THE GOLDEN AGE OF CINEMA
Cinema is now over 100 years old. While few of the audience members from those first silent films are still with us, Hollywood has not forgotten the earlier generations. Over the years, they've always made movies depicting the trials, tribulations, laughs, and loves of seniors and those approaching retirement age. Here are 26 of the best movies about getting older we've picked for your Netflix queues or TCM parties.
Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) is ready to enjoy retirement when his wife (June Squibb) suddenly dies. With no other family left, Schmidt tries to reconnect with his daughter Jeannie (Hope Davis) but learns the hard way that her generation, and her fiance (Dermot Mulroney) live quite differently than he does. The standout scene is Schmidt's hot tub session with future in-law Kathy Bates.
ALL ABOUT EVE
What does a movie star do when she's getting older? Watches her back, according to this Hollywood classic. Sure, giving back to the next generation and being a mentor is noble, but don't end up training your replacement like Margo Channing (Bette Davis) did when Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) came to Broadway.
It's never too late to be who you are. Like many people of a more closeted generation, Hal (Christopher Plummer) finally comes out to his son Oliver (Ewan McGregor) near the end of his life. Plummer rightfully won an Oscar for his role in this sweet, meaningful dramedy.
THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL
A veritable "Who's Who" of British acting royalty (Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith) decide to retire in luxury in India. "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" isn't quite what the name promises, but characters rediscover old loves, cope with grief, and face retirement there. It must be a special place because they all returned for a sequel.
THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY
Based on a best-selling book, Clint Eastwood directs and stars with Meryl Streep in a story of forbidden love later in life. Francesca (Streep) is alone for the weekend when photographer Robert Kincaid (Eastwood) comes to town. Their affair lasts only a weekend while her family is away, but as Kincaid proclaims, "This kind of certainty comes only once, and never again."
THE BUCKET LIST
Rob Reiner's movie faces mortality with a laugh with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. Diagnosed with cancer, Edward (Nicholson) and Carter (Freeman) know their time limit, so they try to fulfill all their dreams before they kick the bucket. Their bucket list was so influential, now everyone has a bucket listthey want to check off before they die.
Okay, in real life aliens probably aren't going to drop their cocoons in your pool and make you young again, but it's no mystery why this fantasy appealed to the retirement home set. Seeing Don Ameche, Wilford Brimley, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, Maureen Stapleton, and Gwen Verdon get rejuvenated was wish fulfillment, and a slice of life in a retirement home.
DRIVING MISS DAISY
Losing one's driver's license is also a reality many seniors eventually have to face. When Miss Daisy (Jessica Tandy) crashes her car, her son (Dan Aykroyd) hires Hoke (Morgan Freeman) to be her driver. Hoke and Daisy form a touching, Oscar-winning friendship, and he teaches her what life is like for a black man in the South in the '50s and '60s.
You can't get much more authentic than literally watching kids grow up. Director Michael Apted follows his subjects every seven years, so his latest documentary finds them at age 56. Neil has dealt with mental illness and is now involved with a church. Peter skipped several "Ups" but returned with his band. Sue, a teenage dropout, is now a guest speaker at universities. Just wait for "63 Up"!
FRIED GREEN TOMATOES
A generational story of friendship, Evelyn Couch (Kathy Bates) meets Ninny Threadgoode (Jessica Tandy) in a nursing home. Ninny entertains Evelyn with stories of the town's history, which in turn empower Evelyn to improve her present life. Also based on a bestseller, this hit reminds us our elders havevaluable stories to share.
GOING IN STYLE
Clint Eastwood embraces his grizzled experience in this drama about a racist Korean War veteran out to clean up his neighborhood. Eastwood gets to kick a little butt and learn to be a little more tolerant of the Asian-American neighbors. If you ever want to tell pesky kids to "get off your lawn," try to imitate your best Clint Eastwood voice from this movie.
You can't beat real life. This 1975 documentary about Jackie Kennedy's aunt and cousin, Edith and Little Edie Bouvier Beale, shows the Kennedy in-laws at their most eccentric. Reclusive in their dilapidated estate, the Bouviers leave the high life behind in favor of cats, raccoons, and their own dysfunctional bickering. A made-for-TV version starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange was also released in 2009.
GRUMPY OLD MEN
If you're going to get old and grumpy, at least make it funny. Who better to find the laughs than the original Odd Couple, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau? As feuding neighbors in a winter fishing town, this reunion rekindled the magic so much that they not only made a sequel, "Grumpier Old Men," but continued making movies together until Matthau passed away in 2000.
HAROLD AND MAUDE
In this Hal Ashby classic, Harold (Bud Cort) is morbidly focused on death at a very young age. Through his friendship with Maude (Ruth Gordon), Harold learns about getting the most out of life. She even teaches him to play banjo. Harold falls for her but Maude knows she's not long for this world in this bittersweet classic about experience and youth.
Bored with retirement, Ben (Robert De Niro) takes an internship at an online fashion company. He doesn't need the money, but he needs something to do and this new world of business opens him up to new experiences and teaches an office full of millennials a thing or two about business.
Pixar's classic may be a fantastical adventure about a house floating with balloons, but it's really about Carl (Ed Asner) dealing with his grief over his wife, and finding the son he never had. The first 10 minutes get all the glory, but by the time Carl confronts his idol Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer) and leaves the house behind, "Up" may be the most sentimental movie ever made.
David Grant (Will Forte) isn't too close with his father Woody (Bruce Dern), but when Woody thinks he's won a sweepstakes, David agrees to drive him to Nebraska to collect. Knowing full well Woody will be disappointed at the end, the road trip makes David appreciate his parents (including June Squibb as his mother) and what they suffered for the family.
Half of "The Notebook" is a classic young love story, but the other half is the ultimate bittersweet tragedy. Duke (James Garner) is living in a home with Allie (Gena Rowlands) who is suffering from Alzheimer's. Duke spends every day reading Allie their story. We can all aspire to be as patient and committed as Duke, and hope to have a Duke in our lives.
ON GOLDEN POND
Traditions are important. Ethel (Katharine Hepburn) and Norman Thayer (Henry Fonda) spend every summer on Golden Pond. This year, they're dealing with Norman's increasing heart and memory problems, but also bonding with their future step-grandson Billy (Doug McKeon) and eventually reconcile with their daughter Chelsea (Jane Fonda), too. Is this a Fonda family portrait in disguise?
Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is an underdog again now that he's retired from boxing, a widower, estranged from his son (Milo Ventimiglia) and all he's got now is a Philly restaurant. An exhibition match with the current champ helps Rocky find his place in the world and get one more shot at glory. Even then, Rocky's story wasn't over, continuing in the "Creed" films.
SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE
Aging actors matched up with young ingenues has been a Hollywood problem for decades, so Nancy Meyers wrote a comedy where Jack Nicholson plays a man who's as surprised as anyone to fall for a woman (Diane Keaton) his own age. With plenty of jokes about senior sex myths, "Something's Gotta Give" shows there's no age limit on the perfect romantic comedy.
Julianne Moore won an Oscar for her portrayal of a woman dealing with early onset Alzheimer's in her 50s. Inspired by co-director Richard Glatzer's battle with ALS (he died weeks after the Oscars), this is a necessarily stark portrayal of degenerative illness. For people suffering from them and their loved ones, it's very relatable and sympathetic.
This classic is a cautionary tale about aging celebrity. Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) is desperate to get back in the spotlight, but screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) finds himself in a deadly game trying to deliver. No one wants to end up like Norma but she sure is fun to watch, ready for her closeup in a film that no one is making.
THE SUNSHINE BOYS
Neil Simon's comedy is about a comeback. Walter Matthau and George Burns play a vaudeville duo who get a shot at a TV reunion special, but the biggest thing standing in their way is each other. Matthau and Burns make another classic odd couple of grumpy old men, but it's also true about carrying around stubbornness for the rest of your life.
THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL
Based on the Horton Foote play, Carrie Watts (Geraldine Page) wants to visit her childhood home in Bountiful one more time. They say you can't go home again, but everyone can relate to the desire. This story is so powerful it made it from stage to screen, and a TV remake with Cicely Tyson.