Films on aging and the elderly can be powerfully moving if they’re done well and honestly. There are far too many movies about aging that veer off course and go in the wrong direction, full of toilet jokes, fart jokes, bowel movement comedy, and other crude, degrading jokes.
Last year’s “Dirty Grandpa” (2016) was a harrowing experience since it was the worst possible comedy about the elderly. It’s degrading on all counts. It’s time to show the elderly as they really are. Although they may be a little slower, less acute cognitively (some, not all), they symbolize our past and in many ways our future. They struggle with what they don’t understand. They’ve seen so much, my God! They may tell me about the Second World War, the introduction of television and rock and roll, the Beatles’ assassination, and more. They provide a glimpse into the past and my own personal history, as well as a glimpse into the future. The following is a list of the best old-people movies ever made. Some of the best movies for the elderly may be found on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.
1. Away from Her (2007)
Sarah Polley’s magnificent feature debut was one of the best of the year, acted with honesty and integrity, and each character is treated with respect in this stunning Canadian film. As a study of what it’s like to grow older and face new obstacles, this picture strikes a chord with me as one of the best love tales ever filmed. As Fiona (Julie Christie) suffers from Alzheimer’s, she loses more and more of her memories each day. The great Gordon Pinsent plays her husband with heartbreaker no genius as she enters herself to a long-term care home where one of the restrictions is that spouses are not allowed to communicate for 30 days. Is she in love with someone else? Grant returns to find her completely unaware of his existence.
Granted the other man’s wife’s approaches and withdrawing from Fiona as a result of his loss and personal struggle, Grant accepts. The tremendous love between them makes a bridge to cross in the terrain of her thoughts when they are reunited. Together, Christie and Pinsent are beautiful, each providing their best work of their long careers. Olympia Dukakis excels as Grant’s solace, a sad, dreary connection in which each party merely wants to connect with the other. Polley’s film is a gentle stroking of our spirit, full of sincerity and genuineness. Astonishing.
2. Amour (2012)
When I saw this film for the first time at TIFF, I broke down in tears, as did many others who were equally moved by the film’s raw emotion. Having recently lost my wife to brain cancer, I was able to identify with many of the film’s themes, including the character’s dementia. As they approach their nineties, longtime partners Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) and George (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and music teachers for the majority of their careers continue to teach.
Ann disappears, sitting motionless in the middle of the room, staring off into the distance. George’s is losing everything she was, her very identity, as she descends deeper and farther into dementia. We are enthralled by Riva’s portrayal of Anne, who is terrified of what this cancer would do to her. The renowned Austrian director Michael Haneke may have made his masterpiece with this film, which is astounding in its subtlety and overwhelming strength.
3. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
In spite of its conservative reputation as the Best Picture winner over films like “Do the Right Thing” (1989), “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989) cannot be ignored as a fine film about a blossoming friendship that transcends the social norms of the day. A black man, Hoke (Morgan Freeman), is hired to drive Daisy (Jessica Tandy), much to her dismay, after she has yet another vehicle accident. There is a beautiful bond that develops between the elderly woman and the man at first, and she holds his hand and says that he is her best friend. Over the course of two decades, their friendship defies the strict attitudes prevalent in the South throughout the 1960s and 1970s, when the tale takes place.
When Hoke tenderly gives her a piece of pie, Daisy has the most beautiful smile on her face. Tandy’s portrayal in this scene earned her an Oscar. Freeman’s performance as Hoke, a man who knows where he stands but is cognizant of his worth, is outstanding. He’s a lot smarter than everyone realizes, but he’s cautious not to show it off. Her widely maligned son Booley is superbly played by Dan Ackroyd. The film was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture, but it didn’t win any of them. The film’s Australian director, Bruce Beresford, was passed over despite doing wonders with it.
4. Up (2009)
What? What if there was an animated film about aging? Yes, absolutely, and it’s fantastic. Mr. Fredrick’s son is devastated when his beloved wife dies, leaving him to fend for himself and their family’s belongings and memories. Using helium balloons, he escapes to South America with a stowaway, a lonely little child searching for a buddy, when developers drive him out. Oddly, we sense the guiding hand of his wife throughout the film, bringing him and the youngster together for an unbelievable experience and a friendship that is really a love tale.
Heartbreaking in its subtlety, yet breath-taking, is the montage showing the elderly folks’ lives from their first meeting to her death. The heart of the film is the bond that develops between the youngster and the cantankerous old guy, and Doug the talking dog. In my opinion, this was Pixar’s greatest achievement to yet. Every picture of this magnificence is accompanied by a stirring musical accompaniment.
5. About Schmidt (2002)
Actor Jack Nicholson delivered a career-defining performance when he was cast against type as a mild-mannered insurance agent who has just retired and lost his wife unexpectedly. In spite of being bullied by his wife and generally liked by his coworkers, he has come to the end of his rope at work and is left wondering what the future holds for him as he suddenly finds himself all alone with no idea where to begin. His daughter’s wedding is looming, and he sets out on a cross-country road trip in the hopes of persuading her to reconsider.
Brilliant as the small man with the comb-over who sits on the sidelines and watches life pass him by. He’s never previously been so constrained and underutilized on screen. Final moments, when he recognizes how much he’s contributed in his month-to-month sponsorship relationship with a youngster in need. His tears flow as much as a result of reading the letter and admiring a child’s artwork that he received, as he does because of the life that has passed him by. Nicholson should have won an Oscar for this film.
6. Nebraska (2013)
As one of the best actors of the 1970s, Bruce Dern gave his all to every part he took on and always managed to keep audiences engaged. During the 1990s, he was largely absent from big motion pictures before making a triumphant return with Nebraska at the turn of the new century. In order to collect his winnings, an elderly man begs his estranged son to drive him across the nation, and the two embark on a journey to rekindle their relationship. As he grows older, the son sees that his father is burdened by remorse, and that he wears it like a heavy burden.
Dern’s character is excellent, even if he doesn’t say much, and he lives the past over and again in his memory. This is clearly a film about Bruce Dern’s displeasure with his sassy wife June Squibb, who plays her with a crazy sense of hilarity. He realizes this and reaches down to provide one of his most impressive performances since the 1970s.
7. Venus (2006)
There will be moments of discomfort in this melancholy, frequently gloomy comedy, but Peter O’Toole’s superb portrayal as a formerly brilliant actor, now very old, will allow you to forgive a great deal. He was the type of performer who slept with everyone, which cost him his marriage, and who, at the age of eighty-five, still has an eye for women, especially those under thirty, under twenty-five.
When a twenty-something-year-old girl stays with a friend, Maurice makes a strange pact with her. For extra money, she allows him to see and feel parts of her body. It’s almost scary, but the actor prevents it, keeping the scene gloomy and melancholic until the young woman is partially guilty for Maurice’s injury and ultimately devastating. A gift that isn’t what one anticipates is what she provides him as he recovers.
8. Atlantic City (1981)
When Burt Lancaster played an aging mob numbers man who makes himself out to be more than he ever was or is, he delivered one of the most memorable performances of the year, if not of his whole career. His In his old age, Lou wished he had done so much more, and so he lies about his connections to the mob and his status within the mob. When he protects a young woman, she asks him to “teach me something,” believing he’s a wisecracking mobster, and he does. Lou leads them into a situation where he nearly kills them before she realizes what he’s doing. As an elderly lion out for one last hunt, Lancaster is magnificent, while Susan Sarandon gives one of her best performances yet. The film was directed and written by Louis Malle.
9. On Golden Pond (1981)
As a result of articles in Time Magazine and other publications, On Golden Pond is no longer considered an American masterpiece because of its cast, Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda, who produced the picture, and Katherine Hepburn. It was a significant coup to bring together two veteran performers who had never previously worked together, but this isn’t Hollywood legend material, and it’s not even worthy of a discussion about great ancestry; after all, this is just a movie. As it is, it’s an excellent film on the perils of aging, including the gradual disintegration of one’s body and mind, as well as the persistence of old resentments. When Henry Fonda was cast, he knew he would win an Oscar, and he did so immediately.
In addition to Hepburn’s third Academy Award for Best Actress, she is fantastic. In the film, you can sense the Fondas’ bitterness and animosity due to their personal struggles, some of which have been addressed. This song has its moments of soar, but it is also overbearing and clingy. During Hepburn’s “Knight in Shining Armor” monologue, Henry Fonda’s anxiety and Hepburn’s affection shine through. It’s enhanced by the actors.
10. Tell Me a Riddle (1980)
Lee Grant, an Oscar-winning actress, directs a bizarre little film about an old couple who appear to have lost their spark. To help them deal with her illness, they take a cross-country road trip and stay with their fiery grand daughter, who seems to rekindle their love for each other. Both Lila Kedrova and Melvyn Douglas, who played her husband, were outstanding in the picture and should have been nominated for an Academy Award. It’s difficult to find these days, but it’s worth a look since it’s an honest look at what it’s like to get older.