Why Are Sad Endings Better Than Happy Ones?

Why Are Sad Endings Better Than Happy Ones?

Do you like happy or sad endings? At some point in your life, you have probably read a book or watched a movie or television show that brought you to tears. Sad story endings usually stay with you much longer than another happy-ever-after story, but do you know why?

7 Reasons We Like Sad Endings

According to All Womens Talk there are seven reasons to like sad endings:

1. They Are More Realistic

Unbelievable happy endings aren’t genuine while sad endings make more sense and are more realistic with normal life. We can even take solace from the character’s misfortunes and be happy that what happened to them didn’t happen to us.

2. They Are More Emotional

Sad endings can have an emotional effect on the reader/watcher more than a normal happy ending. Studies have shown that we might actually enjoy sad endings because we can empathize and identify better with the characters.

3. Characters Need to Learn

It is impossible for characters to grow and learn from their mistakes if everything ends up happily ever after. It can make us feel better when a character struggles but shows resiliency.

4. Sad Endings Don’t Feel Like A Copout

Undeserved happy endings where it feels like someone waved their magic wand and the characters all end up happy seem poorly put together. Especially if the writers lead you down a dark path before everything changes. Happy endings as the norm make us feel cheated.

5. Sad Endings Are More Memorable

Sad endings where you can connect to the characters’ struggles are more memorable than happy ones. You are more apt to remember characters when they have unhappy endings.

6. It is Easier to Connect to Sad Endings 

Not everyone can connect to happiness, but everyone can connect to sadness because it feels more familiar. Our brains enjoy feeling empathy and sadness, allowing us to connect easier. When we compare ourselves to the character, we might feel better off.

7. It is the Author’s Choice

Ultimately, the author gets to decide how the lives of their characters end because they know them better than anyone.

Image of three women crying over sad endings

Image created in Canva.

Sad Endings in Romantic Movies

Hello Giggles reports that these are the top ten sad ending romance movies:

  1. Remember Me
  2. The Best Of Me
  3. Shakespeare In Love
  4. Moonlight
  5. A Walk To Remember
  6. The Fault In Our Stars
  7. Me Before You
  8. Malcolm & Marie
  9. Before We Go
  10. Call Me by Your Name

Other notables on this list include Atonement, the Bodyguard, and P.S. I Love You. I remember watching Remember Me with my daughter and she was so impressed that the movie didn’t have a happy ending.

Sad Endings in Books

According to Bustle, these books will break your heart:

  1. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  2. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  3. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
  4. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  5. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
  6. Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck
  7. Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  8. 1984 by George Orwell
  9. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  10. The Remains Of The Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Rounding out their list of fifteen are Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, Bridge To Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Atonement by Ian McEwan, and Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.

Hollywood has made all these sad books into sad movies.

Sad Endings on TV

The end of a cherished TV series is always sad, especially when we are attached to the characters. Looper recommends these series as having the saddest or darkest endings.

  • Blackadder
  • BoJack Horseman
  • Chernobyl
  • Chuck
  • Deadwood
  • Dinosaurs
  • Fleabag
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • It’s a Sin
  • M*A*S*H
  • Merlin
  • Parenthood
  • Six Feet Under
  • The Americans
  • The Good Place
  • The Leftovers
  • The Shield
  • The Wire
  • Twin Peaks
  • Veep
  • When They See Us

Although some of these series-ending shows may have been sad, most of them ended appropriately.

My Favorite Sad Endings

I have read thousands of books, but I remember one time when I was about fifteen and my father being worried when he found me crying until he discovered it was over a book. The book was That Was Then, This is now by S.E. Hinton. When the two friends didn’t reconnect in the end it was devastating. I am sure it wasn’t the first book that made me cry, but I still remember it.

Steel Magnolias was probably one of the saddest movies I have ever watched. The funeral scene makes me cry every time. Stepmother is another tear-jerker. I think the first movie to make me cry was Where the Red Ferns Grow or maybe Old Yeller (I am a softie for animals).

The Netflix miniseries When They See Us also brought me to tears. What those poor boys suffered through was horrifying and heartbreaking and that it was a true story is only more devastating.

I am sure on another day I could pick a whole new set depending on my state of mind.

Final Thoughts

Even Disney movies that always have happy endings usually deal with loss and sadness, for example, Simba’s father, or Bambi’s mother. Do you like sad endings? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time



Feature photo by Denise Jans on Unsplash.