Harold and Maude


Quick Stats

Genre: , ,
Actors: , ,
MPAA Rating:
Release Date: 20th December 1971.
Length: 1 hour 31 minutes.
Storyline: A young man with a penchant for the macabre, disillusioned with his superficial surroundings finds his life turned upside down and an unlikely companion when he meets 79-year old devil-may-care Maude.
Studio: Paramount Pictures.
Producer: Charles Mulvehill, Colin Higgins.
Written By: Colin Higgins
Plot / Story






Total Score

User Rating
5 total ratings


What We Liked

The unique take on first loves and May-December romances and the way Cat Stevens’ soundtrack mirrors the emotions each scene evokes.

What We Disliked

Some viewers could be offended by the dark humour.

Bottom Line

There are many different facets that make up the totality of Harold and Maude, but what makes it so relatable even though the characters may be very unlike oneself is that, at its heart, it is about the intensity of a first love. It is about finding oneself in someone else, and it epitomises the saying “if you love someone set them free”. You can’t rightly call yourself a film buff if you haven’t seen Harold and Maude.

Posted May 4, 2015 by

Buy, Rent or Cinema

Full Review

Harold and Maude is now generally viewed as an American classic. Highly recommended and in this reviewer’s opinion, essential viewing.

Harold is a young man from a wealthy family who lives in a mansion with his snobby mother. She spends her time socialising, giving dinner parties and generally trying to keep up appearances as she tries to fit her son into the mould she would like. Harold, meanwhile, spends his time staging elaborate suicide scenes in an attempt to get his mother’s attention, with varying degrees of success, as well as going to strangers’ funerals. It’s at one of these funerals he notices Maude.

Maude is a 79-year old free spirit who makes her way home from said funerals by taking whichever car she happens upon outside the church using a universal car key, not caring who it actually belongs to. One day she decides to give Harold a lift home in one of these cars, not knowing that the particular vehicle she chose that day (a hearse, no less) actually belongs to Harold.

They immediately strike up a friendship. Maude is like no one he has ever met before. Her interests go beyond entertaining rich friends and engaging in activities deemed proper for a woman of a certain status. Instead, she models nude for artists, has unique views on the way life and the world works, and relates to him her past of political demonstrations and living the life of a hippie before the word ‘hippie’ was commonly known. Harold feels an immense sense of joy and freedom in finally having met someone who doesn’t attempt to change him, analyse him or nudge him to go down a certain path. He has finally met someone he can be himself with without fear of being judged. Maude enjoys Harold’s company and they become partners in crime in revolting against Harold’s mother’s enlistment of Harold into a dating service, and attempt at enlisting him in the military.

Utterly enchanted, entranced and fascinated with Maude, their friendship develops into a romance. At first Harold’s mother is pleased he has given in to her efforts of finding him a match, but her attitude soon changes when she sees a picture of his beloved, and is faced with the sight of a woman more than merely past her prime, wrinkled and grey haired. This, like most of his mother’s views on his life, does nothing to deter Harold from pursuing the romance. Quite the contrary.

Harold decides to surprise Maude on her 80th birthday by proposing to her. However Maude has a surprise herself, and gives Harold her final lesson on life: nothing good lasts forever.

The characters in this film, with all their quirks and idiosyncrasies, are marvellously acted, with brilliant performances from Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon. You might recognise Gordon from Every Which Way But Loose as well as Rosemary’s Baby. It’s no surprise that Ruth Gordon’s performance impresses, a veteran of both stage and screen with her first cinema performance being released seven years before her opposing actor Bud Cort was even born. It’s the latter’s performance that really impresses considering he was only 23 years old at the time of its release, and only his second role as lead actor. While small, it’s also worth mentioning Vivian Pickles’ performance as Harold’s mother. She manages to pull off the egocentric, born-into-money, socialite past her prime so well that it’s difficult to tell that she’s actually acting.

Something else that makes Harold and Maude stand out that is worth mentioning is its unique take on “the older woman”, a character not uncommon in the cinema of the time, most famously perhaps in The Graduate. The Graduate cemented the part of “the older woman” as a seductress that is actually not that old, and if she is, does not look it. Harold and Maude does not follow this trend, it shows Maude as an older woman wrinkles and all. She is by no means meant to be sexy, and there are no shots of the older woman slowly pulling black nylon stockings off her shapely, long leg. The reason I mention that this is not done in Harold and Maude, apart from the fact that I find it laudable, is that it exemplifies the spirit of the film itself. It does not try or pretend to be anything it is not. Maude is old. Harold and Maude don’t conform. And that’s exactly why we love them.

The film was by no means very successful when it was released. Its reception was lukewarm, which might go some way in explaining why Bud Cort did not shoot into fame and is not a face often seen in cinema. However, it eventually caught the eye of cinema lovers around the world and gained something of a cult following. Indeed, no true film connoisseur deserves that title if they have not seen Harold and Maude, and it’s now generally viewed as an American classic. Highly recommended and in this reviewer’s opinion, essential viewing.

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Mia Lund

Mia Lund


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