Top 10 Most Heartbreaking Music Videos
Trivia  Top 10 Most Heartbreaking Music Videos



Top 10 Most Heartbreaking Music Videos

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Catherine Neal
The saddest music videos will make you cry even with the sound off. For this list, we'll be looking at the most emotional and effective visual accompaniments to songs from our favorite musicians. Our countdown includes "Hurt," "The Ghost of You," "Little Motel," and more!

Top 10 Saddest Music Videos

Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Saddest Music Videos.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the most emotional and effective visual accompaniments to songs from our favorite musicians.

Has a music video ever made you cry? Let us know in the comments below.

#10: “Happier” (2018)
Marshmello feat. Bastille

There’s no more foolproof way to pull at the heartstrings than with the story of a beloved pet going to meet its maker. Marshmello’s up-beat chart-topper describes a relationship that’s coming to an end, although the narrator isn’t ready to let go. Instead of a romantic couple going their separate ways, the music video tells the story of a little girl saying goodbye to her dog. Miranda Cosgrove plays the central character, who struggles to part with her canine friend after many happy years together. When they take the Golden Retriever away, you can’t help but feel her pain despite the bouncy pop song in the background. And that full circle moment at the end? It brought us to tears.

#9: “Hold On” (2003)
Good Charlotte

Good Charlotte released the song “Hold On” as a response to real letters from fans who were at their lowest point. Band member Benji Madden admitted that he himself had contemplated taking his own life. The group wanted to send a message of hope to listeners who were struggling, letting them know that it does get better. In a nod to Kurt Cobain, the video was directed by Samuel Bayer, who worked with Nirvana on “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” It features testimonies from real people who have lost loved ones or considered taking their own lives. Benji explained, “we just hope that maybe one kid will see this video or hear this song and say, 'OK, I'm gonna hold on”

#8: “Deadly Dull” (2018)

In this heartbreaking alt-rock song, Patrick Miranda, of the band Movements, tells the story of a man suffering from dementia. Drawing on personal experience with his own grandmother and his girlfriend’s grandparents, he and the group also partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association to create the video. It explores the pain of an old man, who watched his wife die but wakes up each day without any memory of the event. He has to hear the truth over and over again, but each time feels like the first. It all feels very bleak, especially in the stark care facility setting. As sad as it is to watch, there’s no doubt the video raises awareness and encourages people to educate themselves about the disease.

#7: “Little Motel” (2007)
Modest Mouse

The story of a music video doesn’t always correspond to the lyrics in an obvious way. On the surface, this Modest Mouse track is about a relationship gone wrong. The video, however, delves much deeper, telling another, far more devastating story. In it, a mother is seen putting her son to bed in a motel. From that point, the action moves in reverse, and we ultimately realize that the boy doesn’t survive. They’re in a car, at a gas station, and finally at the hospital, where the child is seen to be terminal. It’s a gentle song, but a tragic and heart-wrenching story once you’ve seen the whole picture.

#6: “All I Need” (2008)

The video for “All I Need” was produced with the help of MTV as part of their 2007 ‘EXIT’ campaign. This was designed to draw attention to issues of forced labor and exploitation among youth. The video makes use of split screen to juxtapose the life of a child in the West with another in a factory, mass producing cheap goods. It starkly illustrates the realities of our consumer-driven culture and the dangerous methods that prop it up. The final moments are perhaps the most powerful. We see a pair of shoes made by one child as the other takes them off at the end of their day. We’re left with a simple yet deeply affecting message: “some things cost more than you realize.”

#5: “Wake Me Up When September Ends” (2005)
Green Day

All the most memorable music videos have a storyline. “Wake Me Up When September Ends” feels almost like a short film. Featuring the familiar faces of Jamie Bell and Evan Rachel Wood, it follows a young couple who are separated when one of them signs up to fight in the Iraq war. The director was inspired by speaking to real soldiers who had enlisted after watching recruitment ads. His intention was to create a “mini-movie” that presented the cost of war and advertised peace as an alternative. The video ends without us knowing if the male lead survives, while his girlfriend quietly suffers and longs for his return. Needless to say, it’s hard not to feel moved by this one.

#4: “The Ghost of You” (2005)
My Chemical Romance

In this gut-wrenching video, MCR don World War Two uniforms and take to the Normandy beaches among other places - although they were actually filming in Malibu. This short film cuts between a “Saving Private Ryan” style combat sequence and dance-hall scenes featuring the band on stage. The lyrics foreshadow the video’s tragic outcome, as Gerard Way sings of his fears that the one he loves is never coming home. In the last moments, he watches his brother pass away in front of him, while the track mimics the vocalist’s screams, taking on a whole new meaning. The video apparently cost a fortune to make, but you can’t put a price on how evocative it is.

#3: “Take Me to Church” (2013)

Hozier is no stranger to emotional music videos. Saoirse Ronan starred in the one for “Cherry Wine,” which raised awareness about interpersonal violence. But his first big hit was “Take Me to Church.” The song is about love and desire, and contains a lot of religious imagery. The particularly distressing music video is widely believed to be critiquing Russia’s laws against homosexuality, as well as the attitude of the Catholic church in Ireland. It notably shows a gay man hiding a box, which many have interpreted as representing his forbidden love for his partner. He’s then hunted down and mistreated. There’s no happy ending, forcing the audience to consider the harrowing realities of life for many gay people across the world.

#2: “Hurt” (2003)
Johnny Cash

Country legend Johnny Cash was about seventy years old when he covered “Hurt,” a song by Nine Inch Nails. Cash’s version is stripped back and simple. Instead of a young man’s “downward spiral,” it becomes the story of an old man looking back on his life. The video combines past and present footage, most movingly featuring the artist with his wife June. His voice cracks as he sings, but that only adds to the visuals’ emotional impact. The work gained Cash a new legion of fans, but they didn’t have him for long. He died not long afterward, making those final moments in the video - and the closing of the piano - all the more poignant.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“Whiskey Lullaby” (2004), Brad Paisley feat. Alison Krauss
A Tragic WW2 Tale of Adultery & Alcoholism

“Concrete Angel” (2002), Martina McBride
This Grammy-Nominated Video Shines a Spotlight on Child Maltreatment

“Runaway Train” (1993), Soul Asylum
A Reminder of the Children Who Go Missing After Fleeing Dangerous Situations

“The One That Got Away” (2011), Katy Perry
A Sad Story of Lost Love Set to a Touching Pop Tune

#1: “Lazarus” (2016)
David Bowie

In a way, “Lazarus” was David Bowie’s swan song. The final single we got while he was alive, it acted as a message about his life and career. He was apparently told that nothing more could be done for his cancer during the filming of the video. Visuals of him on a deathbed, bandaged and frail, never get less difficult to watch. It’s all incredibly powerful and heartbreaking in the most poetic of ways, as you sense he’s foreshadowing the end. The fact that Bowie passed on mere days later makes the video feel extra heavy and painful. The number went on to make the Billboard Hot 100, proving that his legacy will never die.