It's been 20 years since "Message in a Bottle" — an adaptation of Nicholas Sparks' 1998 novel of the same name — debuted in theaters on Feb. 12, 1999. In the romantic drama, Robin Wright starred as a journalist who stumbles upon a love letter encased in a bottle after it washes up on the shore — which her colleagues at the Chicago Tribune publish. She then tracks the letter to a widower (Kevin Costner) with whom she develops a bond while hiding the fact that she's the one who found his letter to his late wife. In honor of the tearjerker's big anniversary, Wonderwall.com is taking a look back at more movies centered around couples who get a second shot at love later in life. Keep reading for more…
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While most of us remember "The Notebook" as a love story between young Allie (Rachel McAdams) and Noah (Ryan Gosling), the real romance was between an older Allie (Gena Rowlands) and Noah (James Garner). In fact, we'd argue that their profound love — which includes daily hospital visits, tender musings of the heart and (spoiler alert) dying in each other's arms — is the only story that actually mattered. Tissues, please.
Our nickname for "Something's Gotta Give" is "When Harry Met Erica." The romantic comedy stars Jack Nicholson as Harry, a senior playboy who likes dating younger women, and Diane Keaton as Erica, a playwright who's the mother of Harry's latest conquest. While the two didn't initially seem destined for love, their slow romance kinda sorta took our breath away.
No lie, "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is one of our absolute favorite films and it just so happens to be fully loaded with mature love stories. One of the most endearing romances was between widowed Evelyn (played by Judi Dench) and unhappily married Douglas (played by Bill Nighy) who meet in India during their stay at a budget hotel for seniors. Also deserving of a mention is the beautiful (and heartbreaking) love story between Graham and Minaj, who fell for one another as young men and were reunited after decades apart.
Another romantic love story out of India was between Mrs. Kapoor (played by Lillete Dubey) and Guy Chambers (played by Richard Gere) in "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." The 2015 sequel reunited our favorite seniors from the first film (including Judi Dench and Bill Nighy) but also brought us a spicy new love interest with Guy — an American businessman who falls head over heels in love with the Marigold's owner.
Just because they're not real people doesn't mean they didn't give us all the feels. In the Pixar animated adventure "Up," we got a mere glimpse of one of the most beautiful love stories ever — the romance between Carl and his lifelong bride, Ellie, who died and left him a grumpy widow. They might not have been the central focus of the film but we all know their love was what made this movie a total tearjerker.
In 2017, Oscar-winning actors Robert Redford and Jane Fonda teamed up for the romantic drama "Our Souls at Night." The film, about two widowed neighbors who are drawn together out of loneliness, is a loving and honest look at how our need for human interaction and companionship only gets stronger with age.
In 2018's "The Leisure Seeker," Academy Award-winning actors Donald Sutherland and Helen Mirren star as a longtime married couple — he's suffering from bouts of dementia and she's been diagnosed with cancer — who take one last road trip from Massachusetts to see Ernest Hemingway's home in Key West, Florida.
Three cheers for "Hope Springs," the 2012 rom-com starring Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones that got really real about how passion can fizzle in a long-term marriage. When listless housewife Kay realizes she wants more from her marriage to grumpy stick-in-the-mud Arnold, she enlists the help of a famous marriage counselor to get their love life back on track. Things aren't always pretty, but where there's hope, there's a chance for happiness.
In 2014's "Love Is Strange," John Lithgow and Alfred Molina starred as a longtime couple dealing with the repercussions of their decision to tie the knot after almost four decades together. The two men are forced to live apart after George is fired from his job as a music teacher at a Catholic school following their nuptials, making it impossible for them to afford the New York City apartment they call home. The Ira Sachs-directed drama racked up Independent Spirit Award nominations, including best feature, best screenplay, best male lead for John and best supporting male for Alfred.
If you've never seen the 1987 comedy fantasy "*batteries not included" starring married-in-real-life couple Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, then you, friend, are missing out on one of the sweetest love stories ever made. In the film, the pair (who were actually married for 52 years) play Frank and Faye Riley, an aging couple who are fighting the demolition of their apartment building. While Frank dutifully cares for an ailing Faye, they find unlikely help in the form of robotic, alien friends.
Annette Bening and Julianne Moore starred in the 2010 dramatic comedy "The Kids Are All Right" as Nic and Jules, a lesbian couple who each gave birth to one of their children via donor sperm. As the kids grow into their late teens, they want more information about their biological father (played by Mark Ruffalo), which leads Nic and Jules down a road of confusion and, ultimately, to rediscovering the love they share for one another.
Judi Dench and Kate Winslet both earned Oscar nominations for their portrayal of British writer Iris Murdoch at different stages of her life in the 2001 biographical drama "Iris." Jim Broadbent, meanwhile, won an Academy Award for his work as the title character's husband, novelist John Bayley, who dutifully cared for his longtime love as she suffered from Alzheimer's disease toward the end of her life.
The 2009 romantic comedy "It's Complicated" had a few good love stories, but (don't hate us) our favorite was between Jane (played by Meryl Streep) and Jake (played by Alec Baldwin), who secretly rekindled their romance after their divorce (and while Jake was still involved with the same mistress he left Jane for). Although their relationship wasn't textbook healthy, we loved the drama of two exes sneaking around and the empowering moment when Jane realized she was done with Jake for good (and became the one to leave him hanging). Petty? Yes, but also deeply satisfying.
In the 1992 romantic comedy "Used People," Shirley MacLaine stars as the recently widowed Pearl, who gets an unexpected invitation for coffee from a man named Joe (played by Marcello Mastroianni) who's secretly loved her for years. Like all good romance stories, theirs involves overcoming a lot of obstacles (namely: Pearl's opinionated family) before they can have their happily ever after.
The 2014 rom-com "And So It Goes" isn't exactly a love story for the ages. When egotistical real estate agent Oren (played by Michael Douglas) is left in charge of his granddaughter, he turns to his neighbor Leah (played by Diane Keaton) for help. While we kind of hate Oren throughout the majority of the film (he's such a jerk), there's something sigh-worthy about the moment he finally wakes up and (spoiler alert) realizes Leah is his everything.
The French drama "Amour" won the Oscar for best foreign-language film in 2013. Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva starred as octogenarian retired piano teachers and longtime married couple Georges and Anne. After Anne suffers a series of major health issues, Georges struggles to care for her while torturing himself over whether or not to fulfill her wish to cease living. The heartbreaking film earned four more Academy Award nominations, including best picture, best director, best original screenplay and best lead actress for Emmanuelle.
Not only is "Cocoon" a fantastic movie about eternal life and alien encounters — it's also oozing with sappy, heartwarming romance. One of our favorite couples was Art (played by Don Ameche) and Bess (played by Gwen Verdon), the happy-go-lucky senior citizens who aren't afraid to let their love light shine. In the film's sequel, "Cocoon: The Return," Bess finds out all that loving has led to a surprise pregnancy — in her 70s. Now that's a love story.
In "The Bridges of Madison County," Meryl Streep starred as Francesca, a married woman who falls in love over a four-day period with a handsome photographer played by Clint Eastwood. The story of how their romance ultimately shaped her life is one we can't easily forget. The intensity of their affair and the late-in-life realization that her adult children have upon her death — that their mother had passions and unrealized dreams — left us all wondering about our own imperfect love stories.
In the 1981 drama "On Golden Pond," acting legends Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda gave new meaning to the idea of lasting love. The pair played Ethel and Norman Thayer, an aging couple who spend their summers in New England. Although Norman is a bit of a brute, Ethel's deep love for her husband allows her to see the best in him, especially when he takes his daughter's new step-son under his wing as a fishing apprentice. The movie earned both actors Academy Awards and was the last big-screen film Henry starred in before his death in 1982.
Maggie Smith and Tom Courtenay make old love feel brand new in the 2012 dramatic comedy "Quartet." Starring as retired musicians Jean and Reggie, the former flames are reunited when Jean moves into the same senior community as her ex-husband. When the residents learn their home is in financial trouble, they work together to create a musical show that inevitably leads to a rekindling of Jean and Reggie's lost love.
Jack Lemmon, Ann Margret and Walter Matthau have one of the sweetest love triangles in the 1993 romantic comedy "Grumpy Old Men." In the film, Jack and Walter play John and Max, two lifelong frenemies and neighbors who have a history of fighting over women. When a beautiful lady named Ariel moves in across the street, both men set about trying to win her heart. In the end, one friend succeeds while the other proves he's got nothing but love for his old pal. Hashtag sweetest thing ever.
The prevailing theme of "5 Flights Up" starring Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman is that as long as there's love, anything's possible. In the romantic drama, Diane and Morgan star as Ruth and Alex Carver, an aging Brooklyn couple who want to sell their fifth-floor apartment and find a place with an elevator. As the couple endures a pushy real estate agent, strangers visiting their home and the struggle to pick the perfect new place to live, they learn that their ultimate happiness might be right where they've been all along.
Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci starred as Julia Child and her husband, Paul Cushing Child, in the 2009 biographical drama "Julie & Julia." In the film, we see a tender love story between the blooming French chef and her devoted husband. Not only did their marriage seem unbelievably happy, but the encouragement and support they gave one another are a lesson for us all when it comes to relationship goals.
Pierce Brosnan and Meryl Streep brought romance to life in the 2008 musical comedy "Mamma Mia!" The duo star as former lovers brought together later in life by her daughter, a young bride who decides the best way to determine her father's identity is to invite her mother's three great loves to her wedding.