Everyone likes to see themselves reflected in movies and TV - including the 65+ crowd.
While it may often feel like American culture only values youth, there are lots of films out there that examine the part-wonderful, part-bittersweet aspects of aging with humor, candor, and dignity.
“There’s a rich range of films that explore the lives of older people in all their complexity and diversity, focusing, among many other themes, on long marriages, daring journeys, ill health, and new connections and possibilities, as well as the existential questions inevitably arising towards the end of life,” movie critic Alex Ramon wrote for the British Film Institute’s website.
Below are six great movies about the challenges and unexpected joys of getting older.
Release Date: May 29, 2009
Genre: Kids & Family, Animation
Synopsis: This animated movie features an old man named Carl, who is grieving the loss of his wife. Cranky and angry with the world, he decides to tie thousands of balloons to his house so that he can float away to a far-off land. Unbeknownst to him, a little boy named Russell has climbed aboard, and soon they are off on this quirky, heartfelt adventure together. The story will pull at the heartstrings of people at any age.
In 2009, Roger Ebert praised the movie, noting that “‘Up’ doesn't think all heroes must be young or sweet, although the third important character is a nervy kid.”
Harold and Maude
Release Date: January 1, 1971
Genre: Dark comedy
Synopsis: This cult-classic is about a strange relationship between a 20-year-old death-obsessed man named Harold, and an 80-year-old free-spirited woman named Maude. After they meet at a funeral, an unexpected relationship blossoms, and he is able to find some answers for one of life’s biggest questions: How do we enjoy the life and time we’ve been given?
The Guardian wrote that “Harold and Maude is the kind of cinema that draws you in for the storyline and keeps you there for the beating heart,” even 51 years after its release.
Fried Green Tomatoes
Release Date: December 27, 1991
Synopsis: Based on the 1987 novel by Fannie Flagg, this movie tells the story of a shy and sad housewife named Evelyn Couch. At a nursing home, she meets the high-spirited Ninny Threadgoode, who begins to tell her stories about her youth and the people she used to know. Evelyn is captivated and inspired by Ninny’s stories and, because of them, eventually finds the courage to take control of her own life.
Movie reviewer James Berardinelli described the movie as “gritty and inspirational, while still maintaining enough comedy to offset the less-comfortable instances of emotional upheaval.”
Driving Miss Daisy
Release Date: December 13, 1989
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Synopsis: When an older white woman named Miss Daisy crashes her car and loses her license, her son hires a Black man named Hoke to be her new driver. Over time, an unexpected friendship forms between them, and she sees and hears firsthand what life is like for a Black man in the South in the 1950s and 1960s.
Roger Ebert described the film back in 1990 as “a film of great love and patience, telling a story that takes 25 years to unfold.”
Something’s Gotta Give
Release Date: December 12, 2003
Genre: Romance, Comedy
Synopsis: Aging music executive, Harry, who is known to be a playboy, arrives with his much-younger girlfriend Marin at her family’s beach house. After a sudden heart attack, Harry ends up spending much of his recovery with Marin’s mother. They eventually and unexpectedly fall in love, demonstrating that love can always be found, even later in life and in unexpected places.
Newsweek wrote that the movie “ricochets between farce and poignancy, [and] casts just enough romantic pixie dust to leave you smiling.”
Release Date: March 25, 1956
Synopsis: The black-and-white film Ikiru (which means “To Live” in Japanese) focuses on Mr. Watanabe, who finds out he is dying of cancer. Wanting to make his final days meaningful, he eventually decides to build a playground in a poor neighborhood.
The LA Times wrote in 1992 that the “masterpiece is a story of deep personal emotion set against the backdrop of a reeling postwar society.”