In most stories, there’s always a new blooming romance that fans root for. Writers often tease fans with “almost” moments, amping up the excitement and suspense for when the characters finally get together.
However, sometimes the breakup of a popular couple is even more satisfying. Whether it’s because one character is just awful or the two simply aren’t meant to be together, filmmakers and showrunners can do wonders with a split. Breakups can be the most emotionally intense and dramatic scenes of a TV show and movie. The entire event can build up over time, with fans counting down the days until the inevitable end.
This list will chronicle some of the best breakups in movies and television, from the hilarious, to the heart-wrenching, to the just plain logical. For the purposes of this article, “satisfying” doesn’t always mean happy. These are splits that needed to happen, and were executed well in both the acting and the writing.
Here are 15 Most Satisfying On-Screen Breakups.
15. Mary Jane Watson and John Jameson (Spider-Man 2)
In the world of superheroes, Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson are essentially a royal couple. So, when she was set to marry John Jameson in Spider-Man 2, things needed to change. It’s not that John was a bad guy; he treated her right and was an astronaut to boot. He just wasn’t the right guy.
However, Mary Jane tried to convince herself that he was. She cut off Peter and fully committed to John. Even Peter tried to let her go, but, at the last second, they both finally gave into their feelings and end up together.
Granted, MJ didn’t go about her breakup in the best way – leaving the poor guy at the altar is rough – but no fans were truly complaining. Keeping Peter and MJ apart would have just been cruel. The lack of MJ in the latest films has entirely baffled fans.
14. Ted Mosby and Robin Scherbatsky (How I Met Your Mother)
The pilot of How I Met Your Mother made it clear that Robin would not end up being the mother to Ted’s kids. Even despite the perfect parallel to Ted’s parents, he and Robin tried to force it. After a few seasons, this became tiring and frustrating for fans.
Ted and Robin did manage a mostly successful, year-long relationship early on, but when they broke up in “Something Blue”, it wasn’t a surprise – it was a relief.
Leading into the split, Ted and Robin finally acknowledged that wanting completely different things wasn’t something they could just work around. The rest of the gang, and the show’s audience, had known this since the beginning. Still, the scene showed the sadness of the couple as the harsh truth set in, making the scene emotionally appropriate.
13. Ron Weasley and Lavender Brown (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince)
Ron Weasley was never really a “ladies man.” He was terrified of actually speaking to women and had several flaws in his overall personality. Still, he caught the eye of fellow Gryffindor, Lavender Brown. When Ron became Keeper for Gryffindor’s Quidditch team, she literally threw herself at him, and so began one of the worst couples in the wizarding world.
For Ron, Lavender was basically just a kissing partner and accessory he could use to make Hermione jealous. Lavender didn’t seem to mind though, and was obsessed with her “Won-Won.” When Ron ended up in the hospital wing, both Lavender and Hermione came to his side, and Ron unconsciously made his choice by mumbling “Hermione” in his sleep.
12. Rachel Green and Joey Tribbiani (FRIENDS)
Of all the romantic pairings the writers thought up for Friends, Joey and Rachel saw the most backlash. Though the two always bantered and occasionally flirted, there was never any real romantic chemistry. The relationship came near the end of the series, and felt forced and unnecessary. More than that, it completely altered Joey’s character as a whole, and didn’t sustain the change in the long run.
As expected, the relationship didn’t last, but the writers managed to salvage the characters’ stories with a good breakup. Joey and Rachel’s breakup was logical; they knew they couldn’t force the relationship to work.
It didn’t involve any hostility and, most importantly, it was clear that their friendship wouldn’t suffer because of it. Given the fact that most fans didn’t want the relationship in the first place, the amicable ending was a relief.
11. Viola Hastings and Justin Drayton (She’s The Man)
She’s The Man is all about empowering young women, and especially hits the mark when Viola Hastings dumps her boyfriend. When the girls soccer team gets cut at school, Viola and her friends want to join the boys team. After being shot down by the coach, Viola turns to Justin, her beau and the team captain.
He too dismisses her and, attempting to look macho in front of his friends, cuts her off with a curt “well, end of discussion!” Viola, needing less than a split second to process this, comes out on top with “fine, end of relationship.”
It was sudden and effective, making it clear that Viola wasn’t going to be pushed around by anyone. True to form, when Justin continually tried charming his way back into her life, she shut him down in equally funny (but warranted) ways.
10. Dean Forrester and Rory Gilmore (Gilmore Girls)
Dean and Rory were arguably the most dramatic couple in Stars Hollow, and broke up more than once during the Gilmore Girls run. Through it all, the most satisfying split was the third (and final) time.
The first split comes after Rory doesn’t tell Dean that she loves him too, sending him into an unnecessary existential spiral. The second was much more hostile, and much more public, with Dean dumping Rory again, this time because of her clear feelings for Jess.
Despite everything, Dean ends up cheating on his wife, Lindsay, with Rory. After the divorce, Rory and Dean try to make their relationship work one last time, mostly fueled by nostalgia. Once again, Dean feels inferior and dumps Rory for fear of holding her back from her potential.
9. Elizabeth Swann and James Norrington (Pirates of the Caribbean)
James Norrington was a good man, and a loyal Commodore. However, there’s no getting around the fact that his interest in Elizabeth Swann was a bit creepy. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl first introduced him as a lieutenant aboard the HMS Dauntless, talking about pirates with an 11-year-old Elizabeth. He doesn’t propose until 8 years later, when she is a more appropriate age, but the difference is still off-putting.
Elizabeth eventually agrees to marry Norrington in exchange for him leading a rescue mission for Will Turner. However, in the end, Elizabeth admits that “her heart truly lies” with Will. Norrington, who could force her into marriage, or go into a jealous rage, doesn’t. Instead, he understands that she’s made her choice and just wants her to be happy. Elizabeth and Will get a happy ending, and Norrington becomes a more likable character for the following films.
8. Spencer Hastings and Caleb Rivers (Pretty Little Liars)
For most Pretty Little Liars fans, pairing Spencer and Caleb was near sacrilegious. The two began dating in the second half of season six, after the five-year time jump. There were some who believed in Spaleb, but the majority of the audience – including the author of the original books – knew Hanna and Caleb (more often referred to as Haleb) were endgame.
As a result, the breakup of Spencer and Caleb was satisfying on a number of levels. Along with a return to natural order, the scene packed an emotional wallop. As Caleb pleaded with Spencer to talk to him– while Hanna quietly sat just a few feet away– the true emotional depth of the relationship was on full display. Even the most avid Haleb shippers felt the tug of their heartstrings.
7. Mia Thermopolis and Andrew Jacoby (Princess Diaries 2)
After the release of Wonder Woman, Chris Pine has become a favorite in Hollywood’s battle of the Chrises. However, he first started winning hearts in 2004 with The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. When Mia Thermopolis called off her wedding at the last minute to be with Nicholas Devereaux (played by a young Pine) no one was upset – not even the groom.
Mia and Andrew Jacoby had agreed to an arranged marriage so that Mia could retain her rule over Genovia and officially be coronated as Queen. While Andrew was sweet and modestly handsome, it was clear that the two had no chemistry. Both had honor, however, and were set to follow through on the deal.
6. Dan Humphrey and Blair Waldorf (Gossip Girl)
TV writers have been known to create surprising couples, if only to shake up a story. However, when Dan and Blair got together on Gossip Girl, everything felt off. Blair had spent most of the show insulting and undermining Dan, and only taking romantic interest in him when she had no one else in her corner.
For Dan, Blair was mostly just a more vindictive substitute for Serena, whether he realized it or not. Even so, the two did have enough of a connection to merit a trip together. When Dan earns a writing fellowship in Italy, he invites Blair to join him for the summer, despite being hesitant over the fact that she didn’t reciprocate his “I love you.”
5. Sarah Marshall and Aldous Snow (Forgetting Sarah Marshall)
More often than not, Kristen Bell plays the hard-core but lovable heroine. In Forgetting Sarah Marshall, she switches it up a bit. For most of the movie, Sarah Marshall is just insufferable. After breaking up with Peter, she starts dating Aldous Snow, a rockstar living the stereotypical rockstar life.
When Peter ends up on vacation at the same resort as Sarah and Aldous, he spirals all over again, until he meets Rachel (played by Bell’s future fellow bad mom, Mila Kunis).
Peter and Rachel begin to form a strong connection, and Sarah starts to realize how good she had it, though she tries to ignore this. In fact, she strives to make Peter jealous again. Aldous is horrible, but he’s smart enough to see what’s happening and unceremoniously dumps Sarah in bed. To add to the karma, Sarah is then rejected by Peter, giving audiences a bit of a twofer breakup.
4. Cristina Yang and Owen Hunt (Grey’s Anatomy)
After Cristina Yang was left at the altar, most Grey’s Anatomy fans were skeptical of her new romance. However, like most characters on Grey’s, Owen Hunt became a beloved character – until he started changing her. Cristina always made it clear that being a surgeon was her first love. When Owen convinces her to ignore a page to stay with him, she later confesses that he “took a piece” of her. She wanted to be a surgeon, and be with him.
She didn’t want to start a family. Yet, when Cristina does get pregnant, Owen fights her on whether she intends to keep it. He does decide to support her, but as fans find out later, he wasn’t truly sincere. Even after this incident, Owen continually pressures Cristina. Finally, Cristina steps up and forces him to admit that she alone wouldn’t be enough for him.
3. Torrance Shipman and Aaron (Bring It On)
Kirsten Dunst has had her fair share of fictional breakups, but few were as memorable as the one in Bring It On. Throughout the movie, Torrance is trying to maintain a long distance relationship with her boyfriend Aaron. During his visit home, Torrance tells him about all the drama surrounding her cheerleading team this season, to which Aaron responds “maybe you’re just not ‘captain’ material.”
It doesn’t sit well with Torrance, but she lets it go. That is, until she realizes what true support is thanks to Cliff. Once Torrance gets her team back on track, she pays a visit to Aaron, scolding him for his awfulness.
She throws his own words back at him saying, “maybe you’re just not ‘boyfriend’ material.” As an added bonus, Torrance throws the door fully open, confirming her guess that Aaron was cheating. He is left single, embarrassed, and fully served.
2. Nick Parker and Meredith Blake (The Parent Trap)
Disney has created a slew of memorable villains, and no one will ever forget the gold-digging Meredith Blake of The Parent Trap. As the PR expert for Nick Parker’s vineyard, Meredith manages to seduce him and plans to ship his daughters off to Timbuktu following the wedding. Her and her wide-brimmed hat were just the worst part of that family.
However, messing with Hallie and Annie Parker proves harder than Meredith expects. The twins consistently get the better of her, especially during their camping trip at the end of the summer. When Meredith wakes up on her air mattress in the middle of the lake, she shreds her vocal chords with a piercing scream and gives Nick an ultimatum: “it’s either me or them, take your pick.”
Nick responds immediately with an amused “them. T-H-E-M, them. Get the picture?” How she got back to civilization, no one may ever know, but the Parker family became whole again, and that’s what matters.
1. Bridget Jones and Daniel (Bridget Jones’s Diary)
As love triangles go, Bridget Jones’s Diary creates one of the oddest. Bridget Jones falls for her boss, Daniel Cleaver, despite his womanizing habits. Then she falls for Mark Darcy, an old family friend, even after hating him initially. Neither candidate is really a prime choice for Bridget, but the triangle is created nonetheless.
When Daniel drunkenly visits a party Bridget is catering, with some help from Mark, the two men get in a fight. Bridget sends Mark off after he knocks out Daniel, making it seem like she’s chosen the latter. When Daniel comes to, he tries to woo her with a pseudo-romantic “if I can’t make it with you, I can’t make it with anyone.” However, as Bridget points out, “that’s not a good enough offer.”
She leaves Daniel in the pool of broken glass to pursue a more extraordinary relationship, giving him exactly what he deserves.
What are some on-screen breakups that had you cheering? Let us hear about them in our comment section.
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