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15 Saddest Movies of the 80s

Silkwood (1983)

Silkwood (1983)

In the scary true story, a woman is killed so that she doesn’t expose the corruptness of her company. Karen Silkwood was working at a plutonium plant in the 70s when she realized that the working conditions were not safe. She began to take action to fix the them only to get trailed and forced into a fatal car accident.

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The Killing Fields (1984)

The Killing Fields (1984)

The Killing Fields covers both the large-scale horrors of the millions of deaths in 1970s Cambodia and the individual guilt of the people who escaped. In the movie, two Americans manage to get out of Cambodia, but their interpreter gets left behind. He gets to safety years later, but only after he has witnessed some truly terrible things. 

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The Killing Fields covers both the large-scale horrors of the millions of deaths in 1970s Cambodia and the individual guilt of the people who escaped. In the movie, two Americans manage to get out of Cambodia, but their interpreter gets left behind. He gets to safety years later, but not until he has witnessed some truly terrible things. 

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Testament (1983)

Testament (1983)

Testament features a family living just outside of San Francisco when the city is bombed. They lose their father in the bombing, then watch as person after person in their town dies. The family knows that they, and most everyone around them, will all die of radiation poisoning. The movie ends when the family chooses to celebrate a birthday instead of committing suicide.

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Testament features a family living just outside of San Francisco when the city is bombed. They lose their father in the bombing, then watch as person after person in their town dies. The family knows that they, and most everyone around them, will all die of radiation poisoning. The movie ends when the family’s failed attempt at suicide leads them to celebrate a birthday instead.

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Stand By Me (1986)

Stand By Me (1986)

Stand By Me is a coming of age story about friendship and loss. It captures the way life can be perfect for just a moment before directions are changed. It encapsulates nostalgia. In it, Gordie Lachance reflects on a childhood adventure with his friends after he finds out that one of them was killed. It’s a story we can all relate to.

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Stand By Me is a coming of age story of friendship and loss. It captures the way things in life can be perfect for just a moment before directions are changed. It encapsulates nostalgia. In it, Gordie Lachance reflects on a childhood adventure with his friends after he finds out that one of them was killed. It’s is a story of nostalgia and loss we can all relate to.

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Mask (1985)

Mask (1985)

In Mask, teenager Rocky Dennis just wants to live a normal life. He’s smart and emotionally complex, but he has a rare facial disfiguration. While he initially struggles to make friends, he eventually manages to both make friends and fall in love. Sadly, those relationships crumble near the end of the movie. The movie ends shortly after Rocky’s condition has deteriorated. He dies peacefully in his sleep.

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In Mask, teenager Rocky Dennis just wants to live a normal life. He’s smart and emotionally complex, but he has a rare facial disfiguration. He eventually makes friends and falls in love, but near the end of the movie, those situations crumble. The movie ends shortly after Rocky’s condition has deteriorated. He dies in his sleep.

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Terms of Endearment (1983)

Terms of Endearment (1983)

Terms of Endearment is another one of those movies that we can all relate to. In it, a widowed mother and her daughter fight with each other as much as they can without pushing their relationship over the line. They both go through significant difficulties with their respective partners. At the end of the movie, the mother watches her daughter die from a fight with cancer.

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Terms of Endearment is another one of those movies that we can all relate to. In it, a widowed mother and her daughter fight each other while also refusing to let their relationship be irreparably harmed. They both go through significant difficulties with their respective partners. At the end of the movie, the mother watches her daughter die from a fight with cancer.

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Salvador (1986)

Salvador (1986)

In Salvador, out-of-work photojournalist Richard Boyle travels to El Salvador to find work by covering the Salvadoran Civil War. Once there, he realizes the war is worse than he had initially thought it would be. He reunites with his old lover María and her children, one of whom is his. Escaping is difficult. People close to the couple are executed. When they finally make it to the states, María and her children are deported. Boyle is arrested for arguing with the immigration officers.

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Sophie’s Choice (1982)

Sophie’s Choice (1982)

Holocaust movies are always hauntingly sad. In Sophie’s Choice, aspiring author Stingo meets a young couple named Sophie and Nathan in 1947 Brooklyn. Stingo finds out that Nathan is a schizophrenic and Sophie is a Holocaust survivor. Her then-lover was killed early in the war. Later in the war, she was forced to choose which of her children would be killed and which would be sent to a labor camp. At the end of the movie, Sophie and Nathan commit suicide together. 

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Holocaust movies are always hauntingly sad. In Sophie’s Choice, aspiring author Stingo meets a young couple in 1947 Brooklyn: Sophie and Nathan. He finds out that Nathan is a schizophrenic and Sophie is a Holocaust survivor. Her lover was killed early in the war, and then later, she was forced to choose which of her children would be killed and which would be sent to a labor camp. At the end of the movie, Sophie and Nathan commit suicide together. 

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The Elephant Man (1980)

The Elephant Man (1980)

This historical drama features a 19th century Englishman with a physical deformity. He fights to be recognized as human while others try to make money off of his “freakish” looks. By the end of the movie, his deteriorating health leads him to a peaceful but premature death.

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Dead Poets Society (1989)

Dead Poets Society (1989)

Dead Poets Society is considered by many to be Robin Williams's greatest work. It’s a movie about pursuing the things you love. It’s a story of friendship, family, and ultimately, loss. Looking back on it now, Robin William's inspiring character is even more heartwrenching when you know the full story of his life. If you haven’t seen it yet, rent it for tonight.

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Dead Poets Society is considered by many to be Robin Williams's greatest work. It’s a movie about pursuing the things you love. It’s a story of friendship, family, and ultimately, loss. Looking back on it now, Robin William's inspiring character is heartwrenching when you know the full story of his life. If you haven’t seen it yet, rent it tonight.

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Steel Magnolias (1989)

Steel Magnolias (1989)

Steel Magnolias is a movie that showcases the extreme complexity of women. In it, a woman named M’Lynn watches her daughter Shelby decide to have a child even though doctors have told Shelby that giving birth would be a death sentence. While Shelby does survive childbirth, she does not make it through unharmed. One complication leads to another. She eventually becomes comatose, and the family is forced to pull the plug on Shelby’s life support. The movie ends with M’Lynn coming to grips with her daughter’s decision to have a child even though it risked her own.

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Steel Magnolias is a movie that showcases the extreme complexity of women. In it, a woman named M’Lynn watches her daughter Shelby decide to have a child even though doctors have told Shelby that giving birth would be a death sentence. While Shelby does survive childbirth, she does not make it through unharmed. One complication leads to another until she eventually becomes comatose. The family is forced to pull the plug on Shelby’s life support. The movie ends with M’Lynn coming to grips with her daughter’s decision to have a child even though it risked her own.

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Ordinary People (1980)

Ordinary People (1980)

The Jarretts are a normal family who has experienced a lot of trauma. Ordinary People centers around their life after one son attempts suicide and the other dies in an boating accident. The mother fights so hard to return their family to “normal” that she refuses to see the problems that are there. She drives a wedge into their family, fracturing it as the movie comes to a climax.

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The Color Purple (1985)

The Color Purple (1985)

The Color Purple covers the difficult life of an African-American woman in early-1900s America. Not only does she have to endure the heavy racism of the time, she also has to deal with her sexually and physically abusive stepfather. It’s a tough story but ultimately one of triumph over difficult situations.

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The Day After (1983)

The Day After (1983)

The Day After encapsulates the fears of the Cold War. In the movie, nuclear war is realized when American cities are bombed. The strike turns to all-out-war, and casualties abound. It’s a sad story about regular people in the wake of a bomb. It brought the nightmare of the day to the big screen.

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Empire of Sun (1987)

Empire of Sun (1987)

Steven Spielberg considers Empire of Sun his best work on the “loss of innocence.” A young British boy in early-1940s Japan is separated from his parents and eventually taken prisoner. He forgets what his parents look like, witnesses a kamikaze ritual, and watches a young Japanese friend of his get gunned down. He is eventually reunited with his parents, but only after he had been through some terrible things.

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Steven Spielberg considers Empire of Sun his best work on the “loss of innocence.” In it, a young British boy in early-1940s Japan is separated from his parents and eventually taken prisoner. He forgets what his parents look like, witnesses a kamikaze ritual, and watches a young Japanese friend of his get gunned down. He is eventually reunited with his parents, but only after he had been through some terrible things.

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