A mechanic asks blue-collar mechanic Carter Chambers (Freeman), “Name 5 presidents whose name starts with letter H”. With elegance and full confidence, Carter answers the question. (He is a walking encyclopedia and I like such kind of people.)
Carter and billionaire hospital magnate Edward Cole (Nicholson) meet for the first time in the hospital after both have been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. They become friends as they undergo their respective treatments. Carter is a gifted amateur historian and family man who had wanted to become a history professor, but in his youth had been “broke, black, and with a baby on the way”, and thus never rose above his job at the McCreath body shop. Edward is a four-time divorced healthcare tycoon and cultured loner who enjoys nothing more than tormenting his personal valet/servant, Matthew, whom he calls Thomas. He is hospitalized in the hospital which he owns and cant get a private room even when he insists (he is reminded of his own rule-every room has to be shared by 2 persons and there are no exceptions.) He makes Matthew serve Carter as well as him and orders his employee and doctor (Morrow) to familiarize himself with Carter’s health.
Carter begins writing a “bucket list,” or things to do before he dies. After hearing he has less than a year, Carter wads it up and tosses it on the floor. Edward finds it the next morning. He urges Carter to do everything on the list (suggesting he add things like skydiving) and offers to finance the trip. Carter agrees, despite the protests of his wife, Virginia.
Cole: She (Virginia) hates me. [Facing Carter] You hate me?
Carter: Not yet
And so begins their adventure.
The pair begins an around-the-world vacation, embarking on race car driving, skydiving, Edward wears tattoo on his hand, climbing the Pyramids, and going on a lion safari in Africa (both sing the ‘In the jungle’ tune of animation film Lion King and it sounds cool in the ears, watch it on esnips). They discuss a rare coffee and its unusual taste. They also confide about faith and family, revealing that Carter has long been feeling less in love with his wife and that Edward is deeply hurt by his estrangement with his only daughter, who disowned him after he sent some people to “take care of” her abusive husband.
In Hong Kong, Edward hires a prostitute for Carter, who has never been with any woman but his wife. Carter declines and asks to return home, and reciprocates by trying to reunite Edward with his daughter. Edward angrily storms off. Carter returns home to his wife, children, and grandchildren.
The family reunion is short-lived. In the preparation for a romantic interlude, Carter suffers a seizure and is rushed to the hospital. The cancer has spread to his brain. Edward, who is now in remission, visits him and they share a few moments, where Carter reveals to great amusement the disgusting origin of the “world’s most rare coffee”, over which Edward obsesses and Carter has refused to drink. Carter crosses off “laugh till I cry” from his bucket list and insists Edward finish the list without him. Carter goes into surgery but the procedure is unsuccessful. He dies on the operating table.
Edward delivers an eulogy at the funeral, explaining that he and Carter had been complete strangers, but the last three months of Carter’s life were the best three months of his (Edward’s). He crosses off “help a complete stranger for a common good” from the list. We see Edward finally attempt to reconcile with his daughter. She not only accepts him back into her life but also introduces him to the granddaughter he never knew he had. After greeting the little girl with a kiss on the cheek, Edward crosses “kiss the most beautiful girl in the world” off the list.
Carter, narrating the end of the film: Edward Perryman Cole died in May. It was a Sunday in the afternoon and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. He was 81 years old. Even now, I can’t claim to understand the measure of a life, but I can tell you this: I know that when he died, his eyes were closed and his heart was open, and I’m pretty sure he was happy with his final resting place, because he was buried on the mountain, and that was against the law.
In the epilogue, it is revealed that Edward lived until the age of 81, and his ashes are brought to the top of the Himalayas. It turns out to be Matthew who does this, and as he places Edward’s ashes alongside a can containing Carter’s, he crosses off the last item on the Bucket List (“witness something truly majestic”) and places it between those cans.
At any given time, a film starring Morgan Freeman is a treat (do not miss his films- The Shawshank Redemption and Million Dollar Baby.) In a nutshell, the theme of this movie is same as that of Bollywood film Dasvidaniya. Vinay Pathak did a superb characterization of a person who has a few months left to live on this planet.