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People have a lot of hang-ups about aging. For many, it’s a topic that shouldn’t be discussed past a 40th birthday and, in the world of movies, there hasn’t always been incredible representations of the aging process. Though those of a certain age may struggle to find much to relate with in the standard Hollywood movie, there are some gems out there that prove not every flick needs a stud of a leading man or scantily-clad young woman. Here’s our run-down of the best movies about aging.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
David Fincher took on the job of adapting F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story of the same name here, with Brad Pitt taking on the titular role of a man born in his eighties and forced to live his life in reverse. Invited to join Benjamin Button on his journey, viewers are taken on a nearly three-hour trip giving weight to the catchphrase, "age is but a number." As with any of the best movies about aging that chronicle an entire lifespan, there are emotional downs to go with all of the ups. Earning 13 Oscar nominations—and taking home three—this is a movie that everybody has to see at least once in their lifetime. You may just walk away with some added get-up-and-go.
A.I. Artificial Intelligence
What is life if you’re someone who never truly ages? That is the question posed here, as childlike android David—played by Haley Joel Osment—hopes to become human so he can live out his days in a mortal fashion. Programmed with the ability to love, this is an android story like many others, but with a heart that is often missing from most sci-fi flicks. Osment plays his leading role perfectly, with director Steven Spielberg admitting he was the one and only actor he would have ever seen take on the character.
Drinking from a spring imbued with magical properties, Tuck Everlasting follows the story of a family who achieve immortality but discover that sticking to their current ages for eternity could prove more troublesome than it’s worth. Based on the novel of the same name by Natalie Babbitt, the movie asks the viewer whether he or she would like to achieve immortality like the Tuck family, or to live a full and prosperous experience of everything mortal life has to offer. Going into the movie you may have made your mind up, but coming out you may have a different view entirely.
Exploring a flurry of issues throughout its 132-minute runtime, Bicentennial Man sees Robin Williams step into the role of robot Andrew, who’s introduced to the Martin family home to perform a series of housekeeping chores. As tradition goes with the best movies about aging of this type, Andrew soon develops sentience and feels emotions, leading him to request his freedom from the Martin family. Banished, he goes on a quest to discover other robots like him and even begins to try and turn himself into a human. Again this is a movie that poses many questions for those watching. When you’ve watched, you’ll be kicking yourself for not enjoying and making the most out of every moment you’ve had.
The Time Traveler’s Wife
Here we have a little bit of an odd one. Henry DeTamble (Alex Ferris) is a time traveler with a strange genetic disorder. Though he’s got incredible power, he’s missing something from his life—companionship. Unpredictably moving through time, that’s something that’s hard to come by. Explaining your situation to a significant other is one thing. Being ripped apart from them for unknown periods of time is another. Miscommunication is already a big part of many relationships, with distance also proving a major obstacle. For Henry, they prove the biggest obstacles of all.
Jared Leto leads an all-star cast in a movie that follows three critical periods in his character’s life. Nemo Nobody is one hundred eighteen years old and the last mortal on the planet. Surrounded by a species that has now achieved quasi-immortality, a nonlinear narrative tells his story and how he was forced to make major decisions from a young age. As he learns and grows, so does the audience; life may not always be all it’s supposed to be, but if we can make strong decisions, adapt, and learn from our mistakes, we’ll grow old gracefully.
The Age of Adaline
Many think it would be a gift to stay young forever, but that’s exactly the notion challenged in many of the best movies about aging, including the 2015 movie The Age of Adaline. Exploring just how much age gives to the meaning of life, this movie took an interesting and unique approach to growing old. It challenges viewers to dig deep and discover exactly what makes a person’s life rich and fulfilled. In Adaline's case, is it the ability to stay young? The challenge to find love? Or something else entirely? You’d be forgiven going into The Age of Adaline thinking you were set for a charming fairy tale, but the end result is something unexpected and disarming.
The official synopsis for Cloud Atlas describes the movie as “an exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.” We see the various stories throughout told by Zachry Bailey (Tom Hanks) to his grandchildren, as he aims to show them that it doesn’t matter how old you are—you can make a worthwhile difference for the world and those around you.
A complex and entertaining journey, The Fountain takes a look at love and death in a way we’ve rarely seen on the big screen. Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz star in the movie that blends a multitude of genres together rather than conforming to stereotypical boundaries. The idea of death as a feared element in society is challenged with this film. It may come to some of us sooner than we would like, but without the balance to life that death provides, would any moment be truly special? Director Darren Aronofsky may have described the core of the movie as “a very simple love story,” but he’s selling himself short. Many people have found so much more throughout the flick.
Johnny Depp steps into the role of the titular character here, as director Tim Burton brings to life a figure created by an aging and lonely inventor. Showing the lengths those who have lived a life they still think needs to be fulfilled will go to for some company, the film isn’t all doom and gloom upon the inventor’s death. There are some brilliantly funny moments which still have audiences laughing to this day, such as Scissorhands’ attempts to get himself dressed and sleep in a water bed—not the easiest things to do when you have shears instead of hands. Tormented by cruel members of society, Edward and the movie provide a commentary on how far people can be pushed before snapping. There’s something magical about Edward Scissorhands, and it will forever go down in history as one of the most enchanting movies Burton has made.
Peter Pan is known as the boy who never grows up, but when he swaps that life for one as Peter Banning, he’s aged and grown into full adulthood. One of the better known of the best movies about aging, it takes a look at Peter’s childhood spirit and forces him to try and regain it to challenge his lifelong enemy, Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman). Hook is closer than ever to achieving his goal of claiming ultimate power and getting rid of The Lost Boys. This classic family flick, studded with a stellar cast of recognizable faces, is sure to make its viewers smile.
This movie is perhaps one that takes some research after your first watch! Exactly how does one age and how fast does time pass depending on where you are? Space and time are two concepts that are often linked together, but how much do we really know about them? The basic concept here is that gravity from black holes makes you go faster than normal, and the faster you go, the more time slows down around you. Interstellar looks at how relative distance from a body of mass can alter time. It’s an idea difficult around which to wrap your head at first, but this movie is definitely a vital watch for any sci-fi fan.