One of the best aspects about cinema is its ability to create a communal sense of identity; how a single identifiable gesture, joke, line or emotion feels so legitimate and earnest that any group of individuals can recognize it. These watercooler moments are the reason we often keep coming back.
There are too many examples to choose from. CNN is currently showing a mini-series about these very moments. For teenagers, its John Hughes and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Those going through a mid-life crisis might find solace in The Big Chill. And Generation Xers keep raving about the aimlessness of Reality Bites.
But for senior citizens, there seems to be less focus. The golden years in film are often depicted as bittersweet at best, downright tragic at worst. However, there are plenty of funny movies for senior citizens that are often overlooked. So for the septugenarians and beyond, here are some funny movies for senior citizens that provide a few laughs:
1. The Bucket List (2010)
For those who grew up with Jack Nicholson, The Bucket List serves as a charming, goofy older role from recent years. After being diagnosed with terminal cancer, Edward Cole (Nicholson) and Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman) decide to spend their last days crossing off events they’ve always dreamt of from their titular lists.
The pairing is an unlikely duo, but the film gets a lot of mileage off the charisma of the two leads. Better still, it’s directed by a man of a similar generation – Rob Reiner, who seniors remember from All in the Family and as the son of comedy legend Carl Reiner.
2. Cocoon (1985)
Ron Howard’s affectionate, sci-fi dramedy has an all-star line up of classic actors: Don Ameche, Wilford Brimley, Hume Cronyn, Brian Dennehy, Jessica Tandy and Maureen Staple. It’s odd to think that even the film’s younger stars, like Steve Guttenberg, qualify as older screen legends now. After a group of seniors break into a swimming pool next to their retirement home, they discover a mysterious alien life force.
But these extraterrestials are of the peaceful variety, and grant the seniors the youthful vigor for which they long. Its modern, sci-fi take on the fountain of youth is appealing to viewers of any age, but it’s especially relevant to the elderly. Never has the hot weather Florida environ been so lovingly photographed. The sequel, Cocoon: The Return is worth a watch, but it has diminishing returns.
3. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
Based on the play by Phillip Barry, George Cukor’s fast-talking, funny romp is the ultimate hang-out film for seniors. Macauley Connor (James Stewart), a struggling author, takes on a puff piece assignment covering the wedding of socialite Tracy Lord (Katherine Hepburn). The wedding is a private affair, but Connor has an in: Lord’s lout-with-class ex-husband C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant).
The star power alone is enough of a draw, but the dialogue is full of sharp-tounged barbs about class and human frailty. By the time the cast is drunk in an elongated scene, audiences will already be rolling on the floor. The film was remade as a musical, High Society, with Frank Sinatra, but there’s no replacement for the original’s energy and wit.
4. Something’s Gotta Give (2003)
Another elderly turn from Nicholson finds the actor as a successful mogul who, after a heart attack, must recover with a reluctant Diane Keaton. Directed by Nancy Meyers, the queen of silver screen sappiness, Give is a smart, funny comedy about the fears of aging and the lengths to which one goes to retain their youth. It’s one of the perfect funny movies for senior citizens to watch.
5. Harold and Maude (1971)
A classic for both young and old, Harold (Bud Cort) is a young, wealthy man obsessed with death. He meets and befriends the elderly Maude (Ruth Gordon), who teaches the regularly depressed young man about the value of living every moment to its fullest.
Dark and thoughtful, Gordon’s performance is endearing. It pulls off what many films of its kind fail: to be sincere, funny and heartwarming without ever feeling cloying. This remains one of the best funny movies for senior citizens, even after all these years.
6. Grumpy Old Men (1993)
Any of Jack Lemmon and Walter Mathauu’s buddy comedies have their moments, but of their later work, Men is the strongest. The two play rival neighbours in a quiet fishing town who find themselves competing for the affections of Ann Margaret, a new arrival in town. One of the few occasions where the outtakes over the end credits are as funny as the film, especially Burgess Meredith’s raunchy patriarch.
The offscreen laughs of the crew prove the cast was having just as much fun making it as the audience watching it. The film’s sequel, Grumpier Old Men, retains the same Lemmon and Mathauu chemistry, but it’s just more of the same. Not that more of the same is entirely a bad thing.
7. Nobody’s Fool (1994)
Robert Benton’s film serves as a great swan song for Paul Newman, though the actor did a few more films afterward. Newman is Donald Sullivan, a local ne’erdowell handyman whose life is suddenly interrupted when his adult son arrives in town, himself going through a mid-life crisis.
It’s especially touching, but it never forgets to be funny – particularly Newman’s ongoing rivalry with a bumbling cop (a young Phillip Seymour Hoffman).