Cupid Counterpoint: What's the Most Heart-Shattering Break-Up in Movies?

You might have heard that it's Valentine's Day, which means romantic ruminations and reflections and perhaps an irresponsible outlay of cash in the humiliating pursuit of way more than a kiss goodnight. You know who you are. For others, it's a chance to look on at the utter futility of love in all its heart-shattering horror. We know who we are, and it's time to represent. To wit: Let's talk about the most pulverizing break-ups in cinema.

I'll just get right to my pick: Cloris Leachman letting Timothy Bottoms have it at the end of The Last Picture Show. No Valentine's Day is complete without a good, wracking cry, and I now can say I've had mine:

Mrs. Popper's classic "Never you mind" does technically open her relationship status with Sonny up to some ambiguity, but "You shouldn't have come here; I'm around that corner now" pretty much cements the deal for me every single time. I'd also argue it cemented Leachman's Oscar win for her performance; alas, that's a conversation for another time.

Your emotional mileage may and likely will vary, of course, so let's hear about it below. Life is too short for love.

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  • Capote99 says:

    The opening scene of "Happiness" is pretty spot-on. "I'm champagne, and you're shit. Until the day you die, you, not me, will always be shit."

  • MartiniShark says:

    "The Last Waltz"

    (It'll come to you)

  • The Winchester says:

    Always felt the break up scene in Chasing Amy (in the apartment, not the hockey game) was heartbreaking, but mostly because of Jason Lee and Ben Affleck's characters' break up.

    They were best friends, and that part always made my heart ache just a bit more than the the girl break up.

  • Patrick Hallstein / McEvoy-Halston says:

    Nothing is more deadly than our being dismissed by our mothers, so brilliant choice, Stu. However, keeping faith with my intention "to not go there again," I'm thinking maybe Castaway (mostly the volleyball, but it's sad in both cases), and perhaps Against All Odds.

    • j'accuse! says:

      If that's the case, then it's not a movie, but Tony Soprano's own mother obliquely ordering a hit on him is pretty dang heart-shattering.

  • j'accuse! says:

    Is Ryan Kwanten Timothy Bottoms' son? Really, put them side by side...the resemblance is uncanny.

  • blizzard bound says:

    I think it was the saddest sex scene in the world that won Cloris Leachman her Oscar in that movie, Stu.

    Fun Fact: I saw this movie with my mother (!!) when I was a wee pre-teen. I remember her turning to me before the movie started and saying, "I hope this movie isn't too risky for you." Perhaps she meant risque.

    • S.T. VanAirsdale says:

      I think it was the saddest sex scene in the world that won Cloris Leachman her Oscar in that movie, Stu.

      Yes! That, too.

      And your mother rules.

  • ab says:

    kate winslet and jim carrey silently eating sushi in eternal sunshine. she finally says something. "will you do me a favour and clean the god-damned hair off the soap when you’re in the shower."

    the scene crushes me.

  • HV says:

    Rope. It just chokes me up when, in the end, those two guys couldn't make it work.

  • Shadow says:

    In My Own Private Idaho, when Scott Favor, having come into his inheritance, abandons narcoleptic Mike in Italy to fend for himself -- then later in the back of his limousine drives past Mike sleeping on the pavement in squalor with callous disregard. A crushing end to one of arthouse cinema's great unrequited love stories, made uniquely shattering by the late River Phoenix's stunning performance as Mike Waters.

    • j'accuse! says:

      Having never seen it, I really thought this movie took place mainly in Idaho. James Franco would be very disappointed with me.

  • Jack Knive says:

    Andrzej Żuławski's Possession (1981) is the most horrifyingly real portrait of "breaking up" this side of a Bergman flick.

    And, by the way, Scenes From A Marriage, anyone?

    • S.T. VanAirsdale says:

      Ahhhh, yes, the good old SFAM. That was excruciating. That said, don't they wind up together-ish in the end anyway? In fact, that's what I probably liked most about the film; it wasn't a "happy" ending as much as a meticulously detailed depiction of a real relationship -- that cycle, that combustibility, that vulnerability. To paraphrase what Gregory Corso once said about poems, perhaps lovers never end romances, they just abandon them. Or they die, I guess.

      Anyway, yes! Bergman was never anything if not honest.