Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Movies about Mature Men Preserving Power

Photo by dlholt. 
Do you think action heroes can only be played by movie stars in their 20s or 30s?  

Think again. I'm seeing several films that show feats of strength by men in their 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond.

Films featuring seasoned heroes can serve to inspire mature movie goers to achieve at work, at home, in civic organizations or on running trails.

[Last Updated October 1, 2015 to add Dying of the Light (2014). 

Organized in reverse chronology, with most recent films first.

Mr. Holmes (2015).  Sherlock Holmes (played by Ian McKellen) is in his 90s.  Father Time may have him on the ropes, but Holmes still has formidable abilities. More importantly Holmes still has the opportunity for growth and development as he reviews his last case and in so doing reviews his strengths and weaknesses and asserts meaning and purpose for his life.   Trailer

Chef (2014).  Jon Favreau plays a chef at midlife fed up with cooking for someone else, so he quits and starts his own business.  He tests out new equipment, new recipes, a new staff and explores former relationships while driving his food truck across several states.  Yes, male midlife takes a road trip.  Trailer

Dying of the Light (2014).  CIA agent Evan Lake (played by Nicolas Cage) might have Frontotemporal Dementia, but he's not going to let his supervisors tell him what he can or cannot do despite his increasing problems controlling his aggression and accessing his memory.  

Begin Again (2013).  While the film might focus just a tiny bit more on Kiera Knightly's character, it does depict in great detail Mark Ruffalo's character in a midlife reconsideration of career and relationships.  A young songwriter serves as this broken down record director's muse while still very much directing her own life course. 

Skyfall (2012).  James Bond chases bad guys, beds exotic women and comes out alive after several unbelievable fight scenes and numerous breathtaking chase scenes.  Not only does Bond have to fight a super bad guy, he has to fight injuries to his body. In addition, as long-term employees with a lot of seniority, he and M. have to fight ageism at the office.  That's a battle on three fronts, four if you count self-doubt. Trailer

Trouble with the Curve (2012).  An experienced baseball does his job after macular degeneration impairs his vision.  Clint Eastwood shows a mature man jostling to maintain power when ambitious, younger men try to push him out.  He also has to work out a relationship with his adult daughter who harbors a lot of anger about how he--as a single dad--raised her.
Win Win (2011).  A lawyer in midlife has difficulty making ends meet, so he becomes the guardian of an older adult with memory problems.  A troubled grandson shows up and then an estranged daughter.  The movie focuses more on the midlife man forging a relationship with the teen than the grandpa. 
Age of Champions (2011). This documentary follows a handful of mature athletes as they train and compete at the Senior Games.  While there are some female athlete interviewed, the majority are men. We meet brothers who swim at 88 and 90, an 100 year old tennis player,  and a pair of men in their late 80s competing against each other in shot put, javelin and discus.
R.E.D. (2010).  "Retired, Extremely Dangerous."   The film stars an ensemble cast (Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, John Malkovitch, and Mary-Louise Parker) of spies returning to work at midlife or late life with even greater verve.
Old Goats (2010). Three older men offer each other support while trying to hit their stride during their retirement years. They encourage and provoke each other while they seek to form relationships with women, embark on adventures, and establish a legacy.
Frontline: The Old Man and the Storm (2009).    This "Katrina" 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. 

The Way We Get By (2009).  A documentary about three older adults--Joan, Bill and Jerry--who volunteer to greet soldiers passing through their local airport, Bangor International.  They all have ties to the military, either as veterans or as a grandparent to active duty soldiers. Bill (88 at the time of filming) is a WW2 vet. We find them fighting different battles just to get through the day.

Gran Torino (2008), Clint Eastwood plays the role of Walt, a veteran trying to adjust to changes in his neighborhood.  After his wife's death, he grows increasingly aware that his neighbors are primarily ethnic minorities whom he doesn't understand or care to meet. Nevertheless, Walt marshals his skills and employs his insights to help his neighbors, to mentor a rootless teen boy, and to stand up to the local thugs.
On a Clear Day (2005). Frank is a shipbuilder forced into early retirement at only 55 who suffers for a time with an identity crisis and depression.  He's disoriented by losing his role nailing together massive ships, but Frank finally rebuilds himself to be an athlete when he sets a goal to swim the English Channel. He also works through the challenges in gaining the support of his family.
The World's Fastest Indian (2005). Anthony Hopkins plays a real-life hero, New Zealander Burt Munro, motorcycle racer. Munro customized and Indian motorcycle to peak performance so that he could win the world's record for speed on a motorcycle.  Munro was 68 years old when he achieved that feat.
Life as a House (2001). At midlife, George Monroe's life is as run down as the beach shack he inherited from his father.  He's living a stagnant life until he finds out that he has terminal cancer. This pulls him out of his midlife doldrums and motivates him to teach his son what it means to be a man. 
Space Cowboys (2000). This film persuades viewers that it's never too late to be a hero. Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland and James Garner star as members of an Air Force team who reunite after a 40 year hiatus. NASA needs their expertise in order to repair a satellite. However, they must combat ageism every step of the way.
The Straight Story (1999). Based on a the feat of Alvin Straight, a 73 year old man with financial and mobility problems who forges a way to make a trip to a neighboring state. Alvin has been judged incapable of driving a car, so he tinkers with a riding lawnmower in order to drive it 240 miles from his home in Iowa to his brother's home in Wisconsin. Where those around him wanted to emphasize his limitations, Alvin persevered and demonstrated his capabilities. 

Nobody's Fool (1994). Paul Newman stars as Sully, a man in late midlife still struggling to establish a family and a vocation.  Filmed in rural NY, we see a cast of small-town characters who either help and hope or doubt and take digs.  Does Sully have enough character and enough time to turn  his life around? 
Signs of Life (1989). Arthur Kennedy plays a 66 year old shipbuilder who has to shutter the business his grandfather and father passed down to him. On the day he delivers his last boat, he and three younger male employees must ask themselves several questions about competing pressures on men, such as, "What do I do with my life? What am I worth? What are my responsibilities? What are my dreams?"

When Mature Men Fail to Maintain Power

There are a set of films where older men fail to regain their physical, financial, or social strength, but may gain psychological or spiritual power as a result.  Such a message is hard to sell to movie goers who prefer the fantasy that we can succeed by external measures (money, sex, fame, beauty, clout, health) in every arena and every life stage.  

In reverse chronology

The Land of Steady Habits (2014)
The Song of Lunch (2010)
That Evening Sun (2009)
Goodbye Solo (2008)
Is Anybody There? (2008)
Reach for Me (2008)
About Schmidt (2002)
I'm Not Rappaport (1996)
Wrestling Earnest Hemingway (1993)
Pelle the Conquerer (1987)
Gin Game (2003 or 1981)
Ran (1985)
Death of a Salesman (1985)
King Lear (1983)
On Golden Pond (1981)

Q: Do you know of any other films about re-examining / re-asserting masculine power in midlife, late life? 


Films about Aging A-L
Novels about Older Men Facing Death
Gender Differences in Midlife / Late Life Spirituality


  1. Well, I guess I'll have to watch some of these now :>)

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