Grumpy Old Men (film)

Grumpy Old Men is a 1993 American romantic comedy film directed by Donald Petrie, and starring Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Ann-Margret, Burgess Meredith, Daryl Hannah, Kevin Pollak, Ossie Davis and Buck Henry. The screenplay was written by Mark Steven Johnson, who later wrote the sequel Grumpier Old Men (1995). The original music score was composed by Alan Silvestri. This was the sixth film Lemmon starred with Matthau, and their first pairing since Buddy Buddy.

Grumpy Old Men
Grumpy Old Men .jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDonald Petrie
Written byMark Steven Johnson
Produced by
CinematographyJohnny E. Jensen
Edited byBonnie Koehler
Music byAlan Silvestri
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • December 25, 1993 (1993-12-25)
Running time
104 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$35.1 million
Box office$70.2 million[1]


In Wabasha, Minnesota, retirees John Gustafson and Max Goldman are feuding next-door neighbors. Living alone, they spend their time ice fishing and pulling cruel practical jokes on each other, including John leaving a dead fish in Max's truck. Their rivalry irritates their friend Chuck, owner of the town bait shop, and Max's son Jacob, who is running for mayor. Dodging the attempts of IRS Agent Elliot Snyder to collect a serious debt, John supports his daughter Melanie when she separates from her husband Mike.

John and Max both find themselves attracted to Ariel Truax, a free-spirited English professor who moves in across the street. Chuck has Thanksgiving dinner with Ariel, prompting John and Max to compete for her affections. Chuck dies, and Max discovers John's IRS debt. John spends time with Ariel, revealing that he and Max used to be childhood friends. John and Ariel have sex – his first time since 1978 – and a jealous Max drives John's fishing shanty into thin ice, which John narrowly escapes. He confronts Max, and the source of their animosity is revealed: Max resents John for marrying Max's high school sweetheart. John explains she was unfaithful and Max was happier with the woman he did marry, but Max reminds John that he will have nothing to offer Ariel once the IRS takes his house. With this on his mind, John ends his relationship with Ariel, who warns that he will regret the risks he did not take in life.

Jacob is elected mayor, and Max continues courting Ariel. On Christmas, Melanie comes to visit and John is upset to learn she has reconciled with Mike. Giving her the same warning Ariel gave him, John leaves for the local bar. At Melanie's request, Jacob asks Max to settle things with John, but the fathers are unable to mend their dispute and John storms out of the bar. Max soon follows and finds John in the snow, having suffered a heart attack. At the hospital, Max checks in by declaring he is John's friend. He tells Ariel what happened, and she reconciles with John as he recovers.

Max tries to resolve John's debt, but the unsympathetic Agent Snyder prepares to sell John's house and possessions. Barricading the house, Max leaves a fish in Snyder's car and buries him in snow, while Jacob is able to temporarily block the property's seizure. Spring arrives, and John and Ariel get married. As a wedding gift, Max informs John that he and Jacob have paid off the debt. The newlyweds drive off, but not before John finds Max has left another fish in the car. Max leaves to find a date of his own, as Jacob and an officially divorced Melanie begin a new romance with each other.



The screenplay of Grumpy Old Men was written by Mark Steven Johnson, a film student at Winona State University (Minnesota).


Grumpy Old Men was one of the biggest surprise hits of the year at the time of its release.[2][3] The film opened on December 25, 1993, with a weekend gross of $3,874,911. However, its numbers gradually became stronger, earning a domestic total of $70 million, well above its budget of $35 million.[4] The film was released in the United Kingdom on May 27, 1994.[5]

Critical reactionEdit

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 63% based on 40 reviews, with a rating average of 5.8/10. The site's consensus reads, "Grumpy Old Men's stars are better than the material they're given -- but their comedic chemistry is so strong that whenever they share the screen, it hardly matters".[6] On Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average rating to reviews, the film has a score of 53 out of 100, based on 16 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[7] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[8]

Caryn James of The New York Times called the film "the kind of holiday movie a lot of people are searching for." She went on to explain that this is because "It's cheerful, it's well under two hours and it doesn't concern any major social blights, unless you think Jack Lemmon tossing a dead fish into Walter Matthau's car is cause for alarm."[9]

Despite rating it with two stars out of four, and giving it a mixed review about the film's credibility and diction, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times concluded his review by saying that "Matthau and Lemmon are fun to see together, if for no other reason than just for the essence of their beings."[10]

Peter Rainer of the Los Angeles Times said, "Watching Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau sparring with each other in Grumpy Old Men is like watching an old vaudeville routine for the umpteenth time." Rainer added, "They play off their tics and wheezes with the practiced ease of old pros but there's something a bit too chummy and self-congratulatory about it all."[11]

American Film Institute recognition:

Home mediaEdit

Grumpy Old Men was first released on DVD on June 25, 1997. On August 22, 2006, the film was made available in a DVD "Double Feature" pack along with its sequel Grumpier Old Men. On July 7, 2009, the film was made available by itself on Blu-ray. The "Double Feature" pack was later released onto Blu-ray on February 23, 2010. The Blu-ray releases marked the first time both films have been available in widescreen since the LaserDisc releases. None of the Blu-ray releases contain any special features.[13]


A sequel, entitled Grumpier Old Men, was released in 1995, with Lemmon, Matthau and Ann-Margret reprising their roles, and Mark Steven Johnson writing the script.


  1. ^ "Grumpy Old Men (1993)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 22, 2017.
  2. ^ "Not Grumpy or Old". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  3. ^ "Weekend Box Office : 'Mrs. Doubtfire' Still Cleaning Up". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  4. ^ "Grumpy Old Men (1993) - Box Office Mojo". IMDB. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 12, 2012.
  5. ^ "UK Weekend Box Office 27th May 1994 - 29th May 1994". Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  6. ^ "Grumpy Old Men (1993)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 6, 2017.
  7. ^ "Grumpy Old Men reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved July 22, 2017.
  8. ^ "CinemaScore". Archived from the original on 2017-09-16. Retrieved 2020-05-09.
  9. ^ Caryn James (December 24, 1993). "Review/Film; Cheerful, Short and No Big Blights". The New York Times. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  10. ^ Roger Ebert (December 24, 1993). "Grumpy Old Men :: :: Reviews". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  11. ^ Peter Rainer (December 25, 1993). "MOVIE REVIEW : 'Grumpy': Hearts, Flowers, Whoopee Cushions". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  12. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved June 30, 2012.
  13. ^ Broadwater, Casey (March 17, 2010). "Grumpy Old Men / Grumpier Old Men Blu-ray Review". Retrieved September 13, 2012.

External linksEdit