10 Films That Show the Truth About Living With Alzheimer's and Dementia

Award nominations over the years have included multiple nods for performances in movies that deal with Alzheimer's disease and dementia—however, they haven't all hit the mark with people who have been affected by these conditions in real life.

According to a study published in 2014, movies generally do not show dementia accurately and may reinforce stereotypes. Here are 10 films that made efforts to portray the reality of Alzheimer's and dementia for people living with them and their loved ones.

Laura Porter / Verywell

1

Still Alice (2014)

In this American movie based on Lisa Genova's 2007 bestselling book of the same name, Julianne Moore stars as Alice Howland, a professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

Her husband is played by Alec Baldwin, and her children are played by Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, and Hunter Parrish.  

While some critics found the movie powerful—especially since it's told by Alice herself—others criticized the movie for holding back when it came to how this familial type of Alzheimer's may have affected Alice's children.

2

Away From Her (2007)

In "Away From Her," Julie Christie was Oscar-nominated for Best Actress for her portrayal of Fiona, a woman with Alzheimer's who voluntarily enters a long-term care facility to avoid being a burden on Grant, her husband of 50 years.

After a 30-day separation recommended by the facility) Grant visits Fiona and finds that her memory of him has deteriorated and that she's developed a close friendship with another man in the facility.

Grant must draw upon the pure love and respect he has for Fiona to choose what will ensure his wife's happiness.

Christie won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture (Drama) for her performance in this movie.

3

The Savages (2007)

Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman play siblings in this tragic comedy about adult children who are caring for a parent with dementia. Laura Linney was Oscar-nominated for Best Actress, and Tamara Jenkins was Oscar-nominated for Best Original Screenplay.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was Golden Globe-nominated for Best Actor in a Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy) for playing the neurotic professor who begrudgingly unites with his sister for the sake of their father—a performance given with a rare combination of humility, dignity, and humor.

4

Aurora Borealis (2005)

Critics considered this movie a well-crafted independent film that was released under the radar.

Stars Donald Sutherland and Louise Fletcher steal the show—Sutherland plays a grandfather with dementia who requires more care than his wife (Fletcher) can take on.

They get help from their grandson (Joshua Jackson) and a home health aide (Juliette Lewis). The two forge a friendship as Sutherland's character (who insists he can see the Northern Lights from his window) becomes increasingly impaired by the condition.

5

The Notebook (2004)

Based on Nicholas Sparks's best-selling novel, "The Notebook,this film stars James Garner as Noah, the loving husband of Allie (Gena Rowlands), who has Alzheimer's and is living in a nursing home. Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams play the couple in their younger years.

Noah attempts to rekindle Allie's memories of their long history by reading to her from his notebook.

Described as a true romance, the movie was directed by Nick Cassavetes, the son of Gena Rowlands.

6

A Song For Martin (2001)

Sven Wollter and Viveka Seldahl (who were married in real life) play spouses Martin and Barbara in this Swedish movie with English subtitles.

Martin is a conductor and composer while Barbara is a violinist. They meet and marry in middle age, but soon after, they discover that Martin has Alzheimer's.

This moving story is considered one of the most realistic depictions of caregiving on film.

7

Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch (2001)

Based on the book "Elegy for Iris" by John Bayley, this movie tells the true story of English novelist Iris Murdoch developing Alzheimer's and the unconditional love of Bayley, her partner of 40 years.

Jim Broadbent won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Bayley in his later years.

Judi Dench and Kate Winslet were nominated for Academy Awards and Golden Globes (Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively) for their portrayals of Murdoch at different points in her life.

8

Firefly Dreams (2001)

This Japanese film with English subtitles won several international film festival awards. It tells the story of Naomi (Maho), a troubled teen who gets sent to the country for the summer to work for her aunt and uncle.

Naomi is asked to care for an aging neighbor with Alzheimer's. She is initially unhappy about the arrangement but soon connects with the woman in a transformative way.

9

Age Old Friends (1989)

In this classic film, Hume Cronyn gave a great performance as John Cooper, who chose to live in a retirement home instead of with his daughter (played by Cronyn's real-life daughter Tandy Cronyn), as a symbol of maintaining his independence.

While there, John befriends Michael (Vincent Gardenia), who starts showing signs of dementia. When John's daughter extends an offer to live with her again, he must decide between leaving the rigid structure of the retirement home and staying to help his friend cope.

10

Lovely, Still (2008)

This 2008 romantic comedy-drama was directed by Nik Fackler and stars Martin Landau, Ellen Burstyn, Adam Scott, and Elizabeth Banks.

It tells the story of a lonesome older man named Robert (Landau) who is surprised to be asked on a date by his new neighbor, Mary (Burstyn).

The film takes place leading up to the Christmas season and goes through the couples blooming romance. However, it soon becomes clear that Robert is struggling.

Eventually, we find out that he has Alzheimer's, and we see a portrayal of "the long goodbye" that many loved ones of people living with the condition experience.

A Word From Verywell

Movies can help you learn about Alzheimer's disease, but they can also be misleading. Many films fail to accurately depict the physical symptoms of Alzheimer's and other types of dementia.

That said, you can still enjoy these heart-touching movies as long as you them for what they are—fiction and not necessarily fact.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Gerritsen DL, Kuin Y, Nijboer J. Dementia in the movies: the clinical picture. Aging Ment Health. 2014;18(3):276-80. doi:10.1080/13607863.2013.837150

  2. Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, University of Pittsburgh. Alzheimer's Disease and The Long Goodbye.

By Carrie Hill, PhD
 Carrie L. Hill, PhD has over 10 years of experience working for agencies in the health, human service, and senior sectors, including The Alzheimer's Association in St. George, Utah.