Hollywood is obsessed with youth. Everywhere you look, women in film and television series are doing everything they can to maintain their youthful skin, hair, and body. It is said that once you turn 40 in Hollywood, you’re invisible. That’s a damn shame as women over 40 are not only still beautiful and desirable, but they have wisdom in their eyes that leads to richer and more nuanced performances.
Sharon Stone’s performance in All I Wish (currently streaming on Netflix) is an interesting example. The screenplay was written by Susan E. Walter who initially approached Stone to play the mother of the 25-year-old main character. Stone, who is 60 but looks like she’s at least 10 years younger, had another idea — why not make the film about a middle-aged woman who has stumbled through life and finally achieves her career dreams and finds the love of her life in her early 50s? And that’s how Stone ended up playing Senna in a film that takes place on her birthday each year and shows the development of her career later in life and the love she finds with Adam, played by 57-year-old Tony Goldwyn.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Stone said, “I just didn’t feel that having a 25-year-old woman who didn’t have her life together was that perilous. The stakes would be so much higher, and it would feel more important when the protagonist’s mom gets sick if we are older, because this is what happens in real life. This is the stuff we all really have to deal with, and think about, and come to terms with. I just feel there’s so much more comedy in the truth.”
Emma Thompson, who has spoken out about ageism in Hollywood, is starring in a critically acclaimed new Hulu film, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, a sex comedy led by the 63-year-old actor. Luckily, there have been a few similar movies recently; as such, here are some of the best romance movies with women over 40 as leads.
6 Bridget Jones’s Baby
In Bridget Jones’s Baby, Bridget Jones (played by Renee Zellwegger, who was about 46 at the time) is a 43-year-old woman who is pregnant. The sequel to the very popular Bridget Jones’s Diary added a complication to the “geriatric pregnancy,” since she’s not sure if the baby was conceived when she had sex with Jack Quant (Patrick Dempsey) or her old boyfriend Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). Bridget and Mark had been broken up for a few years at that point, setting her up to be over 40 and single.
5 Hope Springs
When the incomparable Meryl Streep starred starred in 2012’s Hope Springs, she was 62-years-old. Her character Kay has been married to Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) for 31 years and the spark is gone. They’ve slept in separate bedrooms since their youngest child left for college, and they never have sex anymore. They enter therapy to try and sort out the lack of desire in their relationship. After some ups and downs in this area, they make progress and renew their wedding vows surrounded by their adult children.
4 Laws of Attraction
In 2004’s Laws of Attraction, Julianne Moore was 44-years-old and playing opposite the significantly older (but a man’s age doesn’t seem to matter in Hollywood) Pierce Brosnan as high-powered divorce attorneys in New York City. Their jobs deal with love gone wrong, so neither of them has seriously pursued love in their own lives. The two are pitted against each other in a divorce between a rock star and fashion designer who are fighting over who gets their castle in Ireland. Moore and Brosnan travel to the castle and after a drunken night out, wake up to find they married each other. The rest of the movie plays out with the main characters divorcing only to realize later that they are actually in love with each other.
3 It’s Complicated
In 2009’s It’s Complicated, Meryl Streep was 59-years-old and starred opposite Alec Baldwin in the movie as Jane and Jake respectively, ex-spouses who divorced 10 years earlier. Jake is married to the much younger woman he cheated on Jane with. After their son’s wedding, the ex-spouses start an affair with each other, and during a rendezvous in a hotel, Jake collapses and a doctor is called. The two are spotted by their daughter’s fiancé. In the meantime, Adam (Steve Martin) is remodeling Jane’s house and is falling for her. Not only does It’s Complicated feature a lead actress over 40, she has two men vying for her attention.
2 Marry Me
Marry Me, starring Jennifer Lopez, Owen Wilson, and Maluma, debuted in 2022 on the streaming service Peacock. JLo is 53-years-old and played pop superstar Kat Valdez, who planned to marry her musician fiancé Bastian on stage after performing their hit song Marry Me. Just before taking the stage, she finds out he’s cheating on her and calls off the wedding. She spontaneously decides to marry a random person in the audience, Charlie Gilbert (Wilson), who is a divorced math teacher with a young daughter named Lou. Charlie is thrust into the spotlight and Kat asks him to go with it for a few months. Over time, they have a falling out and reunite after they realize they found genuine love with each other.
1 Something’s Gotta Give
In 2003’s Something’s Gotta Give, Diane Keaton was 56-years-old. The Nancy Meyers film centered on playwright Erica Berry (Keaton), her daughter Marin (Amanda Peet), and 60-something record company owner Harry Sanborn (Jack Nicholson). Harry only dates women under 30 and his path crossed with Erica’s when he shows up with Marin, his girlfriend and her daughter at her beach house. While he and Marin are having foreplay he has a heart attack. The doctor tells him to stay put while he recovers, and he ends up staying with Erica where they slowly bond and find love with each other later in life. The storyline, in which an older man learns to love women his old age, is perfectly appropriate for one of the best romance movies with women over 40.