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.
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.
#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.
#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.
#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.
#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.