Recently, Statistics Canada released a report claiming that 38% of all marriages end in divorce. That means every one in three couples will separate after getting married. Although considerably lower than in previous generations, this figure is still significant. Evidently, divorces remain a regular part of society. The best divorce movies reflect this phenomenon, capturing the heartbreak and emotional turmoil after a relationship ends. Divorce is one of the few everyday tragedies that have been treated with maturity on film.
Nowadays, people who enter into marriage at a younger age tend to stay together. Nevertheless, some couples still separate due to irreconcilable differences. When a marriage ends with the parents separating, it may carry character-defining consequences for the kids involved. Messy divorces often destroy a child’s sense of stability and comfort. The parents are responsible for minimizing this distress.
The good news is not all divorces must be traumatizing. If both parties can reach an amicable agreement through their family lawyers, the legal proceedings will go smoothly and kindly. A friendly divorce is better for everybody involved. The minimal drama allows the two former spouses to exit their marriage with dignity. They don’t have to remain friends or stay in touch afterward. Nevertheless, the ideal scenario is that you and your ex do not feel hostile toward each other.
A real-life divorce is different from its fictional counterpart in movies. You must tread carefully with your divorced partner in the real world. However, the film protagonists have more freedom to respond emotionally to the end of their relationships. Let’s check out the best divorce movies about breakups and moving on.
8 Movies About Breakups and Moving On
- Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
- The War of the Roses (1989)
- Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
- The Squid and The Whale (2005)
- Husbands and Wives (1992)
- Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
- The Philadelphia Story (1940)
- It’s Complicated (2009)
Best Divorce Movies
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
|Kramer vs. Kramer
Kramer vs. Kramer is the best divorce movie of all time. The film received critical accolades after its release. Robert Benton’s portrayal of a family collapsing led the 52nd Annual Academy Awards with nine nominations. Kramer vs Kramer secured wins for Best Actor (Dustin Hoffman), Best Actress (Meryl Streep) and Best Picture.
The movie sheds insight into the effects of divorce on a young child, as Hoffman must downgrade his lifestyle while growing envious of his ex’s success. Kramer vs. Kramer is especially notable for its in-depth view of how a child feels caught in the middle, unsure of his role during a divorce.
The War of the Roses (1989)
|The War of the Roses
The War of the Roses is an excellent movie about divorces, breakups, and moving on. This film features Danny DeVito’s comedic take-down of a bitter, contemptuous relationship between two upper-middle-class, career-driven people. The characters are portrayed by Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner in stellar performances.
Both leads brutally tear apart their relationship piece by piece while never forgetting to be funny. Despite a seemingly comical approach to the subject material, the petty jealousies between the leads are relatable until an inevitably dark climax.
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
Mrs. Doubtfire is one of the most famous divorce movies. This film makes viewers miss the riff, one-of-a-kind nature of Robin Williams, a loving but irresponsible husband to Sally Field. The characters are pushed over the edge after their child’s birthday, leading to a separation between the married couple.
Rather than part ways with his children, Williams uses his trained acting ability and make-up-artist brother to create a caretaker. He can bond with his kids while also learning of his misgivings as a husband. The movie also features a pre-James Bond Pierce Brosnan as Williams’ romantic rival.
The Squid and The Whale (2005)
|The Squid and The Whale
The Squid and The Whale is Noah Baumbach’s autobiographical indie movie. It tells the story of a young man (Jesse Eisenberg) who idolizes his father, even after his shortcomings are revealed in divorce proceedings.
Like those in the film, Baumbach’s parents were both writers, constantly at odds or jealous of one another’s success. However, the focus is on Eisenberg’s story, as he untangles his complex relationship with his cynical, self-aggrandizing father to truly be free. Alternately funny and touching, Baumbach’s divorce film is a difficult but necessary watch.
Husbands and Wives (1992)
|Husbands and Wives
Husbands and Wives is one of the top movies made by Woody Allen. This slice-of-life dramedy follows two couples as their relationships fall apart. One of the best of the director’s oeuvre of the decade, rarely do you find Allen so earnest.
Sydney Pollack, director-turned-actor, is a stand-out man with a less than a stable wife in the throes of separation. This movie is not specifically about divorce. Nonetheless, it is about the marital woes that will always linger between couples, even if they stay together.
Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
Intolerable Cruelty is a divorce movie from the Coen brothers. The film is a love-letter to slapstick comedies of old. In this story, hotshot divorce lawyer George Clooney falls head-over-heels with his latest client. Hijinks worthy of Frank Capra ensue, particularly involving an asthmatic hitman.
Among the consensus, this movie is rated as a lesser Coen Bros. effort. Nonetheless, it still has all the charm and snappy dialogue the duo has become known for.
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
|The Philadelphia Story
The Philadelphia Story is one of the oldest divorce movies in cinema history. The breakup can all be explained in the first shot: Kathryn Hepburn is seen throwing Cary Grant and his things out of her estate. He approaches her, only to shove her down by the face.
The film then continues with a lovelorn, failed novelist (Jimmy Stewart) selling himself short by covering Hepburn’s remarriage to a socialite. Grant reappears, highlighting Hepburn’s own doubts about her impending marriage. Class, romance and alcohol all get thrown into the mix before the inevitable conclusion, with some of the funniest performances given by Stewart and Grant.
It’s Complicated (2009)
It’s Complicated is a divorce movie with a happy ending. Nancy Meyers’ film is a recent sleeper hit. Former couple Alec Baldwin and Meryll Streep fall back into a casual relationship while she’s romancing Steve Martin.
Things get well complicated when the former spouse’s parents and Martin must reconcile Baldwin and Streep’s near-reconciliation. Ultimately, the characters have to realize they aren’t right for each other.
Best Divorce Movies – Popular Questions
Kramer vs. Kramer is the best divorce movie in history. The critically acclaimed story received positive reviews after its release. In 1980, this film racked up multiple Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Mrs. Doubtfire is a good breakup movie with warm humour that cheers you up during depressing times. Robin Williams brings a zesty energy to his role, arguably one of the most delightful performances in his career.