10 Bleak and Hopeless Love Stories at the Movies

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Let’s face it, sometimes love just straight up sucks. It can be messy, make you act erratic, and leave you heartbroken. Who needs it, right? Well, sometimes filmmakers feel that exact same way and as a result, they make some cynical and downright mean-spirited romance movies. All of the movies listed here have romance or love as a central theme, but through a variety of genres they emphatically demonstrate that, sometimes, love stinks.

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10. Dark Horse

Even calling Dark Horse a “like” story, as opposed to a love story, is still a pretty inaccurate description of the relationship depicted in the movie. On the surface, Dark Horse seems like a generic romantic comedy. The soundtrack is wall-to-wall pop music and the cast is full of quirky fringe characters. But even after a few minutes of watching it, you’ll quickly realize that there is something rotten below the surface.

The story follows Abe, an unlikable 35-year-old loser who lives at home, has never taken responsibility for anything in his life, and thinks all of his problems are caused by someone else. At a wedding, he meets Miranda, who really wants nothing to do with him. Yet she begrudgingly gives him her number and after meeting her once, he asks her to marry him. Miranda, who is depressed and on a lot of medication, agrees to the marriage, thinking Abe isn’t that horrible and she could do worse.

Most of the time in romantic comedies, you want the main characters to get together, but with Abe, he’s probably someone who should stay single.

9. Gone Girl

When police investigate murders, the first suspect is usually the significant other. Gone Girl, adapted from the Gillian Flynn novel, is aware that the audience knows it’s usually the spouse who did it and builds a mystery around it. In the film, Nick and Amy’s marriage is in a rut and on their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick arrives home to find Amy gone and in the house there are signs that Amy didn’t go missing by choice. Nick calls the police and from there, his life is picked apart and he is tried as a husband and as a murderer in the media, who are rabid for answers about what happened to Amy.

If there was ever a movie that shows how terrifying marriage can be, it’s Gone Girl. When you marry someone and you share your lives together, you could be getting a lot more than a loving companion. Beneath their exterior, they could be a cold blooded psychopath waiting to consume your life. Um, unless you’re reading this and you just recently got engaged. In which case, mazel tov, we guess? We’re certain your marriage will be nothing but pure bliss.

8. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf

Although Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf was released 50 years ago, that doesn’t mean it isn’t as acidic or mean-spirited as the contemporary films on this list. It’s based on a 1962 play and follows middle-aged couple Martha and George, played by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. George is an associate professor of history and Martha is the daughter of the president of the college. They go to a party and afterward, Martha invites a young couple, Nick (George Segal) and Honey (Sandy Dennis) back to their house for another drink. Before the young couple arrives, George and Martha argue with each other, and after their guests get there, the night spirals into emotional warfare and Nick and Honey are used as pawns.

Beside watching two couples try to destroy each other, the film also shows that, sometimes, relationships can be power struggles between two adversaries bound together by law and housed in the same prison. What you learn by the end of the film is that love and marriage can be like a life sentence with a cellmate who you hate enough that you want to kill them, but care about them enough not to.

7. Red, White & Blue

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Pu7mvo0rZ0

Nate is a mentally unstable army interrogator who meets Erica, a nymphomaniac, at the hardware store where they both work. While Erica would sleep with Nate, he doesn’t want to. Instead, he wants to take things slow, which initially pushes Erica away. Undeterred, Nate continues a steady and patient courtship and eventually, he and Erica, two people badly broken by life, start a sweet and tender relationship. Then one day, something from Erica’s past catches up with her and she goes missing, causing Nate to go to cut a swath of revenge that is bleak and unrelenting.

Red, White & Blue is about how love can be like Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. Once someone is in love, they see life differently and everything seems new. But losing the love is like being forced back into the cave and being forced to watch the shadows dance on the wall. The biggest difference is that now they’ll miss that other world because they know it exists.

6. The Collector

Romantic relationships can be complex. There needs to be a lot of communication, and a lot of giving and taking. Or you could just kidnap the person that you desire and lock them up in your dingy basement until they’re forced to love you. That is exactly the plot from 1965’s The Collector (uh, spoilers, we guess?), which is based on the John Fowles book of the same name. In the film, a disturbed young man named Frederick Clegg kidnaps a vibrant art student named Miranda Grey and locks her up in the basement in his country house in the hopes that she will fall in love with him. The movie isn’t too much different than Beauty and The Beast, really, since Frederick is a monster and has a beautiful woman locked up in his house. The only difference is that The Collector isn’t a fairy tale and monsters, especially human ones, don’t ever change.

If the story alone isn’t dark enough for it to be anti-Valentine’s Day, it should also be known that the story is a favorite of serial killers Leonard Lake, Christopher Wilder, and Robert Berdella.

5. Solaris

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4vSPEDxGic

Solaris is a classic Russian film that got a 2002 American remake starring George Clooney, and both are adaptations of the book of the same name by Polish sci-fi writer Stanislaw Lem.

Solaris is a distant planet that is completely covered with an ocean. While observing the planet from a space station, researchers learn that the ocean is a single organism and they try to communicate with it. Kris Kelvin, a psychologist, is asked to come to the space station by a friend on board who said that when he was on the surface of the planet, he saw a human boy and the planet is sending confusing messages to the space station. When Kris arrives at the space station, he discovers that the station is in disarray and no one greets him. He also discovers that his friend has committed suicide. A short time after his arrival, Kris awakens to see his late wife Hari in his bedroom. She has no idea how she got there and neither does Kris, because Hari committed suicide 10 years before. That’s when Kris learns that the planet creates “visitors” from the memories of the people on the space station.



From there, Kris goes through a number of moral dilemmas, like the fact that while “Hari” is a self-aware, flesh and blood version of his lost wife, she isn’t real: she’s just a copy. But isn’t a copy better than nothing? Solaris is a haunting movie because it shows that when you lose someone and all you have left is memories, you can’t even trust them because they are twisted, manipulated, and soiled by your own brain. Also, if you were to get a second chance with someone, are you prepared to lose them again?

4. The Vanishing

Rex and Saskia are a married couple on vacation in France. While making a pit stop at a busy service station, Saskia simply disappears. For the next three years, Rex searches for any trace of what happened to his wife. Then, the kidnapper, Raymond, contacts Rex and he says if Rex meets with him, he’ll tell him exactly what happened to Saskia. The Vanishing is about the gaping hole that the loss of someone you love can cause. You can question what happened and why they are gone, but you may never find answers that will satisfy you.

In the consensus notes on Rotten Tomatoes, it says that The Vanishing culminates in one of the scariest endings of all time, so be prepared, because it is bleak. There was an American remake by the director of the original starring Jeff Bridges and Kiefer Sutherland, but it’s a prime exemplification of the cliché of Hollywood-izing a European art house film. So if you’re looking for a sad story about trying to overcome losing the love of your life, stick to the original film.

3. Blue Valentine

Told out of chronological order, Blue Valentine is the story of the six-year relationship between Dean and Cindy, played by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. Essentially, the film shows the differences in priorities that people have when they get married. As Roger Ebert explains, “Dean thinks marriage is a station and Cindy thought it was the train.”

The film tries to find what went wrong in the relationship, but is there any one real moment that caused the break? Blue Valentine is an incredibly realistic depiction of the whirlwind destruction that love and heartbreak can cause. If you’re feeling lonely, throw Blue Valentine on and then you might be thankful you don’t have to deal with any of that mess.

2. The Shape of Things

The Shape of Things was written and directed by Neil LaBute, who is famous for his acidic tales of terrible people, and it’s probably his most mean-spirited film (which is quite a feat if you’ve seen his other offerings). Paul Rudd plays Adam, a nice, quiet college student who goes through some life altering changes in almost every aspect of his existence when he starts dating his art school girlfriend (Rachel Weisz).

The twist in the film is both cruel and cold blooded. It shows how terrible human beings can be without even physically hurting anyone. If you’re in a relationship, The Shape of Things will make you question it and if you are single, you’ll be happy that you are. And if you’re a Paul Rudd fan, it’ll make you sad and leave you wondering when he’s finally going to start making funny quips and being generally adorable, so maybe watch I Love You Man instead, or something?

1. The War of the Roses

This vicious black comedy directed by Danny DeVito tells the story of the relationship between Barbara (Kathleen Turner) and Oliver Rose (Michael Douglas), who meet during college at an auction and fall for each other during their first encounter. Years later, they marry and have a son and daughter. Like other couples, they had their ups and downs, but over the years their bickering and fighting grows more and more intense to the point where they both want a divorce. The problem is that both of them desperately want to keep their beautiful house. Oliver paid for the house, but Barbara worked for years to make the house a home. Then, because of a legal loophole, both of them are allowed to live in the house, which ignites an intense and constantly escalating battle of wills.

The War of the Roses shows the truly dark side of a relationship; you’ve really never known hatred until you hate someone you used to love. Which reminds us, we need to wrap this up since there are some exes who certainly aren’t going to stalk themselves on Facebook.

Robert Grimminck is a Canadian freelance writer. You can friend him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, follow him on Pinterest, or visit his website.


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