The Best Movies For Getting Over Your Ex

By Ly Ngo

Our goal here is simple: to help you curate the perfect Rolodex of movies that will help you deal if or when things with your loved one fall apart. And, to help us in our quest for catharsis, we’ve consulted the very academic Kübler-Ross model of handling grief, which divides the process into five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance (because, above all else, we here at Refinery29 are nothing if not academics, of course).

There are many different types of breakup movies: the ones that are actually about breakups in the literal sense and the ones that deal with the different stages of breakups metaphorically. For instance: (500) Days of Summer. That’s about breakups. The Hours, on the other hand, is about handling grief, an emotion that occurs after any loss — especially the loss of a relationship. Because a list of breakup movies exists around every corner of the Internet, we’re digging deeper into the films that will help you cope with those separations in a far less overt but no less helpful way.

Movies, above all else, are therapeutic. The best ones allow us to relieve, relive, or re-evaluate our most tender experiences in a way that no other art form can. Click through to see our picks for the films that will aid you in getting through every one of those five stages — and straight on to renewal.

Girls Trip(2017)

You get by with a little help from your friends. When you’re recovering from a break-up, it’s best to surround yourself with your clan, like the women in this hilarious, raunchy film do. Ryan (Regina Hall), Sasha (Queen Latifah), Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith), and Dina (Tiffany Haddish) travel to New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival, and hijinks follow.

Michele K. Short/Universal/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Four Weddings and a Funeral(1994)

Charles (Hugh Grant) is at the age when all of his friends are getting married. At one wedding, he meets an American woman named Carrie (Andie MacDowell), but she has to leave for the States the day after their affair. The movie follows Carrie and Charles’ crises in timing, and reminds us that the path to love is long and winding. Who knows what could happen?

Polygram/Channel 4/Working Title/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Kubo & The Two Strings (2016)

Magical animated movies about family and folk tales are good for any time in your life. But Kubo’ s emphasis on forgiveness and new beginnings will be an especially healing message during this time. In the film, young Kubo discovers that the tall tales his mother has been telling him his whole life are actually true, and now he must defeat the villains from her stories — who happen to be his own aunts and grandfather.

John Tucker Must Die(2006)

After three women discover they’re all dating the same human trashcan, John Tucker (Jesse Metcalfe), they band together to break his heart and take him down. Watch this movie if post-breakup vitriol is coursing through your veins.

Mamma Mia(2008)

Aside from time, salted caramel chocolate bars, and lots of sleep, Meryl Streep singing ABBA on a Greek island is all you need for a pick-me-up.

Hot Fuzz(2007)

As Hot Fuzz shows, friendship’s the most important ingredient in getting over anything, whether it be a move to a provincial British town, or a break-up.

Moana(2016)

Moana’s not your childhood’s Disney princess. The intrepid leader of her people, Moana ventures to sea to end the curse plaguing the crops on her Pacific Island home.

She befriends a demi-god. She learns to sail. She saves her people. And the best part? There’s not a prince in sight.

Disney/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Walking and Talking(1996)

The most essential part of a breakup cure? Good friends. In Walking and Talking, Amelia (Catherine Keener) is pettily jealous when her best friend, Laura (Anne Heche), moves out to live with her fiancé. As Amelia’s life gets more complicated, she has to swallow her envy and turn to her best friend. Let ’90s friendships swaddle you.

Zenith Prods/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Lovely & Amazing(2002)

Jane Marks (Brenda Blethyn) already has two grown daughters. When she’s in her 50s, she adopts an 8-year-old Black daughter. In Lovely & Amazing, Jane and her three daughters navigate their lives, their neuroses, and each other, with doses of humor and dysfunction.

Alexia Pilat/Lions Gate/REX/Shutterstock

High Fidelity(2000)

As record store owner Rob Gordon (John Cusack) narrates his ex-relationships with equal parts charm and self-loathing, you’ll be reminded why relationships are such a drag in the first place.

Thelma and Louise(1991)

Let these heroines remind you who the most important relationship in your life is: your best friend.

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Before Sunrise(1995)

The plot of this acclaimed Richard Linklater film is as simple as they come. On his way to Vienna, an American named Jesse (Ethan Hawke) becomes smitten with a Celine (Julie Delpy), a French student going home to Paris. Jesse convinces Celine to go to Vienna for a night with him, and the movie tracks their wandering and their conversation. It reminds you of the adventures just around the corner if you follow your impulses. Think of all the great conversations in your future.

Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock

Amelie(2001)

In this acclaimed French movie, Audrey Tatou plays an imaginative and mischievous waitress who decides to interfere (and hopefully improve) other peoples’ lives. Bursting with whimsy, this movie will remind you that the world is still full of magic and a new beginning’s just a choice away.

Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock

Sliding Doors(1998)

In one version of reality, Gwyneth Paltrow’s character makes it onto a subway car by a second. In another version of reality, she misses the train. Following her down both paths, the movie envisions how her lives go on different tracks from that split-second instance. It’ll remind you of life’s unpredictability, and how this period of pain might be paving the way for something better down the line.

Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock

The Reader(2008)

Hey — at least your ex wasn’t a former Nazi guard who finds herself on trial for the murder of hundreds of innocent people.

Crazy Stupid Love (2011)

When life throws you a lemon, toss it, and go make out with Ryan Gosling.

To Have Or Have Not (1944)

Channel your inner Lauren Bacall and go out on the town. You don’t need anyone to tell you what to do.

Fifty Shades Of Grey (2015)

Take heart in the knowledge that though you may be single, you aren’t dating a sociopath with a penchant for painful sex.

Pride & Prejudice (2005)

Any version of this Jane Austen classic will do the trick, but we suggest the 2005 adaptation starring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennett and Matthew Macfadyen as a very broody, very sexy Mr. Darcy.

The Graduate (1967)

Breakups are tough. But the guy you’re seeing cheating on you with your mother? That’s some heavy shit.

2 Days In Paris (2007)

No matter how painful the breakup, it’s probably better than introducing your non-French speaking American boyfriend to your sexually-liberated parents and a slew of exes.

Sometimes, schadenfreude is the best remedy for heartbreak.

Youtube.

Bridesmaids (2011)
If spending time with your best friends is a crucial part of getting over an ex, then why not spend it with a group of fictional characters who are sure to distract you from your pain for at least two hours? Plus, if you just got out of a crappy relationship, it’s helpful to see what a good one looks like. (Sup, Chris O’Dowd?)

Photo: Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock.

Heathers(1988)

“I just killed my best friend.”
“And, worst enemy…”
“Same difference.”

Of course, we aren’t advocating any sort of accidental-murder crime spree here, but Heathers is the perfect reminder that sometimes the people stuck in your life are the ones who are the most poisonous. And, nothing feels better than Winona Ryder telling the psychopathic Christian Slater that all she wants is “Cool dudes like you out of my life.”

Photo: Courtesy of New World Pictures.

Great Expectations (1998)
Yes, in the end, Finn and Estella end up together, kind of. But Finn spends his entire life being punished by Paltrow’s Estella and the Miss Havisham-styled Anne Bancroft, and he leads himself to incorrectly believe he can make himself be what she wants. In this version of Great Expectations, Finn denies that Estella is only there to break his heart, and it’s true: Estella is only won when no one else wants her.

Photo: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

Brooklyn (2015)
Sometimes, the hardest part of a breakup is starting over. It’s learning how to get up in the morning and not talk to your former partner and how to make plans that involve only yourself. As such, this can also be the most depressing part of a split. So, if you need an affirmation that you will come out the other end of this a better, more confident person, watch Eilis immigrate from Ireland to 1950s New York.

Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures/Photofest.

Celeste & Jesse Forever (2002)
They say you should marry your best friend. But what if you marry that person only to realize that you’re better off as, well, best friends? This movie explores that heartbreaking grey area between a friendship and a relationship. Watch it. Cry a lot. Feel better about your breakup.

Photo: Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock.

Silver Linings Playbook(2012)

There’s nothing sadder than watching someone refuse to accept the end of a relationship, but that’s what makes the burgeoning romance between Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence’s manic lovebirds so darn powerful. It’s only once Cooper’s character learns to let go of the woman who abandoned him that he can see the woman who’s standing right in front of him.

Photo: Courtesy of The Weinstein Company.

Chasing Amy(1997)

Ben Affleck’s Holden ends the movie by actually bargaining with his best friend and his girlfriend, offering a pretty stupid solution for all of the tension between them. And, the thing is, you can’t persuade anyone — especially yourself — to accept the one you love.

Photo: Courtesy of Buena Vista Pictures.

An Unmarried Woman(1978)

Another man-leaving-for-a-younger-woman tale, this snapshot of New York in the ’70s doesn’t just address the end of a relationship but the sexual liberation of women as well. Jill Clayburgh, who was nominated for an Academy Award for this role, goes through the same five stages of Kübler-Ross outlined here, but she emerges from the other side empowered — and sexually fulfilled.

Photo: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

She-Devil(1989)

Imagine the premise of The Other Woman, except, instead of the pretty and palatable Cameron/Leslie/Kate trio, you have a maniacal Roseanne Barr with an angry mole. After being treated horribly by her husband, Barr’s Ruth goes after her husband’s four assets — home, family, job, and freedom — taking down the campy, WASP-y Meryl Streep (who is in true comedic form), who stole her husband. Brutal, evil, and demonstrative that hell hath no fury.

Photo: Courtesy of Orion Pictures.

My Best Friend’s Wedding(1997)

Watching Julia Roberts play a woman who wants what she can’t have is like watching a cow go swimming. It’s not supposed to happen. But, as a lifelong careerist pining for her best friend as he plans his, duh, wedding, Roberts convinces us that falling in love with the wrong person is just as hard as it sounds.

Photo: Courtesy of TriStar Pictures.

Chinatown(1974)

Watching Jack Nicholson’s bandaged gumshoe roam through Roman Polanski’s bleak depiction of postwar Los Angeles is just as depressing as it sounds. This classic neo-noir — in which the rich get richer, the disenfranchised drown, and corruption is rampant — is a staunch reminder that the world we live in is a scary, scary place.

Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind(2004)

Have you ever wished you’d never met the person who broke your heart? In Charlie Kaufman’s oddball romance, Joel Barrish (Jim Carrey) has that wish granted via a mysterious procedure in which the memories of his ex-girlfriend (Kate Winslet) are erased. It’s only then that he realizes the love they shared was worth the loss, but simultaneously, we are destined to repeat our same mistakes — no matter how good our intentions may be. Sometimes, love is just not enough.

Photo: Snap Stills/REX/Shutterstock.

The First Wives Club(1996)

Yes, this movie does work on the premise that, after a certain age, your husband will probably leave you for a younger woman, which kind of sucks. But, it also affirms the power of a womanly bond and what happens when determined, strong women focus on something other than men.

Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

(500) Days of Summer (2009)

Who else but Zooey Deschanel’s crush-worthy manic pixie dream girl could take a man’s heart and totally pulverize it? In Marc Webb’s refreshing take on the rom-com, that man is Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a hopeless romantic who must suffer the pains of a disintegrating relationship, before he emerges clear-eyed on the other side.

Photo: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight.

Postcards from the Edge (1990)

Adapted from Carrie Fisher’s true life story about getting clean and heading back to acting, Suzanne (Meryl Streep) has to sober up in order to continue with her film career, which means confronting sleazy producers, coming to terms with her overbearing mother, and dealing with addiction. Messy Meryl is both earnest and darkly dry. The film has a wise assumption: Many of us have dysfunctional relationships with our mothers, and the sooner we realize it, the sooner we can start laughing.

Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

Blue Valentine(2010)

Derek Cianfrance’s autopsy of a relationship-gone-bad is a staunch reminder that all things fall apart. Please forgive us for our doom-and-gloom perspective, but after watching Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams trade gut-punch after gut-punch as a couple caught in a downward spiral, we’re sure you’ll agree. Relationships. Are. Hard.

Photo: Snap Stills/REX/Shutterstock.

Desperate Living(1977)

Within the first half-hour of this grating, disgusting, absolutely filthy John Waters film, Mink Stole curses out children, kills her husband, and goes on the lam with her lesbian lover. This pic teems with an urgent sense of discomfort and proves that bad guys get what’s coming to them, often up their own butts. Literally.

Photo: Courtesy of New Line Cinema.

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Forgetting Sarah Marshall(2008)

Yes, this is the one where Jason Segel gets naked. But, he bares a lot more than his private parts as a lovelorn sound mixer forced to get over his famous girlfriend (Kristen Bell). He kicks and screams and begs and pleads for her back, before finally realizing they were never meant to be. How does he get there? Two words: Mila Kunis.

Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures.

The Hours(2002)

One of the things this Oscar-nominated film does so well is depict the complex, isolating nature of depression. And, not just depression, but, particularly, feminine depression. Three different women, three different time periods, and one emotion connecting them all. The film is a deft reminder that, despite any perceived evidence to the contrary, no one is really alone.

Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Breaking the Waves (1996)

We don’t normally turn to chronic pessimist Lars von Trier for tales of redemption, but in this mesmerizing tearjerker, he puts Emily Watson’s fragile, young Bess through an emotional firestorm before bringing her back via a spiritual epiphany that will stay with you for days, months, and years.

Photo: Courtesy Artisan Entertainment
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Legally Blonde(2001)

There is one major takeaway from Legally Blonde: The best revenge is busting your ass to challenge yourself, meeting your goals, exploring new ventures, and not changing who you are in the process. So, you know, do that.

Photo: Courtesy of Metro Goldwyn-Meyer.

War of the Roses(1989)

No, this isn’t about pre-Tudor England, but about a couple with a seemingly perfect marriage that begins to fall apart. Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner bitterly turn on one another and harness their possessions, pets, and, um, chandeliers to destroy the other. Spoiler alert: It works, and it is darkly, morbidly hilarious.

Photo: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

How Stella Got Her Groove Back(1998)

Terry McMillan’s life-affirming tale of a middle-aged divorcée (Angela Bassett) who (what else?) gets her groove back is the kind of movie that will convince you that sometimes the grass really is greener on the other side. Especially when the other side is made up of a wise-cracking Whoopi Goldberg, the sun-drenched island of Jamaica, and Taye Diggs with his shirt off.

Photo: 20th Century Fox.

To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar(1995)

While this movie has no real romance (Chi-Chi’s fling hardly counts), the lesson is powerful: You are who you are, and grace, class, and a sense of goodness are the best ways to be fabulous. That, and a “Say Anything Hat Day.”

Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Up(2009)

The opening montage of Pixar’s modern classic is admittedly one of the most devastating sequences ever put on film. But, after our curmudgeonly widower develops an unlikely friendship with a pudgy Boy Scout, our faith in humanity is restored.

Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone(2001)

Thematically, this is a story about beginnings. Just think about what a magical journey Harry (and film fans) have ahead of them. Let’s all take the opportunity to start again.

Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Chasing Amy(1997)

Ben Affleck’s Holden ends the movie by actually bargaining with his best friend and his girlfriend, offering a pretty stupid solution for all of the tension between them. And, the thing is, you can’t persuade anyone — especially yourself — to accept the one you love.

Photo: Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock.

Waitress(2007)

This poignant tale of redemption features Keri Russell as a stuck-in-neutral baker who finds new life in the form of a handsome doctor (Nathan Fillion) and a bun in the oven. No, not the kind that’s cream-filled, but the kind that takes nine months to be done.

Photo: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight.

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