Ageing or aging – it’s something we all do all the time – and yet it’s rarely discussed and not many seem particularly positive about it. Apart from a few of life’s rites of passage such as leaving school, getting married, starting work it’s often viewed as the inevitable long march towards infirmity and death.
With Christmas nearly upon us – and not being a big Festive Film fan – I’ve been looking for films to watch that explore ageing in a thoughtful and positive way.
Movies transport viewers in hundreds of ways. They can be an escape from reality or connect closely to real-life events. Movies about aging provide insights into how we interpret life and derive meaning at various stages. When it comes to movies about aging that we think everyone should see, here’s our list—a mix of lighthearted films and more serious, existential investigations.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Release Date: 2008
Plotline: Benjamin Button, played by Brad Pitt, experiences life inverted: Born in his eighties shortly after World War I, he gets younger as the decades progress. The resulting saga unwinds a number of expectations about age and aging. Undoubtedly, director David Fincher offers viewers a unique viewpoint with this film, adapted from an F. Scott Fitzgerald story.
What the Critics Think: From Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal: “The film quickly outgrows any sense of gimmickry and matures into a one-of-a-kind meditation on mortality, time’s inexorable passage and the fleeting sweetness of love.”
Driving Miss Daisy
Release Date: 1989
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Plotline: No film spanning a quarter century could fail to account for the effects of age. Featuring Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman, Bruce Beresford’s film chronicles the relationship between a wealthy Southern woman and her African American chauffeur. The performances of its leading actors carry the film.
What the Critics Think: From Gary Thompson at the Philadelphia Daily News: “Driving Miss Daisy makes the simple point that combating racism can sometimes mean confronting a part of ourselves that we’d rather pretend does not exist. For Miss Daisy, it’s as simple as admitting that Hoke is not just her driver, but her best friend.”
The Age of Adaline
Release Date: 2015
Plotline: What if you stopped aging? Would you continue to live your life, or run from it? Blake Lively plays Adaline Bowman, who mysteriously has remained 29 years old for the past 80 years. Her response has been to hide from society, wary of relationships that inevitably would uncover her secret. That isolation—and the secret that inspires it—is risked when she begins a relationship with a philanthropist.
What the Critics Think: From Josh Terry of Deseret News: “Adaline is well served by its screenplay, which takes opportunities to wink at the audience without turning the film into slapstick.”
Release Date: 2013
Plotline: Widely considered one of 2013’s best films, Director Michael Haneke’s drama is powerful and honest—simultaneously a story of intense love and pain. The film’s simple storyline follows a husband as he cares for his wife as her memory fades.
What the Critics Think: From Kathleen Murphy of MSN Movies: “A relentless and shattering masterwork, Amour breaks the heart but satisfies the soul.”
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Release Date: 2012
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Plotline: Why live a modest retirement in the UK when you could live like royalty in India? That’s the motivation for the film’s three protagonists to uproot and—inspired by persuasive but misleading advertisements—move into India’s Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. After overcoming initial disappointment in the state of accommodations, the retirees commit to learning, living, and letting go.
What the Critics Think: From Mary F. Pols at Time: “There are brutal truths about the declining years in Best Exotic, from loneliness to financial woes that can’t be solved by getting a new job, but they are amply padded with comedy and cheery messages about acceptance; this is no bitter pill to swallow.”
Release Date: 1957
Plotline: From legendary director Ingmar Bergman, the film follows an aging medical professor who is traveling to accept an honorary degree. The meaningful moments, of course, come along the way through unexpected happenings and conversations. The journey becomes an opportunity to reflect on his life and the choices that shaped it. Interwoven are scenes of the past, both dreams and nightmares.
What the Critics Think: From Charlie Jackson of Film4: “The relentless symbolism, and some rather heavy-handed dream sequences are off-putting at times, but Wild Strawberries has enough sorrow, warmth and profundity to make for sophisticated and rewarding viewing.”
Release Date: 1956
Plotline: Another legendary director on this list, Akira Kurosawa offers a film that hinges on a medical diagnosis, and protagonist Kanji Watanabe realizes that he has limited time. A rigid government clerk who typically ignores the requests of his constituents, Watanabe commits to change and making the most of his life.
What the Critics Think: Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times: “I think this is one of the few movies that might actually be able to inspire someone to lead their life a little differently.”
Release Date: 2014
Plotline: While most films spanning several years attempt to mimic the passage of time, this film lives it. Richard Linklater’s unprecedented effort was filmed over a twelve-year period. It centers on hathe growth from early childhood through adolescence of Mason, whose transitions in the film reflect real-life aging.
What the Critics Think: From Joe Williams of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “The closest thing to a lived life that fictional cinema has yet produced.”
I’ve seen just a couple of these films and would add to the list About Schmidt starring Jack Nicholson and, I have to admit, despite the terrible reviews I found Dirty Grandpa with Robert De Niro very funny. Thanks to The Clare – a senior independent living community in Chicago – for putting together this succinct and informative list.