Hey, remember when conservatives said the age difference was supposedly what grossed them out about Call Me by Your Name, the critical darling involving a relationship between a 24-year-old and 17-year-old man? Like how James Woods got all bothered by it until Amber Tamblyn introduced some very relevant facts? Oh, and before they started advancing a man who trolled malls for dates while in his 30s as the best possible option for U.S. senator in Alabama? Well, while the movie continues to garner acclaim, it seemed a good time to look at the long history of straight films with this same type of age gap between romantic leads.da
The love story set in Georgia around the time of the Civil War follows the life of Scarlett O’Hara. While actress Vivien Leigh was around 26 at the time of the film, the character is portrayed from ages 16 through 28. It’s the teenaged Scarlett who is first pursued by Rhett Butler, when she guesses his age to be around 35. Book experts actually peg him at 33 at the time the characters met in the source material. Butler portrayer Clark Gable was 13 years Leigh’s senior.
At the start of the classic high school rom-com, Cher remains a few months shy of her 16th birthday. The virginal heroine can’t find a romantic equal in her superficial high school but ends up in the arms of college student (and ex-stepbrother) Josh by the film’s end. IRL, Alicia Silverstone is about seven years younger than Paul Rudd.
With a name like “Baby,” it’s not like her youth was a well-kept secret. Yet it’s the opposite-sides-of-the-tracks separation that brings objections to a love affair between 17-year-old Frances Houseman and the much older Johnny Castle, whose age is never explicitly stated but who clearly has been working at the resort for some time. Jennifer Grey was actually much older when she portrayed Baby, around 27, but then Patrick Swayze was 34.
The sexy thriller centers around the misdeeds of Sam Lombardo, played by Matt Dillon, a guidance counselor accused of raping two girls at his high school, portrayed by Denise Richards and Neve Campbell. As the story unfolds, it’s revealed he’s in cahoots with both of the teenage girls to swindle a settlement and having a torrid affair with both.
Blame this sex-fueled teen film for the term MILF. Eddie Kaye Thomas’s Finch is a high school senior when he hooks up with Stifler’s Mom, played by Jennifer Coolidge. The character was old enough to have an 18-year-old son herself. As for actors’ ages, Thomas was born 19 years after Coolidge.
Perhaps Hal Ashby’s greatest film, the 1971 movie tells the story of an 18-year-old, Harold Chasen, who starts a romance with 79-year-old Maude Chardin. They share a love of crashing funerals.
If you wonder how a guy like Roy Moore came off as he asked parental permission to date a 14-year-old girl, just close your eyes and imagine Matthew McConaughey explaining, “That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.” The character of Wooderson boasted a reputation in this film’s world for spending way too much time at his old stomping grounds. While the character’s age never gets stated explicitly, McConaughey was 24 when the 1993 film hit theaters.
This Woody Allen film showed the actor-director as 57-year-old Gabe, a man who leaves his wife, Judy, played by IRL partner Mia Farrow, to pursue a 17-year-old student played by Juliette Lewis. It’s not the only time he played an older man pursuing a girl in her teens — Allen’s character in Manhattan fell for a 17-year-old Mariel Hemingway — but this one became notable because it was released about the same time Allen left Farrow for her adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn, whom he would eventually marry.
The 2001 Coen Brothers film told the story of Ed Crane, played by Billy Bob Thornton, as he deals with his wife’s affair and suicide. He ends up becoming the manager of singer Birdy, played by a 16-year-old Scarlett Johansson, who makes moves of Ed in his car. Thornton was 56 at the time the movie was released.
The 1953 film won Aubrey Hepburn an Oscar, showed off Gregory Peck as a leading man, and remains high on the American Film Institute’s list of the most romantic films of all time. Not bad for a film about a reporter who takes a drugged young princess to his hotel room, then tricks her into a romantic holiday in Rome without revealing he just wants an exclusive interview. Peck was 37 when the film was released. Hepburn was 24, though the character of Princess Ann appeared to be a teenager.
In the original Shakespeare, Juliet’s age gets delineated explicity as 13, and Romeo, while not given a firm age in the text, seems clearly to be a couple years older. But in most silver screen versions of the story, both characters get somewhat aged. In Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 contemporary telling of the story, the age gap grows as well. Leonardo DiCaprio is four and a half years older than Claire Danes, who was 16 when the movie was filmed, compared to a 21-year-old Leonardo. Other differences from Shakespeare? The actors share a rather mature sex scene likely not simulated at the Globe.
The 2009 film tells the story of a 16-year-old Jenny, played by Carey Mulligan, being wooed by a much older David, portrayed by a then-38-year-old Peter Sarsgaard. David gets Jenny’s parents' permission to date their daughter by providing a copy of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe with a fake signature from C.S. Lewis, then takes her virginity on a trip to Paris.
This 2013 film follows Kristen Bell as Leigh London, a disenchanted journalist who returns to her hometown, where she embarks on a secret affair with Jason, a teenage lifeguard played by David Lambert. Bell is seven years older than Lambert, who played a high-schooler in the movie.
The great love story at the center of this classic musical was based on the real-life marriage of Georg and Maria von Trapp, who were 47 and 22, respectively, at their nuptials. Actors Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews were a closer 36 and 29 when the 1965 movie version was being made.
When this millionaire-meets-hooker rom com was filmed, Richard Gere was 41 and Julia Roberts just 23. And Vivian, Roberts's character, was apparently written as being younger than Roberts herself, as she shares stories of recently leaving home and working on cars with her brothers.
The 1967 smash hit follows the story of 21-year-old Benjamin Braddock, portrayed by Dustin Hoffman, as he pursues 19-year-old Elaine, but his more scandalous relationship was with Mrs. Robinson, Elaine’s mother. She was portrayed by a 35-year-old Anne Bancroft, who was only six years Hoffman’s senior, but the characters' ages were a generation apart.
The classic romance, released in 1957, still ranks among the American Film Institute’s greatest love stories of all time. But it features a significant age gap. Cary Grant was 53 at the time of the movie’s release, while costar Deborah Kerr was 36.
Humphrey Bogart meant it when he sail “Here’s looking at you, kid” to Ingrid Bergman in the definitive screen romance. At the time of the film’s 1943 release, the male lead was 44, while Bergman was 27.
Does it make a vampire predatory to go after a girl who's 86 years younger? Edward may look eternally 17, but that’s just because he turned glittery in 1918. Meanwhile, Bella Swan’s actually a 17-year-old going through high school for the first time circa 2005. Seems Mr. Cullen isn’t actually that old-fashioned after all.