In a few thousand years when the crab-aliens are poring through our discarded hard drives and films prints, they’ll know exactly two things about us right away:
1. We liked explosions.
2. We talked about love and heartbreak constantly.
Both are true.
We asked our staff to vote for their favorite movies about love and heartbreak. These were the winners, in no particular order.
So grab some ice cream, your softest blanket, and someone who won’t mind some quiet sobbing during the low point of the second act.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – 2004
Regular Glitterati Lobotomy readers will already be aware that we kind of have a thing for the work of Charlie Kaufman, and Eternal Sunshine is probably his most famous movie to date.
It’s also probably the most famous Michel Gondry movie, a director who otherwise is just too creative for his own good.
With their forces combined, they made a very strange movie that somehow had broad appeal and a lighthearted tone, despite the fact that it’s a movie about love, heartbreak, memory, emotional pain, and the everyday joys of a long-lasting relationship.
A distressed and isolated man, Joel Barish (played by a surprisingly deep and soulful Jim Carrey), struggles to remember what he’s been doing with his life for the past couple of years.
He finds a strange medical office that offers memory removal.
We watch as some bumbling technicians wipe the man’s memories of his ex-girlfriend from his mind.
During the process, Joel becomes aware of what’s happening inside his brain and tries his best to stop it.
I really can’t think of a movie that better portrays the experience of wanting to forget someone and not wanting to forget them at the same time.
There’s joy in it, as well as pain, as well as plenty of plain stress.
Moonrise Kingdom – 2012
While touring this movie all around the fancy European film festivals, director Wes Anderson said that this movie is based on the memory of a fantasy.
It’s a fantasy that I think a lot of us had when we were kids, around the time of our first love: just to run away with them and spend some time.
That’s it. And that’s all our protagonists end up doing, really.
Each of them is an outcast, in their own way. And that’s all it takes.
I like knowing that these same characters, years later, probably wouldn’t have all that much in common. That’s unimportant to this story.
This isn’t the greatest love story ever told, and it doesn’t have anything all that profound to say.
It’s a simple story that just wants to remind you what love felt like the first time you felt it. ‘Cuz that’s when it was at its most potent.
Oh yeah, and it’s a visually gorgeous movie with excellent cinematography from Robert Yeoman and some of Bruce Willis’s best acting since, I dunno, Die Hard maybe?
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul – 1973
Rainer Werner Fassbinder was a German director who made a whole bunch of movies before dying relatively young.
His movies are wonderful, but they’re also stereotypically German, meaning pretty drab, nihilistic, and harshly realistic.
Despite everything, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul is a nearly perfect movie.
It’s based pretty heavily on a 1955 movie called All That Heaven Allows from German-American director Douglas Sirk, and starring Rock Hudson, the chiseled face of the 50s.
Long story short, an older woman falls in love with a much younger Moroccan man. The world at large refuses to accept this union thanks to racism and general intolerance.
It’s not a walk through the park, this one. In fact, it’s pretty damn depressing in the grand scheme of things.
But it’s also a movie that explores a side of love and heartbreak that we don’t usually think about.
There are times when love leads us off a cliff, one we didn’t know was there until we tumbled over it.
High Fidelity – 2000
I’m sad to say that this one has kind of fallen off the map for some reason. It’s not that well ingrained in the collective memory of America, and that’s a real shame.
Based on the Nick Hornby novel of the same name, High Fidelity follows a down-and-out kind of guy, Rob, who owns a record store in Chicago.
After a bad breakup, he goes back through the lowest low points of his personal romantic history to try and figure out why he seems doomed to be left behind.
Jack Black co-stars in one of his first really iconic roles, doing plenty of air guitar stuff and signature high kicks.
Bit by bit, he starts to figure out that he’s torpedoed most of his relationships unintentionally. But the fog of memory obscured a lot of the details.
If you can’t put the time in to actually watch the movie and have your heart broken, then just listen to the soundtrack, which happens to be one of the best collections of underground 90s music around, as well as some recognizable hits worth hearing again.
Her – 2013
Who knew that Spike Jonez could move from Jackass movies to making one of the most intimate portrayals of love and romance of the modern age?
And who knew that one of the movie’s main characters would be an AI?
Joaquin Phoenix plays a fella who writes letters for other people, which introduces us to a portrait of the future so believable and sweet that it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the story from frame one.
What follows is a quiet and accurate depiction of what it feels like to fall in love unexpectedly, to get to know someone better just by spending time with them and letting secrets slip accidentally.
It’s also an insightful look at what it feels like to go through a breakup, the kind of breakup that hits hard and misses no one, like a force of nature.
This is another movie whose soundtrack deserves its own article. It’s also maybe the most thoughtful work that Arcade Fire has ever done, which is kind of saying a lot.