When you decide it’s time for some cinematic therapy, start with our picks for movies about divorce, the top ten of the best laughers and criers about breaking up. And don’t forget the popcorn.
We love stories because they are cathartic. There is something about seeing the struggle and pain of life reflected on the big screen that lets us we know we are not alone. Movies are a reminder that even when we feel helplessly mired in darkness, if we keep going we will reach eventually reach the light. The resolution of the third act always follows the crisis of Act II
Comedy Movies About Divorce
- War of the Roses (1989)
Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner are divorcing couple, Mr. and Mrs. Rose. The wealthy, ambitious Roses go to war when they split up and neither can abide the other getting their masterpiece of yuppie, aspirational, architecture. The battles escalate into increasing levels of madness.
The masterful trio—Douglas, Turner and Danny DeVito—take you on a ride to the hilariously extreme of a bitter, petty divorce. This black comedy is an emotional release that reassures us, it could always be worse.
- Defintely Maybe (2008)
This rosy, father-daughter comedy shows that sometimes our best days are waiting on the other side of our greatest hardships. Ryan Reynolds plays single dad, Will, whose ten-year-old daughter forces him to give up the goods on why her parents called it quits on their marriage.
Forced to face the reality of his failed marriage, and his relationship with two other women, Reynolds gains clarity. His divorce opens the path for him to pursue lasting love with the woman he is truly meant to be with. This film gives hope that every ending gradually gives way to a new, better beginning.
- Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
The incomparable Robin Williams plays a divorced dad who comes up with an outrageous strategy to be in his kids’ lives, full-time. Daniel reinserts himself into his children’s home incognito as Mrs. Doubtfire, a robust, elderly, British nanny. Through his ruse, Daniel learns how to be the amazing parent he never was when he was married and took his family for granted.
Divorced dads can relate to the hardships of shared custody, and the insecurity of a new father-figure entering the picture. This fun, family film about divorce lets you vicariously release your co-parenting stresses by enjoying the hilarious antics of one of the best comedians of our time.
- Crazy Stupid Love (2011)
Steve Carell and Julianne Moore’s twenty-year marriage hits the rocks in this divorce comedy. Ryan Gosling comes to the rescue of the clueless Carell after he is thrown back into the dating pool and starts to sink, rather than swim. Gosling’s character turns the drowning dunce into a suave player. At turns funny and sweet, this is the feel-good medicine to improve your melancholy mood.
- Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
A jaded, sharp Beverly Hills divorce attorney (George Clooney) is bowled over when he finally meets his match in a stunning, crafty gold digger (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Clooney’s character knows he should know better, but he can’t help himself from falling for the conniving bombshell. The Cohen Brothers’ take on divorce is as inventive, fun and clever as you would expect from the Oscar winners. You owe yourself these raucous laughs, and the healing that comes from them.
- Bye Bye Love (1995)
Bye Bye Love follows the trials and triumphs of divorced dads Randy Quaid, Rob Reiner, Paul Riser, and Matthew Modine. The laughs roll as these A-list funnymen tackle single parenthood, dating, and dealing with the exes. Just like life itself, the film is not all laughs. This flick also touches on the emotional process of moving on as these men navigate to the best of their varying abilities.
Dramas About Divorce
Diving into the deep end of divorce are four critically acclaimed dramatic films. We provide the titles, you bring the tissues.
- Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
One of the best movies about divorce ever made pits Meryl Streep against Dustin Hoffman in an agonizing custody battle over their six-year-old son. This story takes you on an emotional jaunt that is, at turns, overwhelmingly sad, and touchingly funny. Racking up five Academy Awards, this is a must-see for any film lover, but a truly essential cinematic journey for anyone touched by divorce.
- Irreconcilable Differences (1984)
Irreconcilable Differences is another movie that explores the toll of divorce on the most vulnerable and innocent participant, the child. Stellar performances by Shelley Long and Ryan O’Neal as spouses that are so self-serving, and self-absorbed, they constantly throw their daughter (played masterfully by a young Drew Barrymore) in the middle of their own acrimony.
Fed up with her parents’ blindness to how they are damaging her at the expense of their own pettiness, she decides to seek a divorce…from them. Drew’s character is the hero of this poignant film that puts into perspective the collateral damage of divorce.
- The Squid and the Whale (2005)
This artsy, indie dramedy features a hip, Brooklyn couple whose marriage falls apart. Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney are so caught up in their own career aspirations and dating lives that their two sons take a back seat to their own needs. Their 16 and 12-year-old sons bear the brunt of their parents’ skewed priorities and start acting out in troubling ways.
A break out Sundance film, The Squid and the Whale nabbed the Grand Jury Prize and Best Dramatic Direction and Screenwriting awards. It went on to get Hollywood cred with an Academy Award nom for Best Original Screenplay.
This indie darling gone mainstream is a brilliant take on divorce and co-parenting.
- What Maisie Knew (2012)
We see the fall out of divorce from the point-of-view of six-year-old Maisie for most of this film. Passed between a Rockstar mother (played by the incomparable Julianne Moore) and a businessman always on the go (Steve Coogan), Maisie is left mostly to her own devices to figure out what divorce means for the future of her broken family.
An artful balance between harsh reality and stirring sentiment, this movie is powerfully moving without being sappy
Breaking Up On the Big Screen
There are few things as emotionally liberating as a sad song, or a tender film, when you are down in the doldrums of life’s troubles. Movies have the power to let us process our feelings by getting out of our own heads, and away from our own difficulties, even if only temporarily. Whether you need a good laugh, or to let a few tears flow, these ten films will get you there. What movies about divorce do you go to when you need a lift, or an escape?
Tell us your fave flicks about divorce in the comments below.
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