Undefended: Old Age

Autumn is upon us and the year begins to draw to a close. In keeping with the season, this month, FilmFisher’s writers picked the five best cinematic depictions of a somewhat underrepresented subject in mainstream movies: old age.

Robert Brown

  1. Dibs on Up (2009) before someone else inevitably claims it.
  2. A Beautiful Mind (2000) has always struck me as the best example of using makeup to age actors, but it’s ultimately Russell Crowe’s incredible performance that makes the effect believable.
  3. I know I mention or write about MCU films too much already, probably giving readers the impression I like the films far more than I actually do. Even so, I can’t stop thinking about that beautiful conclusion to Captain America’s story in Avengers: Endgame (2019).
  4. Say what you will about the rest of the film, but the first hour of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) is something special. Ford’s professor persona was never better, and there’s an aching wistfulness to those early scenes, especially as we watch the post-war America Indy helped build start to turn on him.
  5. Yoda is one of the most iconic elderly characters in all of cinema, but instead of picking The Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi, I’ll go with the final three episodes of Clone Wars Season 6 (2014). Titled “Voices,” “Destiny,” and “Sacrifice,” these episodes send Yoda on a journey of mythic proportions and reveal that, even though he is centuries old and the wisest of all living Jedi, he still has much to learn about the ways of the Force and still has to fight his own flesh.

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Tom Upjohn

  1. The Leopard (1963, Luchino Visconti)
  2. Synecdoche, New York (2008, Charlie Kaufman)
  3. Ikiru (1952, Akira Kurosawa)
  4. Logan (2017, James Mangold)
  5. Werckmeister Harmonies (2000, Béla Tarr)

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Travis Kyker

  1. No Country For Old Men (2007, Joel & Ethan Coen)
  2. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008, David Fincher)
  3. The Magnificent Ambersons (1942, Orson Welles)
  4. The Irishman (2019, Martin Scorsese)
  5. A Ghost Story (2017, David Lowery)

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Jackson De Vight

  1. Gran Torino (2008)
  2. The Hero (2017)
  3. Amour (2012)
  4. Mr. Holmes (2015)
  5. Woman in Gold (2015)

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Timothy Lawrence

  1. Citizen Kane (1941, Orson Welles) – The same actors play the same characters across decades, collapsing the comfortable distance we like to imagine between youth and old age.
  2. Le Havre (2011, Aki Kaurismäki) – Likely the warmest, most quietly joyous film about old age I have ever seen. As miraculous as Up, but more patient and artful. (No offense intended, Jackson.)
  3. The Limey (1999, Steven Soderbergh) – “A lot of ’em are gone. The old faces. Don’t know where. Different characters nowadays. Different assumptions. You don’t know where you are.”
  4. Make Way For Tomorrow (1937, Leo McCarey) – One of the saddest films you will ever see about the modern world’s inevitable erasure of the elderly. Double feature with Ozu’s Tokyo Story (1953) for the full east/west picture, or if you never want to be happy again.
  5. Seconds (1966, John Frankenheimer) – An old man transfers his mind into Rock Hudson’s strapping young body. Spoiler: it doesn’t make things much better.

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A.C. Gleason

  1. The Shootist (1976) – John Wayne was actually dying of cancer in real life.
  2. Steel Magnolias (1989)
  3. Rocky Balboa (2006)
  4. Grumpy Old Men (1993)
  5. City Slickers (1991) – Not old at all really, but the first film that came to mind for some reason. I’m getting to that age, and when you get there, you start to realize actual old age really isn’t that far away, it’s all just a blink of an eye.
Timothy Lawrence

A graduate of the Torrey Honors Institute at BIOLA University, Timothy Lawrence teaches great books through Emmaus Classical Academy in Southern California. He writes essays and fiction and counts the Coen Brothers and George Lucas among his personal heroes.

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