Top 5 Movies to Watch Before You Break Up with Someone

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We’re celebrating Autostraddle’s Fifth Birthday all month long by publishing a bunch of Top Fives. This is one of them!

It’s very possible that watching these movies will cause you to question every relationship you’ve ever been in. Maybe it will make you realize how lucky you are to be in your current relationship. Or maybe it will make you realize you should have been out the fucking door months ago. It’s not an easy thing to do but breaking up should be a decision, not a reaction and sometimes you need a little perspective to help you make the right choice. What better way to gain some of that than by watching movies meant to manipulate you emotionally? A lot of people are weary of this method as films often romanticize relationships but I find that this approach only reinforces what you already know deep down. Plus, most of these have endings that I’ll call emotionally complex.

Celeste and Jesse Forever

Celeste and Jesse Forever is a 2012 romcom starring Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg. They play a pair of best friends that married young but are driven apart by Jesse’s unwillingness to grow up. I think this movie, more than others on this list, is about regret and acceptance. It also features Emma Roberts who’s always a delight.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a 2004 romantic science fiction film that more than anything else should teach you never to try and win a breakup. It stars Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet as a former couple that erases their memories of each other. I honestly think that before you commit to a relationship with someone, you should ask them what the “okay” in this movie means to them. It doesn’t have to determine whether you should be in a relationship with them or anything but you should know where they stand on this scene going in.

Take This Waltz

Take This Waltz is a 2011 comedy drama for which Michelle Williams deserves every award in the world. It also stars Seth Rogen and Sarah Silverman (and also Luke Kirby but who cares). This film is basically about a woman with a bad case of chronic melancholia that tries to fill her happiness gap with other people instead of realizing her lack of fulfillment has more do to with what’s going on with her than what’s happening in her relationship. It’s terrifying because I think it shows how completely oblivious one party can be that their relationship is in crisis.


Usually I remember where I was when I saw a movie. Who I was with. What we talked about after. Sometimes I mix up the details but there are always details. Except for Click (2006). I don’t remember any of that. I don’t even remember what this movie was about. If you tried to make me watch it again, I’d probably run because it’s uncomfortable thinking about how sad it made me. It was a different kind of sadness that what other movies cause. One that just sat there. Maybe because it was an Adam Sandler film so it snuck up on me. Maybe I was just GOING THROUGH A THING (because when am I not, send help). I’m assuming that if it made me that sad, there has to be a lesson about life and love in there.

The Notebook

What can I say about The Notebook (2004) that hasn’t already been said? Probably a lot because I’m extremely unique and my voice is missing from most conversations. The Notebook is based on a Nicholas Sparks novel which is something you say when you want people to roll their eyes. I’ve never read one of his books so that’s just something I’ve picked up on in my day to day interactions with annoying people. I guess to me this one is about how some people are all, “this relationship was different, nothing will ever compare, etc. etc.” and everyone else is like, “calm down, you’ll be fine, that’s what you think now but eventually you’ll find someone you feel as strongly about again” and how those people could be VERY WRONG. So maybe you’ll break up with the love of your life for whatever reason and they’ll be gone and you’ll just sit with that forever I guess. Oh, it stars Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams.

Header Image by Rory Midhani

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Brittani Nichols is a Los Angeles based comedy person. When she's not tweeting about white people or watching television, she's probably eating pizza. Actually, she's probably doing all three of those things concurrently and when she's not doing THAT, she's sleeping. Brittani also went to Yale and feels weird about mentioning it but wants you to know.

Brittani has written 328 articles for us.


  1. Click, to date, is the only movie that has ever made me cry. I like to think it’s because I was going through a thing, but it definitely also caught me off guard for the same reasons you detail (it’s an Adam Sandler movie!). Also, don’t watch Celeste and Jesse Forever if you’re on an airplane leaving the country two days after you got dumped by your long-term partner. I’m not kidding, never do this.

    • Totally with you on ‘Click’. And does watching ‘Celeste & Jesse Forever’ while traveling out of the country with a parent while being sad about an ex count?

    • Are you saying that even though you watched Celeste and Jesse Forever on an airplane leaving the country for two days after you got dumped by your long-term partner you didn’t cry? Only Click made you cry?!?!

      • I’m not sure that one counts because I was crying when I got on the plane and didn’t really stop for about 18 hours, most of which were non-viewing hours. It probably played a part though, you’re right.

  2. Oh my God. Yes to all of these! I love all of them dearly. But I would definitely add PS.I Love You and Blue Valentine. They break my heart into a million pieces every time.

    • God, Blue Valentine is so heartbreaking. And Gosling and Williams are brilliant in it. Love that movie (but won’t watch it unless I’m already sad)

      • Oh man. That’s always a tough decision. It’s like do I watch it because I’m already sad and so this won’t do too much damage or wait until I’m in a good place and hope the levees don’t break.

  3. Also, Lola Versus! Greta Gerwig plays a woman whose fiance calls the wedding off, then she tries to put her life back together. It’s totally charming and gut wrenching. Also there’s a miserable/hilarious sex scene set to Ani Difranco.

  4. Eternal Sunshine Of the spotless mind is one of my favourites. I’m pretty sure you should make an article about the “okay”. I’d read the hell out of that.

  5. Oooo I read three lines of this before realising that I really, really want to watch a film about a straight couple who marry young but grow apart because the woman refuses to grow up. I think that would be super interesting. Anyone know any films in a similar vein?

    • Ghost World? Steve Buscemi and Thora Birch arent exactly high school sweethearts, but Scarlett Johanssen kinda fills in the missing pieces to the formula.

  6. Wow. Thank you for making me realize all this time I took for granted exactly what the “okay” meant.

    Eternal Sunshine is beautiful, ugh. Bonus points for being part of my introduction to the Polyphonic Spree (they were kinda everywhere back then), who are now a vital part of my life here in Dallas.

  7. What does it say that I own all but one of these? Imma keep it positive/shy away from any truths and say that I should probably just watch Take This Waltz.

  8. Also, the movie Closer always makes me want to break up with somebody because WE ARE ALL MONSTERS WHO LIE

    • True story: I had my first ever “thing” with a girl, but it wasn’t a “thing” because I was STRAIGHT. OF COURSE. I was finally coming to terms with it when I watched Closer. And I almost ran away from college and broke off contact with everyone who knew me because it scared the hell out of me. I sat in a chair all evening in my dorm room alone and didn’t turn on the lights when it got dark and I just sat there. All evening.

      • I want to watch it, but won’t because it has Jude Law and Julia
        Roberts in it, and, I’d not be able to remain cool. They both annoy me.

        The burden of taking Jude Law and Julia Roberts seriously in the same movie is too much.
        I even read the premise for it, and it sounds good, but eurrghh Jude Law and major eye roll Julia Roberts.

    • yeah I walked out of that movie in December 2004 and was like “ok, it’s time to get a sexy job and break up with my boyfriend.” AND I DID. i even got a new journal and put an alice quote on the cover. i saw it in the theater twice, actually. i’d already seen the play, so i knew the gist of it, but i don’t know, that movie just destroyed me.

  9. yes to blue valentine. it tears my heart in two, and puts one half in my gut and one half in my throat. i could not stop hyperventilating through the whole thing, but i think that was partially bc it was like watching my last relationship play out, minus the kid and marriage. thank fucking god

  10. Take This Waltz is so great. I love so many things about it. I love how it’s open to interpretation. The first time I saw it, I immediately watched it again. (Thanks, Netflix!) Sarah Polley is a genius.

  11. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a 2004 romantic science fiction film that more than anything else should teach you never to try and win a breakup

    Part of the reason I signed up for A Camp 3.0 was to “win” a breakup and I met my current girlfriend there so I would say that I won that breakup idk

  12. Am I the only person ever to have seen Happy Endings? It is, for some reason, pretty much my favorite. Because, you know, subtitling what is going on in normal-level screwed up people’s heads is always a plus. Also despite being sort of ish sad it’s hilarious.

    But for real whenever anything interesting / bad in my life is going to happen/needs to happen I end up watching the Boondock Saints. That is probably why I will always be single.

  13. Great article but it came up a little too late for me…

    2 days ago I told my long term girlfriend that I’d rather break up than keep waiting for her to magically turn into the person I fell in love with years ago…
    And yes, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is beautiful and one of my favorite movies ever, but I can’t even think about it without tearing up. :'(

  14. I’m kind of surprised that nobody has mentioned 500 Days of Summer yet. I love how that movie depicts the way in which you can remember a single particular moment in very different ways at different times, depending on where you are in your relationship/life in general.

  15. “celeste and jesse forever”! so good. i watched that after a breakup and it did pretty much destroy me. but i would also add “conversations with other women” – helena bonham carter and aaron eckhart being amazing.

  16. Omg autostraddle what are you doing to me?! I just watched the trailers for Celeste & Jesse Forever and Take This Waltz. Dying.

    When I think RomCom I think… When Harry Met Sally and My Best Friend’s Wedding. Notting Hill. Imagine Me & You. <–best. But these are making me realize they're not all cheese and also that I actually have feelings! I wish there was more non-heteronormativity though.

  17. I recommend watching “Like Crazy”, which is about a long distance relationship and breaking up, and how you just sort of naturally gravitate towards someone no matter what happens even if its been years since.

    Accidentally watched this movie after I broke up with my girlfriend because it was on tv and I had nothing else to do except eat my feelings and sleep. Bad idea. Still can’t watch this movie even if it’s been a year.

  18. Take This Waltz is a TERRIFIC movie. Also one that made my girlfriend weep off and on for a couple of hours, because movies like that convince love never lasts, and then I have to do all the goofy stuff I do, in particular I do an interpretive dance to “Let’s Stay Together” by Marvin Gaye, which happened once spontaneously, and has become my go-to response for times like this. I recommend it.

  19. I’ve never seen any of these movies…I guess its time to crawl out from under my rock grab my whiskey and get to work!

  20. When I was in a long distance NY-Lon relationship we once watched Joe Swanberg’s Nights and Weekends during a visit. So bleak. We both just sat there thinking, “so THIS is what’s going to happen”. And lo…

  21. I’d like to add “Blue is the Warmest Color” to this list of death knells. If your honey doesn’t want to get it on after (or during) that, you’re doomed. We broke up two days after watching it.

    (Although, I did just want Adele to CLOSER HER EFFIN MOUTH 30 minutes in. Lips together, just ONCE.)

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