Breaking up is hard to do. And watching your favorite characters break up? Well, it’s nearly just as brutal. For one, you’re likely emotionally invested in the relationship, which makes it difficult to watch it end. Not only that, but an on-screen breakup could remind you of your own life experiences, bringing up painful feelings and memories. At the same time, however, there’s something a tad cathartic about seeing fictional characters cope with a breakup in their own unique ways. The best movie breakup scenes aren’t just relatable, but also enlightening. Best of all, they might even help you to feel just a little bit less alone when you’re going through a difficult split.
There are so many different kinds of breakup scenes, which means that finding the right one to watch depends on your mood. If you’re in dire need of a little healing laughter, scenes like the one in Forgetting Sarah Marshall are LOL-worthy. Some scenes are guaranteed to leave you misty-eyed, like the one in The Notebook when Noah and Allie realize their relationship is doomed due to their different backgrounds (and her parents’ disapproval). Some scenes, like the one in Closer, depict breakups so harsh that you can’t help but cringe while watching them.
If you’re in the mood for a good cry, however, there are certain movies that simply can’t be matched. So, grab a box of tissues (and perhaps your bestie for emotional support), and get ready to feel all the feels with these devastating scenes.
"Sex and the City"
Sex and the City fans watched Carrie go through some brutal breakups through the seasons. Remember Berger’s post-it note and the heartbreaking split with Aidan in front of the fountain? But this scene toward the beginning of the first film might take the cake.
The will-they-won’t-they storyline between Carrie and Mr. Big seems to be heading toward a happily ever after he finally proposes and she says "yes." But then her fairytale ending comes crashing down when Big panics on his way to the wedding, leaving her heartbroken and totally humiliated.
"La La Land"
There are no tears or raised voices in this scene — in fact, Mia and Sebastian don’t even explicitly say that they’re breaking up. But that’s what makes this one so devastating. Even though they aren’t saying it out loud, you know that they know it’s over.
Sebastian encourages Mia to take the starring role in a film shooting in Paris, and when she asks what he’s going to do, he says he’ll just have to pursue his own dreams. It’s obvious that Sebastian simply doesn’t want to hold her back. And just as they are both silently coming to terms with the fact that their relationship ending, Mia says: “I’m always gonna love you.”
What makes their split even more painful is the sequence at the very end of the film that shows the life that Mia and Sebastian could have built if they stayed together. I’m not crying, you’re crying.
Who would have guessed that a breakup between a man and his talking operating system could be so gut-wrenching?
Theodore, a sensitive and introverted writer who makes a living penning personal letters for other people, gradually falls in love with Samantha, the OS that has been designed to evolve into a unique human-like entity. But while his feelings for her are real, it becomes clear that their relationship cannot be. Ultimately, Samantha explains that she and the other OSs are leaving humanity for another plane of being, and while she may not be a real person, the very human and articulate way in which she explains her feelings is remarkably poignant.
“I need you to let me go," she tells him. "As much as I want to, I can’t live in your book anymore.”
I can’t think of a film that better captures what it’s like to go through a breakup as a 20-something today than Someone Great. Sometimes it’s hilarious, sometimes it’s heartbreaking, and sometimes it’s a mix of both — which is what makes it feel realistic AF.
The majority of the film follows Jenny trying to cope with that rollercoaster of post-breakup feels (along with the help of her trusty BFFs). And through flashbacks to their now-ended relationship, you slowly learn that Jenny and Nate’s relationship had to end not only because she landed her dream job in San Fransisco, but also because they perhaps weren’t right for each other after all. Towards the end of her journey, Jenny finally finds a powerful release in writing her ex an evocative, honest letter — and it’s quite a tear-jerker.
"Crazy, Stupid Love"
Chances are, you’ll be just as shocked as Cal Weaver when his wife Emily casually reveals over a romantic dinner that she wants a divorce. Not only that, but to add salt to the wound, it turns out she’s been having an affair. So, TBH, you can’t blame Cal for attempting to jump out of their moving car on the drive home from dinner. If you’ve ever been completely and utterly blindsided by a breakup, this one might prove a tad painful to watch.
Soul-crushing. That’s the best word to describe Blue Valentine as a whole, but more specifically, this breakup scene.
Cindy and Dean’s relationship finally reaches rock bottom when Dean shows up drunk at the hospital to visit her. In a conversation after that scene, she explains that she "can’t do this anymore." And when Dean urges her to think about their daughter Frankie, she tearfully responds that she doesn’t want their child to grow up in a home "where her parents treat each other like this." Despite Dean’s desperate pleas for another chance, Cindy insists that there’s no other option.
Considering all that they’ve been through together, it’s impossible to watch this scene without getting choked up.
"I wish I knew how to quit you." Even if you’ve never seen the film, you’ve likely heard this famous line — and it’s even more heart-wrenching if you know the context around it.
There’s no doubt that Jack and Ennis are in love with each other. The only problem? They live in a time and place where homosexuality is unacceptable. That’s what makes this breakup so brutal to watch. It’s not that they want to split — they feel they have no choice in the matter. Needless to say, watching these two characters acknowledge that they can’t be together is bound to have you openly weeping.
"Breakfast at Tiffany’s"
I’m not sure if it’s the pouring rain, the cutting dialogue, or the dramatic exit from a NYC taxi cab, but this timeless breakup scene is one that’s bound to stick in your mind.
When Paul tells Holly he loves her, she rejects him, insisting that she doesn’t belong to anyone and that she refuses to let anyone "put her in a cage," even though he promises that’s not what he wants to do. Finally, a frustrated Paul hops out the cab and calls Holly out. You can see the tears welling up in her eyes as he tells her: "You’re already in that cage — you built it yourself," before throwing a ring he had engraved for her into her lap and promptly leaving. Watching Holly slowly realize that her inability to find happiness stems from her refusing to be vulnerable or get too close to anyone.
The love story between humble book store owner William Thacker and A-list actress Anna Scott is moving alone swimmingly — until Anna invites him up to her hotel room after their dinner date, and they discover that her movie star boyfriend has flown in from America to surprise her.
To make matters worse, Will has to pretend to be a hotel employee in front of them, and after a humiliating exchange with his love interest and her SO, he says goodbye. So, not only did Will have to end things with Anna when their relationship was just starting to get good, but he had to do so without getting any closure whatsoever.
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