We’re not entirely sure when it became commonplace for women in films to be paired with men much older than them, but this odd tradition is still occurring. It seems that the older Tom Cruise gets, the younger his on-screen love interests become. Rather than being more like Tom Hanks, who tends to be matched with actresses close to his own age, there are many men with on-screen girlfriends or wives are much younger than they are. We’re not talking a five-year age gap either. Oh no.
These differences in age between on-screen couples often make the male old enough to play his film-girlfriend’s father! We’ve definitely got a few repeat offenders on this list. Just look at how many times Jennifer Lawrence has had a love interest that is 14+ years older than her!
1. Jennifer Lawrence and Christian Bale
Movie: American Hustle
Age gap: 16 years
Jennifer Lawrence seems to have a habit of starring in films with older men. In American Hustle, her on-screen love interest is pretty repugnant. Not because of the actor, but because his character is awful. She plays the young wife of Christian Bale’s character, Irving Rosenfeld. Irving is a con artist whose con partner is played by Amy Adams, and he’s pretty much in love with her. So, not only is J.Law with an older man in this film, but he’s also a criminal and a cheater. And it is almost justified in the film by the fact that J.Law’s character is considered unstable. Except for the fact that is obviously not okay to cheat on your wife!
2. Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper
Movie: Silver Linings Playbook
Age gap: 15 years
It seems like when J.Law works with an older man, it’s almost guaranteed to create some Oscar buzz. Her work in Silver Linings Playbook got her a boatload of nominations, and she took home the Academy Away and Golden Globe for Best Actress. In the movie, it is made clear that her character is significantly younger than Bradley Cooper’s character, though at the time of the film’s release Jennifer was 22 and Bradley was 37.
3. Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem
Age gap: 21 years
The premise of mother! is truly bizarre. Even for Darren Afronsky, it is out there. The odd plot is virtually the reasoning behind this huge age gap. Javier Bardem’s character, simply called Him, feeds off the energy off of his young wife. It is unclear if the theme (a wife/mother literally giving everything to her family) is meant to be so blatantly misogynistic, but it’s there for the viewer to decide upon. In mother!, Jennifer plays Mother, the wife of Him, an acclaimed poet, who is struggling with severe writer’s block. The ending of mother! is almost too insane to even put into words.
4. Eva Mendes and Denzel Washington
Movie: Training Day
Age gap: 20 years
Now, we know that Training Day isn’t the moral compass that will point anyone toward the straight and narrow. Still, did you realize just how much younger Eva Mendes was than Denzel Washington when it came out in 2001? Training Day was released very early in Eva’s career, so maybe that is why she played the mistress of Denzel’s character. In the movie, Denzel played a corrupt LAPD narcotics officer who is training Ethan Hawke’s rookie character. It would have been more age appropriate for Eva to have been paired with Ethan, as he’s only three years older than her.
5. Anne Hathaway and Steve Carell
Movie: Get Smart
Age gap: 20 years
This film hits a few tropes: it is a TV show repurposed for a movie, an older man dating a younger woman, and a woman who is clearly smarter than the man she is dating. Anne Hathaway plays Agent 99, an experienced and knowledgeable agent for CONTROL. Steve Carell plays Max Smart, an analyst who only gets his shot at being an agent when all of the other agents (besides Agent 99) are compromised. Agent 99 doesn’t want to work with Max because she thinks he’s incompetent. But, of course, the two characters get over the differences and manage to fall for each other.
6. Rose Byrne and Brad Pitt
Age gap: 16 years
These days, we all know who Rose Byrne is. But back in 2004, she was little-known in Hollywood. Looking at her role in this film, it is hard to be mad about the age gap, when there are so many other things to be upset by. Brad Pitt plays the legendary Achilles in the story of the battle of Troy. In the film, after a battle, he decides to take Rose Byrne’s character as a trophy. Yup, he saw her as a trophy! Granted this was 12th century B.C., but still, not cool. She is then taken away from him by Agamemnon (Brian Cox) which leads to a falling out between him and Achilles. If this isn’t crazy enough, Brian Cox is 33 years older than Rose Byrne.
7. Olivia Wilde and Liam Neeson
Movie: Third Person
Age gap: 32 years
Liam Neeson movies are often the best when he is tracking someone down with his very particular set of skills. Out of all the on-screen couples on this list, Liam and Olivia Wilde have the biggest age gap — though Liam is typically paired with much younger women anyways. Third Person focuses on three couples in three different locations — Liam and Olivia’s Michael and Anna have a pretty complicated relationship — mostly because he recently left his wife — set in Paris. Of course, Anna has a deep dark secret keeping her from committing. Maybe it’s the fact she could be his daughter IRL? Just kidding… but for real?!
8. Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford
Movie: Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
Age gap: 14 years
Like some of the women on this list, Harrison Ford is known for the opposite. On countless occasions, he’s starred in a film opposite of a woman much, much younger than he. No matter how much older he gets, it seems his on-screen love interests seem to stay the same age. An early example of this was when he and Carrie Fisher paired up in The Empire Strikes Back. They’d previously starred in Star Wars, yet their characters Han Solo and Princess Leia did not become ~close~ until the second film. In the Star Wars universe, the relationship between Leia and Han is pretty tricky, but ultimately endgame. At the time of the film’s release though, Carrie Fisher was just 23 years old, and Harrison was 37.
9. Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal
Movie: When Harry Met Sally
Age gap: 14 years
When Harry Met Sally is a bit ridiculous because they didn’t realize they were perfect for each other for nearly 12 years. Not only is that hard to believe, but we’re also just supposed to accept the fact that Harry and Sally are the same age?! As if Billy Crystal was not very obviously older than Meg Ryan at the time! Harry and Sally both graduated from the University of Chicago in 1977, but Billy Crystal is actually 14 years older than Meg. This movie just wants us to accept these characters’ ages?! We don’t think so.
10. Scarlett Johansson and Javier Bardem
Movie: Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Age gap: 16 years
This film makes quick work to explain that Vicky (Rebecca Hall) is the reserved friend, whereas Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) is a nonconformist — spontaneous but unsure of what she wants her life and relationships. Almost immediately after she meets artist Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), she wants him. Juan tries to convince both Vicky and Cristina to join him for a weekend of lovemaking and food. Later, after Cristina begins dating Juan, she meets his ex-wife (Penélope Cruz) and the three of them start a relationship. Scarlett was only 23 at the time of the film’s release, whereas Javier was 39 and Penélope was 34. Even more points are docked because it’s a Woody Allen film.
11. Scarlett Johansson and Mark Ruffalo
Movie: Avengers: Age of Ultron
Age gap: 17 years
This isn’t the first Marvel movie where they tried to match Scarlett Johansson up with an older man. While nothing really happened between Tony Stark and the Black Widow in Iron Man 2, there was actually something between the Widow and the Hulk in Avengers: Age of Ultron. The two characters are actually able to bond over the issues they’ve struggled with regarding their superhero abilities. The relationship seemed to take fans of the film by surprise when it first cropped up. Mainly because it honestly seemed out of the ordinary, but also because Mark Ruffalo is 17 years older than Scarlett!
12. Margot Robbie and Will Smith
Age gap: 22 years
Will Smith looks so youthful, you might not have realized he was that much older than Margot Robbie! While it is obvious there is an age gap between the two, Will was a 22-year-old man when Margot was born! In the film, the former Fresh Prince star plays Nicky Spurgeon, a veteran con man. Margot plays Jess Barret, a swindler who is looking to learn the art of conning. She convinces Nicky to teach her what he knows and, in the process, the two begin a romantic relationship. This is obviously a risky move considering they’re both, yanno, con artists.
13. Margot Robbie and Leonardo DiCaprio
Movie: The Wolf of Wall Street
Age gap: 16 years
The age gap in this film was totally intentional, but we don’t think their ages needed to be a whole 16 years apart. Seeing as Leonardo DiCaprio played Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street, a former stockbroker who leaves his wife for the hot, younger woman, Margot Robbie‘s youth was integral to the story. But the story is based on a real person and the IRL Jordan’s second wife was actually the same age as him. The decision to have a much younger woman might have had more to do with Leo than the film’s truth to the original story. However, it did help launch Margot’s career (and we’re thankful for that)!
14. Sarah Wright and Tom Cruise
Movie: American Made
Age gap: 19 years
Like we said earlier, Tom Cruise has a habit of starring in films with women much younger than him. But it seems that Sarah Wright has had an older on-screen love interest before Tom. If you watched Parks and Recreation, she played Millicent Gergich and went on a few dates with Chris Traeger, played by Rob Lowe, who is also 19 years older than her. In American Made, Sarah played the young wife of Barry Seal, a former TWA pilot who flew missions for the CIA, before becoming a drug smuggler. Though Barry has a beautiful young wife, his life of crime winds up catching up to him, and she quickly becomes a young widow.
15. Laura Haddock and Mark Wahlberg
Movie: Transformers: The Last Knight
Age gap: 14 years
In all honesty, did anyone want Transformers: The Last Knight to happen? The film holds a measly 16% on Rotten Tomatoes and has many issues — the biggest one being that it has a totally illogical plot. Another problem is the completely random romance. Mark Wahlberg‘s character had been introduced in the previous Transformers film, where he’s completely focused on being a father to his daughter. So it’s a little strange that in this movie, his daughter is out and his much younger love interest is in. The kiss between Mark and Laura Haddock’s characters is just so incredibly awkward, it’s almost obvious that they are too mismatched in age.
16. Anne Heche and Harrison Ford
Movie: Six Days, Seven Nights
Age gap: 26 years
Now, we get that Ross from Friends is no walk in the park (sorry David Schwimmer), but we’re really supposed to believe a young, successful woman in the prime of her career is going to pick an old dude as her lover? Anne Hetche’s character in Six Days, Seven Nights gets stuck on an island with Harrison Ford‘s character after he is meant to fly her to an event in Tahiti. But they crash land due to a storm and, of course, even though they are both with other people, the two fall in love during their struggle to get off the island. When they return, she breaks off her engagement, and he rushes to the airport to confess that he has feelings for her as well.
17. Rebecca Hall and Johnny Depp
Age gap: 19 years
Maybe the executives behind this one thought that the film’s insane plot would distract everyone from the fact that Johnny Depp is nearly two decades older than Rebecca Hall. The plot behind Transcendence is tricky to follow, which is one of the film’s biggest critiques. Johnny Depp plays a scientist who researches the nature of sapience, and Rebecca is his scientist wife. When terrorists against his brand of science shoot him, he’s given just a month to live. That is where this marriage gets wild. She decides to then upload his consciousness to the computer he’d been working on against the better judgment of a fellow scientist and friend of theirs. Obviously, things do not work out as planned.
18. Hilary Swank and Richard Gere
Age gap: 25 years
Now, we know that Amelia Earhart’s husband was older than her, but George P. Putnam wasn’t that much older. In fact, Amelia and George were only born 10 years apart. Richard Gere is actually 25 years older than Hilary Swank and that age gap was featured in Amelia. Their relationship is a huge factor in the film, seeing as George recruited Amelia to be “the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean.” But as you can expect, the real story of Amelia is about her final flight, not her super-old love interest.