Elder Scams
Elder Movies II

Elder Movies

I had been thinking for a while about pulling together, with the help of readers, a definitive and ongoing list of films either about getting older or which treat older characters with as much integrity and respect as those of other age groups.

Then I recently heard from Ziv Schteinberg who has already done it or, rather, has made a good start with a list of 31 films about aging that are available on DVD.

Ziv has included some documentaries which I would place in a separate category from drama, comedy, etc. I was pleased to see that he includes Seconds, a favorite B movie of mine from 1966, which contains one of the few sex scenes (mild, no nudity) ever filmed with elder actors.

There is also a touching sex scene with Shirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson in Terms of Endearment from 1983. It too is short and tame and lovely, showing the actors standing in silhouette on either side of the bed with his paunch and her later life chubbiness clearly visible.

For this scene alone, I would include Terms of Endearment on my personal list of elder movies, but it is also a good late-life love story although that is not its primary focus.

When the DVD becomes available, Ziv will need to update his list with The Boynton Beach Bereavement Club (which Susan Harris of Takoma Gardener recently reviewed here), and I would add both Mrs. Henderson Presents and Space Cowboys.

So here is my challenge to you today:

  1. Take a look at Ziv’s list. If you know any of these films, leave us a mini-review - two or three sentences. What makes it a good elder movie?
  2. Add any films in the comments below that you believe have been overlooked and tell us why they should be included
  3. Include films about being old, getting older
  4. Include films with old characters that are well acted or portrayed
  5. Include films that may not be about aging overall, but include good scenes about or with elders
  6. Most of all, include films that add to our understanding of or celebrate what getting older is like
  7. Let us know which genre of storytelling the film falls into: drama, comedy, sci-fi, documentary, etc.

Later, I will collect them into a permanent section on Time Goes By that we can update with new films as they are released and with older ones we have previously overlooked.

[NOTE: Ziv's list includes only films that are available on DVD. This new list does not need to be limited in that way.]


Hi Ronnie, just last weekend I saw Keeping Mum with Maggie Smith. It's not "about aging," but Ms Smith is of course in her elder years. She has a leading, if not the main role and is wonderful--resourceful, canny, and inspiring. I guess it would be called a comedy, and, in my opinion, one to see again. Maybe it is not for this list, but for portraying an elder in a good light it is great.

EXIT is the title of the powerful documentary I saw last night. Made in Switzerland, French with English subtitles, it's about a Swiss membership organization that facilitates a dignified and pain-free end of life for those with terminal illnesses. Filmed with great sensitivity, peopled mostly with elders, EXIT would be an important addtion to the list.

Another great Jack Nicholson movie that fits the bill is "Something's Gotta Give."
Also "In Good Company" with Dennis Quaid is classic as it deals with a 50 year old executive who gets replaced by a 20-something fellow with no experience.
Both great FUN movies that do a wonderful job of dealing with real issues.

By the way, I LOVE "Space Cowboys!"
Have you seen "Tough Guys" with Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas? They're aging train robbers attempting to cope with a new world after being released from prison after 20 years or so. Funny stuff!

How about "Used People" with Shirley MacLaine, Marcello Mastroianni, Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, and Marcia Gay Harden. And while we're talking about Shirley MacLaine, don't forget "In Her Shoes" where the elders stole the show from the young things around them.

I'd nominate "The Notebook" with James Garner and Gina Rowlands.

"Swimming Pool" (mystery drama) with Charlotte Rampling playing a mystery writer who is cleverer than her publisher thinks.

"The Gleaners and I" (documentary). Not about aging exactly but directed by Agnes Varda in her 80s and she appears in it musing about age and loss.

"Bubba Ho-Tep" (horror/comedy) silly mummy movie which takes place in an old folks home where the elders are pretty much treated as idiot children--they soon show who has the upper hand. Extremely off-beat. Not a great film but I've long wanted to know your readers' reaction to it.

"Harold and Maude" (romantic comedy).

Of the films Ziv listed, the one I'd most heartily recommend is "Tokyo Story"--perhaps the most heartbreaking and insightful story of aging parents yet made. "Iris" is also a beautiful and complex movie and extremely intense and moving.

In addition to "Tokyo Story" I'd suggest "Ikiru"--about a man on the verge of retirement who decides he will, after a lifetime of meaningless service in the bureacracy, he will do something before he dies.

I question Ziv's inclusion of "Seven"--but if it's on the list, I don't feel at all bad for recommending Bubba Ho-Tep".

"Ladies in Lavender" with Judi Dench and Maggie Smith would qualify. I've added several titles on Ziv's list to my lengthy Netflix que, including "Bubba Ho-Tep."

It may be one of the most underrated movies ever, but a very entertaining 1998 movie was "Twilight," with a great cast that includes Paul Newman, Susan Sarandon, Gene Hackman, James Garner and Stockard Channing. It's a sharp, smart, moving and funny tribute to the film noir detective stories of the 1940s, but in addition to the mystery, one or another of the principals is also dealing with problems that so often come with aging, i.e. problematic adult children, declining sexuality, problems with alcohol, failing health, etc. These are not stressed, but they are in the background. There are a couple of sex scenes, one between Newman and Sarandon that is more implied than real, and one involving two younger characters that is a bit more graphic. There are also a couple of bursts of sudden violence.

One of the most moving films about an elder I have ever seen is a 1952 Japanese production titled "Ikiru," which means "To Live." A middle-aged petty bureaucrat (the wonderful character actor Takashi Shimura) learns he has terminal cancer, and fearful of dying alone he starts a desperate search for something that will give his life meaning in the months he has left. After a few unsatisfying efforts (getting drunk for the first time, a brief affair with a younger woman), he finally decides to leave a legacy and embarks on a personal crusade to get a playground built in a poor neighborhood. The director Akira Kurosawa made many excellent films, but I consider this his masterpiece.

I loved the drama "The Straight Story," which is on the list. It is based on the true story of an old man who needs to see his brother, who lives far away, but he has no way to get there except his little motorized lawn tractor. So, slowly, he makes the journey. It is a very understated wonderful film.

Dear Ronni, thank you for referencing our list on your post. It's such a great experience to get these comments and suggestions! Here are a few updates -

Just added:
1. Space Cowboys
2. Terms of Endearment (Suggested by Ronni)
3. Something's Gotta Give (Suggested by Mizmell)
4. In Her Shoes (Suggested by Virginia DeBolt)
5. The Notebook (Suggested by AlwaysQuestion)
6. Harold and Maude
7. Ikiru (Suggested by M Sinclair Stevens)
8. Ladies in Lavender (Suggested by jenclair)

Other references:
Keeping Mum - This film is still in theaters. Check for showtimes!

Exit - Sounds like a really interesting film. I would love to know where you managed to watch it Naomi.

Tough Guys, Used People - Available only on VHS at this time. I'll keep an eye on DVD release.

Seven - I included it as a reference to Morgan Freeman's retiring cop character but I accept the comment and moved it off this list for now.

Again, thanks for all the great comments and thank you for visiting our site.

Best Regards,

Ziv S.
Managing Editor/DVDIDEAS.com

Twilight - Added as well (Suggested by Deejay)

This is a great idea -- a current and updating source for some movies to view, just when I thought I'd seen most of the movies I'd care about seeing. Thanks to you, Ziv and all who have made suggestions. The ones I would have mentioned have already been named.

Ronni, I'd have to add one of my all time favorites, The Lion in Winter. It's certainly a story about aging not so gracefully and leaving one's legacy, even if they did die a little younger in the 12th century. The writing is witty, dark and dry and the performances by Peter O'Toole as Henry II and Kate Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine are superb.

I'd also recommend The Dead, John Huston's final film. No this is not one of George Romero's zombie films but a touching musing on mortality and life based on a short story by James Joyce. With a lesser known British cast, except for Angelica Huston, it is a film to be savored like the holiday meal that is central to the story. It's a real gem and required Christmastime watching at my house but, then, my tastes run to the bittersweet.

The first, according to Amazon, is available on DVD. The second, may be very hard to find. I found it several years ago in VHS on the internet. Strangely enough, the only DVD version seems to be from Spain and for PAL systems.

Oh, my, have we all overlooked On Golden Pond? Limerick Savant reminded me with his recommendation of A Lion in Winter.

The Lion in Winter
On Golden Pond -


This is a great idea to put up such a list. I would add Enchanted April although not all the women were elders, there was one great older lady character played by Joan Plowright and it dealt with women of a certain age finding solutions to life's disappointments. Also Shirley Valentine where the heroine was middle aged-- not old. Second-hand Lions was great also about two old men. And although it didn't receive good reviews, An Unfinished Life with Robert Redford and Morgan Freeman dealt with grief as well as getting old. How about Driving Miss Daisy too? There are so many about elders but not necessarily about the aging process but more how someone deals with problems as an older person.

"A Month By the Lake" with Vanessa Redgrave and Edward Fox."

One of my favorite films, Vanessa Redgrave plays a woman of about 50 or so who is a widow, vacationing alone at the Villa D'Este,Lake Como Italy. She is vibrant and lovely in this role.

from IMDB, a viewers comment.

"A Month By The Lake, a wonderful little film. Set at the eve of World War 2 in Italy at Lake Como. A love triangle occurs between Redgrave, Fox and Thurman. The comic aspect is done very well, notible for its Tennis and boating scenes. But this also has a sad aspect as the Major(Fox) thinks that Miss Beaumont(Thurman) is in love with him, but is really only having a little fun teasing him. The lake is so wonderful and so are the photographs that Miss Bentley take.John Irvin gives good direction to the film which again adds effect and beauty. One of my favourite films it captured me. A film of very rare excellence with three top actors of past and present. 5 out of 5, wonderful"

I thought of a couple more good ones, both involving 70-somethings on solo road trips:

"The Trip to Bountiful" (1985): a Houston widow dreams of visiting the small Texas town where she grew up, just once before she dies. Her son and daughter-in-law keep squelching the idea (they can't afford to take her, and believe it would be too dangerous for her to go alone), but at last she escapes, runs away and has a series of adventures along the way. Geraldine Page won a Best Actress for the lead.

"Harry and Tonto" (1974): a retired and widowed schoolteacher, evicted from his New York apartment for urban redevelopment, takes his cat Tonto and starts out hitchhiking across the country, visiting his children, seeing a world he never had time to see before, making new friends and saying goodbye to old ones. Another Oscar winner, Art Carney for Best Actor.

Oh Yes I second "Trip To Bountiful"

Great performance by Geraldine Page.
Fine film.

I loved "About Schmidt" and found it poignant as well as humorous. Kathy Bates appears nude for a second or two; what a gutsy move on her part.

Calendar Girls and Shirley Valentine!

What about 'Calendar Girls'?

I guess like minds, I see that Bev has just posted that!

OK, let me add one that touched me when I rented it a few months ago. It is Korean. The title is "The Way Home" by Jibeuro. 90% of the film is a grandmother and her spoiled grandson. The grandmother's stamina , focus and love are quite inspiring.

The documentary "Ram Dass:Fierce Grace" by Mickey Lemle is a portait of aging and dealing with illness,stroke and recovery. It explores the question: how does a spiritual person approach the changes of later life? It is educational, touching and very well filmed.

I have mentioned this movie beofre, but it merits a repeat in this column. "Tuesday With Morrie" is about dying with dignity. Jack Lemmon, as Morrie, is superb in the role. Thanks for the growing list; I am writing them down.

Surely the glimpse of a naked elder's butt, as well as the absolutely delightful comedy, would secure a spot on your list for Waking Ned Devine. One of my favorites!

I’d also add The Road Home (1999), in Chinese with English subtitles, the story of a young businessman who must return to his small village after the death of his father. His grieving mother insists that her husband’s body must be returned to his home village for burial. The son insists it’s impossible, but then reconsiders as he remembers the love story of how his parents met.

Just yesterday I was feeling very frustrated by recommendations from Netflix and am delighted to have this list. What a great idea! The Straight Story, Trip to Bountiful, A Song for Martin, yes!!

Darlene and Everyone: No need to write down the list. I'm creating a new TGB feature section which will include ElderMovies. It will be posted permanently on Monday and we can update from there indefinitely.

I was just about to mention The Road Home, but I see that Opal has beaten me to it. I heartily second the motion.

What a great idea you've come up with, Ronni!


Bubba Ho-Tep - second the nomination for that one. And Peggy Sue Got Married [remember the wonderful scenes with Leon Ames?]

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Don't forget The Fastest Indian starring Anthony Hopkins. About a man who dreamed for years of breaking the land speed record on a motorcycle at the Bonniville salt flats. Supurb performance by an elder gentleman about an amazing and determined elder gentleman.

I second to "Calendar Girls". Helen Mirren was great.

Also there is another film I have been trying to find the name. I thought Helen Mirren starred in it but I must be mistaken. It was a British (or Irish film) The couple has been married for some time. He is a musican who writes symphonies. He gets alzheimers and the poignant love story of their togetherness as they fight this disease is beautiful.

Anyone know the name?

OK I was not even close. The movie I just mentioned was Swedish not British.
"A Song For Martin"

and there is also "Iris," The fictionalized story of the writer Iris Murdock, and her struggle with Alzheimer's and her dedicated family.

If she had been the one suffering from the disease, it sounds a lot like "Iris," which starred Judy Dench as the novelist Iris Murdoch, and was about her 40-year marriage to a fellow professor, from when they first met as students up to her death, as seen through his eyes.

I found that Calender girls was a wonderful movie.

Another favorite was the Grumpy old men movies. Fantastic comedy.

I thought of another

"Shadow Lands" with Anthony Hopkins playing C.S Lewis. I loved this movie.

....."it's about love that transcends the physical and it will steal your heart away. You will weep and rejoice at this film....see it!"

Saving Ned Devine
Second Hand Lions
Don Juan Demarco
Il Postino
Glenn Gary Glenn Ross (?)

Thanks, Ronnie, for the infomrmation on your new feature section on Elder Movies. I am looking forward to it.
Does anyone remember the name of the movie starring Joanne Woorward who was a College professor in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease? How about George Burns in "Oh God"? It was a hoot. Guess we are not the forgotten generation in Hollywood after all.

Yes, Darlene, I remember the Joanne Woodward movie which also starred Richard Kiley. A very good movie about the early onset of Alzheimer's; it was a made-for-TV movie though, Do You Remember Love.

I thought of another one: "Strangers in Good Company." Very cool.
And I third "Trip to Bountiful."

And Opal, Joanne Woodward's mother had Alzheimer's so this film must have been close to Joanne's heart. For a while her mother was in a facility here in Atlanta which has excellent Alzheimer's care.

(Joanne was from Georgia)

The Milagro Beanfield War is a great movie. Not really about aging but the main character is an old man standing up for himself and rallies the community. Undertaking Betty is a funny romance in which a woman plays dead to get away from a bad marriage. Rooster Cogburn show both John Wayne and Katharine Hepburn as strong and capable. Tough Guys with Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, I liked that it showed how difficult it was to be out side of prison. The Crew with Burt Reynolds also shows how old age can be tough on aging gangsters.

I have always loved Grumpy Old Men - the two actors just seem to be having the time of their lives and not even breaking a sweat. The out-takes at the end where Matthau us ad-libbing pick-up lines just kills me.

How about The Sunshine Boys? Based on a Neil Simon play, George Burns and Walter Matthau are aging vaudevillians. Burns won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor & Matthau was nominated as Best Actor.

HI - a few years ago I made a short film (37 minutes) about an 80+ year old artist in New Mexico who dances and paints every day. I'd be happy to send you a copy.

Woman As Butterfly is the name of the film and it was received well for a small film..:)

what about thats life with jack lemmon and julie andrews
hes in a mid life crisis panic and shes facing possible breast cancer .she holds the family together while keeping her own panic in check.
also a flick called the crew shot in miami
old folks apartment bldg .richard dreyfus
is the only name i can remember,cause im having a moment.4 old farts sitting in lawn chairs every day watching the world go by and then they find some trouble to get into someone help me with the other actors

Ronni, is it too late to submit a film? I am in love with the Indian film-maker Deepa Mehta. She produced and directed a trilogy of films about real life in India, some set just before the apartheid & formation of Pakistan and Bangla-Desh. The first was "Earth," about that period; the second was "Fire," a story of love between two women; and her latest, "Water," the story of a child widow and the practice of putting widows in nunneries to make their living as prostitutes.

"Water" is an intimate look at the plight of Indian widows, from childhood through elderhood. It is at once a story of despair and hope, beautifully filmed.

Mehta was thrown out of India for filming it, and her life was threatened by hordes of angry protesters. It's in Hindi, but definitely worth watching. It will change your life.

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