They say two things in life are inevitable: death and taxes. I argue that there is a third inevitability: the breakup. No matter how you protect your heart, if you care for someone you will have your heart broken in time. It doesn’t matter if you are the one ending the relationship or not, the pain is real. You’re destined to find yourself in a coach window seat of an airplane sobbing to Sarah McLachlan as the flight attendant asks if you want another bag of peanuts. Wait, maybe that is specific to me. But the right in-flight movie would’ve saved the passengers in my row from needing to scoot closer to the aisle.
But what is the right movie to see after a breakup? We all experience heartache in different ways, so below are a variety of films for when love turns black. Whether you need to cry your eyes out, laugh again, or plot your ex’s demise, these films will remind you you’re never alone.
Wallowing in your pain
Watching high-caliber actors lose themselves in their characters and destroy their fictitious relationships can feel like pouring salt in your wounds. Sometimes you need to drown in the deep end and cry until you’re desiccated.
Despite enormous passion, some relationships aren’t meant to be. Blue Valentine oscillates between the past when Cindy (Michelle Williams) and Dean (Ryan Gosling) are falling in love and their present, where they are stuck in a tattered, toxic marriage. Is it his lack of ambition? His alcoholism? Her constant rejection of him? There are numerous reasons why their love is shattered. This is the movie for the person who desperately wants love to be a certain way but knows they’ll never receive what they crave from their partner. Michelle Williams summed it up best when discussing the making of Blue Valentine with Vanity Fair, “When you can’t possess something and you just have to live in desire, that’s what I think about when I think about the Blue Valentine years.”
Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio star as April and Frank Wheeler, a couple in the mid-1950s who settle for typical suburban American life until they realize it is killing their marriage. They make plans to move to Paris, but unforeseen circumstances cement their life at 115 Revolutionary Road in Connecticut. Their lives and their love descend into the mire. If you want to sob and scream with Winslet and DiCaprio, watch Revolutionary Road.
Comedies to make you smile again
When you’re done shedding tears, these films will have you laughing.
Bridget Jones Diary
Bridget Jones, played by Renée Zellweger, is a young British woman whose love life swings between non-existent and horribly misguided. Throw in her notorious habit of saying and doing the wrong thing at the worst time, and she is the everywoman we all can relate to. The film is hilarious and endearing. You will find yourself rooting for love once again and will be reminded that ditching Mr. Wrong (Hugh Grant) doesn’t have to mean ending up alone eaten by your dogs. Your Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth) may be around the next corner.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
As the title suggests, the film is dedicated to forgetting your ex. However, Peter Bretter (Jason Segel) can’t. He’s a struggling musician better known as the clinging boyfriend to TV star Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). When she dumps him, he takes a vacation to Hawaii to forget her. Minor problem: Sarah’s vacationing at the same resort with her new boyfriend (Russell Brand). Nothing goes right for Peter in this romantic disaster comedy, but it will keep you laughing so you forget your own Sarah Marshall.
After being dumped by her college boyfriend Warner (Matthew Davis) because she’s not Harvard wife material, Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) uses her magnetic personality and her hidden brains to secure a spot at Harvard’s law school, proving she’s perfect marriage material. However, she learns the hard lesson that changing who you are for who you love means you aren’t being honest to the most important person in your life – you. Legally Blonde launched Reese to superstardom for a reason. She’s hilarious and charming and by the end of the movie you’ll believe getting dumped was the best thing that ever happened to you.
When you’re dreaming of a dish best served cold
After a breakup, sometimes the only thing you feel is hardened and the only thing you want is revenge and a hearty dose of explosions.
You don’t need to have seen the Predator movies to enjoy this prequel and satiate your desire for revenge. Prey does an excellent job of immersing you in the Comanche Nation in 1719 through the eyes of Naru (Amber Midthunder), a wannabe warrior who struggles against the patriarchy in her tribe. But when an alien with superior technology decides to make her world his hunting ground, her people become his prey. She becomes a one-woman war machine fighting animals, colonists, and the Predator in her quest for recognition and peace.
Mad Max: Fury Road
If you need non-stop action, explosions, and fights to take your mind off of everything, Mad Max: Fury Road will deliver. Set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, the film is about the quest for freedom and the lengths people will take to escape toxic relationships. See, breakups can be a good thing! Once “Mad” Max (Tom Hardy) and Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) agree to work together and smuggle Immortan Joe’s (Hugh Keys-Byrne) five wives out from his clutches to an idyllic green land, the film becomes one long high-octane action sequence. The plot isn’t complex which allows the stunts and special effects to lead the charge. All you have to do is sit back and forget what was bothering you in the first place.
If you lean on your besties to drag you through tough times, take comfort in a film where romance doesn’t stand a chance against friends.
The film that launched Mayim Bialik’s career when she was 12 years old is also the ultimate tear-jerking friends movie of the 80s. Bette Midler is CC Bloom, a famous singer, who reflects on her life-long friendship with Hillary Whitney, played by Barbara Hershey, as she rushes to her friend’s aid. From the moment they met as kids on the Atlantic City boardwalk, Hillary and CC couldn’t have been more different. But their friendship endures despite distance, jealousy, men, and a serious case of the silent treatment. When you need to get your priorities straight after a breakup, Beaches will remind you your friends are only a phone call away.
Stand By Me
Like Beaches, Stand By Me is also essentially one long flashback as adult Gordon Lachance (Richard Dreyfuss) reflects on when he was 12 and he and his friends went searching for the body of a missing boy. Young Gordie (Wil Wheaton) sets out with his friends Chris (River Phoenix), Vern (Jerry O’Connell), and Teddy (Corey Feldman) on their morbid hike, but the promised corpse is only a means for the journey. The boys bond over family strife, being seen as failures in their town, and leeches.
The only cure is a classic
When only old Hollywood can sweep you out of your misery, these movies will be the prescription for your pain.
“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” Casablanca is many things: one of the best movies ever made, one of the most quotable, a film spotlighting a unique aspect of WWII, and the pinnacle of Humphrey Bogart’s and Ingrid Bergman’s careers. But at its soul, Casablanca is about one man’s undying resentment towards his former lover and the betrayal and heartbreak that forced him to run away and evolve into the coolest club owner north of the equator. There’s nothing like the backdrop of war to help put your problems into perspective. But the film isn’t as much a war piece as a bittersweet romance. Casablanca will soothe your aching soul with quippy lines, melodramatic acting, gorgeous cinematography, and a soft focus so prominently wistful you will question if it is the film or your tears making Bergman blurry.
“Relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we’ve got on our hands is a dead shark.” Woody Allen’s 1977 satirical film is touted as having revived the romantic comedy genre despite his stating it was his first attempt at a serious film. It follows the love story of Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) and Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) and is loosely based on the actors’ own failed relationship. Compared to Casablanca, it is a closer, more intimate look at what ignites passion in a couple and how it can easily fade, and it is also quintessential Woody Allen. With the drama comes the rambling, nervous comedy associated with Allen. More than any film on this list, Annie Hall is an honest portrayal of how we find ourselves swimming toward love only to stop and let it die.
Whatever your mood is, these films will help you laugh, cry, and move on faster than Rick Blaine from your last love. Remember, there are many fish in the sea. Some sharks too, so don’t stop swimming.