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15 Movies You Should Watch When You Turn 50

By Deal W. Hudson
4/17/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Specifically, these 15 films deal with the inevitability of growing older and the inevitable attempt to ignore it.

To put it bluntly, there are some books we shouldn't try to read when we are young because, first, we won't really understand them, and, second, having read them we will very likely never read them again, and it's later on in life when we recognize why they are considered classics. The same is true with movies, perhaps not to the same extent, since films rely more on images and less on language.  But using my argument about books, I want to recommend some 15 movies you should watch after you turn 50, and if you have already watched them perhaps you will give them another try.  These films were decidedly not made for teenagers, or even young adults. They were made for grown-ups, for viewers who have lived long enough, and suffered enough, to have a realistic view of the human condition. 

Highlights

By Deal W. Hudson
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
4/17/2014 (3 years ago)

Published in Movies

Keywords: movies, theater, film, culture, art, entertainment


WASHINGTON,DC (Catholic Online) - (Dedicated to DGH on his birthday!) In my opinion, as students we are introduced to many of the classics too early. Given that some teenagers have an extraordinary capacity for reading at an early age, most 17 year olds cannot plumb the depths of Macbeth, Moby Dick, or Anna Karenina.  Don't misunderstand me, the classics should be an integral part of an education, but they should be selected with the capacity and experience of the reader in mind. 

To put it bluntly, there are some books we shouldn't try to read when we are young because, first, we won't really understand them, and, second, having read them we will very likely never read them again, and it's later on in life when we recognize why they are considered classics.

The same is true with movies, perhaps not to the same extent, since films rely more on images and less on language.  But using my argument about books, I want to recommend some 15 movies you should watch after you turn 50, and if you have already watched them perhaps you will give them another try.  These films were decidedly not made for teenagers, or even young adults. They were made for grown-ups, for viewers who have lived long enough, and suffered enough, to have a realistic view of the human condition. 

Specifically, these 15 films deal with the inevitability of growing older and the inevitable attempt to ignore it.  They treat the unique challenges of middle age and after, from loss of physical and mental capacity to the most important matter of all, what love will be like - family, friends, lovers - when our halcyon days have passed and the waist widens, the skin wrinkles, the bones ache, and your 5-iron falls ten yards shorter.  Yes, from the day the first AARP letter arrives in the mail, life changes whether we like it or not.

These are the films that have helped me along since that fateful day nearly 15 years ago - I tore the letter up - and helped me to see the advantages, as well as the beauty, of being older.  They have also prepared me for what to expect farther down the line.  (Yes, I know three of them feature Burt Lancaster, but I refuse to apologize for that!)

1. The Rules of the Game: Jean Renoir, 1939 - A weekend party at the country estate of an upper-class French couple reveals their marriage at a crossroads and an entire spectrum of human fallibility and aspiration.

2. Make Way for Tomorrow: Leo McCarey, 1937 - From a Catholic filmmaker, this film portrays an older couple who lose their home and are forced to separate when none of their five children will invite them in.

3. Goodbye Mr. Chips: Sam Wood, 1939 - Robert Donat won an Oscar for his portrayal of a Latin teacher during different periods of life, from his early days as a priggish don to later years when he mellowed as a headmaster.

4. Tokyo Story: Yasujiro Ozu, 1953 - Considered by many critics one of the best movies of all time, this film follows an elderly couple who realize while visiting their grown children that they are no longer welcome.

5. Wild Strawberries: Ingmar Bergmann - 1957 - A retired professor travels to receive an honorary degree, and during the journey experiences dreams, hallucinations, and encounters that lead him to the realization of his wasted life. 

6. The Leopard: Luchino Visconti, 1963 - Based upon the famous novel, the film depicts Prince Fabrizio Salina and his family during the unification of Italy in the 1860s, a time when the Prince (Burt Lancaster) realizes the old class system is breaking down.

7. 8 1/2: Frederico Fellini, 1963; Marcello Mastroianni is in a mid-life crisis as a film director who is unable to finish his next movie and becomes haunted by all the women of his past.

8. The Swimmer: Perry & Pollack, 1968 - Burt Lancaster is an ad executive who walks home but swims through each of the swimming pools along the way and ends up being confronted with some harsh truths about himself.

9. Robin and Marian: Richard Lester, 1976 - Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn - need more be said?  Connery plays an aged Robin who returns from the Crusades to woo, once again, his Lady Marian.

10. Atlantic City: Louis Malle, 1980 - Burt Lancaster is an aging, down-and-out gangster who meets a young woman who offers him a chance for the success that has always eluded him.

11. On Golden Pond, Mark Rydell, 1981 - Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn are an older married couple who must deal with the return of their estranged daughter, Jane Fonda.

12. The Straight Story: David Lynch, 1999 - Based upon a true story, Richard Farnsworth, a 73-year-old Iowan farmer, rides his lawn mower to mend fences with his older, and ailing older brother.

13. About Schmidt: Alexander Payne, 2002 - Jack Nicholson plays a retired insurance salesman whose future plans are drastically changed about his wife's death and the marital plans of his daughter to a man he despises.

14. Amour: Michael Haneke, 2012 - Two of the great French actors, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva play a couple in their 80s and what happens to their relationship when the wife suffers a stroke.

15. Robot & Frank, Jake Schreier, 2012 - Frank Langella, an ex-jewel thief, receives a robot butler from his son that is programmed to care for him, but both discover a better, and more profitable way to spend their time other than sitting around at home.

Lest anyone thinks my taste is too serious or morbid, I will add just one more:

16. Cocoon: Ron Howard, 1985 - Howard, making brilliant use of veteran actors such as Don Ameche, portrays a group of people in a retirement home who are convinced by aliens they can be young again.

© Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D

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Deal W. Hudson is president of the Morley Institute of Church and Culture, Senior Editor and Movie Critic at Catholic Online, and former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine.This column and subsequent contributions are an excerpt from a forthcoming book. Dr. Hudson's new radio show, Church and Culture, is heard on the Ave Maria Radio Network.

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