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The Lost City stars Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum as the romantic leads. The movie was filmed in 2021. Sandra Bullock was born on July 26, 1964 and Channing Tatum was born on April 26, 1980, making an age gap of sixteen years with Bullock the senior of the two.

Bullock and Tatum

The Slate (amongst many other sources) has analysed the entrenched tendency of Hollywood to cast older male romantic leads opposite younger women - sometimes much younger.

There have been many romantic movies where the male lead is far older. Is this the biggest age gap between romantic leads in a movie where the actress is the older? I am interested in the actual age of the actor/actress pairing, not the character's implied age.

Based on some interesting responses below, I am looking for couples where in-movie the age gap is seen as immaterial and hardly commented on, as in the many cases where the male lead is up to 30 years older and none of the characters react negatively or critically to the age gap.

The only indirect reference to the age gap in The Lost City is an exchange between the two leads as they try inexpertly to climb a volcanic landscape:

LORETTA SAGE: I'm getting too old for this.

ALAN CAPRISON: You're not old, you're beautiful.

No generation-jumping

I am going to explicitly exclude answers where there is an obvious generational leap that is part of the plot (e.g. romance between a peer and his peer's parent).

No gigolos

I also exclude answers where there is an obvious power imbalance between the partners that corrupts the romance (the 'gigolo' scenario).

No man-eaters

The scenario where the female character exploits vastly greater sexual experience / wealth / mystique to fascinate the younger male is excluded.

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  • 3
    Not sure if this meets criteria for the casting tag and seems a bit broad, since it's not a first appearance Q but it's also unclear if you are looking for this specific age gap between ACTORS or CHARACTERS??? May 25 at 16:03
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    Added some more clarity that this is about ACTORS, and is culturally important in view of the reversal of Hollywood trends, not mere trivia. May 25 at 16:21
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    I would think the implied age would be more important, since it shapes the viewers perception. May 26 at 3:49
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    I assume you're only talking about straight, male/female pairings? Because there are many examples of movies featuring lesbian couples with a significant age gap - it's almost an entire sub-genre. May 26 at 13:05
  • 3
    Meryl Streep has been romantically paired with both Colin Firth & Stanley Tucci in her various roles (she's 11 years older than them), but I wasn't able to find any younger actors she has been paired with. May 26 at 17:35

7 Answers 7

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In Moonstruck (1987), there is no discussion about the characters' ages. Nicolas Cage (born January 7th, 1964), who plays Ronny, is 17 years younger than Cher (born May 20th, 1946), who plays Loretta.

Cher and Cage

As Roger Ebert summarises:

And at the heart of the story, there is Cher's astonishing discovery that she is still capable of love. As the movie opens, she becomes engaged to Mr. Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello), not so much out of love as out of weariness. But after he flies to Sicily to be at the bedside of his dying mother, she goes to talk to Mr. Johnny's estranged younger brother (Nicolas Cage), and is thunderstruck when they are drawn almost instantly into a passionate embrace.

I guess Ronny is referred to as Johnny's younger brother, and one might infer that Johnny and Loretta are close in age, but there is no suggestion that there is a large age difference between Ronny and Johnny.

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    +1 This looks like a really good answer. Cher's seniority to Cage by 17 years narrowly beats my Bullock/Tatum comparison. May 30 at 11:40
  • Accepted! Based on excluding obvious generation-jumping, gigolos, and 'man-eaters' as per my updated question above, this is the best answer. Jun 1 at 9:06
41

Harold and Maude would be likeliest.

Admittedly a comedy but there is a romantic element.

Starring Bud Cort (born 1948) and Ruth Gordon (born 1896) a 52 year difference

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    This may not be quite what the OP had in mind, because the age difference between the characters is a prominent plot point in the movie. I suspect that (in contrast) it's not really commented on in The Lost City. May 25 at 18:17
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    @MichaelSeifert is right - I hadn't anticipated this interpretation. I am really thinking of movies where the in-movie age gap is hardly commented on, if at all. Will update the question! May 25 at 20:06
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    @eleventhdoctor This is in poor taste. It feels like you're moving the goalposts to keep this question active. May 26 at 1:11
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    @JasonPSallinger I think the framing of the question made it clear that this isn't really what OP is looking for (it's not related to the "entrenched tendency of Hollywood to cast older male romantic leads opposite younger women" at all, because it's part of the story). The edit is not changing the nature of the question, just clarifying it.
    – tim
    May 26 at 8:47
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    @JasonPSallinger As regards "keeping the question active", I think the lack of better answers shows just how deeply entrenched the issue is, and hence how relevant the question is. Clarifying intent just makes the situation more obvious.
    – Graham
    May 26 at 12:18
22

Sextette (1977) tells the story of Sir Michael Barrington (Timothy Dalton , born 21 March 1946), the sixth husband of Marlo Manners (Mae West, born August 17, 1893). This makes for a difference of a little over 53 years.

Reviewer 'Leofwine Draca' notes that West's age is never referred to in the script.

SEXTETTE is a throwback to the early years of cinema, where stars were larger than life and films threw in song and dance routines at regular intervals in the name of popular entertainment. It's also a vehicle for elderly starlet Mae West, at the tail-end of her career, playing a man-eater celebrating her wedding to a young toyboy (a visibly embarrassed Timothy Dalton). [...]

Clearly the director is in love with West and the film has been concocted as a tribute to her. But the format is very odd and old fashioned and West's appearance is rather shocking; her age is never mentioned so it's pretty weird to see her trying to play herself some fifty years previously.

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    So far I think this is the best answer. It does seem like the age gap is not central to the plot May 27 at 0:45
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    My favorite part about this answer is the factoid that Mae West was playing the part of "Mrs. Manners".
    – T.E.D.
    May 28 at 22:37
11

In Adore (2013), Naomi Watts plays a mother who has an affair with her best friend’s 20 year old son, played by James Frecheville, who is 23 years younger than Watts.

For other women more than 16 years older than their male romantic leads, see: https://www.zimbio.com/The+Most+Uncomfortable+Age+Gaps+in+Movies

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    I haven’t seen the movie, but a mother having an affair with her best friend’s son seems to suggest that the age gap was a plot point (since they’re prominently from separate generations, assuming similar ages among the best friends). Per the question, “I am looking for couples where in-movie the age gap is seen as immaterial and hardly commented on, as in the many cases where the male lead is up to 30 years older and none of the characters react negatively or critically to the age gap.”
    – KRyan
    May 26 at 20:12
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    @KRyan that’s fair. I also haven’t seen it May 26 at 21:13
8

In American Pie, Eddie Kaye Thomas (October 1980) plays Paul Finch who has a romantic relationship with Stifler's mom, played by Jennifer Coolidge (August 1961), which is a difference of just over 19 years.

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  • Was there not a sequel with Stiffler's grandmother? Although I'm not sure that was a full romance as such
    – DavidW
    May 26 at 11:07
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    "...and none of the characters react negatively or critically to the age gap..." That's not exactly my memory of the scene. :)
    – Graham
    May 26 at 11:39
  • @DavidW Maybe you mean Stifler himself accidentally getting involved with Jim's grandmother in American Wedding?
    – MaxD
    May 26 at 16:02
  • @MaxD It's been a while since I saw it. I mostly remember that there was a grandmother.... That sounds right though
    – DavidW
    May 26 at 17:54
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    The movie that popularized the term, MILF. @Graham IIRC, the characters were actually reacting positively or in approval: i.stack.imgur.com/py8eW.gif May 27 at 3:47
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Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool tells the true story of ageing Hollywood superstar Gloria Grahame's affair with a much younger man. Gloria was played by Annette Bening (aged about 59), and her lover by Jamie Bell (aged about 31), a difference of 28 years — which is also the age difference between the characters they portray.

Reviewer Susan Wloszczyna notes:

It is somewhat refreshing to witness a May-December romance from an older female perspective and both leads pour their hearts into their roles.

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Sunset Boulevard (1950) is one of the earliest movies I can think of where the actress was significantly older than he actor with there being a romantic plot element between the two.

Gloria Swanson - 1899

William Holden - 1918

For a difference of 19 years.

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  • Interesting answer. Holden's character Joe is hired by Swanson's character Norma as a scriptwriter and "moved into Norma's mansion at her insistence, Joe resents but gradually accepts his dependent situation. [...] Norma lavishes attention on Joe and buys him expensive clothes. At her New Year's Eve party, he discovers that he is the only guest and realizes she has fallen in love with him" en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunset_Boulevard_(film) May 30 at 11:46

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