You know, at one time, I used to break into pet shops to liberate the canaries. But I decided that was an idea way before its time. Zoos are full, prisons are overflowing... oh my, how the world still dearly loves a cage.
As a 19-year-old boy, Harold Chasen ( Bud Cort) is absolutely obsessed with death. Despite his mother's, Mrs. Chasen ( Vivian Pickles), wishes, Harold routinely fakes his own gruesome suicides, attends the funerals of strangers and uses a hearse as his primary mode of transportation. During one funeral, Harold meats Maude ( Ruth Gordon). Maude is a 79-year-old woman who shares Harold's fascination of attending funerals. Even though they have a sixty-year age difference, the two soon become good friends. Maude shares much about the pleasures of life with Harold, including music, art, and making the most of the little things in life. While Harold and Maude are becoming fast friends, Mrs. Chasen is playing matchmaker for Harold, using "computer-dating" to find a potential wife for Harold; however, Harold frightens every woman away with his gruesome antics.
This tree needs to grow!
Fed up, Mrs. Chasen tells Harold that he will be enlisted in the military. His uncle ( Charles Tyner), a one-armed war veteran, tries to convince Harold that the military would be a perfect place for him, but Harold and Maude surprise Harold's uncle by staging the accidental murdering of Maude (dressed as a protester). Harold's uncle suggests they never speak of the events, and that the military wouldn't be too great for Harold.
Harold and Maude embrace.
As Harold and Maude grow closer to each other, Harold tells his family that he wishes to marry Maude. His family responds with shocked and outraged outbursts. Harold plans Maude's 80th surprise birthday. As the two dance, Maude remarks that she couldn't imaging a lovelier farewell. As he asks her what she means, she admits that she just took a lethal dose of sleeping pills and plans on dying by midnight. She tells Harold that 80 is the right age to die.
Harold calls an ambulance for Maude, but she cannot be saved, and dies before him. In the final sequence, Harold, apparently grief-stricken, drives his car over a cliff where it bursts into flame. The camera pans to the top of the cliff to show Harold, banjo in hand, walking off while playing "If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out", the song Maude had taught him before she died.