Most fans think of spooks and scares when the subject of horror movies comes up. From haunted houses to body horror, filmmakers craft whole worlds meant to give you weeks of nightmares. While frightening moments are staples of the genre, some horror movies add an extra layer of emotion to the plot as well. Sometimes the horrors of our own grief are enough to make a simple movie multidimensional.
What makes an emotional horror movie sad enough to make the audience cry? Many movies on this list feature the deaths of beloved characters, often in shocking and sudden ways. Others showcase the trauma of the people left behind and how grief can mold and shape us into something we don’t recognize. The next time you’re in the mood to feel sad and scared at the same time, watch something from our list of the best emotional horror movies that will make you cry.
Best Horror Movies That’ll Make You Cry
There’s definitely enough to be scared of in the 1989 adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, Pet Semetary. A family moves to a small Maine town and learns that they’re close to the local pet cemetery–which just so happens to have supernatural powers. With people coming back from the dead filled with an evil they didn’t have in life, or the flashbacks to scary Zelda, it’s many fans’ scariest movie. But it’s a chance meeting with a speeding truck that makes this a heartbreaking tale of loss and grief that leaves no dry eyes in the house.
A child psychologist is tasked with helping a young boy named Cole (Haley Joel Osment) as he tries to cope with anxiety and bullying. There’s something off about Cole though, and when Malcolm (Bruce Willis) looks for answers, we get the epic line, “I see dead people.” While there are plenty of tear-worthy moments in The Sixth Sense–including the famous twist ending–it’s the emotional scene between Cole and his mom (Toni Collette) in their car at the end of the film that packs the biggest punch.
Grace (Nicole Kidman) is just trying to take care of her two children as they’re shut up in their drafty mansion. But when ghosts start haunting them, its up to her to try to protect her kids. The Others is most known for it’s mind-bending ending, but that twist is made all the more poignant for the emotional performances from the entire cast. The sadness that permeates the film sets it apart from other haunted house stories that normally just resort to cheap jump scares.
A group of strangers are stuck in a grocery store as a mysterious mist descends over their town. Monsters call out from within the mist, and the survivors have to decide how to get out of this alive. Father David Drayton (Thomas Jane) is set on getting himself and his son Billy to safety no matter what it takes. The ending to The Mist–which is different from the Stephen King novel it’s adapted from–is now famous for how fucked up it is. You’ll be fighting back angry tears as the credits roll.
Robert Neville appears to be the last human on Earth. He spends his time scavenging post-apocalyptic New York as he searches for a cure for whatever turned the rest of the population into emaciated creatures of the night. Luckily he has his German Shepherd Sam to keep him company. The moment that will make you cry in I Am Legend is the same reason why so many people will never watch it again.
Lonely, bullied 12-year-old Oskar finds comfort in a new kid in town. When he learns that his new friend Eli has the power to make his bullies pay, he has to decide if his connection with her can withstand the consequences that come from befriending a vampire. Many find Let the Right One In incredibly romantic, and the emotional depth of the Swedish film leaves them with tear-streaked faces.
Based on the series of novels by Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas follows a young man of the same name who happens to see dead people. Rather than be scared of what he sees, he fights to keep the dead things at bay and save his town from supernatural forces. While you might assume the tear-jerker aspect of this film is based on the main character being played the by lost-too-soon actor Anton Yelchin, that’s only part of it. The end will have you sobbing into your popcorn.
It’s the anniversary of Max’s mom’s death, and her friends are holding a marathon of the former actress’s big hits: the Camp Bloodbath slasher movies. When a fire breaks out in the theater and she and her friends bust through the screen looking for a way out, they wake up inside the movie. Now Max needs to find a way out for not only her and her friends, but for the fictional character her mom played in the movie. With a plot about death and grief, it should come as no surprise that this one’ll make you cry.
A mysterious virus begins ripping through South Korea while a group of people–including a father (Gong Yoo) and his daughter, and a married couple with a baby on the way–are taking the train south to Busan. As is usually the case with zombie movies, it can go from terrifying to tragic with a single bite. And since there are so many likable characters you’ll end up rooting for, it’s hard to watch as they get taken out one by one.
A group of friends are on a hiking trip in Sweden when one of them gets injured. After arguing about it, they decide to try for a shortcut through a wooded area–which leads them to rituals and monsters that don’t want to let them leave. While the movie is scary and emotional, it’s actually the first 15 minutes that’ll truly rip your heart out. The Ritual proves that sometimes real-life horrors are scarier than anything you might find in the woods.
A close family has to survive in this post-apocalyptic America while keeping as quiet as possible from the blind monsters who kill anything that makes a sound. Although the monsters provide a very real threat, the true theme of A Quiet Place is what you would do for your family. Whether it’s the shocking beginning of the film or the sad ending, there’s plenty to cry about while watching this John Krasinski film.
A family tries to cope after the death of their grandmother. Unfortunately, the late matriarch may have been embedded in a supernatural cult, and her death hasn’t really stopped that ball from rolling. Although there are plenty of spooks and scares, the true horror of Hereditary is the very real emotional drama and loss. Toni Collette’s Oscar-worthy performance as she yells at her son is so emotionally wrought, it ends up feeling uncomfortably real.
The Losers’ Club is all grown up and they’ve been called back to Derry, Maine to finally finish off Pennywise the Dancing Clown. They’ll have to confront their own fears–which haven’t gone away as they’ve gotten older–to take out this evil force. While both chapters of It have emotional elements to them, the themes of loss and grief are a lot heavier in the final movie.
A group of friends, including a young couple on the rocks, travel to Sweden at the insistence of their Swedish friend. They visit a small village for their colorful midsummer festival, but they quickly learn that things aren’t what they seem. Midsommar deals heavily with grief and loss, and how important it is to feel those feelings rather than keeping them inside. Whether it’s the heavy events of the beginning or the swell of emotions at the end, there won’t be a dry eye in the house.
Scream movies are more often fun slasher movies than they are cry-fests, but the newest movie in the franchise is a little bit of both. It’s been ten years and Ghostface is back. A new cast of teens is joined by a few of the old guard to help take the killer (or killers) down for good. There’s a moment in the back half of the movie that will make any longtime Scream fan feel emotional. Don’t worry–I won’t spoil it for you.
More Emotional Horror Movies
- Ghost (1990), though more of a romantic drama, has a woman (Demi Moore) dealing with the death of her lover while being haunted by his ghost (Patrick Swayze).
- Shaun of the Dead (2004) has Shaun (Simon Pegg) making a tough family decision toward the end of the film that turns this otherwise hilarious horror comedy into a tearjerker.
- The Lovely Bones (2010) isn’t usually considered a horror movie, but when you watch a sister try to solve the abduction and murder of their daughter, you can’t help but feel horrified and sad.
- The Babadook (2014) is less about the boogeyman and more about how people cope with very real stressors in their lives. You’ll end up feeling for a single mother as she just tries to get by.
- Doctor Sleep (2019) is a lot sadder than its precursor, The Shining (1980), especially since it deals way more with grief, loss, and letting go.
- Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021) is yet another sequel to everyone’s favorite ghost movie, but this time it features a cameo from a previous character that is heartbreaking to see.
- Nope (2022) features a moment in the first fifteen minutes of this Jordan Peele horror movie that will break your heart.