What happens when a character drastically decides to change their life? Run down by the hustle and grind of their mundane days, these bored protagonists feel the need for a shakeup.
Whether it's quitting their job, going on a road trip, or becoming a superhero, all of these films feature a midlife crisis that goes disastrously wrong or, if lucky, brilliantly right.
Here are our picks for the best midlife crisis movies that are must-watches, even if you aren't going through one yourself.
15. This Is 40 (2012)
Directed by Judd Apatow
Starring Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, John Lithgow
Comedy, Drama, Romance (2h 14m)
Most people suffer a midlife crisis some time between the ages of 30 and 50. It's often a hazy and divergent time—some have kids, some have established careers, some are off traveling the world.
And some have none of the above. Once our chaotic 20s are over, we're officially an adult... and that comes with scary responsibilities: mortgages, businesses, parenthood, etc.
For Debbie (played by Leslie Mann) and Pete (played by Paul Rudd), it's all of the above. The couple needs to sort their life out between financial problems, a fractured marriage, and terrible teens. It's all made worse by the fact that their 40th birthdays are approaching.
This Is 40 is set five years after Knocked Up, with it being a sequel-but-not-really by director Judd Apatow.
14. Eat Pray Love (2010)
Directed by Ryan Murphy
Starring Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, James Franco
Biography, Drama, Romance (2h 13m)
When people go off to "find themselves," they rarely go searching in banks or office buildings. They travel the world, practice spiritual rituals, and marinade in new cultures... not start a business and a marriage.
Liz (played by Julia Roberts) has this revelation eight years too late, when she realizes she's now stuck with a husband she doesn't want.
However, being "stuck" is just a state of mind. Once Liz gets through the turmoil of divorce and affairs, she embarks on a three-point journey of self-discovery: Italy, India, and Bali.
Across the globe, Liz learns what life is all about: eating well, cultivating her soul, and loving everyone she meets. Liz shows us how a midlife crisis should be done—exploring Bali is just a cherry on top.
13. Something's Gotta Give (2003)
Directed by Nancy Meyers
Starring Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Keanu Reeves
Comedy, Drama, Romance (2h 8m)
As they say, opposites attract. That's great for Harry (played by Jack Nicholson) and Erica (played by Diane Keaton), who couldn't be more opposite.
Harry is a rich New York businessman who only dates young models. Erica is a playwright who's more his age than her daughter (played by Amanda Peet) is. The thing is, Harry is currently dating said daughter.
When the three are forced to live together for a few days, things go from awkward to hostile to friendly. A little too friendly.
Harry and Erica initially clash, but that friction turns into an unexpected connection. It's too bad that Harry is too commitment-phobic to make things official.
Something's Gotta Give is a solid romcom that'll please all fans of the genre. It's smart, funny, not too heavy, not too cheesy. Nicholson and Keaton both play versions of themselves—or, at least, their public personas—which makes the film feel authentic.
12. Office Space (1999)
Directed by Mike Judge
Starring Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston, David Herman
Comedy (1h 29m)
The tedious office job never looked quite so dull as in Mike Judge's darkly comic Office Space. A satire of working life in the 90s, Office Space follows Ron Livingston as Peter Gibbons, a software engineer who hates his soul-sucking job.
His micromanaging boss speaks in fluent catchphrases ("I'm gonna go ahead and need you to...") and his girlfriend wants him to try hypnotherapy. Unfortunately, his therapist dies mid-trance, leaving Peter to carry on living in a hypnotic state.
Refusing overtime to play video games, Peter swans through life with a newfound ease, later triggering a revenge plot against the management. Though Office Space was a box office flop, it went on to become a highly memeable cult classic.
11. The Incredibles (2004)
Directed by Brad Bird
Starring Craig T. Nelson, Samuel L. Jackson, Holly Hunter
Animation, Action, Adventure (1h 55m)
You might be surprised to see this Pixar family classic on this list, but hear us out: The Incredibles doesn't take place when Mr. and Mrs. Parr become superheroes—it's when they re-become superheroes.
The animation begins with some old video footage of Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl being interviewed in their prime days. Fast-forward 15 years and the public has turned on heroes, leaving Bob "Incredible" Parr stuck in a dead-end insurance job.
Have you seen a more monotonous, life-draining depiction of white-collar work than in The Incredibles? Brad Bird superbly encapsulates the insipidness of the corporate world, which spurs Mr. Incredible on to reclaim his former glory.
When a new villain arrives on scene, Bob whips out the old spandex and gets the whole family involved in his midlife crisis heroics.
10. Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)
Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa
Starring Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore
Comedy, Drama, Romance (1h 58m)
Steve Carell gets a new life coach in Crazy, Stupid, Love, and that life coach is played fabulously by Ryan Gosling. Who wouldn't want a handsome and chiseled coach like Gosling?
Cal (played by Steve Carell) is crushed to find out his wife has been having an affair—but as an awkward middle-aged man, he struggles to pick up any new women himself.
Taking pity on him, Jacob (played by Ryan Gosling) decides to teach him the art of womanizing, turning Cal's life around with fitted clothes and effective chat-up lines.
While Cal rediscovers his waning masculinity, Jacob takes a bullet to his ego when a girl he fancies rejects him. In effect, Cal is getting over his midlife crisis as Jacob approaches one of his own.
Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, Crazy, Stupid, Love is a lighthearted comedy for when you fancy a good, easy laugh.
9. Falling Down (1993)
Directed by Joel Schumacher
Starring Michael Douglas, Robert Duvall, Barbara Hershey
Action, Crime, Drama (1h 53m)
In Falling Down, William Foster doesn't have a midlife crisis so much as a full on midlife breakdown. Played by Michael Douglas, the former engineer is divorced, unemployed, and looking for trouble.
Trying to reach his daughter's birthday party in time, William is met with an array of tediously trivial obstacles that turn out to be the final straw that breaks his back.
When the banality of everyday problems trigger a crisis within William, he acts out violently by trashing stores with a baseball bat and firing a gun in a fast food restaurant. Michael Douglas is the perfect fit for this wound-up, hyperbolic everyman.
The bleak existential storyline is masked as a comedy, all while commenting on the emptiness of the American Dream. Joel Schumacher directs the film we all wish we could live, thrashing out our everyday woes without a second thought to the consequences.
8. City Slickers (1991)
Directed by Ron Underwood
Starring Billy Crystal, Jack Palance, Daniel Stern
Comedy, Western (1h 53m)
City dwellers often take weekends off in the countryside to get away from traffic, phone calls, and board meetings. For Mitch, Ed, and Phil, they find their break in the San Fermín festival in Spain.
The three realize that they've been trying to escape their New York lives for years. Now, finally, they decide enough is enough—that a cattle drive across the South should do them good.
It's not the first adventure the three have taken together, but of course this one doesn't go so smoothly.
Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, and Bruno Kirby star in Ron Underwood's Western-infused comedy, which was followed by the sequel City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold in 1994.
7. The Big Chill (1983)
Directed by Lawrence Kasdan
Starring Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum
Comedy, Drama (1h 45m)
Nothing sparks a midlife crisis as strongly as a school reunion. In The Big Chill, a group of friends from the University of Michigan reunite 15 years after the death of their friend, forcing them to reflect on their lives.
Some are married, some are writers, some are addicts. Some are even veterans, actors, and executives. None of them are what they seem on the surface—and they have wild stories to exchange.
The Big Chill was nominated for three Oscars and features an ensemble cast (Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Mary Kay Place, Meg Tilly, and JoBeth Williams) to fit every kind of character and their varied backstories.
Directed by Ridley Scott
Starring Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Harvey Keitel
Adventure, Crime, Drama (2h 10m)
When someone says the words "midlife crisis," we tend to think of middle-aged men with receding hairlines buying flashy new cars with money they don't have.
But that isn't the only way to have a crisis. In Thelma & Louise, Ridley Scott shows us how two average American women can break free and challenge the status quo at any minute.
When the meek housewife Thelma (played by Geena Davis) joins her bestie Louise (played by Susan Sarandon) on a spontaneous road trip, all hell breaks loose.
Tired of their suburban lives in Arkansas, Thelma and Louise take a vacation and end up robbing stores and committing murder.
A clear reference to the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo, Thelma & Louise is a feisty feminist take on the buddy-road-trip movie. It even won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, alongside five more nominations.
5. Birdman (2014)
Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Starring Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton
Comedy, Drama (1h 59m)
In Alejandro González Iñárritu's Birdman, dwindling star Riggan Thomson (played by Michael Keaton) desperately clings to his iconic 90s role as the superhero Birdman.
Older, grayer, and no longer relevant, Riggan goes through that all-too-familiar celebrity crisis of fading from the public image. To fight against it, Riggan decides to write, direct, and star in a Broadway show that isn't exactly a success.
Starring Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, and Emma Stone, Birdman won four Oscars, including Best Cinematography.
Of course, we can't reference Birdman without mentioning the fact it was filmed all in one take—or, at least, manipulated to look like it was.
4. A Serious Man (2009)
Directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen
Starring Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, Sari Lennick
Comedy, Drama (1h 46m)
The Coen brothers are known for their oddball style of filmmaking. The auteurs have made many zany cult movies, including the infamous Fargo and The Big Lebowski.
One lesser-known (but still awesome) Coen brothers flick is A Serious Man, starring Michael Stuhlbarg as Larry Gopnik, a Jewish physics professor who becomes disillusioned with his life. His wife is leaving him and Larry's tenure is, for some reason, being sabotaged.
As Larry's faith dwindles, he asks multiple rabbis for help but they are never available. A Serious Man touches on universal topics of atheism, discontentment, and philosophy. It sounds pretty heavy, but don't worry—the Coens were sure to stuff some laughs in.
3. Lost in Translation (2003)
Directed by Sofia Coppola
Starring Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi
Comedy, Drama (1h 42m)
An atypical love story imbued with the dreamy aesthetics of Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation is a striking piece of cinema.
Bill Murray plays a darkly funny middle-aged movie star who's shooting a commercial in Tokyo. Meanwhile, Scarlett Johansson is lounging about her hotel room while her husband is off on photoshoots.
The two restless, bored, and lonely travelers form an unlikely friendship that weaves through the bustling backdrop of an alien city.
Lost in Translation is one of those slow, melancholic movies that glides and lingers through its vague plotline—and it's exactly this vagueness that Coppola wants to tap into.
Like the two protagonists, we're somewhat dissociated with Lost in Translation's world, eloquently exploring feelings of dissatisfaction and loneliness that come with a midlife (or mid-twenties) crisis.
2. American Beauty (1999)
Directed by Sam Mendes
Starring Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch
Drama (2h 2m)
After having an out-of-body experience, magazine executive Lester Burnham (played by Kevin Spacey) becomes infatuated with his teenage daughter's friend Angela (played by Mena Suvari).
Because of this, Lester's life inside the suburban American Dream is suddenly brought to a halt. Lester decides to ditch the materialism, quit his job, and start working out in the garage. Though happier than he's ever been, his neurotic wife and moody daughter aren't too pleased.
American Beauty uses the standard midlife crisis setup to probe deep into themes of capitalism, identity, liberation, and sexuality. American Beauty began as a stage play, but found itself as a cynical script that would go on to win multiple Oscars.
Sam Mendes won Best Director for his directorial debut, carefully balancing the film's dark themes with bouts of comedy.
1. Another Round (2020)
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg
Starring Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang
Drama (1h 57m)
Another Round (or Druk, which is Danish for "binge drinking") somehow manages to be chaotic yet somber, funny yet poetic.
Mads Mikkelsen stars as the teacher Martin who decides to drink alcohol every day as part of an experiment. At first, Martin blissfully sails through his new, tipsy life. But, of course, alcoholism looms on the horizon.
Don't get the wrong idea: Another Round isn't just about binge drinking. This Oscar-winning movie was highly praised for its "soul," derived from the director's own daughter Ida.
After urging him to make the film, Ida sadly passed away during production; as a result, the script was reworked to be more uplifting and life-affirming.
Thomas Vinterberg directed this black-comedy just a year ago, and it's already getting an American remake. Which usually wouldn't be something we celebrate, but given that it'll be starring Leonardo DiCaprio, you can count us in!