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15 Brilliant Films For Seniors With Older Main Characters

July 21st, 2022

Whether you watch movies for comfort, to laugh, or to feel inspired, it can sometimes feel as though the world of Hollywood is dominated by young actors, but there are lots of incredibly talented older stars out there, from Dame Judi Dench to Sir Ian McKellen and from Morgan Freeman to Dame Helen Mirren. 

We all love the classics, but if you’re looking for something new to watch, check out our list of movies with elderly main characters (or if not elderly, at least ‘senior’) below.

1. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)

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Starring a glittering cast showcasing the best of British acting talent, 2011’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel features Dame Judi Dench, Dame Penelope Wilton, Dame Maggie Smith, and Bill Nighy, alongside younger actors including Dev Patel. 

Based on Deborah Maggoch’s 2004 novel These Foolish Things (later renamed following the film’s release, and one of our top audiobooks with older protagonists), the film follows a group of British retirees who are inspired by an advert to move to Jaipur, India, to what they believe will be an exotic retirement home. However, upon arrival, they soon realise things are not quite as they expected. 

There’s also a 2015 sequel, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which is worth a watch too.

2. Something’s Gotta Give (2003)

Something’s Gotta Give stars Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton as 60-something Harry Sanborn and 50-something Erica Barry. Harry only dates women under 30, but when he has a heart attack, circumstances mean he ends up staying with Erica, and their relationship develops. But as total opposites, will they ever be able to put their differences aside to allow it to blossom further?

Most romcoms centre around a younger cast, so it’s great to see a slightly older cast take centre stage in a romantic comedy, exploring the challenges that come with finding love in later life.

3. Grumpy Old Men (1993)

This 1993 film is a romcom with a difference, following John Gustafson (played by Jack Lemmon) and Max Goldman (Walter Matthau), two grumpy, feuding neighbours, who love ice-fishing and playing practical jokes on each other. When a woman arrives on the scene, how will their relationship evolve?

It might be almost 30 years old, but Grumpy Old Men is a movie that endures, making it one of our favourite films for seniors.

4. Calendar Girls (2003)

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Calendar Girls was a huge hit when it was released back in 2003, and it has to be one of the best films for seniors, exploring the power of friendship, and the importance of never losing your sense of fun.

Starring a fantastic cast including Dame Helen Mirren, Dame Julie Walters, Dame Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, and Philip Glenister, Calendar Girls tells the true story of a Yorkshire WI group who posed for a nude calendar to raise funds for a leukaemia charity in memory of a member’s husband.

It’s a must-watch for any WI member; funny, moving, and incredibly uplifting, Calendar Girls demonstrates what can be achieved when a community comes together.

5. Up (2009)

The only animated film on our list, Disney Pixar’s Up has to be among the most heartwarming movies with elderly main characters of all – it’s a brilliant film to enjoy with the grandchildren.

Up follows Carl Fredricksen, a grumpy old man who is mourning the loss of his beloved wife Ellie, who sadly died before they were able to travel to Paradise Falls together – somewhere they’d always dreamt of visiting. 

Faced with eviction from their home, Carl ties thousands of balloons to the roof of his house and sails up, up, and away in search of Paradise Falls – not realising 8-year-old Russell is in his house, attempting to earn a Wilderness Explorer badge for assisting the elderly.

The unlikely travel companions struggle to get along at first, but the film is a charming story of the power of intergenerational friendship, as we root for Carl to finally make it to Paradise Falls. Watch it to find out for yourself whether he makes it, and whether he safely gets Russell back home.

6. Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)

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Based on the 1987 novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg, Fried Green Tomatoes stars Kathy Bates as Evelyn Crouch, alongside Jessica Tandy as Ninny Threadgoode. 

Evelyn meets elderly Ninny when visiting her husband’s aunt in a nursing home; when the women begin chatting, Ninny shares stories from her fascinating life, focusing on the story of two women called Idgie Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison, who ran the Whistle Stop Cafe together. 

Ninny’s stories cover racism, murder, and the power of friendship in this brilliant tale of intergenerational bonds, and what we can learn about each other by sharing stories. The movie earnt Tandy a nomination for Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars for her role.

7. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

Jessica Tandy won the Oscar for Best Actress for her role as the title character in Driving Miss Daisy, where she starred alongside Morgan Freeman as Hoke Colburn. The film also won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Makeup, so it’s one of the most highly accoladed in our pick of the best movies with elderly main characters.

Tandy plays Miss Daisy, a wealthy 72-year-old widow. After a driving accident, she reluctantly accepts 60-year-old Hoke as her chaffeur, and the two begin to get to know each other. The movie explores themes of racism and friendship, and what we can learn from those who have lived different lives to ourselves.

8. The Bucket List (2007)

Directed by Rob Reiner, The Bucket List is next up on our list of classic movies for the elderly. Morgan Freeman once again plays one of the leads, car mechanic Carter Chambers, alongside Jack Nicholson as billionaire Edward Cole.

The two men meet in hospital after they have both been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Cole sets about writing a ‘bucket list’ of things he wants to do before he dies, which he and Chambers eventually decide to fulfil together, travelling the world as they visit the Pyramids, Mount Everest, and the Taj Mahal.

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But will they get the chance to complete the list as their health declines, and what will they learn about each other and themselves along the way? The Bucket List is an incredibly uplifting film that demonstrates the importance of making the most of every minute.

9. Philomena (2013)

In 2013’s Philomena, Dame Judi Dench this time appears alongside Steve Coogan, earning a Best Actress Academy Award nomination for her performance as Philomena Lee. 

The film is based on the true story of Lee’s 50-year search for her adopted son Anthony, who she was forced to give up in a convent in the 1950s. Coogan plays Martin Sixsmith, a journalist tasked with writing a human interest story on Lee, accompanying her on the search as they travel to Ireland to discover the truth. 

It’s an incredibly moving film, telling a story that thousands of women will relate to. Dench plays the part of Lee wonderfully, but you will need to watch with a box of tissues.

10. The Duke (2020)

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The Duke is the most recent film for seniors on our list, having been released in cinemas in 2021; it may not yet be a classic, but it’s sure to be in years to come. 

The final title directed by Roger Michell before his death in 2021, The Duke stars Jim Broadbent as 60-year-old Kempton Bunton, who finds himself on trial for the theft of Goya’s Portrait of the Duke of Wellington, which was stolen from the National Gallery in London in 1961. Along the way, he attempts to get the government to provide better care for the elderly, with Dame Helen Mirren starring as his wife Dorothy, who supports him throughout the trial.

The film is a fantastic comedy drama based on a real-life story, bringing a fascinating slice of British history to life with a stellar cast and lots of laughs.

11. The Irishman (2019)

Starring acting veterans Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel, The Irishman is, as you’d expect from these Hollywood heavyweights, a classic gangster film. Depicting the life of World War II veteran turned hitman, Frank Sheeran, this crime thriller is full of shootouts, tense exchanges, and moments of surprise. Directed by Martin Scorcese and featuring legendary performances, the film was nominated for 10 Oscars and is a must-see for fans of films like Goodfellas and The Godfather trilogy.

12. Nomadland (2020)

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Perhaps a lesser known title, Nomadland is the story of a woman in her 60s who loses her husband and her job, and decides to sell her belongings, buy a van, and travel across America as a nomad. Oscar winner Frances McDormand plays the main character who is dealing with grief and loss and looking for human connection on the road. The film won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and you can look forward to stunning cinematography and a rich cast of characters that show what life is like as a real later-life nomad.

13. The Good Liar (2019)

Starring two of the all-time best British actors, Helen Mirren and Ian McKellan, The Good Liar is a twist-packed film about a conman pursuing his latest mark. Ian McKellan plays the con man going after Helen Mirren who is wealthy and recently widowed. It’s a cat and mouse drama that makes the most of the outstanding cast, and is a simple watch that’s ideal for a Sunday afternoon.

14. Mrs Harris Goes To Paris (2022)

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Heartwarming and uplifting, Mrs Harris Goes to Paris is set in the 1950s and centres on Mrs Harris, a retired cleaning lady played by Lesley Manville. Mrs Harris embarks on a solo trip to Paris after seeing a beautiful Dior dress and deciding she wants to own one for herself. Mrs Harris Goes to Paris is a charming and optimistic treat of a movie, with Mrs Harris having a wonderful adventure in her pursuit of the perfect Dior dress.

15. Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022)

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Taking seven Oscars at the 2023 ceremony, Everything Everywhere All At Once was an instant hit with critics. The film focuses on a middle-aged woman played by Michelle Yeoh, who ends up on an incredible sci-fi style adventure living all the lives she could have led. The film also stars Jamie Lee Curtis and James Hong as rich supporting characters. It’s a film that makes you laugh, maybe cry, and mostly think about what life means to each of us. This one is definitely on the way to being a modern classic. 

Ready For Your Next Adventure? 

If you often find yourself watching films alone or wishing you could enjoy relationships like those you’ve seen on screen, it might be time to open a new chapter in your life and consider moving into a care home. In a residential home, you’ll have the chance to make new friends of a similar age to you, as well as enjoying relationships with younger people via our care home staff.

New Care Homes has modern, stylish residential care homes across Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Nottingham, Lancashire, and Leeds. Contact us today to find out more about our care services or to arrange a visit.