When I was a little girl, I didn't dream of my wedding day—I dreamed of my divorce day. The courtroom drama! The mysterious status of being a divorcée! Blame excessive consumption of Knots Landing, but there's something very glamorous, ugly, rich and comical about divorce. Take The Heartbreak Kid, opening this weekend, which is about a dude who marries a hot chick and wants out nine seconds later.
In that way, you'd think it would be easy to make a great divorce movie, but then you see Le Divorce. Still, it's tough to pick just nine marital meltdowns. Which is why you need to make your case for your number 10 pick in the Comments. Court adjourned. Movie time.
1. The Squid and the Whale: Writer/director Noah Baumbach's entire cast—including you, "my brother," tennis instructor William Baldwin—is perfect. We feel for Jeff Daniels, the philistine-loathing patriarch. But then we feel for Laura Linney, the woman who's given him the boot. Oy, if only it was as simple as good parent versus bad parent. Which is why the conflicted, fascinating, well-drawn kids (Owen Kline and Jesse Eisenberg) suffer the most.
2. The War of the Roses: So far over the top that you can't even see the top, War is black, bleak, cathartic, funny and necessary viewing for anyone getting caught up in their own separation drama. Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas want to kill each other—and piss in the food, and murder the pets—and naturally, that kind of venom can be self-destructive. Who knew?
3. Kramer vs. Kramer: Wife and mother (Meryl Streep) leaves husband (Dustin Hoffman) to "find herself." Naturally, they both embark on separate but equally harrowing, Academy Award-worthy journeys to self-awareness. It's not just one of the greatest movies of all time, it's an anthropological indictment of the breadwinner/homemaker model that just doesn't fit every single couple.
4. Stepmom: Sure, it's schmaltzy, but how would you feel if you were a supermom (Susan Sarandon) and your hot ex-husband (Ed Harris) was shacking up with a younger photographer (Julia Roberts)? A great setup, indeed, but the story that unfolds does it justice. Yes, we get group sing-alongs via hairdryers, but we also get a touching meditation on the way: While romance ends when you sign the papers, love can stay.
5. We Don't Live Here Anymore: Why is a wedding ring that signifies someone's unavailability such an aphrodisiac? Andre Dubus' short stories don't offer simple solutions. We just watch two book-smart but emotionally handicapped couples—Mark Ruffalo + Laura Dern and Peter Krause + Naomi Watts—hurt each other. The high-caliber acting, the aching truth that every couple can't make it, Anymore makes lovin' scary.
6. The First Wives Club: Haute white pantsuits, reinvigorated spirit and a new business venture are the best revenge, according to this bright, caustic fairy tale. Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton and Bette Midler have all been dumped for younger models. It's here because all divorcées need to remember that taking charge of your life beats the hell out of Ben & Jerry-Oprah marathons.
7. Irreconcilable Differences: Married people sometimes become a wee bit egocentric. Take Lucy and Albert (Shelley Long and Ryan O'Neal), who are so caught up in their war that they lose sight of their own precious daughter Casey (Drew Barrymore, scarily good here). As we all know, Casey steps up to bat, and she swings her megalomaniac parents out of the park. Well done, kiddo.
8. Closer: Credit playwright Patrick Marber for finding well-known raw nerve endings and making them seem new again. Credit Mike Nichols with getting Julia Roberts to talk explicitly about her lover's, ahem, taste. The magic of that first time you lock eyes with each other can't sustain a marriage, but it sure can do wonders for a film. Not fair, I know.
9. She-Devil: The story of a large, red-devil housewife (Roseanne Barr) versus a daffy, pink-devil mistress (Meryl Streep) makes this cut because it's a great caveat for the men—and women—who think marriage is a shorthand term for domestic slavery. While it's a hysterical revenge fantasy about a cheating husband, Devil is subversively optimistic about marriage. Husbands, pick up the vacuum. Wives, get that upper lip waxed. Then, you just might make it.
10. You tell me! Let it rip. What movie needs to make this list?