Divorce on the Silver Screen
They say art imitates life, so it’s no wonder there are so many compelling movies about divorce. I thought I’d reflect back on some of the best divorce movies of all time, and share what I think their most important lessons might be. (If you haven’t seen these, check them out!)
Best Divorce Movies of All Time
Life of the Party (2018)
This Melissa McCarthy comedy features a heartbroken suburban mom shocked by her husband’s announcement of divorce after they drop off their daughter for her senior year of college. Trying to rebuild her life, she decides to finish college herself, and enrolls at the same university as her daughter. What ensues is a coming-of-age journey for a midlife woman who reconnects with her inner and outer passions and realizes she has a lot of life left in her.
It’s Complicated (2009)
A sweet, fun film starring Meryl Streep, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, a long-divorced couple with three grown children find each other tantalizing once again and sneak around to have an affair until their children discover their secret liaison. Both in new relationships, they rediscover what was always wonderful about one another long after their marriage fell apart. It’s hard to root for an extramarital affair, but the story is so endearing you do just that.
Wedding Crashers (2005)
Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn play divorce mediators who make the rounds of weddings uninvited just to meet and hook up with bridesmaids. Of course, these silly shenanigans end up leading to love and a reckoning of sorts, as the pair rethink their perspectives on love and marriage.
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
Robin Williams and Sally Field star as ex-spouses in this funny but sad film about a family divided by divorce and a father so pained to be away from his children that he impersonates a nanny to be near them. It was celebrated at the time it was released, but I remember feeling conflicted about liking the timeless humor of Robin Williams, as it masked the pain of the father character at the dissolution of his family.
War of the Roses (1989)
This tragicomedy featuring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito was inspired by a 1981 novel. It’s about a wealthy couple whose marriage disintegrates, and they battle bitterly over their material possessions and grandiose home. The title is a double entendre referring both to the couple’s family surname of Rose and English Civil War battles during the Middle Ages. It’s funny and at the same time devastating to see two people who once loved each other literally tear their shared life to shreds.
Irreconcilable Differences (1984)
This throwback film starred Ryan O’Neal, Shelley Long and a very young Drew Barrymore. In this film, the child decides to divorce her parents, choosing her nanny to become her legal guardian. The reason? Her parents are too self-focused to pay their daughter much attention. This movie is more a sad commentary on the missteps we make when we don’t realize how full and wonderful our lives truly are.
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
Another film-based-on-a-novel, Kramer vs. Kramer features Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep in a story about a couple’s divorce and its impact on their son. Released at a time when divorce was still relatively taboo, this movie explores topics such as the psychological impact of divorce, women’s rights and the rights of fathers, and how parenting changes once parents split.