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Sex + Relationships

The Best Movies to Watch After a Breakup (& the Worst)

Romance movies are often box office hits. We love to watch attractive people fall in love and realize happy endings—except when we recently witnessed our own happiness crumble. Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of a breakup, you should take time after a relationship ends for personal TLC. You’ll feel compelled to stare at other men, reconnect with yourself, and, of course, watch lots of movies. These are all worthy endeavors. Often in relationships we experience tunnel vision, and movies happen to have a comforting way of illuminating things we couldn’t see happening in front of us. Freshly eligible singletons flock to Netflix in search of answers—or Ashton Kutcher’s disrobed hiney—to claim the catharsis they crave.

It’s human nature or maybe woman nature (I can’t speak for the gentlemen) to seek meaning in movies. But while you’re laying in bed alone at night, it’s crucial to remember that not all romance films are created equal. To defend and mend your sensitive single soul, equip yourself with our own breakup movie “Must and Bust” lists.


1. Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Wondering what to watch when you’re getting over an ex? Answer: A movie about someone getting over an ex. FSM is magically both relatable and ludicrous, in a way that has you forget for a few moments about your current status and laugh all the way to your core.  “You might find yourself crying, but they’ll be tears of joy!” affirms HC Contributing Writer and Syracuse student Kaitlyn Monteiro. A good movie teaches without your awareness; and alongside outrageous hilarity, FSM weaves a tale of reaching your potential and moving on after a devastating breakup.

2. Closer

If you’ve ever been played or hurt badly by an ex-flame, the mind games in this flick will continue to confuse you. Don’t get caught up with them, because the overarching theme provides an iota of relief: It wasn’t your fault! People release all kinds of agendas and personal flaws on each other that have more to do with what they’re going through personally than who they’re with. “I realized that someone can really love you, not treat you right, and it isn’t a reflection of you or their love for you. It’s a reflection of them, not wanting to get hurt,” says Kara*, a student at the University of Texas at Austin. Closer’s ensemble has blazing sexual chemistry, tart exchanges, and character defects the size of landfills. Watch and identify with Natalie Portman’s Alice. When the film ends you’ll feel like you always knew better—even if you didn’t. 

3. In Good Company

Young, naive Carter Duryea (played by Topher Grace) becomes the boss of the older Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid) at work and nails him two-fold when he begins dating Foreman’s daughter (the always-a-temptress Scarlett Johansson). Embrace the laughs and grant the far-fetched plot some leniency, because IGC yields a prudent message. “Watching it after a tough breakup it left me feeling optimistic in being independent and on my own,” recalls HC Special Events Intern Katie DiCoccio, “It reminded me that not every relationship has a fairy tale ending and that regardless of what happens, we always have our family and close friends to fall back on!”

4. 500 Days of Summer

This gem features resident-cutie Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tom, an idiosyncratic greeting card author and the elusive man who loves, well, love. Anyone who thought their ex was the perfect match will be comforted by Tom’s realization that “just because [she] loves the same bizarre crap as you doesn’t mean she’s your soul mate.”  Tom’s flaky beau Summer (Zooey Deschanel) has a cynical side, and their ups and downs may hit close to home. Even so, the ride is worthwhile: “It gives great perspective on relationships,” muses HC UC-Irvine Campus Correspondent Resham Parikh. “Watching 500 DOS is the best plan of action—the realistic and refreshing views on relationships are consoling,” includes Krista Evans, HC Simmons Campus Correspondent.

5. Legally Blonde

I’d be foolish to assume 75 percent of our generation’s collegiettes™ haven’t watched empathically as Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) screamed “Liar!” and chucked a box of chocolates at the movie playing on her TV. In fact, this very list exists so that exact scenario won’t recur. But if you’ve recently been canned, revisiting LB’s syllogism for “getting dumped–>finding yourself” is an uplifting essential.  “It’s so empowering,” agrees Krista, “Legally Blonde is definitely one to watch.”  



1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

If you’re wary of Jim Carrey in a dramatic role or the title Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (just rolls off the tongue), don’t be. ESOTSM is a fantastic picture that boasts a pristine 93% critic and audience rating on film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Just add it to your queue and save it for stronger times, because the piercing premise (if you could erase all the memories of a person you loved, would you?) is pure agony for the recently solo. “You need to feel enough distance from your situation to make it through this one unscathed,” remarks Courtney Smith, a UT Austin junior. “But if you’re safe in the reflection stage, it’s thought-provoking and can help you appreciate a relationship after it has ended.” 

2. Say Anything…

A nostalgic trip to the cushy, innocent world of high school romance is just what you need, right? Wrong. Despite its charming glimpse into the world circa 1989, viewing an adorable couple  (John Cusack and Ione Skye) navigate rocky roads and come out united and just as starry-eyed is plain intolerable. Natalie, a senior at UT Austin, concurs: “It just makes me miss the intimate times we had.” John Cusack is a particular hazard, stay away from his Serendipity as well.  

3. Going the Distance

Justin Long’s Garrett is the one-in-a-million guy who desires a long-distance relationship with Erin (Drew Barrymore), a journalist he meets while she interns in New York for the summer (potential parallels running amok, collegiettes™?). “It’s sort of sickening to watch an LDR work out so well after seeing them fail time and time again in real life,” laments Jessie Townley, a UT Austin senior. You may be able to withstand this fun well-scored ride if you haven’t been in an LDR, but hands-off if you have.

4. The Notebook

Just don’t go there, you’re asking for it, what are you insane? Heed the advice of HC Eckerd Campus Correspondent Devon Williams: “Absolutely not. I avoid movies like this at all costs post-breakup.”

5. ANY movie that you and your ex have seen together

If you watch a movie you shared with an ex too soon, you might as well be staring at his picture all night. Temptations to text him will arise while you’re watching or even after, so simply abstain. “Any movie that I saw with an ex-boyfriend makes me miss and think about him,” confirms HC Editorial Intern and BU student Maddie Bourque.  Seize this opportunity for cinematic exploration!

Breakups in college are crushing because they’re often the most intense romantic relationships that we’ve known, but they’re necessary. They incite retrospection and growth, maturity and discernment. Getting lost in a romance movie allows us to process the feelings that we normally fight to keep internal, to gain perspective on emotions that are rarely simple. There are endless movies out there with something to say about love, but the right film will recognize the romance of life as you become your own. 

*Name has been changed to preserve anonymity

College women from across the country

Alana Peden handles public relations for the one-of-a-kind Austin startup SpareFoot.  Her interests span from how to wield a mascara wand to the intricacies of the 3-4 defense, as does her writing repertoire. She has interned in the beauty departments at Lucky and Good Housekeeping, covered college athletics for Horns Illustrated, and contributed gleefully to Texas Music. Always game for a laugh at her own expense, Alana aspires to one day give the universe back a scintilla of what it gives to her. When she's not reading or writing,  she's planning elaborate outfits for hypothetical situations unlikely to materialize. Please reach Alana here. 
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