Hollywood can be a tough town for actors and actresses of a certain age (just ask these notable women of film). The big box office wins typically go to youth-driven action flicks, animated movies, and science fiction—and the latest new stars on the block often nab the big awards, too.
That got us wondering what movies starring seasoned pros had scored with audiences and critics alike. What are the great performances that drew in the public in their day and hold up over time?
In the exclusive rankings below, you’ll find films from the past seven decades with a star over 50 that have achieved that rare combination of commercial and critical success (plus a few that were audience favorites but met with mixed reviews).
To come up with the list, we started with Box Office Mojo’s all-time top box office list, which adjusts ticket revenues to reflect 2019 prices in order to level the playing field.
After trimming that list of 300 to 20 movies with at least one 50-plus leading actor or actress, we added how the critics weighed in, using Rotten Tomatoes’s tally of what portion of critics wrote a positive review. In the final ranking of the top 15, box office and reviews each count for 50% of the overall score.
The results? Age is just a number for Harrison Ford, who has starred in three of the 15 movies on the list. And it’s tough to carry a blockbuster as an actress over 50, though Sandra Bullock’s Gravity came close (she was 49 when the movie came out). Sure, Katharine Hepburn nabbed two spots in our rankings and three other actresses appear on the list, but all do so as wives or girlfriends.
Finally, we excluded giant ensemble casts, even if some of the stars were well past 50, like The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and The Towering Inferno (1974). Did moviegoers flock to 1963’s It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World to watch 12 actors chase down a buried fortune because 63-year-old Spencer Tracy and 55-year-old Ethel Merman were among them? Probably not.
At the 2019 Academy Awards, six of the 20 stars nominated in the acting categories were 50-plus stars, though none took home an Oscar (sorry, 71-year-old Glenn Close, the only woman in the group). No matter what happened on Oscar night, though, these mature movie stars are winners in our book.