A Brief History Of May-December Romances On The Silver Screen

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Even if you're not familiar with the phrase "May-December romance," you've definitely seen one out in the wild — and without a doubt on the silver screen. When you notice that one member of a couple is much older than the other, then you've stumbled upon the trope in action. Another thing you've probably picked up on: In heterosexual iterations of these relationships, it's typically the man who has more than a couple years on his female partner.

While of course there are plenty of exceptions — both on-screen and in the real world (Demi Moore, we're looking at you) — the truth is that you're just more likely to see an older man with a young woman. Kevin Spacey's latest flick, Nine Lives, is no exception to that rule. In it, he plays a work-obsessed exec married to Jennifer Garner's character, and he gets turned into a cat in a last-ditch effort to save his relationship with his family.

Spacey, by the way, is 57 to Garner's 44. And while that's not the widest age gap we've ever encountered, they are a full middle school graduation apart. So what other big-screen couples fall into that camp? We've pulled together a list of the most memorable May-December love matches in movies. Spoiler: Some of these lovers aren't even in the same generation.



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My Fair Lady (1964)
Eliza Doolittle is a flower girl not a flower woman, and Henry Higgins is a grown-ass adult man with a very fancy house. This is a May-December slow-burn romance for sure.
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Black Swan (2010)
What you probably remember from this movie is that Natalie Portman has sex dreams about Mila Kunis and ultimately turns into a big scary bird. But you may also recall that Portman's character has an affair with her ballet company's director, played by Vincent Cassel, and that these actors are about 15 years apart.
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Photo: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015)
Minnie is a 15-year-old cartoonist on the brink of sexual self-discovery; Alexander Skarsgård is her mother's boyfriend, and Minnie loses her virginity to him. This isn't quite a Lolita situation, but it's pretty close. Although Minnie is a dream, and frankly a perfect character vehicle for talking about teenage desire.
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Casablanca (1943)
Humphrey Bogart was literally born in a different century than Ingrid Bergman: 1899 to her 1915. And yet, nothing could get in the way of sparks between these two on the silver screen (not even her marriage to someone else in the movie).
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Photo: Courtesy of EuropaCorp.
Nine Lives (2016)
We touched on this already, but just to reiterate: Kevin Spacey (too-busy-for-his-family executive) is way older than Jennifer Garner (his wife in this movie).
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As Good as It Gets (1997)
Melvin (Jack Nicholson) is an OCD romance novelist who is super snarly IRL; Carol (Helen Hunt) is a waitress at a nearby diner — and seemingly the only person who can see the good in Melvin. Spoiler: They fall in love. Another spoiler: These two are a solid quarter century apart on the age front.
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Stepmom (1998)
I have some complicated feelings about this movie, but among them is the sizable age difference between Julia Roberts' character and her hubby-to-be, played by Ed Harris.

Then again, Ed Harris is pretty much timeless, and Julia Roberts has made some deal with the devil where she never ages, so maybe this is less May-December and more just an example of how Death Becomes Her scenarios are a real option for Hollywood's elite stars.
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Magic in the Moonlight (2014)
Woody Allen loves pairing pretty young ingenues with much older men, and this movie — which stars Emma Stone and Colin Firth as the lead love interests — is no exception. Stone and Firth, as it happens, are 28 years apart.
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Wild Things (1998)
Sexy guidance counselor? Check. Two high school teens ready to do a little experimenting with an older man? Double check. Denise Richards, Neve Campbell, and Matt Dillon wind up in a little May-December ménage à trois — although, truth be told, the actors were all born within a decade of one another.
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How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998)
Angela Bassett stars as a lovelorn stockbroker (named Stella, duh) who heads to Jamaica to take a break from everyday life. But what she finds there is a hunky Taye Diggs, who's younger enough than she is to raise some eyebrows. Inevitably, Stella has to decide if the age gap matters. But in the meantime, we get to watch her get her groove back with Diggs.
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Y Tu Mamá También (2001)
Two teenage boys hit the road with a woman in her late 20s. What happens next is pure May-December.
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Photo: Courtesy of Gaumont.
Adore (2013)
This one's a double header. Two women who grew up together have strapping teenage sons of their own now...and they each wind up in a sexual relationship with the other's kid one summer. Sounds complicated, yes, but it's actually a pretty sexy and provocative little film, starring Naomi Watts and Robin Wright with Australian accents.
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Election (1999)
Once upon a time, Reese Witherspoon was briefly a queen of dark comedy. (This was, obviously, before Sweet Home Alabama happened.) She played the obsessively driven and sexually awakened high schooler Tracy Flick, who happens to be having an affair with a teacher 20 years her senior.
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The Graduate (1967)
If you've ever heard of someone named Mrs. Robinson — well, this movie is where that moniker came from. The plot, in a nutshell: An older, impossibly glamorous woman seduces a 21-year-old postgrad, who ultimately ends up falling for her daughter.

Fun fact: Anne Bancroft was only 35 to Dustin Hoffman's 29 when the movie was shot. So this is really less May-December and more, "Hollywood thinks 35-year-old women are old, but men can play young forever."
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The Reader (2008)
This is a movie about Nazi war crimes that also contains a really beautiful little love story: Hanna (Kate Winslet) and Michael Berg (David Kross) had an affair in 1958, when he was a teenager and she a 36-year-old woman. For more about the movie, watch it, because it is amazing — Winslet definitely earned the Oscar for this one — but also please note that it is a textbook example of May-December romance.
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American Beauty (1999)
Now, there are plenty of lovely relationships that exist between two people of completely different generations. Love is loves, folks.

Except when love is a weird, obsession-fueled infatuation with your high school daughter's emotionally disturbed best friend, who is baiting you sexually but is secretly still a virgin and just playing tough. That's what we get in American Beauty. Kevin Spacey plays a middle-aged, creepy dad, and Mena Suvari's character is literally supposed to be in high school. Did someone say statutory?
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A Perfect Murder (1998)
A tycoon (Michael Douglas) finds out his pretty young wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) is cheating, and decides to have her murdered so he can inherit her immense fortune. Obviously, that goes badly, otherwise what kind of thriller would this be?

Michael Douglas is 71 to Gwyneth's 43, which puts them at a near three-decade age gap. Art mirrors life, in this instance, too, minus the whole "murder for money" thing: Douglas' real-life wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, is a full quarter century younger than her hubby.
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American Pie (1999)
Perhaps the youngest among you won't remember this '90s breakout movie. But those of you who do will likely also recall the, um, amorous affections, between Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas, currently age 35) and Stiffler's mom (the smokin' Jennifer Coolidge, who turns 55 this year).

Now let's imagine for a second what it would be like to have your high school nemesis become your stepdad. Cue: shudder.
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Photo: Snap Stills/REX/Shutterstock.
Harold and Maude (1971)
Annoyingly, when Hollywood pairs an older lady with a younger man in a romantic entanglement, the film also goes the kooky route (as if there aren't any normal circumstances when a women in her Golden Years could end up with a perfectly normal younger suitor).

Harold is a 20-year-old obsessed with suicide. Maude is a fun lovin' granny. They meet at a funeral, and together, they discover the true meaning of life. (Sex? Maybe sex.)
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Lolita (1962)
This barely counts as May-December, but we would be remiss not to include it. Recap: Lolita, a.k.a. Dolores Haze, is a girl child. Humbert Humbert, a.k.a. one of the creepiest literary characters in all of history, is the man who loves her and pretty much ruins her life.
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