It’s time to break out the popcorn (and maybe a box of tissues).
Sometimes you have to take therapy into your own hands – and to the movies. You may not be able to part ways with your shrink just yet, but you also may need a mini-reprieve from the format. That’s where those classic life-after-divorce movies come in. They can be both cathartic and inspiring – and a consoling reminder that you’re not alone.
There’s a reason people still flock to the oldies-but-goodies. Time may be on a fast trajectory, but emotions are timeless, especially when it comes to life-altering experiences like divorce.
If you’re drowning in your own tears or wondering whom to invite to your pity party, grab your remote and fire up your movie app.
Whether you need a big dose of the ha-ha’s or an excuse to emote into a box of tissues, Hollywood has answered the call.
Here are 6 cathartic and inspiring life-after-divorce movies to start your viewing marathon.
First Wives’ Club (1996)
No one but the incomparable Robin Williams could infuse ROTFL comedy into the delivery of poignant experiences and life lessons. (Well, Euphegenia Doubtfire might give him a little competition.)
When San Francisco voice-over actor Daniel Hillard (Williams) is divorced by his wife Miranda (Sally Field), he loses custody of his three children. Co-parenting isn’t an option, and Daniel is limited to weekend visits with his kids.
In an effort to see them more, he creates the character of an old British nanny, Mrs. Doubtfire, and applies for the job.
The beauty and genius of this movie is that it’s fun (and cathartic) for the whole family. Children of divorce will easily relate to the Hillard children. And divorced parents will easily relate to the awkwardness of someone new entering into an ex’s life and the lives of their children.
If you need some healing laughter with a dose of every-divorce-is-unique, do a Netflix night and chill with Mrs. Doubtfire.
This movie bravely steps into the possibilities and probabilities of life after divorce – children, custody, new love, stepparents, co-parenting, lingering emotions.
Julia Roberts plays Isabel, an ambitious photographer and the (younger) love interest of Luke (Ed Harris).
Luke and his ex-wife Jackie (Susan Sarandon) have two children, and Jackie is nothing if not the “perfect mom.”
Tension, resentment, fear, jealousy, and sabotaging rear their ugly heads as this family navigates the addition of a new parental figure.
And all the relationships go through a startling self-examination and transformation when Jackie learns she has cancer.
It’s Complicated (2009)
What do you get when you combine Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, and Steve Martin? Well, it’s complicated, so you’ll just have to watch to find out.
Jane (Streep) and Jake (Baldwin) have been divorced for ten years. But leave it to a family event to rekindle the fire.
The complicated part? Jake is remarried and Jane is in a relationship.
Yeah, it gets hilariously messy. They’re well past the vulnerable period of rebound relationships, but they have managed to rebound into their own affair.
You may not be in the same situation, but, if nothing else, you’ll take comfort in knowing how twisted life after divorce can be.
Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)
Author Frances Mayes expands upon her personal memoir of transforming a villa in Bramasole, Italy to tell a story of transformation after divorce.
After her husband divorces her for his affair partner, Frances, played by Diane Lane, is inconsolable.
Stuck in the early stages of grief, she accepts a life-changing gift from her lesbian-couple friends: a gay bus tour of Italy.
While there, she finds a dilapidated villa that needs as much soul work as she does.
Frances’s journey of rebuilding a crumbling edifice becomes a living metaphor for her own recovery after divorce. It also becomes the natural inspiration for her writing.
This you-can-do-this movie will move you through the agony of betrayal and divorce and into the light of healing and self-rediscovery.
And you get all that therapy while on a virtual Italian vacay.
How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998)
This life-after-divorce movie deals with one of the most obvious choices after a breakup: when to “get back out there.”
Whether you hold off on getting into a new relationship or jump the gun with an online dating profile, it’s a big choice.
Are you ready? Are you doing it for the right reasons? Are you really cut out for a relationship? What about your kids?
Stella Payne, played by Angela Bassett, is a successful stockbroker facing life after divorce in her forties.
Encouraged by her friend Delilah (Whoopi Goldberg) to take a trip to Jamaica, Stella comes face-to-face with familiar feelings and temptations. (Hey, with a temptation like Taye Diggs, what woman wouldn’t get tingly and tempted?)
But she has more to consider than just herself and her feelings in the moment.
Sometimes “getting your groove back” starts with redefining your groove.
Sometimes a little comedic revenge – at least on screen – is good for the aching soul. And, when it comes to revenge in life-after-divorce movies, no one does it better than Elise (Goldie Hawn), Brenda (Bette Midler) and Annie (Diane Keaton).
Jaded by their cheating husbands after helping them climb the ladder of success, they join forces for some costly retribution.
Traitors, keep your younger models. These damsels have come for the dough!
If you still have popcorn in your bucket after this line-up, here are a few more life-after-divorce movies:
- Waiting To Exhale (1995)
- Crazy, Stupid Love (2011)
- Eat, Pray, Love (2010)
- Enough Said (2013)
You may not be able to escape the reality of your divorce. But sometimes a little escapism can help clear out your tears and restore hope.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. If you’d like additional support rebuilding your life after divorce, you can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice or you can schedule a 30-minute private consultation with me.