13 Of Film's Most Lovable Senior Citizens

This week, Maggie Smith will fill a role she's perfected — the ornery yet lovable elderly woman — in The Lady in the Van. Senior citizens are often the highlight of a movie. They stand out in the best way, mostly because the characters are often written to have (almost) everything figured out. They aren't worried about what they say. And in the world of film (unlike at your holiday dinner table) if their unchecked honesty does come with a hint of bigotry, a younger person comes along before the end of the movie to teach them the error of their ways.

In movies, grandparents and their contemporaries often serve as mentors. But they're also the sort of best friends who might not like your playlist, but will always give you better advice than the pal you met in algebra class. They also have the best stories and serve up the best side-eye.

So cue up these flicks featuring our favorite on-screen elders, and dial up your grandma for a heart-to-heart.
Advertisement
1 of 13
Philomena (Judi Dench), Philomena (2013)
Judi Dench is perfect as Philomena. Perhaps the best thing about the character is how she gradually proves to her traveling companion, a man with a huge ego who is just the worst, that optimism and general cheeriness do not equal stupidity.
2 of 13
Garth (Michael Caine) & Hub (Robert Duvall), Second Hand Lions (2003)
The camera just loves gruff older men. It helps when their frosty exteriors are slowly melted by a child star at the very peak of his cute phase.
Advertisement
3 of 13
Dumbledore (Richard Harris), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
Let's be very clear, I am not referring to the Dumbledore who rushes Harry after his name is picked out of the Goblet of Fire. I mean the quiet, more mysterious Dumbledore with the genuine eye-twinkle who says, "Alas, earwax," just as H.P. readers hoped he would.
4 of 13
Gus (Michael Constantine), My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)
"Why you want to leave me?"
5 of 13
Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita), The Karate Kid (1984)
Mr. Miyagi really is the best friend a high schooler could have. Not only is a master of martial arts and botany, he also has a solid Martha Stewart streak (he does, after all, come up with Daniel's shower-curtain Halloween costume).
6 of 13
Edwin Hoover (Alan Arkin), Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Grandpa Hoover knows how to give a pep talk. As occasionally offensive as he is, he seems to truly care about his entire family, not just its youngest member.
7 of 13
Old Noah (James Garner), The Notebook (2004)
Everyone gets so hung up on young Noah writing Allie a letter every day for a year. But old Noah is willing to live at a nursing home, reading to the woman he loves for days and days worth of painful blank looks, just for a few moments of recognition. Even their kids want him to ditch her. That's romantic.
Advertisement
8 of 13
Old Man Marley (Robert Blossom), Home Alone (1990)
Yes, when he's first introduced he seems more like the culprit in an episode of Law & Order than a kindly neighbor, but he is a badass with a shovel. It's also amazing how casually he dispatches with the bad guys and takes Kevin back to his house. It's like he's just checking something off on a really intense to-do list.
9 of 13
Maurice (Rex Everhart), Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Maurice just wants Belle to be happy (and maybe get a spot on an "as seen on TV" infomercial).
10 of 13
Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn), Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
It's pretty hard not to be lovable when you're actually Santa Clause (though Billy Bob Thornton pulled that one off). But Christmas magic notwithstanding, he brings a lot of people together at a time when there weren't nearly enough self-help books.
11 of 13
Aggie Cromwell (Debbie Reynolds), Halloweentown (1998)
Besides bearing the best presents and bedtime stories, Cromwell dishes out more positive affirmations than a goop newsletter. Being normal is vastly overrated.
12 of 13
Carl Fredricksen (Ed Asner), Up (2009)
After leaving his furniture and pictures on the cliff and his house in the clouds, the Ellie badge could be, literally, the last memento he has of his late wife. This is more than symbolically moving on, it's an enormously selfless gesture...and now I'm crying.
13 of 13
Queen Clarisse Renaldi (Julie Andrews), The Princess Diaries (2001)
In a film that's every bit as quotable as Mean Girls, Queen Clarisse has all the best lines and the greatest delivery. Plus, she taught an entire generation how to wave like royalty.
Advertisement

More from Movies

Watch

R29 Original Series