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A Silver Screening of Heartbreak

Movies that may help with a broken heart


Is there any way to get around how bad breakups suck? Your heart hurts, you lack energy, you don't want to do anything and you can't help but hope the phone will ring and make everything OK again.

But it doesn't, and you're not OK again, at least not for a while. Fortunately, movies have always been a great escape for what ails us, and what better time than Valentine's Day to review the best and worst movies to watch during a breakup.

For starters, get as far away from romance and love as possible. Watch Die Hard or War of the Worlds. If you're not in the mood for action, try a comedy like Airplane! or Caddyshack—they're silly and fun, and it's a proven fact that the simple act of smiling helps you feel better. Dramas work, too. Watch The Shawshank Redemption for a renewed sense of hope, or One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest to remind you that you can make a difference in the lives of others, you just don't necessarily know when or where that will happen.

Whatever you do, avoid romantic comedies. Far too many of them end happily, which can be sickening when you're in despair. Avoid anything with Meg Ryan. Only the indelible John Cusack consistently makes a broken heart feel good, so if you're a fan of the 'Cuse, Say Anything is a timeless classic that's good for a laugh and reassuring for the soul. High Fidelity, a film in which Cusack tracks down five ex-girlfriends to figure out what he did wrong, is full of bitterness and a hilarious Jack Black. Whatever you do, don't waste your time with Cusack's Must Love Dogs or America's Sweethearts.

But if you insist on tugging at the heartstrings, look no further than Swingers. It's the predominant choice for guys, and features a self-pitying Mikey (Jon Favreau) and his good friend (Vince Vaughn), who teaches him the rules of the dating game. Confidence, boys, confidence gets the girls. For the ladies, a good choice is Under the Tuscan Sun. Diane Lane's character gets divorced and starts her life over in the beautiful villas of Tuscany, Italy.

Sometimes, the real fun starts after the breakup, like in the Vaughn/Jennifer Aniston vehicle The Break-Up, or the far better Michael Douglas/Kathleen Turner divorce comedy The War of the Roses. Even better, check out Closer, in which things get nasty between Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Clive Owen and Natalie Portman as their relationships fail. And for ladies who are really, really angry, Uma Thurman's Bride in Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2 gets revenge on everyone who's wronged her.

If you're looking for a movie in which people passionately fall in love only to have their lives ruined, here are a few good ones for you. Two of director Baz Luhrmann's films refuse to allow "happily ever after" to occur: both Romeo and Juliet are dead by the end of Luhrmann's 1996 version of the Shakespeare classic, and Nicole Kidman doesn't survive the bohemian grandeur of Moulin Rouge. Another modern interpretation of Romeo and Juliet is West Side Story, which also ends with one of the star-crossed lovers dead, as does Love Story, which made stars of Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal in 1970.

If you want to go really old-school, check out Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939). Robert Donat plays a teacher at a British boarding school who comes out of his shell thanks to the beautiful woman (Greer Garson) he meets while on holiday. Unfortunately, things don't end as happily as he'd like. Donat won the Oscar for Best Actor that year, beating out Clark Gable's performance in Gone with the Wind and James Stewart for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Also for the older crowd is Something's Gotta Give, in which Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton prove that you can fall in love when you're at just as big a risk for a heart attack as you are for heartbreak.

Let's end with two classics. Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) and Professor Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) were never an item in My Fair Lady, but they do curiously find themselves dependent on one another after he makes a lady out of her. This has it all: bitterness, redemption, songs about how annoying women are and how evil men can be. If you like musicals, this is one of the best you'll ever see.

And finally, although Alvy (Woody Allen) and Annie (Diane Keaton) go their separate ways at the end of Annie Hall, it's clear they're not meant to be together and are better off on their own. Hopefully you'll come to the same type of realization after your next breakup.

And even if you don't, movies are always here to comfort you.