Celebrity Breakups That Hit Fans Hard

Breakups are hard, and sometimes the breakups that hurt the most aren't even our own. When we invest in a celebrity couple, it's actually pretty normal for their split to hit us pretty hard. "We've all been encouraged to project our fantasy lives onto celebrities, so when a couple we identify with breaks up, it's slightly as if it's happening to us," explained Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. to Self. "We project all our past hurts onto the media image, and imagine the celeb feels like we do."

While every celebrity breakup hurts in its own way, some hurt a little more than others. In 2023, for instance, when Taylor Swift broke up with her long-term boyfriend Joe Alwyn, fans took it very personally, many of them even making the pilgrimage to a spot where the lovers once lived together to pay their respects. Then there was the time in 2012, when Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson broke up, that one fan posted a video of herself in tears on YouTube.

Let's take a look back through history at some of the most soul-crushing celebrity breakups and how the fans reacted.

Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn

When it was reported that Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn, her boyfriend of six years, had allegedly broken up several weeks earlier, fans were nothing sort of distraught. After all, throughout their six-year relationship, Swift wrote numerous songs about the strength of her relationship with Alwyn. In "Lover," Swift sang about their romance with lyrics like, "Can we always be this close forever and ever?" and in "Lavender Haze," she hinted that her relationship was a refuge from her hectic life in the spotlight. Fans of the singer connected with the relationship through these and other songs, so when news broke that the pair had split, many fans were devastated.

Some fans even ventured to Swift's former apartment on Cornelia Street in Manhattan's West Village – the street that became the namesake of one song on her "Lover" album — where Swift and Alwyn once spent time together. "I started crying. I cried for a couple of hours, and the next day I stayed in my room all day," one fan told Vulture. "People were checking in on me because I wasn't responding to anyone. It made me believe that love wasn't real anymore. And I puked."

Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston

Before Taylor and Joe, there was Brad and Jen. The it-couple of the '90s, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston were everyone's idea of true love. The pair first got together in 1998, tying the knot in 2000 in an ultra-romantic Malibu ceremony. "I know that we have something special, especially in all this chaos," Aniston told W Magazine in 2003. "In this nutty, brilliant, wonderful, hard business that we have, it's nice to have somebody who's anchored and knows you, really knows all of you." 

However, the seemingly perfect marriage came crashing down when Pitt met Angelina Jolie on the set of "Mr and Mrs Smith" in 2004 and cheating rumors began to spread. By 2005, he and Aniston had officially parted ways. For Aniston, the breakup was tough. "Am I lonely? Yes. Am I upset? Yes. Am I confused? Yes. Do I have my days when I've thrown a little pity party for myself? Absolutely. But I'm also doing really well," she told Vanity Fair later that year.

Fans were shocked by the couple's demise. In fact, over 15 years later, many fans still held out hope the pair might work things out. When Pitt and Aniston took part in a Zoom play reading in 2020, fans were thrilled. "I could write 10,000 words on this video. Jennifer Aniston is playing it so f***ing cool but Brad Pitt is clearly embarrassed. I LOVE MY DIVORCED PARENTS," wrote fan Jamie Jirak on Twitter

Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield

It's always cute when two actors play romantic leads in a movie and then fall in love in real life, too. That's exactly what happened with Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield, who first met on the set of "The Amazing Spider-Man" in 2010. The couple proceeded to date for five years until they split for good in 2015. "There was no drama, they've been apart while working," a source told People at the time. "They still care about each other."

Fans of the couple were shocked. "Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield were so cute," tweeted one. "Why why why did they break up I hate this world." Tweeted another, "Those are literally my parents you don't understand their breakup was bad for me." But even though this couple didn't make it, they have stayed friends and continued to support each other. In fact, when Stone won an Oscar in 2017, Garfield was one of the first people in the crowd to leap to his feet. Even as exes, these two are still adorable.

Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling

Another couple who first won our hearts on screen was Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling. These two co-starred in "The Notebook," which has since become one of the quintessential romance movies. For a while, fans thought that the stars' real-life relationship would be just as beautiful. After initially disliking each other on set, the pair allegedly started dating after the movie wrapped. Fans were thrilled when the real-life couple won the Teen Choice Award for Best Kiss and recreated their famous kiss in the rain live on stage. 

"['The Notebook'] introduced me to one of the great loves of my life," Gosling later told GQ. "But people do Rachel and me a disservice by assuming we were anything like the people in that movie. Rachel and my love story is a hell of a lot more romantic than that." It's no wonder fans were obsessed.

However, after two years of dating, the couple decided to part ways. Funnily enough, Gosling found that some fans were even more upset than he and McAdams seemed to be.  "Women are mad at me," he said. "A girl came up to me on the street and she almost smacked me ... I feel like I want to give people hugs, they seem so sad."

Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson

Here's yet another couple we fell in love with thanks to their onscreen chemistry. Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson shot to fame after starring in the "Twilight" movies as soulmates Bella and Edward. As Stewart later told The New Yorker, she developed a crush on Pattinson during their first meeting at a "Twilight" audition. The pair got together and fans dubbed them "Robsten." However, things took a turn in the relationship when Stewart was snapped apparently cheating on Pattinson with Rupert Sanders, her director on "Snow White and the Huntsman." 

Pattinson was allegedly "really depressed." "He doesn't know what to do. He doesn't know if he should forgive her or not," a source told Us Weekly. Robsten fans were also crushed. One fan even posted a tearful video after the photos were released. "I thought they were photoshopped," she said, adding, "I can't believe she would do this." Another fan wrote on Tumblr, "Robsten made me believe in a lot of things. They made me feel all the feelings I've never felt before ... Why? Life is sooo unfair? Why Robsten?" (via Fox News). Clearly, this was one couple that many people took very, very seriously.

Vanessa Hudgens and Zac Efron

For millennials, few couples epitomized high school love quite like Vanessa Hudgens and Zac Efron — after all, the pair met and fell in love on the set of "High School Musical." "We created a bond right from the start. We were like, 'We're doing this, it's us or nothing,'" Hudgens said on The Hollywood Reporter's "Awards Chatter" podcast. After four years, however, the high school sweethearts split. "They are 100 percent still good friends," once source told People at the time.

Good friends or not, fans of the pair were not happy. However, as it turns out, fans might have been partly to blame for the split in the first place. Apparently, Hudgens started to hate Efron's fans.  "I went through a phase when I was really mean because I was so fed up," she said. "Girls were running after him, and I was giving them death stares. Then I realized that's not what that's about."

Nevertheless, some fans still rooted for the pair to get back together. In fact, after Hudgens broke up with Austin Butler years later, many fans hoped Efron might re-enter the picture. "It may not be what this generation deserves but it's what we need," tweeted one.

Taylor Swift and Harry Styles

Before Taylor Swift found her "Lover" in Joe Alwyn, she found someone with "Style" in — you guessed it — Harry Styles. Swift and Styles started dating in 2012. They were seen going for walks and even kissing on New Year's Eve. Pop fans were obsessed with this iconic pairing — but sadly, it didn't last. The pair allegedly broke things off in 2013 after what a source told the Daily Mail was an "almighty row" that saw Swift leaving their New Year's Eve vacation getaway early.

Fans of the two pop stars have always held out hope that the pair might one day rekindle their relationship — or, at the very least, become friends. When Swift and Styles were spotted together at the 2021 Grammys, many fans were thrilled. "THEM WINNING GRAMMYS AND INTERACTING MIGHT BE ONE OF THE BEST THINGS OF 2021 SO FAR," one ecstatic fan tweeted. The pair interacted a second time at the 2023 Grammys, once again sending fans into an uproar. Who can blame them? These two never really went out of style.

Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber

Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber were another couple who, in their time, were pop royalty. The pair dated intermittently from 2010 until 2018 and their relationship became pretty serious, with the couple even moving in together at one point. After their final breakup in March 2018, Bieber began seeing his now-wife Hailey Baldwin (allegedly for a second time).

Even though fans loved "Jelena," their relationship certainly wasn't without drama — in fact, there's still plenty of Jelena drama, despite Bieber's marriage to Hailey. There has been an alleged feud between Hailey and Gomez for years, and Hailey has claimed that Jelena fans constantly bully her online. "I've had to work a lot of this through with a therapist, because it had got to a point where they'd gotten way too crazy for me, and I was really anxious all the time," Hailey even told the Evening Standard about the Jelena trolls. One Jelena fan page on Instagram still has over 13,000 followers. Clearly, fans are still not over the end of this romance.

Will Arnett and Amy Poehler

Comedy power couple Will Arnett and Amy Poehler seemed like a match made in heaven. The pair first met at an improv performance in 1996, when Arnett was allegedly blown away by Poehler's comedic chops. They started dating in 2000 and married in 2003. Sadly, Arnett and Poehler split up in 2012, and the divorce wasn't easy. It was, as Arnett put it to The Guardian, "Just brutal, brutal, brutal. I was driving to the set one day and I pulled over to the side of the road and cried for an hour." Later, Poehler echoed the same sentiments: "I don't think a 10-year marriage constitutes failure," Poehler wrote in her memoir "Yes Please." "That being said, getting a divorce really sucks." (via HuffPost

As it turns out, fans were pretty attached to the couple and the news of the divorce was pretty hard to take for them, too. "I'm still trying to get over Will Arnett and Amy Poehler's divorce," tweeted one fan in 2014. Another fan was still reeling in 2022, tweeting, "I don't care much about celebrity relationships but I am still devastated by will arnett and Amy poehlers divorce." No joke, this one hit pretty hard.

Cara Delevingne and Ashley Benson

When Cara Delevingne and Ashley Benson started dating in 2018, fans of both the model and the "Pretty Little Liars" star were thrilled. The pair dated until 2020 when People reported, "Their relationship just ran its course." 

"I know it's not my business but i'm sad Cara Delevinge and Ashley Benson broke up," one fan of the couple tweeted. Another fan wrote for Vogue, "I can't deny how bummed I was to see that Benson and Delevigne had split." Some fans of Delevingne were so distraught by the split that they began trolling Benson. In fact, Delevingne had to post an Instagram story asking her fans to stop posting hateful messages to her ex. 

"It's more important now than ever to spread love, not hate," she wrote. "To everyone hating on [Benson] please stop. You don't know the truth, only her and I do and that's exactly how it should be," she wrote (via Daily Mail).

Idina Menzel and Taye Diggs

For musical theater fans, there was no bigger super-couple than the original Elphaba from "Wicked," Idina Menzel, and Taye Diggs, also known for "Wicked," "Rent," and "Chicago." The pair first met while starring in the original Broadway production of "Rent" back in 1995. They tied the knot in 2003 and had their son, Walker Nathaniel, in 2009. However, the seemingly picture-perfect relationship didn't last, as the couple announced their split in 2020.

For theater fans, the breakup was heartbreaking. On Reddit, one fan wrote, "I was hoping the rumors weren't true as I loved them together," while another added, "They were the only celebrity couple I ever cared about." Even the actors knew that their separation hurt fans. They even considered the reaction when they decided to split. As Diggs told Redbook, "I'd be lying if I said there weren't times when I thought, 'Oh, man, people are going to trip out [if we split].' Maybe they thought it was cute that we met in 'Rent.'"

Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh

From appearing in prestige British dramas to starring in West End stage productions, Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh seemed like a match made in thespian heaven. During the early '90s, the British papers knew them as "Ken and Em." However, the pair's divorce in 1995 hit fans hard — especially after it was revealed that Branagh had cheated on Thompson with her former "Howard's End" co-star, Helena Bonham-Carter.

"I was utterly, utterly blind to the fact that he had relationships with other women on set," Thompson later said to The New Yorker. "What I learned was how easy it is to be blinded by your own desire to deceive yourself." Thompson later channeled her feelings about the split in a scene in "Love Actually" in which her character discovers her husband has been having an affair. "I had my heart very badly broken by Ken. So I knew what it was like to find the necklace that wasn't meant for me," she once said at an event (via Daily Mail). "Well it wasn't exactly that, but we've all been through it."

Even though Thompson has since moved on, not all of her fans have. "It's been 20 years and I'll still never forgive Kenneth Branagh for what he did to Emma Thompson," tweeted one, echoing the feelings of many others.

Kacey Musgraves and Ruston Kelly

When pop-country singer Kacey Musgraves released her album "Golden Hour" in 2018, fans quickly fell in love with her relationship with Ruston Kelly. The album was filled with love songs that painted the picture of an endlessly happy couple, with lyrics like, "I used to get sad/And lonely when the sun went down/ But it's different now/'Cause I love the light that I found in you." The pair married in 2017, but by 2020, they had filed for divorce.

For fans of Musgraves' album, the breakup felt extra personal. "When the news [of their divorce] broke, it made me pause," wrote reporter Anna Gragert for InStyle. "I suddenly questioned the album, and, as a result, its deep connection to my life and what made me feel stable." Apparently, she even began to question her own relationship, which she had seen reflected in Musgraves' songs. And she wasn't the only one. A fan tweeted, "Why am I actually so sad about Kacey and Ruston's divorce lol like I was just listening to the golden hour album in the shower last night and being sad."

Rachel Bison and Adam Brody

One of the original celebrity couples was Adam Brody and Rachel Bilson, who first found fame as co-stars of "The O.C." While their characters fell in love on screen, the actors also began dating in real life. The relationship allegedly lasted for three years. Naturally, fans were obsessed. 

As Isabel Jones explained in InStyle, she assumed, as a young fan of the show, that Brody and Bilson's relationship was just like Summer and Seth's romance on the show. "When their relationship moved offscreen as well, I failed to see a divide between the quirky rich SoCal kids and their (likely similarly wealthy) real-life counterparts," she wrote. So when the pair broke up, it was nothing short of devastating, especially as it came around the same time of the show's final season.

It seems that Bilson knows just how much fans loved her relationship with Brody. In fact, when InStyle tweeted about the infamous breakup, Bilson even replied, "I'M SORRY!!!! He fared really well!" (via Glamour).