Top 10 broken-heart movies of the ’80s

From time-traveling curses to simple teenage angst, here are the '80s movies that make us cry.
Published Feb. 14, 2018

Ah yes, Valentine's Day. Or as I like to call it – Wednesday. I have a very checkered history with this Hallmark holiday. Easily some of the most rookie moves ever made by a male toward a female on February 14 can be atributed to "Spears, Stephen."

I particularly recall the time I'd forgotten about the occasion and was forced to buy my girlfriend-at-the-time a half-inflated heart balloon from the neighborhood drug store along with a four-pack of expired wine coolers. I did my best, but I guess my best wasn't good enough. (But at least it was a nice metaphor.)

Still, when I peruse my towering collection of dusty '80s DVDs of '80s movies, I know I'm not alone in my misery. Here are my 10 favorite "love stinks" movies from our beloved decade.

LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN (1982): Poor Gary. He too did his best, but Karen said it wasn't good enough. Probably one of the saddest endings to an '80s movie except for …

SOPHIE'S CHOICE (1982): "And so ended my voyage of discovery in a place as strange as Brooklyn. I let go the rage and sorrow for Sophie and Nathan, and the many others who were but a few of the butchered and betrayed and martyred children of the earth. When I could finally see again, I saw the first rays of daylight reflected in the murky river. This was not Judgement Day, only morning. Morning, excellent and fair."

THE RACHEL PAPERS (1989): A sadly forgotten movie with a excruciating end. Starring Dexter Fletcher and Ione Skye as a pair of aspiring Oxford students who can't make love work. Their final meeting in a museum ends with a peck on the cheek – truly the epitome of tragedy.

BIG (1988): Sure, the "romance" between grown-up Josh Baskins (Tom Hanks) and Susan (Elizabeth Perkins) is a little creepy if you over-analyze it. But the look on their faces as they say goodbye is still soul-crushing.

FATAL ATTRACTION (1987): You could argue there's little romance in the weekend affair between Michael Douglas and Glenn Close. Nobody emerges from this movie fully intact – especially the rabbit.

CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS (1989): There's a little heartbreak in every truly great Woody Allen film. In this movie, it's dealt out in double doses. First Martin Landau is forced to deal with his insistent mistress in the most heartless way imaginable. Then Woody loses Mia Farrow to Alan Alda. (At least Alda gives the always-fave line: "If it bends, it's funny. If it breaks, it isn't.")

WITNESS (1985): Let's face it: A Philly police detective (Harrison Ford) and Amish widow (Kelly McGillis) was never going to work out. "You be careful out among them, English."

THE VERDICT (1982): Any movie that ends with a woman spilling whiskey on the floor before making a last-ditch phoner to her down-and-out boyfriend lawyer has to make the list. That's right, Frank. Don't answer it.

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT (1983): Come on, Shirley MacLaine, you still think you can land Jack Nicholson? Those faring worse include poor Emma (Debra Winger) and her cheating husband Flap (Jeff Daniels). The one who really won't be able to sleep anytime soon, though, is her son Tommy. "I know you like me. I know it. For the last year or two, you've been pretending like you hate me. I love you very much. I love you as much as I love anybody, as much as I love myself. And in a few years when I haven't been around to be on your tail about something or irritating you … you're gonna realize that you love me. And maybe you're gonna feel badly, because you never told me. But don't – I know that you love me. So don't ever do that to yourself, all right?"

SOMEWHERE IN TIME (1980): Truth be told, I go back and forth on the happy/sad factor here. But any movie that results in me repeatedly sobbing into a pillow deserves to be on this list. Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour as time-crossed lovers. The final words between them – "Riiiichard! Riiiiichart!" – stab us in the heart every time. Penny for your thoughts?