Hollywood pays increasing attention to the lifestyles of later-life Americans – including both the pathologies and struggles that go with aging as well as virtues and inspiring victories, all of which bring purpose to life and meaning to longevity. Inspiration comes in many forms – including drama (Unforgiven), comedy (About Schmidt), romance (On Golden Pond), western (High Noon) adventure (The Bucket List), even science fiction (Cacoon) and animation (Up). In these and other films noted below we find stories of the search for purpose and meaning, estrangement and reconciliation, the struggle with boredom and mortality, and the virtues of patience and life-long devotion, curiosity, and determination.
The following are my film picks based on the movies we've seen and liked. You can recommend those you like and I will show your picks as well. If you have other films that deal with issues of later-life and longevity, please let me know and we will list your nomination along with the rest.
Descriptions are from the Internet Movie Data Base and can be found at www.imdb.com.
About Schmidt (2002)
125 min – Comedy | Drama – 20 December 2002 (USA) A man upon retirement embarks on a journey to his estranged daughter’s wedding only to discover more about himself and life than he ever expected. Director: Alexander Payne Stars: Jack Nicholson, Hope Davis and Dermot Mulroney
117 min – Adventure | Comedy | Romance – 21 June 1985 (USA) When a group of trespassing seniors swim in a pool containing alien cocoons, they find themselves energized with youthful vigor. Director: Ron Howard Stars: Don Ameche, Wilford Brimley and Hume Cronyn
Death of a Salesman (TV 1985)
130 min – Drama An aging traveling salesman recognizes the emptiness of his life and tries to fix it. Director: Volker Schlöndorff Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Kate Reid and John Malkovich
Gran Torino (2008)
116 min – Drama – 9 January 2009 (USA) Disgruntled Korean War vet Walt Kowalski sets out to reform his neighbor, a young Hmong teenager, who tried to steal Kowalski’s prized possession: his 1972 Gran Torino. Director: Clint Eastwood Stars: Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang and Christopher Carley
Grumpy Old Men (1993)
103 min – Comedy | Drama – 25 December 1993 (USA) A lifelong feud between two neighbors since childhood, only gets worse when a new female neighbor moves across the street. Director: Donald Petrie Stars: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau and Ann-Margret
Harry and Tonto (1974)
115 min – Adventure | Comedy | Drama – 15 January 1975 (France) When his apartment building is torn down, a retired lifelong New Yorker goes on a cross country odyssey with his beloved cat Tonto. Director: Paul Mazursky Stars: Art Carney , Ellen Burstyn and René Enríquez
High Noon (1952)
85 min – Drama | Western – 30 July 1952 (USA) A marshall retires his badge to become a storekeeper but is compelled to return to help his town in the face of a deadly enemy, despite his own town’s refusal to help him. Director: Fred Zinnemann Stars: Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly and Thomas Mitchell
I’ll See You in My Dreams (2015)
A widow and former songstress discovers that life can begin anew at any age.
Learning to Drive (2014)
A literary agent (Patricia Clarkson) whose husband left her and a Sikh driving instructor (Ben Kingsley) on the verge of an arranged marriage find that each has something to learn from the other about starting life anew.
On Golden Pond (1981)
109 min – Drama | Romance – 22 January 1982 (USA) An aging couple, Norman Thayer, a retired and cantankerous professor, and devoted wife Ethel have long had a summer cottage on a lake called Golden Pond where they are visited by an estranged daughter. Director: Mark Rydell Stars: Katharine Hepburn , Henry Fonda and Jane Fonda
Something’s Gotta Give (2003)
128 min – Comedy | Romance – 12 December 2003 (USA) A swinger on the cusp of being a senior citizen with a taste for young women falls in love with an accomplished woman closer to his age. Director: Nancy Meyers Stars: Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton and Keanu Reeves
The Bucket List (2007)
The Bucket List (2007) 97 min – Adventure | Comedy | Drama – 11 January 2008 (USA) Two terminally ill men escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a wish list of to-dos before they die. Director: Rob Reiner Stars: Jack Nicholson, Morgan Freeman and Sean Hayes
The Last Word (2017)
Harriet (Shirley MacLaine) is a successful, retired businesswoman who wants to control everything around her until the bitter end. To make sure her life story is told her way, she pays off her local newspaper to have her obituary written in advance under her watchful eye. But Anne (Amanda Seyfried), the young journalist assigned to…
The Lion in Winter (1968)
134 min – Drama | History | Romance – 30 October 1968 (USA) 1183 AD: King Henry II’s three sons all want to inherit the throne, but he won’t commit to a choice. They and his wife variously plot to force him. Director: Anthony Harvey Stars: Peter O’Toole, Katharine Hepburn and Anthony Hopkins
96 min – Animation | Adventure | Comedy – 29 May 2009 (USA) By tying thousands of balloons to his home, 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen sets out to fulfill his lifelong promise to his deceased wife to see the wilds of South America. Right after lifting off, however, he learns he isn’t alone on his journey, since Russell, a wilderness explorer 70…
Waiting for God (BBC TV Series 1990–1994)
30 min each – Comedy When Tom Ballard moves to Bayview Retirement Village, he meets Diana Trent, a feisty old woman who complains about everything and wants nothing more than just to die. The two form a friendship and eventually a romance, helping each other out of tight situations. Stars: Graham Crowden, Stephanie Cole and Daniel Hill