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Let's go to the movies! This list features films that contain salient images of people in late midlife and beyond. Please fill free to suggest titles or themes in a comment below. Last update was Queen Mimi (2015), reviewed in November of 2016.
- Movies Depicting Alzheimer's Disease (29 films)
- Movies about Love & Sex for People 50 Plus (25 films)
- Movies Set in Nursing Homes / Retirement Communities (23 films)
- Movies about Midlife / Aging Released in 2014 (22 films)
- Movies about Mature Men Preserving Power (20 films)
- Movies about Aging in French or France (17 films)
- Movies about Older Adults Active in the Dying Process (16 films)
- Movies about Mature Artists (14 films)
- Movies about Children and Older Adults (11 films)
- Movies about Aging in Japan (10 films)
- Movies about Older LGBT People (6 films)
If you want to see what films are on my list of those YET to be viewed, check out this post that lists another 100+ titles. I hope to add them to the list below at the pace of one a week.
The List A-F
5 Flights Up (2015). Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman star as a couple married for 40 years who are contemplating moving out of their walk-up apartment and into a building with an elevator. They review key scenes from their long-time marriage during the process.
56 Up (2013). This is the most recent in a series of 8 documentaries about the same set of people from England, filmed every 7 years since they were 7 years old. In this film, the film subjects talk about their children launching and having grandchildren. There are numerous clips of each person from previous films, showing age-related changes to attitudes, behaviors and appearance.
About Schmidt (2002). Jack Nicholson plays Warren Schmidt, who finds at 66 years old that he is unsure of his place in the world. With a comedic tone, this movie asks some serious questions about how people find purpose during late adulthood as Schmidt reviews his life on the eve of his only child's wedding.
Advanced Style (2014). Photographer and blogger Ari Seth Cohen photographs New York women ages 60 plus who show great style for fashion. This documentary features a half dozen or these women--their outfits, their biographies and their perspective on life. Full Review
(#5) Age of Champions (2011). This documentary follows a handful of mature athletes as they train and compete at the Senior Games. We meet brothers who swim at 88 and 90, a 100 year old tennis player, a team of women basketball players aged 65 plus, and a pair of men in their late 80s competing against each other in shotput, javelin and discus.
Age-Old Friends (1989). Hume Cronyn stars as a resident in an assisted-living facility facing age-related changes, including a friend's (Vincent Gardenia) failing memory.
Alberta Hunter: My Castle's Rockin' (1992). Hunter (1885-1984) established herself as a singer in Chicago in the early 1920s. She went on to perform in New York, London and Paris. She sang on Broadway, on albums, and with the USO. After a two decade hiatus as a nurse, Hunter delighted audiences with a comeback at age 82 which included a performance at the White House.
Alexandra (2007). A Russian grandmother visits her grandson at his military base and does an informal inspection and informal set of interviews in order to evaluate the conditions. It seems as though it would be a comedy, but it's really a serious critique of the absurdities of war.
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974). This film won the the critics' prize at Cannes for its portayal of prejudice in modern Germany. A thirtysomething immigrant from Morocco marries a sixtysomething German widow. They must find a way to respond to how their relationship bothers their family, friends, co-workers and neighbors.
(#10) Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory (2014). A documentary that shows what happens when people with dementia receive headphones and an iPod filled with their favorite music. They produce more language than usual, interact with others around them and increase movement. Full Review
All Together (2011). A French film featuring an ensemble cast of seasoned actors ranging from age 66 to age 82 at the time of release. Two married couple and a confirmed bachelor have been friends for more than 40 years. When health and memory problems plague a few of the members, they decide to live in the largest house owned by one of the couples. Complexities emerge, some of them age-related, some of them borne from personality conflicts, some from long-held secrets.
Amour (2012). This French-language film depicts a mature couple trying to adapt to the wife's disabilities after she suffers a series of strokes that make her increasingly incapable of caring for herself. Full Review.
And So It Goes (2014). Kirk Douglas and Diane Keaton star in this romantic comedy about feuding neighbors who build a fragile truce when the man discovers he is a grandfather but has no idea and very little desire to care for his grandchild.
Another Year (2010). While billed as a dramedy, this ensemble cast leans towards drama with its comparison between midlife characters who are happy with their jobs and relationships contrasted sharply with others who are not. A sobering cautionary tale.
(#15) Antonia's Line (1995). A film from the Netherlands about a woman who builds a sense of family from passion and caretaking where bloodlines do not necessarily exist.
Assisted Living (2003). The director mixes footage from a documentary about an assisted living center with an art house storyline about the attachment formed between a frequently stoned janitor and a resident who pines for a call from her son. While at times a bit slow and overwrought, the film conveys some great messages about the human condition in general and the plight of nursing home residents specifically.
Autumn Spring (2001). A Czech film that explores the opposing ways one couple copes with the physical, social, and financial challenges of aging.
Away from Her (2006). A couple struggles to respond to the wife's diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease and her deteriorating condition.
Barbarian Invasions (2003). A French-Canadian film about an aging professor dying of cancer. He's conducted several affairs over his life and failed to achieve in his career, probably due to his hedonism. His son comes to Canada from London. The son helps to make his father more comfortable and encourages friends to visit, which leads to a "Big Chill" feel to the second half of the film.
Barney's Version (2010). The film is a series of flashbacks of a man in his late 60s remembering his three ex-wives and his bohemian friends from their days in Rome in the 1970s. His life was complicated enough by his ill behavior when dementia in the present (briefly portrayed) makes everything even harder.
Batteries Not Included (1987). An ensemble cast of 5 face eviction because a greedy developer wants to put a skyscraper where their apartment complex sits in Manhattan. Jessica Tandy, Hume Cronyn and 3 other tenants fight back with the help of alien robot. Tandy plays a person with memory problems, but her behavior has more to do with propelling the plot than with depicting dementia accurately.
The Beaches of Agnes (2008). A documentary--or really a film memoir--by Agnes Varda, a French film director. It's experimental in its methods and contains some nudity.
(#25) Been Rich All My Life (2006). This documentary profiles five chorus girls who danced in Harlem at the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater--and who are still dancing as part of a group called the Silver Belles. They range in age from 84 to 96.
Before You Know It (2013). This documentary follows three older gay men as they talk about their past experiences and their present challenges and opportunities.
Begin Again (2013) can be categorized as a midlife crisis film for its depiction of a record producer (Mark Ruffalo) whose life is in the toilet until he meets a new muse, a young songwriter.
Beginners (2010). Christopher Plummer wins the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor at age 82 for his portrayal of Hal Fields, a man who comes out as gay at age 75. The film is framed around his son's quest to process this fact as well as his parents' deaths spaced just a few years apart. Full Review.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012). A group of older adults from England decide to stretch their retirement pound by relocating to India. When they arrive, they find their accommodations much less luxurious than advertised, but in the process of adjusting, they find renewed vigor in their sunset years.
Big Fish (2003). A beautiful and heart-wrenching film about an adult son struggling to come to terms with his father's eccentricities as the father's health is failing.
(#35) Boynton Beach Club (2005). A handful of adults 55 plus must make the adjustment to single life after losing a spouse. The singles scene for older adults has its mix of comedy and drama.
Buena Vista Social Club (1999). Wim Wenders directs this documentary about Cuban musicians now in their 80s and 90s.
Calendar Girls (2003). A group of older women redefine sexuality for the older woman when they pose nude for a fundraiser.
Checking Out (2005). Peter Falk stars as an aging actor from the Yiddish theatre who has summoned his three grown children home to Manhattan for his farewell party and funeral. The film depicts the love and conflict of family members who do not live locally and who struggle to work out past conflicts and present differences.
Cherry Blossoms (2008) Set partially in Germany and partially in Japan, this film shows a couple teetering between late midlife and older adulthood as they try to connect with each other and with their adult children. Alludes to Tokyo Story (1953), which in turn alludes to Make Way for Tomorrow (1937).
(#45) Cinema Paradisio (1988). An accomplished film director returns home and reviews his life.
Cloud 9 (2008). This German film (Wolke Neun) focuses on Inge, a sixtysomething woman, who begins an affair with Karl, a man in his seventies, forsaking her husband, Werner, of 30 years. The film contains quite a bit of full-frontal nudity and graphic sex scenes in the first 42 minutes. So if you want to skip ahead to the emotional / relationship fallout, then start half way. The film makes it clear that love, romance, sexual desire and complicated relationships aren't just restricted to younger adults.
Cloudburst (2011). Two women in love for over 30 years are separated when one is put into a nursing home by a grandchild. Not to be separated, they go on a road trip to get married in Canada.
Cocoon (1985). A group of older adults get a new lease on life when alien forces produce a "fountain of youth" effect on them.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008). Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchette are featured as star-crossed lovers, thwarted by the challenges of aging: he's old, she's young, but over time this dynamic reverses. Along the way, the film delivers a lot of commentary about the ebb and flow of life as they adopt various social roles and adjust psychologically to these age-relate changes.
(#50) Cyber-Seniors (2014). Ostensibly, this 75-minute documentary is about older adults learning how to use the internet. The real message is the mutual benefits of bridging the generation gap and the power of life-long learning and self-expression. Full Review
Departures (2008). This lyrical Japanese film examines the attitudes and rituals around death and cremation in Japan. The soundtrack features the cello in a way that is at once haunting and inspiring.
Diminished Capacity (2008). Alan Alda and Matthew Broderick star as an uncle-nephew pair who both suffer memory loss: the uncle due to Alzheimer's, the nephew due to a concussion.
Driving Miss Daisy (1989). An older woman and her chauffer must adjust their relationship over time where some changes happen because of culture and some because of age.
Dying of the Light (2014). Nicolas Cage plays Evan Lake, CIA agent, who has a recent diagnosis of Frontotemporal Dementia. Lake seeks to bring an old foe to justice despite disease-related problems with controlling his anger and accessing his memories.
(#55) Eat Drink Man Woman (1999) Directed by Ang Lee, this Taiwanese film centers on the lives of a widower and his three single daughters. They are trying to launch by also worried about him.
Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement (2009). After being a couple for more than 40 years, Edie Wilson and Thea Spryer travel to Canada to marry. The review their life by narrating several photos from their past via a slide show. Thea's worsening MS makes their time together more dear.
Elsa & Fred (2005). This Spanish-language film introduces us to impulsive Elsa trying to loosen up recently widowed Fred. Their adult kids sometimes interfere, but they assert their right to live as they choose.
Evening (2007). Vanessa Redgrave stars as a woman reliving a key series of events surrounding he best friend's wedding and trying to find peace amid long-festering regrets. Toni Collette plays one of her adult daughters, wanting to prevent regrets but afraid to take action and make lasting commitments.
The Field (1990). Richard Harris plays Bull McCade, a mature farmer determined to buy a field that he and his relatives have been cultivating for years. He marshals every resource to the task because he wants his son inherit the land of his ancestors. Full Review
(#60) Finding Jenua (2011). A young woman running away from her past meets an older woman trying to remember hers. A short film at 70 minutes.
Firefly Dreams (2001). This Japanese coming-of-age film focuses on a 17 year old girl whose parents' poor behavior rattles her, but she meets an older woman who is living with dementia and hearing about this woman's talk about her adventures in the 1940s helps the teen.
The First Grader (2010). Based on a true story of an octogenerian Mau Mau fighter attending grade school in Kenya. He learns how to read while also teaching his fellow students and the school faculty about his personal history fighting the British decades prior.
The Forgetting (2003). A documentary based on the book by David Shenk. Director Elizabeth Arledge films a handful of families about their experience with Alzheimer's Disease. The film also includes interviews with scientists who are researching causes and drug therapies. Bonus materials include a 30 minute Q&A with moderator David Hyde Pierce and interviews with Shank and with Arledge.
A Foreign Field (1993). Alec Guinness and two other WW2 vets return to France after nearly 50 years to solidify their memories of the war and of wartime romances.
(#65) Fred Won't Move Out (2012). A short film starring Elliot Gould about two adult children trying to convince their aging parents to leave their home in order to move into assisted living. Based on the director's experience with his own parents and filmed in his parents' home.
Fried Green Tomatoes (1991). A middle-aged woman must remake herself and is inspired to do so by the stories she hears from an older woman.
Frontline: Can You Afford to Retire? (2006). Investigative reporters examine the change in workplace retirement plans during the 1980s and 1990s that moved away from defined benefits (pensions) to defined contributions (401ks).
Frontline: Facing Death (2010). Medical personnel, patients and family members discuss on camera the tough decisions to prolong life through invasive medical procedures that often hinder quality of life. When do people turn away from these procedures common in end-of-life--chemo/radiation and/or intubation and/or dialysis and/or feeding tubes and/or ventilator--and transition to comfort care?
Frontline: Living Old (2006). A 60 minute documentary that focuses on the frail old living at home with the help of family or home health aids or living in nursing homes. Available online at PBS.
(#70) Frontline: My Father, My Brother and Me (2009). Journalist Dave Iverson investigates the various causes and treatments for Parkinson's Disease. He's especially interested since he, his father and his brother all have the disease.
Frontline: The Old Man and the Storm (2009). While many might categorize this as a "Katrina" film, this documentary centers on the devastation to 82-year-old Herbert Gettridge. In late life, his home was damaged extensively and his extended family dispersed to several other states. Nevertheless, he returns to his home and uses his skills and determination to rebuild against all odds.
Other stereotyping terms or too technical terms for these films are these: senior citizen films, films featuring retired people, movies with old men, movies with old ladies, geriatric films, movies for gerontology students, movies for aging studies classes, movies about people over 65 years old, movies with grandpas and grandmas.