and murder that sounds like it belongs in the pages of fiction rather than real life. What’s notable about this piece is it was never meant to be shared with the world, but instead started as a very personal project with one specific audience in mind. Unfortunately, with the terrible and tragic twist at the end, it’s painfully obvious why the project was given a much wider release.


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