It seems that music playlists dominate the "breakup" genre. (If you're reading this from 1992, please insert the work "mixtape" in place of "playlist.") As in, "Here's a playlist of music that will make you feel better about your pathetic life," even though it never, ever does.
When I go through a breakup (which may or may not have just happened), I watch a series of movies, in a certain order. Together, they -- at least temporarily -- manipulate my emotions for the better. I am not saying that these are the "best" movies for getting over a breakup, but I am saying that these are the best for me -- kind of like when people have their own strange cures for hangovers that never, ever work for me, either. (If you have better suggestions, please, share in the comments. Yes, for both breakup movies and hangover cures because both may or may not be applicable.)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
When I first saw Eternal Sunshine in theaters in 2003, I was also going through a recent long-term relationship breakup. You know, looking back, I can't imagine watching that movie in any other state of mind. I was Joel Barish. (I am Joel Barish.) I wanted more than anything for the ghosts of the memories to disappear. Why won't they disappear!? Watching Joel fight for every last single memory -- memories that he willingly vanquished -- because no matter how lousy emotions make a human being feel, it's also what shapes us. And it's self-defeating to not remember the good times. When I'm not thinking clearly, it's nice to be reminded of this. (Even though I don't always believe it myself.)
Lost in Translation
Perhaps it's just the fact that nobody is happy in this movie that somehow inspires happiness. Both Bob and Charlotte are in different stages of marriage, yet both are miserable. I will say, no movie inspires me to visit Japan by myself more than Lost in Translation. Unfortunately, I know how this story goes: Leaving the airport with that strange sense of adventure and anticipation, almost screaming out loud, "Look at me! I am on an adventure by myself. I will learn something about myself." Smash cut to a week later and I haven't left the hotel bar in four days because it's kind of terrible to travel by yourself. (I may or may not have experienced this exact same scenario after a breakup in 2005, which resulted in me being by myself in Dublin for reasons I still don't understand.)
Leaving Las Vegas
Because, if nothing else, things aren't this bad. (Unless they are. And if they are, this list won't help you or me anyway.)
For no other reason than to offset the depression from Leaving Las Vegas. Though, I do always wonder what Montgomery Brewster did with the $300 million he inherited. I mean, if I were Spike Nolan, I would have done everything in my power to have Monty committed before he plows through his $300 million, too. And, later, when Monty was making out his will, do you think he set up a family member to have to play that same sick, twisted game. Also: How has this movie not been rebooted with Anthony Mackie and Kevin James?
(This one probably only applies to me. Moving on ...)
(500) Days of Summer
(Look, I know including (500) Days on this list is cliché, but I can't help it. Though, in honor of this inclusion, I'm going to write this entire paragraph in clichés.)
Unless you've been living under a rock, you know some would say (500) Days of Summer is pitch perfect. In fact, the film is uneven at times, but it also resonates. Revisiting (500) Days recently, the craftsmanship of the story is cumbersome. If had a nickel for every time someone said that the story is told too much from the male perspective, I'd be a very rich man. And I was taught to never take wooden nickels. But, as they say, a penny saved is a penny earned. However, it goes without saying, in this day and age, (500) Days of Summer is one for the ages. Even in the worst of times, it will leave you on cloud nine. So, put the pedal to the metal, with your best foot forward, and watch this toast of the town.
I know how lucky I am to be doing what I love for a living, especially right now. You see, in movies, usually the breakup is followed by a job loss, or vice versa -- so that the character can truly hit rock bottom. Here's the thing: I don't want to hit rock bottom! I am perfectly content at being at mud middle for now. Perhaps it's just the profession that I'm in, but, boy, watching Almost Famous is an uplifting experience. It can't help but remind me of all of those late nights, busing from city to city while trying to write a cover story on Stillwater for Rolling Stone. (I am fully aware that I am confusing myself and Patrick Fugit's character -- just let me have this one.)
Mike Ryan is senior entertainment writer for The Huffington Post. He's been listening to a lot of The Postal Service lately. You can contact him directly on Twitter.