The 15 best movies to watch after a break up
Popcorn and tissues please.
Nothing mends a broken heart like time, but while you’re waiting for that sweet day of closure to come along, you can indulge in your heartbreak with these iconic break up movies.
500 Days of Summer
At the top of our list 500 days of Summer is famously not a love story, but a story about love. The original and aesthetically beautiful film follows romantic leads Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Zoe Deschanel) with non-linear time jumps over the course of their 500 day “situation” (relationship is a strong word). If you love the cookie-cutter romantic comedy formula this may not be the one for you, but it’s fantastic commentary on the heartache that comes with idolising someone and only seeing what you want to see in a relationship.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
An absolute must if you’ve recently been dumped, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is all about trying to find yourself again after an unexpected break up, with hilarious and heartwarming consequences. Jason Segel steals the show as musician, and somewhat complacent boyfriend, Peter Bretter who is dumped by his TV star partner Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). Things go from bad to worse for Peter when he takes his broken heart on a vacation to Hawaii, where he bumps into Sarah and her new boyfriend Aldous (basically Russell Brand playing himself). This film has everything from a stoned Paul Rudd to a dracula musical.
One of the more recent additions to our list, Girls Trip was a runaway hit in 2017, and who could be surprised with this cast? Starring Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish, and Jada Pinkett Smith, the movie follows four lifelong friends who head to New Orleans to attend the Essence Music Festival and reconnect after years of drifting apart. Drama ensues when the four try to work out their respective issues, and find out Ryan’s (Regina Hall) husband is cheating on her. This movie is all about finding yourself after disappearing into a relationship, and how you can never outrun the truth mirrors that are your best girlfriends
The Break Up
The name says it all. Vince Vaugh and Jennifer Aniston illustrate the sheer awkwardness and occasional pettiness that comes with the end of a long term relationship. Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) feels neglected by her partner Gary but when the couple breaks up, neither wants to move out of their home. Cue a whole bunch of shameless antics to try and get rid of the other, perhaps as a way of avoiding the reality that things are over for good. This movie hits new levels of cringe, but it will likely make you feel better about how you ended things with your ex.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
This cult classic is a surreal and abstract masterpiece that has you asking whether it’s worth cherishing all the memories of your ex, even if they come with a great deal of heartbreak. The movie opens with Joel (Jim Carey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet) meeting on a train and quickly pursuing a relationship, unaware that they have been a couple before, and then had the memories of each other clinically erased when it ended. Similarly to 500 Days, Eternal Sunshine doesn’t follow the couple’s relationship with a linear timeline, rather jumping around the course of their two years together highlighting the highs and lows of being in love, as their memories are erased bit by bit. Definitely worth a watch for the original premise and touching ending.
How to Be Single
A personal saviour for me during a break up, How to Be Single is the ultimate guilty pleasure featuring a fun ensemble cast. After four years of dating her partner Josh, young Alice (Dakota Johnson) decides she needs a break, moving to New York for a new adventure. She befriends a girl gang with each representing a different way of managing singledom, (sworn off men for work, revelling in playing the game, and desperately seeking love), all while figuring out what she wants. Rebel Wilson, Leslie Mann and Alison Brie provide support and laughs.
John Tucker Must Die
If you didn’t watch this at a sleepover, you were doing it wrong. This teenage classic follows a trio of girls who put aside their differences and plot to break the heart of manipulative hotty, John Tucker (Jesse Metcalfe), after they learn he has been dating all three at once. In doing so, they rope in Kate, the shy new girl, and hijinks ensue. Spoiler alert, friendship beats boys.
I shouldn’t pick favourites, but this one is pretty high up there. The perfect blend of nostalgia, angst and heartbreak, High Fidelity follows record store owner Rob Gordon who is dumped by his long-term girlfriend, Laura. To try and understand how he keeps failing in his relationships, Rob revisits his five great loves. This 2000 hit (adapted from the Nick Hornby novel of the same name) is also now a Hulu series starring Zoë Kravitz.
The ultimate feel-good break up movie (and cult classic), Legally Blonde follows Elle Woods as she leaves her party-girl sorority lifestyle in LA to pursue a legal education (and her ex-boyfriend) at Harvard Law sSchool. It’s all about proving and finding yourself, and looking great at the same time. 10/10 recommend for a pick-me-up when you’re going through a period of self doubt after a bad break up.
One of the lesser-known entries on the list, this British romcom stars Lake Bell as Nancy, a 34-year-old cynic who’s all but given up on love. When romance-addict Jack (Simon Pegg) mistakes Nancy for his blind date, she decides to go with it, and things get out of hand quickly. With both characters coming out of devastating break ups, this movie is a fun reminder that you should always stay open to love, no matter how unlikely it seems.
I for one am a huge fan of Netflix’s attempts to revive the romcom genre, and Someone Great was heartbreaking look at the blurry first few days after a big break up. From downing champagne and green juice in the morning to spending time with your girlfriends and planning “accidental” run-ins with your ex, Someone Great will help you feel better about your erratic and potentially embarrassing behaviour right after a break up, because we’ve all been there!
Birds of Prey
In a refreshing break from the romcom genre, this all-woman ass kicking comic book film follows Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn as she emancipates herself from her, shall we say toxic, relationship with the Joker. With her newfound freedom Harley also has to face the dangerous Gotham streets without her old gang’s protection, and there are a few baddies coming to collect old debts. Naturally she teams up with a crew of badass ladies to help her out. This fun, colourful and crazy flick is perfect fun for you if you’ve ever walked away from a toxic situation.
Celeste & Jesse Forever
Another indie tearjerker, Celeste & Jesse Forever chronicles a couple finalising their divorce while still trying to be best friends. Things get especially rough for Celeste when she finds out Jesse has met someone else, and she has to figure out how to balance mixed emotions with her love for her ex and a shared inner circle. It speaks to the pain of letting go and moving on, even when you don’t feel ready.
Meryl Streep, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin form an amazingly charismatic cast who pull off this stunning Nancy Meyers film about an older divorcee (Streep) who begins an affair with her ex husband (Baldwin) despite him having left her for a younger mistress years ago. Martin plays the adorable architect who’s also vying for her affection, making it an extra complicated love triangle. This feel-good movie is perfect for reminding you that new beginnings are always an option, and you’re never too old to escape drama of the heart.
When Harry Met Sally
The absolute OG of romcoms, When Harry Met Sally kicks off with the two main characters (played by Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan) becoming friends as they bounce back from serious break ups, i.e. Harry’s wife leaves him for another man and Sally realises she doesn’t really love her long-term boyfriend. The story spans years of their friendship as they balance singledom in New York and their growing confused feelings for each other. This movie is pure perfection, and shows that the right person could be right in front of you the whole time.
Click here to read about our top picks for underrated children’s movies.