When Romance Goes Wrong: 6 Horrific Break-Ups in the Movies

Chris Tilly
Movies Star Wars
Movies Star Wars

Michael Bolton once sang “Love is a Wonderful Thing.” But Michael isn’t always right, and that isn’t always the case. Love can also be cruel. And with Valentine’s Day fast approaching, this article is going to examine the latter: when love went very wrong in the movies. And the resulting break-ups were truly horrific.


The Fly (1986)

Geena Davis. Starting to have doubts.

You know the story by now: Boy meets girl. Boy fuses with fly in teleportation device. Boy turns into fly. Fly tries to fuse himself with girl. Girl shoots fly. Yet in spite of that somewhat unromantic storyline, David Cronenberg’s sci-fi classic is a surprisingly tender love story. Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis play the star-crossed couple in question, and you truly believe in their bond. Which isn’t surprising as they were dating in real-life at the time. All of which makes the film’s finale genuinely moving, Goldblum begging Davis to shoot him before he loses all humanity and kills his one true love. Heartbreaking stuff.

Fatal Attraction (1987)

A dangerously Close shave.

This one is less about love and more about sex, but it definitely shows what can happen when lust goes wrong. Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) is the rich lawyer who embarks on an affair with book publisher Alex (Glenn Close) behind his wife’s back. But while Dan quickly and heartlessly wants to put the affair behind him, Alex isn’t so keen. Harassing Dan and his family, claiming to be pregnant, briefly kidnapping his daughter, and even boiling her bunny. Which is where the phrase “bunny-boiler” comes from. The film ends with Dan’s wife — played by Ann Archer — shooting Alex dead. Though Alex actually killed herself in the film’s original ending, framing Dan for the murder. It was a better finale, though not much of a crowd-pleaser.

The War of the Roses (1989)

Beginning of the end of Douglas and Turner.

“When a couple starts keeping score, there is no winning. Only degrees of losing.” So says Danny DeVito’s lawyer early-on in The War of the Roses. And it’s a sorry tale that follows. Not at the start, as that’s when Oliver (Michael Douglas, again) and Barbara (Kathleen Turner) meet, fall in love, buy a big house, and have a boy, a girl, a cat, and a dog. But the cracks in their relationship soon start to appear. Followed by the lies, the recriminations, and the divorce. Then proceedings take a violent turn; a punch to the face, a cat run over, pâté potentially made from dog. And soon enough the couple is hanging from a chandelier. Then falling to their death. Oliver reaches out to Barbara one last time as they expire. And with her last act on earth, she pushes his hand away.

Total Recall (1990)

Sharon and Arnie, pre-bloody divorce.

Things are going pretty well for Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger). He has a steady job, big muscles, and a beautiful wife called Lori (Sharon Stone). But he keeps having strange dreams about Mars. Which inspire Quaid to visit tech company Rekall, where he requests the memory of a secret agent on Mars be implanted in his brain. But the procedure goes wrong, triggering memories of being an actual secret agent that Quaid has suppressed. And turns out Lori isn’t his wife, but rather a spy sent to keep an eye on him. Lori tries to kill Quaid, he escapes, and when they next meet, Quaid shoots her in the head, before delivering the immortal line, “Consider that a divorce.”

Sleeping With the Enemy (1991)

Patrick Bergin. Playing a very bad dude.

Sleeping With the Enemy stars Julia Roberts as Laura, a woman seemingly in the perfect relationship. But the title is a giveaway that something isn’t right. As it turns out her husband Martin — played with malevolent charm by Patrick Bergin — is a very sick individual who has been mentally and physically abusing her during their marriage. Laura fakes her own death and starts a new life under a new identity. But Martin tracks her down and tries to kill her. Though that plan back-fires when Laura shoots him dead. Not to be confused with Double Jeopardy (1999) which also ends with Ashley Judd killing her husband. But only after he framed her for his (faked) murder. Basically, the late 1990s were full of these films.

Star Wars (1999-2005)

The final, perceived betrayal.

Anakin and Padmé — the relationship responsible for creating the angriest man in the galaxy, which in turn results in the death of millions. And it was all going so well. They met, bonded over sand being coarse, rough and irritating, fell in love, got married, and she even got pregnant. But then he turned to the Dark Side, believed that Padmé betrayed him, and used The Force to strangle her unconscious. She then dies during childbirth, while Anakin gets himself burnt and legless, the death of that love speeding up his transformation into Darth Vader. With VERY grim consequences.

Chris Tilly
FANDOM Managing Editor in the UK. At this point my life is a combination of 1980s horror movies, Crystal Palace football matches, and episodes of I'm Alan Partridge. The first series. When he was in the travel tavern. Not the one after.