While young love is often the go-to rom-com form, there is something to be said and gained by the examination of “old” love. Love that has weathered a lifetime together. Love that blossoms despite and because of wrinkles and grey hairs. And love that faces the ultimate separation: death. In celebration of National Grandparents Day, I’ve put together a list of movies about older people showcasing love in the later stages, “old” love as it were.
The films essentially fall into two categories. Those where new love is blossoming in old vessels. And those where old love is facing trials and tribulations, including saying the ultimate goodbye.
So, yeah, there are fun rom-coms here, as well as some heavy-hitting, weepy dramas. All showcasing the beauty of laugh lines and crow’s feet. All seizing the day, because – as the grey hairs know – time is the one thing you will run out of.
So, hug a grandparent, a grandkid, a parent, a kid. Stop a moment and remember those who have said the final farewell. And work on maintaining those laugh lines. Happy Grandparents Day.
33 Movies About Older People For Grandparents Day
(In no particular order)
1. Finding Your Feet (2017)
The snobbish, stay-at-home wife/mother/grandmother Sandra (Imelda Staunton) discovers that her husband of 40 years has been having an affair with her best friend.
She promptly packs her things and moves in with her estranged bohemian sister (Celia Imrie) living in a London council estate. It’s a big change. Sandra is coerced by her sister into going to a dance class. And here, step by step, she finds herself and the courage to be open to new, romantic possibilities.
This film hits all the feelgood points. Timothy Spall and Joanna Lumley co-star.
Content Note: Rated PG-13.
2. Robin and Marian (1976)
Robin (Sean Connery) returns to Sherwood from the Crusades – war-wearied, weathered, wrinkled – after over two decades have passed. He chose, many moons before, to follow his king, leaving his love Maid Marian (Audrey Hepburn) behind.
The reunion of these old lovers is initially fraught with accusations and old hurts. Both are scarred, physically and emotionally. Yet, despite the passage of time, the hurts and the scars, the love remains.
Robin and Marian is a poignant examination of the nature of love, mature love that weathers and forgives and compromises and concedes and accepts. And lets go.
Content Note: Rated PG-13 for very brief backside nudity, some violence (without much gore), innuendos, some sexual references, brief profanity of a blasphemous nature and mature thematic elements.
3. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
An encounter with the Witch of the Waste has left the shy, dutiful Sophie cursed. She is now old, old beyond her years. She seeks out the wizard Howl, hoping he can help her break the curse. And a rather wild adventure begins. An adventure where an old crone can help put a stop to war.
And, perhaps, we are only as old as we think, that the key to breaking the aging curse is in one’s mindset. In being open to the world and its possibilities.
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Howl’s Moving Castle is a cinematographic treat for the eyes, truly, animation at its finest. Hayao Miyazaki directs. The animators of Studio Ghibli produce.
Content Note: Rated PG for frightening images and brief mild language.
4. Innocence (2000)
Half a century after an intense love affair, Andreas (Charles Tingwell) and Claire (Julia Blake) meet again quite accidentally. Circumstances beyond their control separated them a lifetime ago, but now – old and grey – they find the spark is still there.
Andreas is widowed, but Claire is married to John, has been for a lifetime. In rekindling their feelings for one another, Claire and Andreas experience a second youth, examining their lives and what they’ve done and become. And what they could yet do together. Claire starts casting off her meek, dutiful housewife and mother and grandmother roles, much to her family’s confusion and panic. But Andreas and Claire aren’t as young as they once were.
Innocence is an Australian gem of a film about seizing the day.
Content Note: Rated R for sexuality/nudity. I saw this movie when it first came out (dating myself, I know), and I loved it. There are sex scenes, but nothing too explicit (as I remember, but we are nearing twenty years ago now).
I suspect it’s the sexuality and nudity of old bodies that American censors considered restricted content, as well as the adulterous nature of the relationship. Other countries have tagged it as Mature, United Kingdom as 12, which is the same rating given to Stranger Things, Veronica Mars, The Office, just to give an idea.
5. Our Souls at Night (2017)
The longstanding recurring screen couple, Robert Redford and Jane Fonda reunite in this tale of two lonely neighbors finding companionship. Louis and Addie have lived on the same street for ages, both are widowed, both are lonely. But their relationship has been one of the superficial niceties.
Until Addie shows up and asks to sleep with Louis, just sleep in the same bed. Soon, they are spending their evenings and nights together, and maybe something more than friendship starts to blossom. But kids and grandkids want to have a say in how Addie and Louis conduct their lives.
There’s definitely a reason Fonda and Redford were paired so many times on screen. The chemistry between them is still there. And there’s something poignant about seeing them – old and grey – still open to new possibilities.
Content Note: Rated TV-14.
6. Quartet (2012)
At a home for retired musicians, the annual concert to celebrate composer Giuseppe Verdi’s birthday is disrupted by the arrival of Jean (Dame Maggie Smith). She is an eternal diva, famed and feared, and the ex-wife of one of the residents.
Reg (Tom Courtenay) is surprised to see her. Their break-up many years prior was acrimonious. But in being forced to sing together once again, Reg and Jean rehash old hurts, learn to forgive and maybe even to love once again.
This is a little gem of a film with the always great Dame Maggie Smith playing a romantic lead!
Content Note: Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and suggestive humor.
7. Harold and Maude (1971)
Harold (Bud Cort) hates life, until he meets the life-loving Maude (Ruth Gordon) at a funeral. He goes to funerals for fun. Maude is nearing 80, Harold is not yet 20. She is chatty and open and smiley, while he is withdrawn and sullen and rather mute.
But an unlikely friendship develops between the two, a love that starts to open up the possibilities of life to Harold. And the possibilities of a dignified death to Maude.
Harold and Maude is a cult classic, a dark rom-com, full of gallows humor, absurdism, quirky characters, Cat Stevens’ melodies, existentialist anxieties, and an inspirational and unconventional bittersweet love story.
Content Note: Rated PG.
8. Song for Marion (or Unfinished Song in the US) (2012)
Grumpy pensioner Arthur (Terence Stamp) honors his recently deceased wife’s passion for performing by joining the unconventional local choir to which she once belonged. It’s a process that helps him build bridges with his estranged son, as well as come to terms with Marion’s (Vanessa Redgrave) death.
Remember the tissues for this one. It’s a weepy, feelgood movie, with a great supporting cast, including Gemma Arterton and Christopher Eccleston.
Content Note: Rated PG-13 for some sexual references and rude gestures.
9. Mrs. Brown (1997)
A widowed, grieving Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) finds solace and companionship with her late husband’s former servant. John Brown (Billy Connolly) is summoned to court to coax Queen Victoria out of seclusion, so she can once again fulfill her royal duties. He does so – too well.
The two become virtually inseparable, much to the concern of the court, the parliament, the heirs. John breaks the protocol again and again. Many consider their relationship untoward, improper, unbefitting. Rumors abound. And Queen Victoria must choose between her personal desires and the demands of her titled position.
This is a delightful film with wonderful acting. Judi Dench won a Golden Globe and a BAFTA for her role.
Content Note: Rated PG for a beating, language, and brief nudity.
10. Hampstead (2017)
Though Emily (Diane Keaton) and Donald (Brendan Gleeson) live in the same London neighborhood of Hampstead, the worlds they inhabit could not be more different.
Emily is an American widow occupying a posh apartment she can no longer afford. Donald is an Irish loner who lives off the land in a makeshift cabin and wants nothing more than to be left in peace.
When his home is threatened by real estate developers, Emily believes she has found her new cause. But she gets more than she bargained for when romance blossoms.
A sweet, predictable rom-com.
Content Note: Rated PG-13 for some suggestive material and language.
11. Saving Grace (2000)
The middle-aged widow, Grace Trevethyn (Brenda Blethyn) has been left with an enormous debt by her irresponsible husband. In order to avoid losing her home, she is coerced by her gardener Matthew (Craig Ferguson) into growing cannabis in her greenhouse. Let the hijinks begin with rather hilarious results.
Saving Grace is a funny, funny film about never being too old for foolish adventures, new friendships and finding yourself.
Content Note: Rated R for drug content and language. The whole premise of the film is about producing illicit drugs and using them on occasion. There is a quick rant, during which a number of f-bombs are dropped. It has a PG rating in Canada, 15 years in the UK.
12. Amour (2012)
Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) are an octogenarian couple in their eighties. They are cultivated, retired music teachers, living in harmonious togetherness. Until Anne has a stroke, and Georges becomes her caretaker. She gradually gets worse and worse, and Georges must start considering what makes life worth living. And how to have a dignified death.
This award-winning film is beautiful and brutal, a heartachingly exquisite look at the end, at death. It is poignant, profound, thought-provoking, sob-inducing. Have many tissues on hand.
Content Note: Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material including a disturbing act, and for brief language.
13. Away from Her (2006)
Grant (Gordon Pinsent) and Fiona (Julie Christie) have been married for 44 years when Fiona is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She’s voluntarily admitted to a nursing home, where the standard procedure is to give the residents a month to settle in, without any visits from the outside.
When Grant is allowed to visit, Fiona no longer recognizes him and is giving all her attention to another man, a wheelchair-bound mute.
Sarah Polley (yes, Sara Stanley from Road to Avonlea) directs and co-writes this award-winning film, based on Nobel laureate Alice Munro’s short story. This is a heartbreaking, thought-provoking examination of loving enough to let go.
Content Note: Rated PG-13 for some strong language.
14. Victoria & Abdul (2017)
For Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887, a delegation from India arrives to present the queen (Judi Dench) with a specially minted gold coin. Abdul (Ali Fazal) makes the presentation, breaking more than a few protocols in the process.
For a queen who has been isolated in a bubble created by etiquette and privilege and tradition, this smiling man is a breath of fresh air. In puncturing that bubble, he awakens her. It sparks life into this lonely woman, who’s been longing for death. They become fast friends. And all the court officials and parliamentary members and heirs are duly suspicious and horrified.
This is a feel-good film about an unlikely friendship.
Content Note: Rated PG-13 for mild language and thematic content.
15. Cocoon (1985)
Residents of a retirement home “loan” repeatedly the pool of a neighboring home. There are strange, cocoon-like structures in the water. What the seniors don’t know is that these cocoons belong to an alien race. And that the waters surrounding them are filled with a life force to strengthen the cocoons for an intergalactic journey.
But the old folks are absorbing the life force instead and becoming stronger and healthier, reversing the tell-tale signs of aging. Yet, what are the repercussions of finding the fountain of youth and interacting with aliens?
Ron Howard directed this box-office hit that showcased many golden oldies of Hollywood, including Jessica Tandy, Hume Cronyn, Wilford Brimley, Maureen Stapleton, Don Ameche and on it goes. Ameche won an Oscar for his role.
Content Note: Rated PG-13
16. A Song for Martin (2001)
Martin (Sven Wolter) is a composer/conductor, Barbara (Viveka Seldahl) a violinist. Their flirtatious banter from the symphony turns into a full-blown affair.
They eventually divorce their respective spouses in order to be together. On their honeymoon, though, Martin begins to experience bouts of amnesia. Alzheimer’s is diagnosed. And it all goes downhill from there. As Martin’s condition worsens and his personality changes, the couple strain to hold on to the love that once brought them together.
A Song for Martin is an unflinching depiction of the brutality of Alzheimer’s, the personality changes, the violence, the overwhelming loss. The film is distressing, moving, thought-provoking, wrenching your heart over and over again.
Content Note: Rated PG-13 for sexuality, thematic elements, including domestic violence, and some language.
17. Letters to Juliet (2010)
Sophie (Amanda Siegfried), an aspiring writer visiting Verona on a pre-honeymoon with her busy fiancé, discovers an old letter at Juliet’s wall. 50 years prior, a lovelorn young woman left her beloved Lorenzo to return to England and had written to Juliet seeking counsel.
Sophie is tasked by the so-called secretaries of Juliet with responding to this old letter. Enter Claire Smith-Wyman (Vanessa Redgrave), now widowed and 50 years older and wiser, who returns to Italy after receiving Sophie’s letter.
She’s there to find her Lorenzo of long ago. And her overprotective and overbearing escort on this road trip is her brusque and prickly grandson Charlie (Christopher Egan). Let the travels (and romance) begin.
Essentially a road trip through Italy in search of a long-lost love, Letters to Juliet is an engaging rom-com, hitting all the feelgood mileposts.
Content Note: Rated PG.
18. On Golden Pond (1981)
Ethel and Norman Thayer (Katherine Hepburn and Henry Fonda) return to their cottage on the lake for the summer, as they have done for years and years. Norman’s memory is fading, his relationship with his daughter is estranged, his cynicism is growing.
Chelsea (Jane Fonda) arrives at the lake with her fiancé in tow, and her fiancé’s young, teenaged son, Billy. Father, daughter and fiancé butt heads more than a few times. And eventually, Chelsea and her fiancé leave to have couple time, leaving young Billy behind. In interactions with the boy, Norman loses his edges, his cynicism, opening himself to forgiveness and letting go.
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Katherine Hepburn and Henry Fonda won Oscars for their roles in this heartfelt drama, that was heralded by critics and audiences alike.
Content Note: Rated PG.
19. Grumpy Old Men (1993)
Widowed retirees John (Jack Lemmon) and Max (Walter Matthau) have known each other their entire lives in Wabasha, Minnesota. They are neighbors, childhood friends, and long-time rivals.
Comeuppances and jealousies abound in this relationship. And when a beautiful new woman (Ann-Margret) moves in across the road, their longstanding rivalry kicks into high gear, as they each try to woo her.
The over-the-top banter and antics of Lemmon and Matthau turned this film into a sleeper hit, spawning a sequel.
Content Note: Rated PG-13 for some sexual references.
20. 45 Years (2015)
A week before Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff (Tom Courtenay) celebrate their 45th anniversary with a big shindig, a letter arrives in the mail for Geoff. Its contents rock their marriage to its very foundation.
Melting glaciers have exposed the body of Geoff’s old love, Katya, who fell to her death in 1962, when they were on an alpine expedition together. This is all news to Kate. Geoff retreats into memories and long-buried grief.
Meanwhile, a mounting jealousy in Kate causes her to feel that she has unknowingly been in Katya’s shadow her entire married life.
45 Years is a drama of the highest order. It is gripping in its silence, quietly keeping you on the edge of your seat, as this marriage and its routines begin to unravel. The acting is superb.
Content Note: Rated R for language and brief sexuality. There is an intimate and long-take sex scene between two old bodies. No nudity is shown. There are 8 uses of the f-word. This was enough to land it in the restricted zone in the US; other countries have rated it PG-13, Mature, 15 years.
21. Closing the Ring (2007)
A young man searches for the proper owner of a ring that belonged to an American WWII bomber gunner, who crashed in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 1, 1944. The search sends him to Michigan, where he finds the newly widowed Ethel (Shirley MacLaine). And an epic story of love and loss is revealed, the repercussions of war.
This is a star-speckled cast. Richard Attenborough directs. Christopher Plummer, Neve Campbell, Pete Postlethwaite, Mischa Barton, and even a young Stephen Amell star.
Content Note: Rated R for brief sexuality, nudity, and violent images. There are two instances of exposed breasts, as well as one instance of an exposed backside. Canada rated this film from 14 years, the UK from 12, Sweden from 11.
22. Book Club (2018)
Four lifelong friends have their lives forever changed after reading 50 Shades of Grey in their monthly book club. It kickstarts a focus on love, on reigniting the sparks in their lives, be they single or married and/or way past their apparent best before dates. All four open themselves to love and changes, because you’re never too old to love or be loved or to change.
This is a rom-com featuring some great talent, including Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen, Andy Garcia, Craig T. Nelson, Don Johnson, and Richard Dreyfuss.
Content Note: Rated PG-13 for sex-related material throughout and for language.
23. Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)
Florence (Meryl Streep) is an eccentric, old woman, whose immense wealth and privilege have allowed her to surround herself with sycophants. Inside this bubble, she loves to sing – very poorly – giving concert after concert.
But her concerts are always private affairs, her manager/husband St. Clair (Hugh Grant) always carefully selecting the audience and paying reviewers. But what happens when she decides to perform publicly, outside of the carefully curated bubble?
Florence Foster Jenkins is a feelgood biopic with solid performances, as well as an examination of an unconventional marriage.
Content Note: Rated PG-13 rating for some brief suggestive scenes and adultery.
24. Elsa and Fred (2014)
Opposites attract. Recently widowed and increasingly embittered Fred (Christopher Plummer) moves in next door to Elsa (Shirley MacLaine). Elsa is a flighty, life-loving romantic, with a fascination with Rome and living la dolce vita.
Both have fussy, controlling children and grandchildren wanting a say in their lives. But maybe there’s just enough time in this life for one more romance.
Marcia Gay Harden, Chris Noth, Scott Bakula, James Brolin, all make appearances in this film. Have the tissues handy.
Content Note: Rated PG-13 for brief strong language.
25. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) & The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015)
British retirees travel to India to take up residence in what they believe is a newly restored hotel. Less luxurious than advertised, the Marigold Hotel nevertheless slowly begins to charm in unexpected ways.
These two films are an ensemble tour-de-force, featuring topnotch talent, including Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Celia Imrie, Dev Patel, Penelope Wilton, Tamsin Grieg, and Richard Gere. They are full of humor and love and joie de vivre. And Bill Nighy as a romantic lead!
Content Note: Rated PG-13 for sexual content and language.
26. Up (2009)
A life after Ellie. The first ten minutes of Up are an outright snot fest. Carl and Ellie’s great love is montaged on the screen, all the joys and sorrows of a lifetime together.
Then Carl is just there alone, a bitter, old man, alone in life without his Ellie. But as closed off as he is, maybe there’s still an adventure or two in the works for Carl, if he’ll just open the door to possibilities.
Up is a so-called kids’ film about life, about getting up again and again after failures and sorrows and choosing to live and love and laugh. It’s a lovely, lovely film for all ages.
Content Note: Rated PG for some peril and action.
27. The Bridges of Madison County (1995)
The renowned photographer Robert Kincaid (Clint Eastwood) is in Madison County to photograph the covered bridges. Lost, he asks a farmwife for help. It’s a fateful meeting of kindred spirits and soulmates.
Francesca (Meryl Streep) is an Italian immigrant, a war bride, the wife of a good man, a mother. But for four days, she permits herself to be with this stranger, who is no stranger. Indeed, neither of them can deny the connection between them. But does familial duty trump personal desire?
Oh, this is a tearjerker about love and duty and choices.
Content Note: Rated PG-13 on appeal for some sexuality and brief strong language, as well as adultery.
28. Calendar Girls (2003)
In order to raise funds for a new couch for the hospital waiting room, Chris Harper (Helen Mirren) proposes to make a Women’s Institute calendar. But not just any calendar. She wants the older women of her local chapter of the WI to make a nude calendar.
More than a few are convinced to join in, and it all snowballs from there. The calendars sell like hotcakes. The women and their calendar are picked up by the international media. But can marriages, friendships and families cope with these fifteen minutes of fame?
Calendar Girls is a fun film, a life-affirming film, about love and loss and friendships. Julie Walters, Ciarán Hinds, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton, John Alderton, and Philip Glenister co-star.
Content Note: Rated PG-13 for nudity, some language, and drug-related material.
29. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
A man who ages in reverse, who’s born old and dies young. November 11, 1918, a child is born, born looking old and sick. His mother dies giving birth to him, and his grieving father quickly abandons him.
Benjamin (Brad Pitt) grows up hindered by the maladies of old age. He finds a friend in Daisy (Cate Blanchett), and somewhere in the middle of his life, they are finally the same age (inside and out). But she’s getting older, and he’s getting progressively younger. Talk about age-crossed lovers.
This film is a heartfelt, gripping, magical tale with some very fine performances.
Content Note: Rated PG-13 for brief war violence, sexual content, language and smoking.
30. The Notebook (2004)
Duke (James Garner) dutifully reads an epic romance for a patient at a nursing home – a story penned in a notebook. This is the tale of Allie (Rachel McAdams) and Noah (Ryan Gosling), of love against the odds. The movie jumps between the present-day nursing home and the 1940’s story of two star-crossed lovers. And I don’t want to give any more away.
Have the tissues handy for this weepy one.
Content Note: Rated PG-13 for some sexuality.
31. The Age of Adaline (2015)
An old woman in a young body. An accident stopped the aging process in Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively). She is now forever 29, watching all her family grow old and grey and die.
But maybe opening herself to love, allowing herself to be vulnerable, instead of just living with her life perennially on hold, will kickstart the aging process.
The Age of Adaline is a magical, fairytale-like film about a woman out of her time, who eventually figures out that her time is now. So, live it and love. Michiel Huisman, Harrison Ford, Ellen Burstyn, and Kathy Baker co-star.
Content Note: Rated PG-13.
32. Mamma Mia! (2008) & Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)
Donna’s (Meryl Streep) free-loving dalliances in her youth with three different men resulted in one beautiful daughter (Amanda Siegfried). And all these men converge for the forthcoming nuptials of their possible daughter (in movie one) and to say farewell to Donna (in movie two). And to lots of toe-tapping Abba tunes, romances are rekindled, and upheavals are the nature of the game.
These two blockbusters are fun, sing-a-longs about love spanning the ages. The music is fabulous, and the cast is star-studded, a veritable who’s who of Hollywood.
Content Note: Rated PG-13 for some suggestive material.
33. Forever Young (1992)
Pilot Daniel McCormick (Mel Gibson) awakens from his cryogenically frozen state to a world he does not recognize. The love of his life may well still be out there, 50+ years older. He is a man out of time. And in his search for her, aging attacks ravage his body. Government agents are after him. He may just run out of time.
J.J. Abrams has written this sci-fi gem of a drama, full of romance.
Content Note: Rated PG for some language and domestic conflict.
What are your favorite romantic films about older characters? Let me know in the comments!
Feature Photo Credit: Roadside Attractions, Entertainment One, Columbia Pictures, Paramount Pictures.