6 Horror Films That Will Give You All the Feels... After They Terrify You

It doesn't happen often, but sometimes the scariest horror flicks can also move you to tears. Valerie Complex breaks down the 21st-century terrifiers that moved her the most.

by | October 27, 2020 | Comments

My motto is, no matter what, if a film moves me, there is no shame in turning on the waterworks. I ugly cried in the theater during Disney’s Coco, I sobbed through the second half of Titanic, and I bawled my eyes out for the third and fourth installments of Toy Story. But I’ve been known to get teary-eyed during scary movies, too — when I say I’ll cry if a film moves me, I do mean any film, including horror.

It may seem odd to get emotional during horror films, but they can do so much more than just be terrifying. Some can inspire sadness, hope, or even happiness. The first one I remember getting me in my feelings is Candyman (1992); I was nine years old and begged my father to take me to see it. While the film terrified me throughout, a dramatic tear rolled down my cheek during the last 15 minutes. There was something about sacrifice and children that got to me, even at a young age — it still gets me to this day.

As Halloween approaches, we revisited some of the films that include a little slashing, a little bashing, and a little sensitivity. Got suggestions of horror movies that made you weep? Let us know in the comments. 

[Warning: Major spoilers follow below.]

The Monster (2016)


Lizzie (Ella Balentine) is a bright young 11-year-old who has to deal with her mother Kathy’s (Zoe Kazan) alcoholic, abusive, unpredictable ways. As they travel on the road at night, they find themselves stranded on an isolated road in the middle of nowhere, fighting for their lives against one ugly forest monster.

Cry Factor: The best mother and daughter bonding happens on this frightful night. You don’t get the sense that Kathy cares for Lizzie until it’s life or death; as a mother who feels she’s given her child nothing but strife, the only thing left for Kathy to do is to sacrifice her own life so Lizzie has a fighting chance to survive. The characters started crying, and then I started crying. It’s a scary cry fest!

Dark Water (2002)


In this moody Japanese horror film by Hideo Nakata, single mom Yoshimi Matsubara (Hitomi Kuroki) is dealing with a bitter divorce and custody battle for her young daughter, Ikuko (Rio Kanno). As the two try to start life anew in their new apartment, ghostly apparitions of a young girl with a red backpack begin to haunt them, and it’s clear something supernatural — and evil — is afoot.

Cry Factor: This movie is just sad all around. The body of a young girl who drowned in the building water tower still lingers in it; her spirit haunts the building’s hallways looking for a new “mother” to latch onto, and Yoshimi is it. The woman must choose between crossing over to be with this ghost child or allowing her own daughter to be possessed by the spirit. Yoshimi ultimately decides to sacrifice herself so Ikuko can live in peace. Ten years later, Ikuko returns to the site of her mother’s disappearance and sees her ghost, who assures her that she’s OK in the afterlife and not to worry, providing rare horor-film closure for Ikuko.

Pulse (2001)


A college student commits suicide on a live internet stream, setting off a chain reaction across Tokyo that causes others to follow suit. The film follows Michi (Kumiko Aso), Ryosuke (Haruhiko Kato), and Harue (Koyuki), three unrelated folks whose stories eventually converge in this atmospheric, supernatural horror in which the internet plays a pivotal role.

Cry Factor: Kairo isn’t a typical horror film as it’s more about existentialism than anything else. Ghosts are lonely, and they travel through the internet to make contact with the living. In the end, 85% of the population is gone, and Michi begins to realize the power of human connection. The film asserts that death is just as finite as the living world, and if people cannot connect in life, they will be forced to do it in death. It will hit you in the feels, ya’ll.

Pan's Labyrinth (2006)


Many consider this to be Guillermo del Toro’s best film. The horror/fantasy tale is told against the backdrop of Franco’s authoritarian rule over Spain amd packs an emotional punch. The film follows 12-year-old Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), otherwise known as Princess Moanna of the underworld, who meets a faun that wants to help her return to her kingdom. In reality, Ofelia lives a harsh life with her stepfather, a captain under Franco’s regime.

Cry Factor: Ofelia’s mortal mother dies, and she herself is abused by her stepfather and nearly eaten by the Pale Man, all while living under Franco’s rule. This kid goes through it all. Just when you think she’s victorious, she’s shot and killed by her stepfather. Not all is bleak in death, though: she returns to the underworld to rule as its princess once again. How can you not feel anything from that?

Spring (2014)


If Before Sunrise and H.P. Lovecraft had a baby, it would be the horror/romance film Spring. Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) is an American in Italy learning how to farm. He meets Louise (Nadia Hilker), a genetics student, and it’s love at first sight. The two exchange life stories, but Louise forgets to mention she is a 2,000-year-old Cthulhu-like monster. Until, that is, Evan catches her one day in the midst of a transformation phase that’s pretty gnarly to witness.

Cry Factor: Evan sees this transformation and doesn’t care; he is still in love with Louise. She explains this is a hereditary trait that helps her achieve immortality. She injects a special serum to keep herself in human form, but every 20 years, she must transform into a new look and new body – the only thing that will stop this process is falling in love. The duo decide to spend Louise’s final moments in her present form together, but when the time comes, the transformation doesn’t happen because she’s in love with Evan. It’s enough to bring tears to your eyes and butterflies to your stomach.

The Orphanage (2007)


Creepy dead children, a haunted house, and a mother at her wits’ end trying to find her missing son – nothing is as it seems in The Orphanage. Laura’s (Belén Rueda) son Simón (Roger Princep) is missing, and she is desperate to find him. The cops aren’t helpful, and she’s seeing frightening apparitions of dead children in her home, a former orphanage. Laura can’t decipher if she’s going mad or if the ghosts are trying to tell her something.

Cry Factor: Laura has truly lost all hope, but emotions escalate when she discovers she killed her son by accident and didn’t even realize it: What she thought was the ghost of one of the creepy children was, in fact, her own child in disguise. You’ll tear up just thinking about it even years after watching. The film ends on a bittersweet note, as Laura commits suicide to cross over and be with Simon and the other children. Now she too is a part of the orphanage.

Thumbnail image by ©Picturehouse Entertainment courtesy Everett Collection

On an Apple device? Follow Rotten Tomatoes on Apple News.

Tag Cloud

Stephen King Syfy universal monsters DirecTV screenings book adaptation Sci-Fi dreamworks Marvel Studios BET theme song Apple TV Plus crossover cartoon ABC Alien Hulu television basketball Lifetime Brie Larson sitcom E! science fiction deadpool Mystery natural history BBC America ABC Family Lionsgate series satire Tumblr blockbuster Spike green book DGA breaking bad Lifetime Christmas movies Disney golden globe awards singing competition aliens Mary poppins jurassic park Turner Classic Movies Premiere Dates TV movies Mary Tyler Moore facebook TCM Trivia space Indigenous Country films movies indie Biopics VOD harry potter zombie OneApp Crunchyroll Star Trek new zealand Shondaland GoT toronto Holiday best docudrama indiana jones First Look Sundance Interview Pixar VICE streaming movies cancelled television joker scary movies TCA biopic Women's History Month mob Awards spider-verse strong female leads suspense Martial Arts MSNBC anthology AMC Plus CMT boxing Baby Yoda Cannes olympics critic resources Paramount Pictures leaderboard PaleyFest Mary Poppins Returns rt labs critics edition thriller japanese scene in color zero dark thirty Song of Ice and Fire A24 international documentary latino Awards Tour Oscar 94th Oscars 71st Emmy Awards marvel cinematic universe YA rotten movies we love IMDb TV razzies foreign First Reviews slashers YouTube adaptation talk show Creative Arts Emmys Pride Month sequels Tokyo Olympics Ovation DC Universe Esquire Best Director quibi Winter TV psycho 2019 fresh monster movies HBO Max archives Best Actor Amazon Prime war Rocky 2018 romantic comedy toy story 45 NBA historical drama American Society of Cinematographers TCA Winter 2020 Pop Horror El Rey political drama adventure CBS All Access Bravo Pacific Islander Avengers legend Nominations Apple SXSW 2015 Family Sneak Peek Photos Epix YouTube Premium Drama Vudu golden globes Valentine's Day Schedule PBS Fargo Black Mirror crime thriller justice league a nightmare on elm street spain fast and furious sag awards Polls and Games TBS Academy Awards Teen Opinion CBS BBC One Toys cults Amazon Prime Video Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt TNT Super Bowl laika NBC heist movie Arrowverse The Walking Dead NYCC SundanceTV Ellie Kemper gangster casting sopranos black comedy james bond prank Netflix Christmas movies dramedy doctor who obi wan Comedy Rom-Com dceu cancelled TV shows Rock social media vs. free movies YouTube Red ratings Elton John Extras Lucasfilm FXX GLAAD blaxploitation Watching Series werewolf children's TV USA Network Spring TV Winners Chilling Adventures of Sabrina IFC Films Walt Disney Pictures biography marvel comics rom-coms National Geographic New York Comic Con venice technology comic serial killer ITV GIFs HBO Travel Channel Grammys diversity 4/20 summer TV tv talk cooking Captain marvel Star Wars Celebration Marvel Television Chernobyl chucky Broadway The Purge Spectrum Originals Western IFC independent robots FOX History MGM FX on Hulu sequel South by Southwest Film Festival Britbox APB 90s Comic Book emmy awards hispanic heritage month live action Reality Competition medical drama Discovery Channel 1990s Cartoon Network Hollywood Foreign Press Association batman SDCC Crackle live event TruTV video on demand nature mcc teaser worst reboot CNN halloween tv dark TCA Awards Black History Month dogs revenge black Apple TV+ Warner Bros. stoner summer preview royal family Certified Fresh RT History Best and Worst high school name the review Neflix finale Nickelodeon young adult 2020 game of thrones comiccon supernatural Superheroe Rocketman PlayStation TV concert rt labs Summer reviews sports WGN blockbusters Marathons australia Funimation game show Calendar A&E genre rotten 007 Musical crime ESPN Paramount dexter TLC Holidays new star wars movies stand-up comedy Thanksgiving Fox Searchlight streamig travel Food Network italian Adult Swim Showtime TV Land FX Disney streaming service scene in color series TV renewals scene in color film series Logo scary MTV 21st Century Fox Dark Horse Comics Musicals Film Festival directors 20th Century Fox Instagram Live rt archives Geeked Week Paramount Network south america LGBT transformers The Walt Disney Company festival comic book movie Best Actress target Freeform psychological thriller BAFTA hidden camera saw streaming Comic-Con@Home 2021 boxoffice Native die hard news WarnerMedia Cosplay Nat Geo 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Mindy Kaling ViacomCBS period drama OWN spider-man canceled child's play Columbia Pictures unscripted adenture japan Trophy Talk comic books summer TV preview cops zombies kaiju Wes Anderson franchise kids disaster Acorn TV canceled TV shows action-comedy Sundance TV Kids & Family true crime comics what to watch Fall TV spanish language romance all-time remakes popular women Superheroes Emmy Nominations Universal Television Academy Ghostbusters Christmas new york Heroines Endgame Comedy Central The CW 72 Emmy Awards 79th Golden Globes Awards nfl animated Year in Review docuseries X-Men mockumentary Fox News aapi E3 SXSW 2022 DC Comics based on movie mutant art house TV One cancelled TV series broadcast crime drama cars critics Box Office Pirates lord of the rings Amazon Star Wars Oscars witnail book 73rd Emmy Awards parents Writers Guild of America telelvision superman 93rd Oscars king arthur USA San Diego Comic-Con Quiz hollywood See It Skip It HBO Go RT21 2021 vampires trophy discovery Exclusive Video video Hallmark Christmas movies Set visit Peacock TCA 2017 worst movies CW Seed halloween 2016 spanish scorecard DC streaming service President spy thriller twilight hispanic nbcuniversal Disney+ Disney Plus Trailer dragons Emmys ABC Signature Disney Plus Marvel mission: impossible Election AMC criterion Legendary Reality The Witch stop motion Prime Video award winner screen actors guild obituary Infographic Film debate king kong VH1 binge The Arrangement comic book movies Universal Pictures renewed TV shows Masterpiece Focus Features cancelled Countdown Tarantino Fantasy Television Critics Association Animation ghosts Netflix Sony Pictures Disney Channel Image Comics Action comedies Starz Comics on TV Classic Film Amazon Studios godzilla football know your critic Sony TIFF richard e. Grant Tomatazos BET Awards pirates of the caribbean dc asian-american composers movie Sundance Now Binge Guide Pop TV 99% documentaries Hallmark Character Guide interviews posters politics Anna Paquin Red Carpet feel good jamie lee curtis festivals Tags: Comedy 2017 Tubi Hear Us Out trailers Shudder classics 24 frames Podcast target scene in color elevated horror Video Games Music hist LGBTQ kong BBC Pet Sematary cinemax wonder woman MCU miniseries superhero Paramount Plus french Best Picture cats Turner police drama Mudbound spinoff slasher ID The Academy anime HFPA christmas movies versus