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20 of the Saddest Christmas Movies of All Time

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Screenshot: Meet Me in St. Louis/Warner Archive

The holidays are a time for big emotions. The weather’s extreme (in many places), there’s too much to do, and family gatherings offer up wild swings of intense feeling: joy, excitement, apprehension, annoyance, exhaustion. The movies (and life) teach us that any holiday meal with a sufficient number of guests must involve drama of some sort: somebody’s pregnant, somebody’s getting married or divorced, someone’s coming out of the closet, someone’s dying. The season truly has it all.

The movies offer us the opportunity to escape from all that by watching other people deal with their drama—and we’re not so much interested in subtlety and nuance, because that’s not what’s in the air. Is it even a Christmas movie if you’re not bawling into your eggnog? Many of the saddest Christmas movies share very similar plot beats (it’s Dickens’ world; we’re just living in it), but it’s in the execution that they rise or fall. The most successful of them take big swings and hit us right where we live.

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