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Five Funny and Iconic Character Meltdowns in Movies | TMP
Five Funny And Iconic Character Meltdowns in Movies
this post is part of Thursday Movie Picks, a weekly feature hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen I first started working on this week’s Thursday Movie Picks I readily thought of classic movie character meltdowns, such asJames Dean’s You’re tearing me apart in Rebel Without A Cause!.Then haunting and emotional meltdowns came to mind, like Sean Penn’s character finding out his daughter was dead in Mystic River, or Zoe Kazan confronting her creator, Paul Dano, in Ruby Sparks.

There are iconic meltdowns that came out unintentionally funny, such as Brad Pitt’s unforgettable What’s in the box? in Se7en. There’s even characters that spend nearly a full movie in meltdown mode – like Elizabeth Taylor in Who’s Afraid of Virigina Woolf, who manages to make every other character have a meltdown, too.

Soon I had way more than the maximum of five, so I decided to limit this list to intentionally funny and iconic movie meltdowns I’m not soon to forget. I’m using meltdown in its broadest definition of sudden and uncontrolled bursts of emotion – in my picks, anger and sadness. Most of the following scenes contain spoilers, so beware of that. You can’t go wrong with watching any of these movies though, so here’s five great reasons to do it.

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Five Funny and Iconic
Character Meltdowns in Movies

#05 Andrew Garfield in The Social Network (2010)

Some people get angry meltdowns – that’s the case with four out of five of my picks here, because angry meltdowns have the potential to be absolutely hilarious. Poor Eduardo here is not funny throughout, for this pivotal scene in The Social Network has a mix of intense emotions (such as shock, betrayal and hurt) that prevent the anger to be “simply funny”. However: Sorry! My Prada’s at the cleaners! Along with my hoodie and my ‘fuck you’ flip-flops, you pretentious douchebag! – That is one iconic line that still cracks me up to this day.

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#04 Joe Pesci in Casino (1995)

We all know Joe Pesci’s characters loose their sh*t several times in any given movie – usually in a string of creative tonal variations of f*cks and its derivatives. It happens so often, it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint when one of his characters is normal-angry or meltdown-angry. In this particular scene of Scorsese’s brilliant 90s film Casino, he is a bit more unhinged than usual, so I’m marking it as sh*t-losing-angry. And of course, the more unhinged he is, the more hilarious the scene gets.

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#03 Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood (2007)

The endlessly parodied bit I Drink Your Milkshake comes once again from the combination of great writing and spotless acting. It’s hard to say who’s having the bigger meltdown in this scene, Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) or Eli Sunday (played by Paul Dano). They’re both really funny and I actually love both performances here, but DDL is certainly the most intense of the two, by a mile.

My favourite line would have to be “I am the Third Revelation“, at which point Daniel Plainview has gone positively insane. His exuberant acting, combined with Dano’s shrieking, makes this scene hilarious – up until the silence. But even then, Paul Thomas Anderson defaults back to black comedy, with that brilliant song in the end credits that has us laughing in disbelief.

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See Also

#02 Christian Bale in American Psycho (2000)

You know I had to include this one, the mother of all manic meltdowns – this blog is not called Returning Videotapes for nothing. Now the difficulty here was picking just one Patrick Bateman meltdown. The phone call is undoubtedly his lowest point, but it isn’t truly funny for me, and Paul Allen’s killing… that’s the iconic one. Bateman has Allen already drunk and vulnerable when he comes out of the bathroom dancing to Hip To Be Square, psyching himself up with a little rant about the audience’s ignorance towards the song’s lyrics. Random? That’s part of the charm.

When he does kill him, Patrick has a short but intense meltdown (that is, if you don’t think it already began with the rant), bursting with rage and hilariously screaming “Try getting a reservation at Dorsia now”. Again, it’s pretty dark humour, so it might not humour you… If that’s the case, then check out the phone meltdown for some superb acting from Bale.

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#01 Diane Keaton in Something’s Gotta Give (2003)

Alright, so I’m not sure if this one is iconic (it is for me), but it certainly the most hilarious of the five, by far. Actually it’s beyond hilarious, it’s hysterical. Honestly, feel free to come here and watch this video any time you’re having a bad day – it will cheer you right up. I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of actors funnily cry onscreen in comedies – but I guarantee, none like Diane Keaton in the rom-com gem that is Something’s Gotta Give. You don’t need any set up here: Diane’s character is sad, and so she cries. And cries. And cries. And cries.

Still crying.

There you have it – my five picks for this week’s topic!
Do you have favourite movie meltdowns, or have seen any of these?
View Comments (18)
  • Good choices, though I haven’t seen American Psycho, but that final scene with Diane Keaton is so great. She’s always been very good at losing it on film and this is one of the best even if I thought the film was silly. I mean Nicholson over prime era Keanu Reeves? No way.

    I stuck to three but these came to me quickly since the meltdowns are so memorable.

    They Drive by Night (1940)-Joe and Paul Fabini (George Raft & Humphrey Bogart) are wildcat truckers struggling to make enough to get their own business off the ground. When Paul is seriously injured in an accident Joe goes to work for old friend Ed Carlsen (Alan Hale) the owner of a successful trucking firm and all seems well. The problems start when Ed’s much younger wife Lana (a riveting Ida Lupino) discovers that Joe is seriously involved with Cassie (Ann Sheridan) and allows her (unreciprocated) desire for Joe to take extreme measures leading to betrayal and death. Rough, tough Warner’s drama climaxes in a high grade courtroom meltdown.

    Mommie Dearest (1981)-Joan Crawford (Faye Dunaway) is a huge star at a crossroads in her life and career. Released after decades by MGM and between husbands she decides to start the family she’s always wanted by adopting several children with the oldest being Christina (Mara Hobel as a child/Diana Scarwid as an adult). Madly ambitious and competitive she is not suited to motherhood and rides the children relentlessly meting out hard punishments for small infractions. Among these is a spectacular meltdown late at night when she discovers that the young Christiana has failed to take her expensive dresses off wire hangers from the dry cleaners. While Crawford was a tough customer and a harsh taskmaster and child abuse is no joke this hatchet job reeks of score settling and has been largely discredited. Faye however pours her guts into the role giving almost a kabuki performance.

    Falling Down (1993)-William Foster known through most of the film by his license plate moniker D-FENS (Michael Douglas) an unemployed defense worker frustrated with the various flaws he sees in society abandons his car in LA gridlock and begins to psychotically and violently lash out against most everyone he encounters as he makes his way across the city to attend his daughter’s birthday party. The entire film is really one long meltdown.

    • Well I can’t think of Keanu ever being out of his prime, so I understand your disbelief 😂

      Haven’t seen any of your movies, but I have of course heard of Mommie Dearest. I’m a bit hesitant to watch it, though… just seems really mean towards Joan Crawford, and like you said, the fact that it’s been discredited has me more certain of it. The only reason why I *might* see it is Dunaway – as you wrote, she’s supposed to be quite good in this.

      Falling Down was on Birgit’s list and sounds really interesting. I have heard of it before, too, so I’ll definitely check it out when I feel like watching some Douglas!

    • Hard to pick for me between him and DDL but yeah, Bale was intense 😂 Plus the way he gets himself back together right after, it’s quite brilliant. In that way it’s a bit like DDL’s, actually 🧐

  • Joe Pesci is always having a breakdown and he is always good at it. There Will be Blood is excellent and this scene was scary to me…no one can beat Daniel Day Lewis. I haven’t seen American Psycho yet because it seems too intense and I don’t like that he is like a hero in some regards….maybe I have it wrong. Diane Keaton is excellent in this film and this scene is great. Oh, I found the Social Network boring but it did confirm that Zuckerberg is a jerk and from his appearances at the courts makes me believe he is now a robot.

    • Absolutely agree about Pesci and DDL 👏🏻😂

      About American Psycho… I don’t know, I never saw him as a hero of any kind but that’s actually an interesting thought. I’ve always thought of him as a vessel for Ellis’/Harron’s social commentary in mostly a negative tone, even if he is just a product of his environment. He is amusing for sure, but nevertheless, a psychopath. Like Hannibal. But I’m gonna sit on what you said for a while.

      I really like The Social Network but yeah… it does not paint a pretty picture of Zuckerberg at all

  • I skipped a few because spoilers, but I love the number one pick so much! Keaton’s breakdown is such a classic moment, and I also remember it vividly, which makes me giggle every time. It’s so over the top, I think that’s what funny about it. It isn’t sad, it’s melodramatic and that appeals to us more because we are able to look past the sadness, and enjoy the humor in it.

    This is a super ice list btw, even if I couldn’t read it all for all the spoilers! 😀 😉

    • Casino’s has no spoilers really, so if you skipped that, it’s safe!

      She really nailed it! I agree it works because it’s over the top; the scene itself too, the way it goes on and on… it’s perfect 😂

  • That Casino scene is incredible. The rapid delivery is hilarious but I always roar with laughter when Ace just gives up and stands there saying nothing as Nicky keeps yelling and swearing

  • Great picks! Andrew’s meltdown in The Social Network is perfect, and I couldn’t believe the ending to There Will Be Blood the first time I saw it. 🙂

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