It’s a sad truth that elderly characters are given short shrift in film and television. The “key demographics” tend to skew young, and for whatever reason, producers assume that they don’t enjoy watching older characters on the screen. “Golden aged” characters either don’t appear at all, or, when they do, they’re portrayed as full of every elderly person stereotype out there. The irony, though, is that on the rare occasion Hollywood does it right, and creates an elderly character that is realistic and respectful, they’re almost always one of, if not THE most memorable characters from their films or shows!
So let’s take a look at some of these rare best-of-the-best elderly film characters. This is by no means a comprehensive list, just a few of our favorites, and we’ll share more soon. If you haven’t seen these films yet, you should absolutely check them out. Let’s start with a trio of male characters portrayed by iconic actors…
Emmett “Doc” Brown – “Back to the Future” Trilogy
Christopher Lloyd wasn’t elderly when he first played the eccentric, brilliant and lovable “Doc” Brown. He first played the hyperactive inventor when he was in his mid-40s. But the time traveling nature of the story meant that Lloyd got to play the character both in his early 40s and in his early 70s. The 70s version got a lot more screen-time over the course of the Trilogy, and got to save the space-time continuum, rescue a damsel-in-distress (and later woo her), help his young friend Marty make his family better, and even departed the story at the end of the Trilogy to go off on further adventures with some elegant and wise parting words for the teenaged Marty. He was also hilarious, full of life and energy, and utterly brilliant (if a bit insane)! All-in-all, a wonderful character, and a wonderful depiction of an (over)active senior kicking butt across time!
Lucius Fox – “The Dark Knight” Trilogy
Morgan Freeman has basically made a career out of playing respectful, awe-inspiring characters, including God Himself! But out of all of his star turns, his quiet, powerful dignity comes through most obviously when he isn’t the focus of the story, like with Lucius Fox, CEO of Wayne Enterprises in “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises.” In a Trilogy of Batman films, it’s Lucius (and another wise, older mentor, Alfred Pennyworth) that give the superheroic Batman his grounding. Without Lucius and Alfred, Batman, A, wouldn’t exist, B, would have died countless times, and C, would have gone snapped without support. But if Alfred helps Bruce Wayne keep his heart, Lucius helps him keep his mind, reminding him of his limits, giving him a moral framework, and generally being the most loyal and trustworthy person in the entire story. He’s also another brilliant inventor, butt-kicking businessman, and looks great in a bow tie.
Warren Schmidt – “About Schmidt”
Jack Nicholson is best known for playing powerful, all-consuming characters who chew scenery like giraffes (in the best possible way), but it was his quiet, somber turn as Warren Schmidt that most stuck with us. “About Schmidt” is very much a story about roads not taken, and opportunities lost, something that people deal with with increasing frequency as they age. Schmidt is, even in his personality, utterly unremarkable and unmemorable, but we learn about the man inside the quiet shell over the course of the story, as he confronts losing his wife, learning harsh truths about his career and marriage, and effectively loses his daughter to a man he is mortified she is marrying. But we also learn about how even the most seemingly unremarkable life is important and can make a difference. If you haven’t seen this film, bring tissues for the ending.