20 Unrealistic (And Slightly Uncomfortable) Age Gaps Between Film Couples
While films being a tiny bit far-fetched is one of the many reasons we enjoy them, there are times when things get so unrealistic that they take us out of the adventure entirely. An example of this is the occasionally unrealistic difference in age between leading men and women that Hollywood filmmakers seem to hope we’ll simply ignore. Below are 20 examples that ended up being a bit uncomfortable…
20. 21 Years (Gabriel Byrne and Winona Ryder, Little Women)
Uncomfortable age differences might already be fairly common in modern cinema, but they’re even more common in historical literature.
That means whenever certain works of literature are adapted, the age gaps that were common at the time they were written are replicated on screen, no matter how unpalatable they might be to a modern audience.
One of the biggest culprits of this is Little Women, which ends with the protagonist Jo March marrying an older professor she has fallen in love with in New York.
The age gap made perfect sense to readers when the book was published in the early 1900s, but is generally received badly by modern audiences (so much so that the 2019 adaptation of Little Women significantly aged down the professor).
For the 1994 adaptation, however, director Gillian Armstrong opted for a more book-accurate portrayal of the love interests, resulting in a 21-year age gap between the two.
Winona Ryder was just 23 when the movie was released, while her on-screen lover, Gabriel Byrne, was 44.
19. 22 Years (Richard Gere and Winona Ryder, Autumn in New York)
Winona Ryder was cast opposite much older love interests often in the early days of her career; for example, she also had to play opposite Richard Gere, who was more than two decades her senior.
Ryder was 29 when she starred in Autumn in New York, while Gere was 51, making them quite an unbalanced couple.
The age difference between the two actors is already kind of uncomfortable, but the gap between the characters is even worse.
While Gere plays Will Keane, who is just three years younger than the actor himself at 48, Ryder’s character Charlotte is aged all the way down to 22.
The movie acknowledges that Keane is a middle-aged man seeking love with a much younger woman, but still frames the relationship as an uncomplicatedly sweet one.
To make the whole thing more uncomfortable, Will later learns that Charlotte is the daughter of a woman he once dated. Yuck.
18. 24 Years (Clint Eastwood and Rene Russo, In the Line of Fire)
We’re not for one second saying that Clint Eastwood isn’t an attractive older man, but the difference in age between he and Rene Russo in the 1993 political thriller In the Line of Fire is just a little bit too far-fetched for us.
The acclaimed actor and director was 63 at the time of filming, making him 24 years older than 39-year-old co-star Rene Russo.
Thankfully, In the Line of Fire is a political action thriller, so the romance between the two characters often takes a back seat.
Not only that, but despite being third-billed in the movie and also playing a secret agent, Rene Russo’s role is pretty diminished throughout the film.
Still, the age gap feels even more unbelievable than the intricate plot or big shoot-outs, which is saying something.
The movie did get positive reviews overall, even if most of the praise the film got had nothing to do with the romantic subplot.
17. 26 Years (Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt, As Good as it Gets)
As Good as it Gets is a romantic comedy about Melvin Udall, played by Jack Nicholson, whose OCD compels him to have breakfast in the same restaurant every day.
There, he becomes obsessed with a waitress named Carol, played by Helen Hunt, who is the only one polite enough serve him and put up with his rude and cynical ways.
The plot develops as you might expect, with Melvin slowly learning to care about things, looking after his neighbour’s dog and trying to be more genuine with Carol.
Carol in turn slowly falls in love with Melvin, and as a result, Melvin’s OCD seems to be miraculously cured by the end of the movie.
If Melvin’s compulsive habits disappearing just because he falls in love strikes you as unrealistic, the age gap between the two stars might strike you as doubly so.
Nicholson was 60 when he starred in the movie, while his love interest Helen Hunt was only 34, meaning there was 26 years between them.
16. 26 Years (Harrison Ford and Anne Heche, Six Days, Seven Nights)
Described by Rotten Tomatoes as “a completely forgettable piece of Hollywood fluff,” Six Days, Seven Nights sees Harrison Ford team up with Anne Heche (remember her?).
The former Han Solo and Indiana Jones was 55 at the time, making him 26 years older than his co-star.
As if the age gap wasn’t strange enough, the plot mostly revolves around adultery, despite the fact that it’s supposed to be a love story.
Both Ford’s character Quinn and Heche’s character Robin are happily dating other people at the beginning of the movie, and are pushed to cheat with each other due to literally being stranded on a desert island.
In a final creepy twist, when Anne’s boyfriend Frank cheats on her with Quinn’s girlfriend Angelica, that relationship actually feels way more believable.
That’s because Quinn’s original girlfriend is also way younger than him, meaning his attraction to women Anne’s age is habitual.
15. 27 Years (Gene Wilder and Kelly LeBrock, The Woman In Red)
Gene Wilder often managed to look older than he actually was, but even when you take into account his real age, the difference in years between the Blazing Saddles actor and Kelly LeBrock in 1984’s The Women In Red is still slightly hard to stomach.
In the film, 51-year-old Wilder hooks up with Weird Science star LeBrock, who at 24 years old was 27 years his junior.
The Woman in Red is a straightforward romantic comedy, adapted from a 1976 French film called Pardon Mon Affaire, and the age difference between the stars doesn’t factor into the plot at all.
However, the plot itself is relatively creepy, and would probably be just as uncomfortable even without the dramatic age difference.
Essentially, Wilder’s character Teddy becomes obsessed with LeBrock’s character Charlotte, after seeing her dress being blown up by a breeze from a ventilation grate, revealing her skimpy underwear.
Teddy then spends the whole movie coming up with elaborate schemes to seduce this woman, until he finally does and realises she also has a partner, at which point he immediately becomes interested in another woman.
14. 27 Years (Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart)
His fantastic performance in Crazy Heart (finally) won Jeff Bridges a well-deserved Best Actor Oscar, but we can only assume that the Academy paid zero attention to the unrealistic age difference between its two leading stars.
The film asks us to swallow a 27-year age difference between 58-year-old Bridges and onscreen partner Maggie Gyllenhaal, who at the time was 31.
Crazy Heart is a drama centred on Bridges, who plays an alcoholic country music singer down on his luck named Otis.
Otis’ relationship with a young journalist, played by Gyllenhaal, is what inspires him to stop drinking and turn his life around.
Otis beats his alcohol addiction, loses weight and reconnects with his estranged son, all thanks to the inspirational influence of Gyllenhaal’s character.
Still, she does eventually break up with him and marries someone who is probably way closer to her own age, so good for her? Maybe?
13. 27 Years (Hugh Laurie and Leighton Meester, The Oranges)
The Oranges is another example of a romantic comedy with a super uncomfortable age difference which audiences are meant to find funny and charming.
The plot deals with the fallout when the father of one girl begins dating his daughter’s old best friend, essentially as soon as she returns to town.
Hugh Laurie was 52 when the movie was released in 2011, while Leighton Meester was only 25, making him over double her age.
It doesn’t help that in the context of the film, Meester is playing Laurie’s daughter’s childhood best friend, meaning this man presumably saw her grow up.
Admittedly, we do see the consequences of the relationship between the two of them, as it ruins both their families.
Still, the film wasn’t at all received well, so the uncomfortable age gap isn’t worth putting up with to watch the movie.
12. 28 Years (Colin Firth and Emma Stone, Magic in the Moonlight)
The plot of Magic in the Moonlight is actually pretty charming, with Colin Firth playing a cynical showman tasked with debunking Emma Stone, who plays a prolific psychic and medium.
Firth’s character Stanley spends the whole movie slowly coming to believe that Stone’s character Sophie is the genuine article, only to realise at last that she has been tricking him all along.
If that was the only aspect to the plot, then the significant age difference between Stone and Firth wouldn’t be a problem at all.
Of course, they also fall in love, despite Emma Stone being 26 when the movie was released in 2014, while Colin Firth was 54.
It’s unclear what is more uncomfortable: the idea of the two characters falling in love despite their age gap, or the two characters falling in love despite their whole relationship being based on lies.
It also doesn’t help that Colin Firth’s character spends his days pretending to be a racist caricature of a magician, with the stage name Wei Ling Soo. Oof.
11. 29 Years (Sean Penn and Emma Stone, Gangster Squad)
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being in your 50s, but some might say that you shouldn’t be attempting to romance people who were born three decades before you were, as was the case with Sean Penn in the 2012 crime film Gangster Squad.
In the film, 54-year-old Penn’s mob boss Mickey Cohen woos his social etiquette teacher Grace Faraday, played by the then-25-year-old Emma Stone.
In yet another example of a mid-twenties Emma Stone playing opposite a much older male love interest, Gangster Squad in part revolves around the relationship between Stone’s character and Penn’s.
However, Stone’s character Grace is actually more deeply in love with Sergeant Jerry Wooters, who is played by Ryan Gosling.
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have acted opposite each other in several projects, including La La Land and Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Gosling is also only eight years older than Emma Stone, which we suppose is better… kind of?
10. 30 Years (Michael Keaton and Andrea Riseborough, Birdman)
It was nominated for an impressive nine Academy Awards, winning four, but did anybody notice the 30-year age gap between Michael Keaton and the woman his character dated, played by Andrea Riseborough?
Yes, the former Batman may still be an incredibly good-looking man, but – at 60 years of age – Keaton was exactly three decades older than his co-star.
Thankfully, this is another movie wherein the romance is not a huge part, and Michael Keaton’s character Riggan isn’t exactly someone the audience is supposed to be looking up to anyway.
That means it shouldn’t be such a big deal that there is a huge age gap between Riggan and his girlfriend.
It’s also not a problem that the relationship breaks the realism of the movie, since Birdman is a film that features superhero hallucinations, and an ending in which Riggan maybe gains the ability to fly for real.
Still, it is unusual that Riggan’s girlfriend looks roughly the same age as his daughter, while he looks more like his girlfriend’s dad.
9. 32 Years (Liam Neeson and Olivia Wilde, Third Person)
We love a bit of Liam Neeson and have to admit that he’s somehow still a bit of a heartthrob at 68, but perhaps Hollywood should look at casting women alongside him that are closer to his age.
Olivia Wilde was only 29 years old when she had a fling with Neeson’s Michael Leary in the 2013 romantic drama Third Person, making for a real-life age gap of 32 years.
Third Person is actually three separate but interconnected love stories strung together, which means that the uncomfortable age gap thankfully takes up less than a third of the screentime.
It’s also acknowledged that the relationship between Neeson and Wilde’s characters isn’t exactly healthy, since Neeson’s character Michael has just left his wife and is having an on-off affair with Wilde’s Anna.
Third Person also received awful reviews, with many critics saying the love story was not compelling, and that the characters were written flatly.
That means you’re unlikely to come across this one in your day to day life, so it’s one uncomfortable age gap that’s relatively easy to avoid.
8. 33 Years (Michael Caine and Michelle Johnson, Blame It On Rio)
It’s unclear how many people actually saw the 1984 romantic comedy Blame It on Rio, but what we do know is that it features a massive 33-year difference in age between Michael Caine and his romantic interest in the film, Michelle Johnson.
At the time the film came out, Caine was 50 years old, with Johnson being just 17 years old.
In fact, Johnson was so young at the time that she had to receive special permission from a court in order to allow her to appear in the film.
The drastic measures make sense when you look at the plot, in which Johnson plays the best friend of Caine’s character’s daughter.
In the film, Caine’s character Matthew has an affair with his best friend’s daughter, who sleeps with Matthew on the beach, gives him a naked polaroid of herself, and eventually tries to commit suicide out of shame.
How and why this is categorised as a romantic comedy is anyone’s guess, but it’s less difficult to figure out why it wasn’t super popular with critics or audiences.
7. 33 Years (Jean Reno and Natalie Portman, Léon: The Professional)
Léon: The Professional is the first movie that Natalie Portman ever starred in, and it’s one that’s still pretty widely adored.
However, what you might not know is that in some versions of the film, the story is a quasi-romance between a fully grown hitman, played by Jean Reno, and his 12-year-old adopted protege.
The romantic subplot between the two characters was all but edited out of the UK and US releases, but it is far more apparent in the original French cut of the film.
Even the description on Wikipedia references the “unusual relationship” between the two characters, presumably referring to the played-down romance.
The movie was one of the first projects Natalie Portman ever worked on, and she was just 13 at the time of filming.
In contrast, Jean Reno was far more established, and 46 at the time the movie was released.
6. 34 Years (Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, Lost in Translation)
Unlike some of the films on this list, Lost in Translation is definitely not an obscure movie; in fact, it’s even revered as a masterpiece in many circles.
Despite that, it’s still hard to swallow the massive gap in years between the two leads in Sofia Coppola’s critically acclaimed comedy-drama.
At just 18 years of age when the film was shot, Scarlett Johansson was 34 years younger than her 52-year-old co-star Bill Murray.
This is yet another movie which heavily features adultery, with both Murray and Johansson’s characters already married to other people when they meet.
Thankfully, we never see the two sleep together, even if Murray’s character does seduce another woman at one point in the film.
Still, it is a little uncomfortable to watch Murray’s character whisper into Johansson’s ear before they part ways, especially since we have no idea what he’s just said. Best not to think about it.
5. 35 Years (Jack Nicholson and Amanda Peet, Something’s Gotta Give)
The 2003 romantic comedy Something’s Gotta Give sees Amanda Peet engage in a romantic relationship with none other than Jack Nicholson.
Nicholson was 66 years old at the time, making him exactly three-and-a-half decades older than his on-screen love interest.
However, this age gap is made a little less uncomfortable by the fact that it is integral to the plot, and isn’t presented as a good thing.
Most of the characters in the movie judge Nicholson’s character Harry for refusing to date anyone over 30, and his character arc across the film finds him falling in love with someone his own age.
Still, there is one very awkward scene where Harry has a heart attack while preparing to sleep with Peet’s character, Marin.
It is also weird to watch the 63-year-old Harry date the 29-year-old Marin, even if it is only for a short while.
4. 37 Years (Woody Allen and Juliette Lewis, Husbands and Wives)
Husbands and Wives is the story of two couples, who spend the entire runtime wrestling with their marital problems, none of which are solved by the time the film ends.
Woody Allen plays Gabe Roth, a professor dissatisfied with his life who strikes up a friendship with a student of his.
The student is played by Juliette Lewis, who was just 19 at the time, while her co-star and the movie’s director Woody Allen was 57.
Thankfully, the relationship never progresses past Gabe gifting his student a music box, and Lewis’ character asking him to kiss her.
However, the age gap is made creepier by the fact that while Lewis was 19 when the movie was released, her character is celebrating her 21st birthday when she asks Gabe to kiss her.
That means Allen cast an even younger actress than what was necessary in the role, which makes the scenes between the two feel extra icky (perhaps more so given Allen’s notorious private life).
3. 39 Years (Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Entrapment)
We’re entering into the realm of the ridiculous now, as we remember the nearly four-decade difference in age between the leading couple in 1999’s crime caper Entrapment.
The film saw 30-year-old Catherine Zeta-Jones star alongside former James Bond Sean Connery, who despite still looking incredibly attractive, was actually 69 years old at the time.
Entrapment is pretty infamous for a romantic age gap that nobody acknowledges even once throughout the movie.
Instead, the audience is asked to believe that a 69-year-old thief would be capable of parachuting down a broken elevator shaft.
The relationship between the two characters is mostly built on deception, since for most of the movie’s runtime, both are unsure about who is being double-crossed and whose feelings are genuine.
The question is, if both characters are ruthlessly taking advantage of each other, then does that make the age gap better, or worse?
2. 42 Years (Tom Skerritt and Drew Barrymore, Poison Ivy)
The penultimate entry in our list is the extremely uncomfortable romance between Tom Skerritt and Drew Barrymore in 1992’s Poison Ivy.
While we’re well aware the conceit of the film is that a young girl seduces an older, married man, the 42-year gap between 17-year-old Barrymore and 59-year-old Skerritt is simply too much for us to bear.
The film contains many uncomfortable scenes, from the two being seen having sex by Skerritt’s character’s daughter, to the two massaging each other using their feet.
It also ends rather gruesomely, with Barrymore’s character being pushed off a balcony to her death as revenge for the affair.
The film was hugely controversial upon its release, but that controversy only helped it become a huge hit on home media.
Still, the movie was demolished by critics, who found it flat and uninteresting despite its heapings of shock value.
1. 52 Years (Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort, Harold and Maude)
Harold and Maude features the largest age gap of any movie on this list and, unusually, in this case it is the leading lady who is the elder partner in the romance.
Harold actor Bud Cort was only 23 when he appeared in the film opposite the 75-year-old Ruth Gordon, resulting in a 52-year age gap.
The film is a romantic one, with the morbid and aimless Harold meeting Maude while attending the funeral of a stranger.
The two become friends and later fall in love, as Maude teaches Harold what it means to live a full and happy life, as opposed to a depressed one.
The film ends with Maude revealing she is a Holocaust survivor, and waltzing in Harold’s arms before she commits suicide. An unusual film all-round.