You don’t need to be young to hit the road
After losing his wife and being forced from his Manhattan apartment, retiree Harry Coombes (Art Carney) might easily have slipped into despair in 1974's "Harry & Tonto." Instead he heads west with his cat Tonto. Harry picks up hitchhikers, stops in on an old flame, befriends a Las Vegas hooker and even spends a night in jail. Carney won a late-in-life Oscar for the role, besting Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino and Jack Nicholson.
It takes courage to choose the way you die
By 1976, John Wayne had already lost a lung to cancer. In his final movie, "The Shootist," he plays John Books, a gunfighter who has only a couple of months to live. When a friend (Jimmy Stewart) paints a bleak picture of his impending death, Books decides to end things on his own terms. He sends a message to three different men with a grudge against him, saying that he'll be at the saloon at a specific time, and you know what happens then.
You can’t go home again, but it may be worth trying
In 1985's "The Trip to Bountiful," an aging Carrie Watts (Geraldine Page) yearns go back to the rural town where she grew up, but her overprotective son Ludie (John Heard) won't let her travel. So Carrie hops a bus without telling anybody. She's nearly there when the cops catch up with her. Luckily, an officer takes pity on her and drives Carrie to what's left of her girlhood home before Ludie arrives to take her back to Houston.
It’s never too late to get a second chance
Reg (Tom Courtenay) is living in a retirement home for opera singers in 2012's "Quartet," and he's less than pleased when his ex-wife Jean (Maggie Smith) moves into the same home. Jean tries to mend fences, but Reg isn't having any of it—until one day, as their quartet is preparing to take the stage, he overhears Jean saying that she still loves him. Next thing you know, they're engaged.
Listen to your dreams; they can lead to a better place
Ingmar Bergman's "Wild Strawberries" (1957) shows us that it's never too late to find inner peace. The film begins with an arrogant and not much liked 78-year-old professor dreaming about his own lonely death. Then, on a road trip with his daughter-in-law (who doesn't like him either), he stops at a cottage where he once lived. As the journey continues, so do the dreams, and by the end the professor has grown more at peace with himself. He even smiles.
You’re never too old to make new friends
The title character in 1989's "Driving Miss Daisy" is a 72-year-old widow (Jessica Tandy) whose son (Dan Aykroyd) decides it's time for her to get out from behind the wheel. He hires Hoke Colburn (Morgan Freeman) to be his mother's chauffeur, but she doesn't want anything to do with him—at first. A quarter-century later, Hoke is feeding Daisy at the retirement home where she now lives and reminiscing about their years of friendship.
A promise is a promise
As the title suggests, 2012's "Amour" is a love story, though not a conventional one. Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) and Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) are retired piano teachers enjoying a peaceful old age until, one morning over breakfast, Anne suffers a stroke. Confined to a wheelchair, she makes her husband promise never to send her to a nursing home. The story may sound grim, but the film is deeply moving, even as Anne's condition deteriorates and Georges finds there's only one way to keep his promise.
We really would do anything to feel young again
Ron Howard's 1985 sci-fi drama "Cocoon" ends with a mass funeral for retirement-community residents who have disappeared and are presumed to be dead. But they're not dead at all. Rejuvenated by the magical powers of alien cocoons parked in their swimming pool, the seniors have escaped the ravages of age. It's enough to persuade them to follow the aliens back to the planet Antarea so that they can feel this way forever.
A man won’t stop trying until he’s dead
Louis Malle's 1980 crime drama "Atlantic City" shows how far a man will go to get the girl (especially when she looks like a 34-year-old Susan Sarandon). Lou (Burt Lancaster) is a former small-time gangster who tries to dazzle a young waitress named Sally (Sarandon) with the money he earns selling stolen cocaine. After killing two men who've come to retrieve the coke, Lou hides out with Sally in a motel, feeling pretty impressed with himself—until he realizes what she's really interested in.
It’s way better to grow old with someone who’s smarter than you are
In 1981's "On Golden Pond," Norman Thayer (Henry Fonda) responds to aging by retreating from other people and becoming more and more crotchety. His wife Ethel (Katherine Hepburn) knows better. Determined not to let Norman give up, she maintains a relentlessly positive outlook while viewing his decline with genuine compassion. We should all have an Ethel looking out for us when our time comes.
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