Top 20 Songs That Will Make You Cry

We all need a good cry once and awhile. For this list, we're looking at the best and most beloved emotional songs that rarely fail to get the waterworks flowing. Our countdown includes Louis Armstrong, Adele, Coldplay, Elton John, Eric Clapton, and more!

Top 20 Songs That Will Make You Cry.

Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Songs That Will Make You Cry.

For this list, we’re looking at the best and most beloved emotional songs that rarely fail to get the waterworks flowing.

What is your favorite song to cry to? Let us know in the comments below!

#20: "What a Wonderful World" (1967)

Louis Armstrong
We start with an inspiring, uplifting, intensely emotional song that's never likely to be forgotten! Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" is considered by many to be the soundtrack to the twentieth century - despite the bloody conflicts that dominated the period! A piece of music that puts everything into perspective, it brings a tear to the eye because it pits the miracle of life against the waste of war... The world would be a better place if we all just listened to these lyrics, and actually put them into practice.

#19: "I Will Follow You into the Dark" (2006)

Death Cab for Cutie
The afterlife is often a tricky topic to tackle, but Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard talks us through with such brilliant tenderness, it's all but impossible not to well up! "I Will Follow You" is one man, one voice, one acoustic guitar and one simple, splendid ideal that we might meet our closest loves once again, when our life on Earth has ended. An outwardly depressing subject matter is turned into an incredibly hopeful moment, as this song has us all take stock of ourselves, and of the people who we care for most!

#18: "Someone Like You" (2011)

Probably the most popular modern break-up song to make today's countdown, "Someone Like You" is still a signature tune for Adele, despite the countless hits that the UK singer has had before and since. A touching almost-tribute to an ex-boyfriend of hers, she lays it all on the lyrical line with this one, and almost every music listener respects her for that. Adele wears her heart firmly on her sleeve, while we without a doubt wear our tears on our cheeks.

#17: "Lay Me Down" (2013)

Sam Smith
We could have gone with Sam Smith's "Stay With Me" at five, but "Lay Me Down" will make you cry just a little bit harder. The lead single from Smith's Grammy Award winning debut album In The Lonely Hour, "Lay Me Down" was built around many of the same themes that are found on the album, specifically unrequited love. The video alludes to Smith's ongoing hope that equal LGBTQ+ rights will one day be a worldwide reality, while the singer’s powerful voice will haunt you and force you to bawl your eyes out.

#16: "Fake Plastic Trees" (1995)

Radiohead are well known for being a little brutal with their views on society, but this is surely the band's best, if not most depressing, take on the world around them... A scathing critique of the inescapable artificial nature of life in the '90s, it grows more and more relevant by the day! Although "Exit Music For A Film" is awfully melancholy in its own right, there's just nothing else as bleak or as brilliant as "Fake Plastic Trees". Listen to it, look at the world around you, and we defy you not to be moved.

#15: "Nothing Compares 2 U" (1990)

Sinéad O'Connor
One of the most instantly recognisable songs and music videos ever created, Very little compares to this when it comes to tempting tears! "Nothing Compares 2 U" is easily Sinead O'Connor's greatest commercial success - not that the controversial performer enjoyed the fame that it generated at all... Originally written by Prince, this song is love, loss, and lots of emotionally effective close-up camera work! O'Connor's famous tear toward the song's end wasn't planned, but wow does it work! 'Nothing can stop her lonely tears from falling', or ours of course!

#14: "Angel" (1997)

Sarah McLachlan
A song originally written in a relation to drug addiction and the spiralling psychology of those that suffer from it, this especially touching Sarah McLachlan number has subsequently been linked with teary-eyed topics of all kinds. The ambiguous, eponymous 'Angel' is an almost unknowable thing, designed to give hope or relief when times are hard... As McLachlan's piano plays softly in the background, her listener is invited to interpret her lyrics for themselves, and project the pain of her voice onto their own past experiences... A good cry that comes naturally.

#13: "Fix You" (2005)

By now even the toughest amongst you must have at least a little 'something in your eye', and if not then our next pick will set you sobbing, no doubt! Tackling love and loss like so many on our countdown before them, Coldplay turns the saddest subject matter into a tear-filled rollercoaster of a record with this song! The first half has us subdued; The second half has us singing along! And if that doesn’t have your eyes watering, just watch them perform it live.

#12: “Wild Horses” (1971)

The Rolling Stones
Exactly who our first entry was written for remains a mystery. Marianne Faithful’s the most likely, though it has also been linked to Bianca Jagger, and Keith Richards’ son, Marlon. What is clear is that with one quite simple hook, the Stones produced an ageless piece of music that has stood hairs on end for generations. Mick’s distinctive voice finds a perfect match, as this brooding, crooning, subdued song leaves the listener as lonely as the frontman.

#11. “Wake Me Up When September Ends” (2005)

Green Day
While “Good Riddance” is a tear-jerking song we all love, our pick for Green Day had to go to this track from “American Idiot”. This rock ballad was originally written about lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong’s father who passed away from cancer when Billie was only 10 years old. But the song’s backstory became even more emotional after Hurricane Katrina struck in late August of 2005. Serving as a symbolic anthem for all the victims and families struck by the disaster, this track’s meaning was then further elevated by its accompanying music video that also served as a critique of the Iraq war.

#10: “The Sound of Silence” (1965)

Simon & Garfunkel
The opening lines to our next track are amongst the most recognizable in all of modern music. Written shortly after the JFK assassination, this song also became an accompaniment to the Vietnam War. It welcomes darkness, and is perhaps most effective when it’s played within it. The combination of vocals and the high tones are as haunting today as they were half a century ago. While “Bridge over Troubled Water” is another contender, the legacy of “The Sound of Silence” is hard to beat!

#9: “Wish You Were Here” (1975)

Pink Floyd
The title track to their 1975 album, “Wish You Were Here” was written for Pink Floyd founder member Syd Barrett in response to his alleged battle with schizophrenia. The whole album explores the theme of detachment, and David Gilmour’s vocals retain a curiously absent quality as he pines for his friend. The whole track comes across as an effortless piece of music – a train of thought that is at once sad and beautiful in it’s simplicity.

#8: “Mad World” (2003)

Michael Andrews featuring Gary Jules

Originally written by Tears For Fears in 1982, this song saw a big resurgence when it was showcased in the 1991 thriller “Donnie Darko”. With delicate piano notes and calming vocals by Gary Jules, this new version quickly overshadowed the original song, and resonated with listeners feeling helpless and intimidated by modern life. We’ve all needed a song to drown our sorrows in from time to time, and “Mad World” speaks to the difficult and uncertain journey we’re all taking in this life, allowing us to reflect on what true “happiness” might feel like.

#7: “Fast Car” (1988)

Tracy Chapman

One of the hardest things about growing up is figuring out who you want to be. This question is even more difficult to answer for those living in poverty and with the odds stacked against them. Tracy Chapman expressed this beautifully in the song “Fast Car”, the lead single from her debut album. In this track, Chapman describes a young woman desperately seeking out a better life for herself, but struggling to get there. Everyone deserves happiness in this life, yet without family or friends to help you get there, it can be difficult to achieve, and that’s what makes this song just downright heartbreaking.

#6: “The Living Years” (1988)

Mike + The Mechanics
This ‘80s ballad once again picks apart the question of life and death, and summarizes the conundrum in 6 short words: “It’s too late when we die.” A global chart hit, this song addresses an unresolved conflict between songwriter B.A. Robertson and his father shortly before he died. Specifically about the bond between a boy and his father, the idea is applicable to just about any relationship that we could have – that’s why it gets us singing along – even if it is difficult to do that and not shed a tear.

#5: “Candle in the Wind” (1974)

Elton John
Originally penned in memory of Marilyn Monroe, “Candle in the Wind” is also famously linked to Diana, Princess of Wales, after Elton played it at her funeral. Though the lives of its subjects have been tragically short-lived, the song itself has endured for generations – and rightly so! It’s emotional enough without context, but it’s a fitting tribute to two iconic women, and to celebrities in general, that die too young – an elegy of the highest order.

#4: “Hallelujah” (2007)

Jeff Buckley
This song was powerful when Leonard Cohen sang it originally… but when Jeff Buckley caressed his vocals around the lyrics, hairs stood on end and lumps formed in throats. It’s love that’s gone stale – so it’s relatable for many of us. There’s also anguish in his voice that is impossible to fake – he isn’t just singing the words, he understands them. A talent that was lost too soon, this song is his legacy.

#3: “Everybody Hurts” (1993)

We defy anyone not to be moved by our first podium entry. “Everybody Hurts” has become a staple soundtrack to modern day life. Adopted by the Samaritans charity, it was originally written by the band for anyone struggling with severe depression. This song not only prompts tears, it saves lives! According to the lyrics, “we all cry,” and most of us do when we sing them! “Everybody hurts,” and after this song, everybody’s reaching for the tissues!

#2: “Hurt” (2003)

Johnny Cash
Originally penned by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, “Hurt” was taken on by the legendary Johnny Cash several years later. It brings the memories of his past under the cold, harsh spotlight of his present. Cash was very frail when recording the song, and he died seven months after its release. Relaying the unstoppable passing of time, its accompanying video is a memorial to one man, but something that we’ll all experience. It’s about as powerful as music can be.

Before we get to our top pick, here are some honorable mentions:

Iris (1998)
Goo Goo Dolls

“Adam's Song” (2000)
Blink 182

“My Immortal” (2003)

“So Far Away” (2011)
Avenged Sevenfold

“Who Wants To Live Forever” (1986)

#1: “Tears in Heaven” (1992)

Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” is an incredibly moving piece of music, made all the more impactful by the great personal tragedy Clapton experienced. When his 4-year-old son tragically passed away in 1991, we’d have understood if Clapton never picked up a guitar again. But he did, and was able to produce a record that’s as terrific as it is teary! Reminding us all of anyone who has passed, “Tears in Heaven” verbalizes what everybody else would like to say. It’s a tear-jerking tune that gets us every time!
I agreed with this emotional & sad cry list.
Snuff by Slipknot anyone?
Ray Price For The Good Times would be a worthy addition
Simply Red Holding back the tears and The Scorpions Winds of Change
Pokemon - Tears Of Life, Fame 13 - Tears & I Salonisti - Nearer My God to Thee are also 3 sad songs
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