32 great films about growing old - from heartwarming rom-coms to cult classics

We break down 32 great films about growing old, from rom-coms to heartfelt stories

A composite image of some of the best films about growing old.
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Films about getting older aren't too few and far between, but it's rarer to find a narrative that features a positive, empathetic portrayal of middle and older age, especially when it comes to female characters.

However, there have been films which explore the complexities of growing older and the ups and downs of old age. Filmmakers such as Nancy Meyers and Nora Ephron have focused on the lives of middle-aged women in particular throughout their filmographies, while comedies such as The Bucket List and The First Wives Club have provided touching and hilarious depictions of getting older.

Here, we look at the best films about growing older.


'Up' director Pete Docter.

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This classic animated film from 2009 includes a tear-jerking opening sequence which portrays a married life in a wordless montage, ending in the wife’s death. Her late husband, Carl, refuses to be taken to a care home, instead attaching thousands of balloons to his house and flying to Paradise Falls in South America, in order to fulfil a promise to his wife. Themes of love, grief and the idea of it never being too late to live out a dream are all explored in this touching Pixar film.

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Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva.

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This Palme d'Or-winning film was also awarded the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, and made co-lead Emmanuelle Riva the oldest nominee for the Best Actress gong, at 85. Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant, both well-known French actors in their youth, play an elderly couple who have to deal with the wife’s declining health in old age. The film was a critical success.

The Father

Anthony Hopkins.

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In this emotional 2020 film, Olivia Colman stars as Anne, the frustrated but loving daughter of Anthony, who suffers from dementia and refuses to move out of his home. The Father aims to put viewers inside the mind of someone suffering from memory loss, with various realities and inconsistencies presented throughout. Anthony Hopkins' performance was widely praised, and he became the oldest winner of the Best Actor Academy Award, at the age of 83. 

Book Club

Mary Steenburg and Diane Keaton.

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Starring Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Mary Steenburg and Candice Bergen, this 2018 film follows four book club-goers who decide to read Fifty Shades of Grey, which causes them to reevaluate their lives and relationships. A sequel was released in 2024, and the author of Fifty Shades of Grey, E.L. James, even made a cameo in the 2018 film.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

David Fincher and Brad Pitt.

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David Fincher’s 2008 fantasy film stars Brad Pitt as Benjamin Button, a man born in old age, who spends the film ageing backwards. The film’s visual effects, which had to portray a man ageing in reverse - as well as a baby with the appearance of an elderly person - were widely praised. 

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande

Emma Thompson.

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Emma Thompson stars in this comedy-drama film that sees her widowed character develop an unlikely friendship with a young sex worker. The film explores body image and middle age and is a rare example of a film focusing on the sex life of an older woman.


Mia Goth and Ti West.

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In this slasher-horror film, Mia Goth plays both the young, idealistic Maxxine and the elderly Pearl, for which she had to endure hours of makeup and prosthetics each day. While Maxxine’s friends are mostly scared of Pearl, Maxxine sympathises with her, and 2022’s prequel Pearl (co-written by Goth), depicts the character’s early life as she strives for stardom, likening her to Maxxine.

The Age of Adaline

Blake Lively and Michael Huisman.

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The Age of Adaline depicts a woman who must constantly change her identity due to the fact she stopped ageing after a freak accident 78 years ago; when she falls in love with Ellis, she risks exposing her secret to him. Starring Blake Lively as Adaline, the film celebrates the joys of ageing. 

The Irishman

Martin Scorsese.

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Martin Scorsese’s crime epic revolutionised the visual effect of de-ageing. To make sure the ‘young’ actors looked realistic during the de-ageing scenes, the visual effects team watched hours of Robert De Niro’s, Al Pacino’s and Joe Pesci's old films, studying how they looked at different points in their careers.

Synecdoche, New York

The cast of Synecdoche, New York.

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Charlie Kaufman’s philosophical debut feature film depicts Philip Seymour Hoffman’s protagonist over several years of his life, as he attempts to finish an increasingly ambitious stage production. Though veering into fantastical at times, the critically acclaimed film explores fears around ageing and death.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Judi Dench and Celia Imrie.

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This much-loved British comedy-drama film features an ensemble cast of well-known actors such as Celia Imrie, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton. A group of retirees travel to a hotel and retirement home in Jaipur, India, which becomes a site for some life-changing revelations and decisions.

45 Years

Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay.

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Kate and Geoff have been married for 45 years, and live a peaceful life as they prepare for their upcoming anniversary party. However, their contentment is halted by a letter related to a past girlfriend of Geoff’s, and the couple must decide how to move forward. Andrew Haigh’s disquieting film is a rare and thoughtful depiction of a childless, retired couple.

It’s Complicated

Nancy Meyers.

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Nancy Meyers films are famous for their impeccable interior design, as well as their focus on the experiences (and sometimes struggles) of middle-aged women. It’s Complicated sees divorced couple Jake and Jane try to mend their broken relationship, and depicts Meryl Streep’s Jane as a high-achieving, confident and independent middle-aged mum.


Ethan Hawke and Ellar Coltrane.

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Richard Linklater’s 2014 hit Boyhood was filmed over twelve years, with the cast filming their scenes annually in order to depict their characters growing up through in real time. While the film focuses on Mason’s life and experiences, from the ages of six through to eighteen, the lives of his parents are also explored as they navigate getting older and their identity as parents.

The First Wives Club

Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton and Bette Midler.

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This iconic 1996 film brought together three famous actresses in Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton and Bette Midler, to explore themes of ageing and divorce. The three women decide to get revenge on their respective husbands for leaving them for younger women, but the film is ultimately about female friendship and life after divorce.

The Tree of Life

Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain.

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Terrence Malick’s 2011 experimental film The Tree of Life was partly based on his own life, incorporating science-fiction elements as well as portraying events such as the birth of the universe. Starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain, the film explores themes of religion, growing older and the meaning of life.

Mr Nobody

Jared Leto.

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An old man, known as Nemo Nobody, is the last mortal human on earth, approaching his 118th birthday. To try and understand mortal life before endless cell renewal (ensuring immortality) was invented, a journalist and psychiatrist interviewed Nemo about his life, but he constantly contradicts himself by describing several alternative realities. 

The Notebook

Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams.

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While The Notebook might be most famous for the scenes between the younger Allie and Noah, with Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams winning the MTV Award for Best Kiss, the 2004 film’s most impactful moments come when the audience realises that the elderly people in the present tense of the film are actually the central couple themselves. Gena Rowlands won several awards for her portrayal of the elderly Allie, whose journals are revealed to be the basis of the love story we see play out between her and Noah.

Before Midnight

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke.

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The final instalment of Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy was released in 2013, eighteen years after Before Sunrise saw Celine and Jesse meet for the first time on a train to Vienna. After the second film, Before Sunset, brought the two together again, Before Midnight depicts the couple finally married, having had twin daughters. Now in their forties, Celine and Jesse struggle with their personal and professional lives throughout the film.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Sam Neill and Julian Dennison.

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Taika Waititi’s second feature film focuses on a foster father and son, with the father played by Sam Neill. Though Neill’s Hector is initially unsure about being a foster father and remains distant from the rest of his family, a series of events brings him and Ricky Baker closer, as Hector finds meaning through their relationship.


M. Night Shyamalan.

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M. Night Shyamalan’s 2021 film is set on a mysterious beach, on which people age by one year every half hour. As well as being an impressively creepy body horror film, Old also features a surprising twist by the end, a trademark of Shyamalan films.

The Bucket List

Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson.

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Directed by When Harry Met Sally… director Rob Reiner and starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, The Bucket List follows two older, terminally ill men, one of whom finds out he has less than a year to live. In order to fulfil their lifelong dreams, the two men decide to complete a ‘bucket list’, travelling word to tick off the items on the ambitious list.


Judi Dench.

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Harold and Maude

Based on the life of philosopher and novelist Iris Murdoch, Iris stars Kate Winslet and Judi Dench as the famous figure at two very different points in her life. While a domineering, outgoing presence in her younger years, Iris begins retreating in old age, and the film is a touching portrayal of Alzheimer’s disease and long-term love.

The set of the film Harold and Maude.

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In this classic 1971 film, a teenager called Harold meets a 79-year-old woman named Maude, who deems to live life to the fullest every day and inspires Harold to do the same. Though panned at the time of its release, Harold and Maude is now a cult film.

Sunset Boulevard

Norma Desmond.

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This Classic Hollywood film follows a screenwriter and an ageing film star, played by Gloria Swanson, and explores the world of filmmaking and stardom in the 1940s and 50s. Sunset Boulevard explores the shallow nature of Hollywood and the way it treats women when they grow older.


Judi Dench and Steve Coogan.

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Based on the book by Martin Sixsmith, Philomena tells the story of journalist Sixsmith and the subject of his latest story, a woman named Philomena Lee, who was forced to give her child up for adoption when she was 19. The film was widely acclaimed, with Judi Dench being praised for her touching experience.

Hope Springs

Meryl Streep.

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Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones star in this look into middle-aged life and the difficulties of long-term marriage. After unwittingly signing up to couple’s counselling at a coastal resort called Hope Springs, the two connect and rekindle their love for one another.

Something’s Gotta Give

Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton.

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As is common with a Nancy Meyers film, Something’s Gotta Give features beautiful interiors, Coastal Grandmother styling and a nuanced depiction of its middle-aged female protagonist. Serial bachelor Harry falls in love for the first time in his 60s, with divorced playwright Erica, as the two slowly realise their true feelings for each other.

About Time

The cast of About Time.

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In Richard Curtis’s touching 2013 sci-fi romance About Time, Tim realises he can time travel, a gift that all the men in his family have. After losing his father and deciding not to travel in time anymore, Tim decides to live each day to the fullest,  and find joy in growing older and the change that comes with it, rather than constantly trying to change or relive certain moments.

Calendar Girls

The cast of Calendar Girls.

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This British classic is one of the most heartwarming and hilarious films about ageing. Starring Julie Walters, Celia Imrie and Helen Mirren, the comedy film is based on a true story and follows members of a Women’s Institute in a fictional small town who decide to model naked for a calendar in order to raise money. The film was a hit and, released in 2003, was one of the first films of its kind to portray a group of middle-aged women in a positive, sensitive and comedic light.

About Schmidt

Jack Nicholson.

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In About Schmidt, Jack Nicholson plays a dissatisfied, grumpy older man, who is forced to reevaluate his life when he retires and his long-suffering wife passes away suddenly. Initially depressed over his newly retired and widowed life, he decides to make amends with his daughter before her wedding, despite his dislike for her new husband.

Julie and Julia

Meryl Streep and Amy Adams.

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Based on the real life of celebrity chef Julia Childs and the food blogger Julie Powell,  Julie and Julia focuses on two interweaving stories. The narrative traces the life and childhood of Julia as she works on her first cookbook, while 50 years later, Julie, a budding cook, decides to make every single recipe from the book in the space of a year, documenting it on her blog.

Hannah Holway
Shopping writer

Hannah is the UK Shopping Writer for woman&home. As a shopping writer, Hannah has written on everything from period pants to wine subscriptions, and is especially interested in sustainable alternatives to well-known products, as well as books and homeware accessories. 

Before she joined the team at woman&home Hannah headed up the social media accounts for Wonderland in 2019, where she was also a Contributing Editor for the magazine’s sister titles. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Hannah also explored evolving shopping trends at New York Magazine’s The Strategist UK, researching everything from face masks to status candles and even pens.