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2019 Movies for Grownups Award Winners

Renée Zellweger, Tom Hanks and Adam Sandler are honorees at annual AARP event

spinner image Annette Bening in The Seagull
Sony Pictures Classics

Career Achievement: Annette Bening

Fearlessly artistic, Bening has earned a remarkable number of her honors after the age of 50. After films grossing more than $2 billion, she continues to make films that have a resonant impact on our culture.

spinner image Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro in The Irishman
Niko Tavernise/Netflix

Best Movie for Grownups:
The Irishman

Martin Scorsese's Mafia movie is about aging: Late in life, Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, the alleged assassin of Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa, reflects on his past with regret and hard-won wisdom, and remembers the mentor who recruited and advised him.

spinner image Renee Zellweger performs in her role as Judy Garland in Judy
David Hindley/LD Entertainment and Roadside Attractions

Best Actress: Renée Zellweger 

Zellweger's wrenching, riveting, utterly inspired performance as Judy Garland attempting a comeback (shortly before her death at 47 in 1969) isn't exactly a Zellweger comeback, because her career has never faded like the tormented torch singer's. But Zellweger did take about half a decade off after a string of Oscar-honored hits, and at 50 she has never been a hotter talent.

spinner image Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems
A24/Everett Collection

Best Actor: Adam Sandler
Uncut Gems

After leaving Saturday Night Live, Sandler demonstrated one aspect of his talent in a series of comedies that grossed over $4 billion. Films like Punch-Drunk Love showed that he can do drama, too. Yet it's now, at 53, that he's broken into the top tier of serious actors with his daring, startling, nerve-shattering performance as a good-hearted, greed-crazed gem merchant struggling with gambling debts, a wife and mistress, and mobsters who want his head.

spinner image Laura Dern speaking with Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story
Netflix/Everett Collection

Best Supporting Actress: Laura Dern
Marriage Story

Dern has been a respected actress since her teens, when she costarred with Jodie Foster and Cher, and she's noted for both Spielberg blockbusters and edgy art films. But at 52 she is truly coming of age. Wherever she goes, fans chant her famous line from the smash hit Big Little Lies ("I will NOT not be rich!"), and her turn as a Marriage Story divorce attorney is another iconic performance.

spinner image Tom Hanks stars as Mister Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Lacey Terrell/Sony Pictures Entertainment

Best Supporting Actor: Tom Hanks
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Even the nicest guy in Hollywood was a bit daunted to play the kindliest man in TV history, kids’ show host Fred Rogers. Yet Hanks proves perfect for the part, capable of conveying Mister Rogers’ crinkly-eyed goodness, his gravitas and vulnerability. In a film about Rogers’ healing effect as a father figure to a journalist who's interviewing him, Hanks strikes a new, deeper note. A buoyantly youthful elder statesman of showbiz at 63, he's still growing.

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spinner image Martin Scorsese directs Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci in a scene from The Irishman
Niko Tavernise/Netflix

Best Director: Martin Scorsese
The Irishman

How did the creator of Mean Streets, Goodfellas and Casino make yet another mob movie without repeating himself? By focusing, this time, on time itself. Though its occasional scenes of action and mayhem are a match for anything in his oeuvre, it's fundamentally a ruminative movie, representing a director at the peak of his powers changing his game, not reveling in the incendiary moment so much as presenting a man looking back on life with a moral vision. Scorsese's youthful masterpieces — Mean Streets and Taxi Driver — still influence our best films, yet he goes beyond them, still spiritually and artistically questing at 77.

spinner image A behind the scenes photo of Noah Baumbach directing the film Marriage Story
Wilson Webb/Netflix

Best Screenwriter: Noah Baumbach
Marriage Story

Baumbach has been an up-and-comer since his Oscar-nominated The Squid and the Whale, inspired by the divorce of his parents, but at 50 he has arrived. Marriage Story, a meticulously written, carefully modulated drama loosely based on his own split from his first wife, is far more fair-minded than the scathing satires of his youth. Witty and heartrending, revealing what united and divided its protagonists at deep levels, it's the best divorce movie since A Separation, if not since Kramer vs. Kramer (which it echoes).

spinner image The cast of The Farewell seated in front of a table filled with food
BIG BEACH FILMS/Album/Alamy Stock Photo

Best Intergenerational Film:
The Farewell

Based on the American director Lulu Wang's real experience — she was invited to China to visit her grandmother, who appeared to have a fatal illness, but was forbidden to disclose that illness to her grandmother herself — the film is a masterful comedy of family dynamics and cultural collision. The chemistry between the granddaughter and her spunky forebear is utterly touching. It's a film that feels like a real family.

spinner image A photo of the cast of Knives Out
Claire Folger/Lionsgate

Best Ensemble:
Knives Out

In a film as sharply engineered as a Swiss Army knife, the cast isn't just a collection of stars each getting a lively scene or two, as in many star-studded murder mysteries. Here, they're a smoothly fused unit bringing a complex plot to life. Each of the scheming relatives seeking a piece of the late patriarch's estate casts revealing light on the others' characters as well as on the clever plot. They may be caricatures, but they seem like relatives sharing a squabbling past.

spinner image Cynthia Erivo stars as Harriet Tubman in Harriet
Glen Wilson/Focus Features

Best Time Capsule:

Cynthia Erivo boldly strides out of the pages of history as Harriet Tubman, the 5-foot-tall Maryland slave who incredibly escaped to Philadelphia, then went back in disguise 13 times and led at least 70 people (including her family) to freedom, before leading Union soldiers in battle. It's about time Tubman got her due, and this film evokes its period as palpably as 12 Years a Slave. It's like a superhero movie whose heroine's powers are real, with her feet firmly planted in a real world we come to experience as if we'd been there.

spinner image A photo of Pedro Almodovar in the film Pain and Glory
Sony Pictures Classics

Best Foreign Language Film:
Pain and Glory

Most of Pedro Almodóvar's movies are about his unresolved issues with his mother, but he understands her better now that he's 70 and she's recently passed. His newest eye-poppingly colorful masterpiece is also his most shadowy, melancholy, personal and grownup work of art. It's an inspired late-in-life tribute to the director's loved ones and formative experiences.

spinner image A color photo of a young Linda Ronstadt
Greenwich Entertainment

Best Documentary:
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice

As a music documentary, it can't be beat, capturing each dazzling phase of an artist so various she makes David Bowie look like a one-style wonder. Barefoot countrified singer, rock star outshouting Jagger, heartbreaking balladeer, operetta diva, American Songbook classicist, bestselling Spanish-language singer — all the Lindas are there. More fascinating and moving is the film's insight into her well-read mind and heart like a wheel, and her indomitable response to Parkinson's disease.

spinner image Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers reading a sheet of paper in the film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Lacey Terrell/Sony Pictures Entertainment

Readers’ Choice:
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

AARP readers have spoken: Their favorite movie of the year is the biopic about Mister Rogers, whose sweet wisdom speaks to our tough times and battered hearts. Like the man himself, the film doesn't flinch from some of the bad facts of human nature, redeeming them with sheer, courageous, thoughtful love. Wounded in childhood himself, Rogers says in the film that he empathizes with “broken people like me.” Or like all of us, who could use a movie like this right now.

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