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The best movies to watch after a breakup

We’ve all been there

A broken heart, filled in with images from Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in Blue Valentines, against a purple background with pink hand-drawn images of broken hearts and frowny faces Graphic: Will Joel/Polygon | Source images: Davi Russo/©The Weinstein Company/courtesy Everett Collection; Shutterstock
Joshua Rivera (he/him) is an entertainment and culture journalist specializing in film, TV, and video game criticism, the latest stop in a decade-plus career as a critic.

Yikes. It happened. Things didn’t work out.

While breakups are as varied and nuanced as people are, they’ve also been happening for as long as there have been people, so we’ve gotten pretty good at failed relationships. Which means we’ve been making movies about breaking up, or in response to breaking up, for a very long time.

Of course, everyone is different, and the best post-breakup viewing depends on how you, as a person, prefer to work through bad times. Maybe you want a distraction, and any will do. Maybe you want the embrace of a fuzzy rom-com, or a movie that makes you want to kick someone’s fuckin’ ass. Consider this a sample platter to make the decision a little bit easier for you when it’s not clear how to do anything next.

Really, the best thing to do after life and love knocks you on your ass is simply to make the smallest step forward — even if it’s just to press play on your remote. Maybe this’ll help you find something that will take you the rest of the way.


For those who want to get sad

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Jason Segel looks on as Kristen Bell stares at Russell Brand in Forgetting Sarah Marshall Image: Universal Pictures

Because: It’s all about wallowing, and moving on. Also it’s very funny.
Where to watch: Digital rental/purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, and Vudu

Blue Valentine

Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams kiss passionately with her in his lap in Blue Valentine Photo: Davi Russo/Weinstein Company/Everett Collection

Because: It’s one of the best anti-love stories ever made. Truly for those who feel better by leaning into the misery.
Where to watch: Max

In the Mood for Love

Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung as Su Li-zhen and Chow Mo-wan in Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love. He looks at her while she looks away Image: Criterion Collection

Because: It’s the opposite of Blue Valentine. A gorgeous, sensual film of palpable yearning for love that might never be.
Where to watch: The Criterion Channel, Max

For those who want to get even

Birds of Prey

Margot Robbie rests her arms on a deli counter and looks pleadingly at her breakfast sandwich as Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey. Image: Warner Bros.

Because: Your ex is probably not as bad as the Joker, but — you know what? Maybe they are. Here are some ideas for how to move past that.
Where to watch: Netflix, Max

Kill Bill Volumes 1 and 2

Dressed in a yellow jumpsuit, Beatrix poses with her sword in Kill Bill: Volume 1 Photo: Andrew Cooper/Miramax Films

Because: It is truly inspiring how much ass Uma Thurman kicks to get to the man who wronged her.
Where to watch: Starz, AMC Plus, The Roku Channel (with ads)

John Tucker Must Die

The four women of John Tucker Must Die crowd together in a small window Image: 20th Century Fox/Courtesy Everett Collection

Because: Sometimes a dirtbag ex is the best fuel for solidarity.
Where to watch: Digital rental/purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, and Vudu

If a rom-com does it for you

Miss Congeniality

Sandra Bullock looks confused with pigtails in Miss Congeniality Image: Warner Home Video

Because: It’s one of the best rom-coms about finding someone who likes you for you while also being a very fun spy movie.
Where to watch: Digital rental/purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, and Vudu

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Ian (John Corbett) and Toula (Nia Vardalos) laugh in the backseat of a car in a screenshot from My Big Fat Greek Wedding Photo: IFC Films

Because: You might have your family all up in your business, and it’s nice to remember you might actually like them.
Where to watch: Max

Hitch

Will Smith as Hitch in Hitch. Image: Columbia Pictures

Because: You could be the suavest mfer in the world and none of it will matter when the time comes. You should be yourself! That is wholly original advice I just made up right now.
Where to watch: Hulu

If a rom-com about loving yourself is the answer

Legally Blonde

Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde walks in a pink dress with a big smile Image: MGM

Because: Breakups are a great time for self-actualization. You can become a famous lawyer right now! Do it!
Where to watch: Max

My Best Friend’s Wedding

Julia Roberts and Dermot Mulroney hug in an airport Image: TriStar Pictures

Because: Sometimes you should sing “I Say a Little Prayer” very loudly in a restaurant.
Where to watch: Netflix, Starz

(500) Days of Summer

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel look at each other in (500) Days of Summer. Image: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Because: All that negative energy you’re feeling toward a person? It’s great fuel for finally becoming an architect working toward your goals. It’s fine if you have to break a few plates first, though.
Where to watch: Hulu, Max

If you just don’t want to do anything anytime soon

The Lord of the Rings trilogy (Extended Edition)

Image: New Line Cinema

Because: What else are you going to do for the next 12 hours? Hell, queue up Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Dekalog next. You’ve got the time.
Where to watch: Prime Video, Max

The next level of puzzles.

Take a break from your day by playing a puzzle or two! We’ve got SpellTower, Typeshift, crosswords, and more.