There was once a time in Hollywood when actors had an expiration date. Youth was king, and once actors began to inch towards middle age — especially women — they were asked to hang up their hats and retire from the screen. While ageism is still prevalent in Hollywood today, it has changed in the last few decades. We're seeing more and more 50-plus actors who are landing leading roles, and not just playing elderly grandmothers or wizened witches.
1. Lauren Hutton
Lauren Hutton began her career as a model in the 1970s, and while at first it was difficult for her to find work because of her now-iconic tooth gap, she eventually landed a contract with Revlon in 1973. That contract rocked the beauty industry, as it was the highest paying contract at that time. Hutton quickly became a household name and a sought-after model, which helped her transition into acting. She is best known for her role in 1980's Gigolo, and she has gone on to do everything from hosting her own TV show to lighting up the small screen.
2. Helen Mirren
Helen Mirren is 75 years old and a regular on award show red carpets. While previously women who were past 40 were escorted out of Hollywood, actors like Mirren have proven that there is no age limit for thespians. She has since achieved the Triple Crown of Acting in the US, meaning she won an Oscar (for her role as Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen,) a Tony (for her role in The Audience,) and a Primetime Emmy Award (which she has won four times.)
3. Cicely Tyson
Cicely Tyson is 95 years old and still a regular on TV studio sets and has said that she never plans to retire. From 2015 to present, she has portrayed Ophelia Harkness in the hit show, How to Get Away With Murder, for which she has been nominated for an Emmy five times. In 2020 she also portrayed Miss Luma Lee Langston in the TV series Cherish the Day, as well as co-starred in Tyler Perry's movie, A Fall from Grace.
4. Harrison Ford
Harrison Ford is still very much a leading man at 78 years old. In the last three years, Ford has had a leading role in a variety of blockbuster hits. In 2017, he co-starred alongside Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049, reprising his role as Rick Deckard. In 2019, he crossed over into animation by lending his voice to The Secret Life of Pets 2, and that same year he came back as Han Solo in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Then in 2020 he took on the role of John Thornton in The Call of the Wild, and right now he is working on an Indiana Jones project that is slated to come out in 2022. His career is thriving.
5. Jane Fonda
Much like Harrison Ford, Jane Fonda's schedule is also packed with blockbuster projects. At 82 years old, Fonda co-stars in a popular Netflix show alongside Lily Tomlin, called Grace & Frankie. While Fonda "retired" in 1990, her love for acting brought her back to Hollywood in 2005 and she has been picking up projects ever since. In addition to Grace & Frankie, she starred alongside Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen in 2018's Book Club, and in 2017 worked with Robert Redford in Our Souls at Night.
6. Lily Tomlin
While Lily Tomlin might have started her career in the '70s as a comedian and Off-Broadway star, she has since become one of the leading ladies of comedy. At 80 years old, she has been starring alongside Jane Fonda in the popular Netflix series Grace & Frankie since 2015. She also voiced Aunt May in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse in 2018, and played Putsy Hodge in Web Therapy from 2011 to 2015. In addition to that, Tomlin also played Lillie Mae MacKenzie in Malibu Country from 2012 to 2013.
7. Susan Sarandon
Iconic Thelma & Louise actor Susan Sarandon is 73 years old, and has worked on a series of interesting projects over the last couple of years. In 2017 she played Bette Davis in the critically acclaimed anthology series, Feud: Bette and Joan, alongside Jessica Lange. From 2017 to 2019, she played alongside Liev Schriber as Samantha Winslow in Ray Donovan, and in 2019 she starred in the movie Blackbird, in which she played a terminally ill mother who arranged to bring her family together one last time. But that's not all — she currently has five projects in pre-production, including Bad Moms' Moms.
8. Diane Keaton
Diane Keaton is a force to be reckoned with, and at 74 years old she is nowhere near close to retiring. In 2016 she played the role of Sister Mary in the acclaimed TV series The Young Pope, and in 2018 she joined an all-star cast in the comedy Book Club. In 2019 Keaton joined the animated kids' series Green Eggs and Ham where she voiced Michellee, and currently she has two projects in production. Both are comedies: Love, Weddings & Other Disasters is a romantic comedy about the people who work in weddings; and Family Jewels is a comedy about three women forced to spend Christmas together after their ex-husband drops dead.
9. Judi Dench
Judi Dench is a Hollywood legend, and at 85 years old she is still picking up meaty roles that only she could do justice with. In 2017 alone, she played in three movies. In Tulip Fever she played a nun named Abbess; in Victoria & Abdul she played Queen Victoria; and in Murder on the Orient Express she played Princess Dragomiroff.
10. Meryl Streep
At 71 years old, Meryl Streep is one of the leading ladies of Hollywood. She holds the record for the most Academy Award nominations of any actor, being nominated 21 times. With a resume like that, Streep isn't about to hang it up for retirement.
11. Morgan Freeman
At 83 years old, Morgan Freeman is a veteran A-lister that consistently produces blockbusters. In 2019, Freeman played alongside John Trovolta in the thriller The Poison Rose. That same year, he also portrayed President Trumbull in Angel Has Fallen.
Cher successively made her crossover from music to movies in the 1980s, when she was nominated for an Academy Award. It was her first nomination, which she received for her stellar supporting performance in Silkwood. While she didn't win Best Supporting Actress that year, she did win four years later when she was nominated for Best Actress for her role in Moonstruck.
13. Diana Ross
Diana Ross is 76 years old and still touring. In 1973, Ross was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress for her portrayal of Billie Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues, but she won Most Promising Newcomer instead. She was also nominated for an Academy Award for that performance.
14. Martin Sheen
At 80 years old, Martin Sheen has become a Netflix regular. He stars opposite Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda in Netflix's hit show Grace & Frankie. He also had a role in Netflix's 2018 movie, Come Sunday, which was about an evangelical preacher who was ostracized by his church for preaching there was no hell.
15. Goldie Hawn
Goldie Hawn was America's sweetheart in the 1970s, and now she is the highly acclaimed matriarch of an acting family. At 74 years old, Hawn has made quite a mark in Hollywood, and continues to pick up projects. It seemed like she went into a hiatus in the early 2000s, but she came back in 2013 to pick up her crown as leading lady on the silver screen. Most recently she played alongside Amy Schumer in the 2017 comedy Snatched, and she is currently in pre-production on the comedy Family Jewels, in which she is starring alongside Diane Keaton.
16. Samuel L. Jackson
Samuel L. Jackson is 71 years old, and still at the top of the pecking order in Hollywood. Each year, the actor has more than one blockbuster on his plate. In 2018, he co-starred in Avengers: Infinity War and the highly anticipated animated movie, The Incredibles 2. In 2019, he joined the cast of Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, Shaft, Spider-Man: Far from Home, andStar Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
17. Sally Field
Sally Field is 73 years old and on a tear. In 2018 she took up the role of Dr. Greta Mantleray in the Netflix mini-series Maniac, and in 2020 she joined the TV cast of Dispatches from Elsewhere, a drama mystery series on AMC.
18. Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith is 85 years old, and has no intention of slowing down. In the last decade, she has been best known for her portrayal of Professor Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter series, as well as Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, in Downton Abbey. As of right now, she is in pre-production for a comedy called The Miracle Club, which she is starring in alongside Laura Linney and Kathy Bates.
19. Patrick Stewart
Patrick Stewart is 80 years old and a regular on the big and small screen alike. Not only does he continue to voice Avery Bullock on American Dad (who he voiced for the last 15 years), but he also reprised his role of Jean-Luc Picard for the Amazon Prime series Star Trek: Picard.
20. Gladys Knight
Gladys Knight is 76 years old and continually gets roles on the small screen. In 2018 she appeared in an episode of Hawaii Five-0, and in 2019 she had a recurring role in The Masked Singer. Currently she joined the cast of the 2020 thriller Live, which follows the story of a doctor who had a near death experience and inherited a paranormal gift of healing patience without medicine.
21. Rita Moreno
Rita Moreno, the 88 year old actress who is one of the few people to have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony, has a thriving acting career. She appeared in Jane the Virgin from 2015 to 2019; has a recurring role on Bless This Mess; and plays the matriarch in Netflix's reboot series One Day at a Time.
22. Blythe Danner
Blythe Danner is 77 years old and a regular on our TV screens. Most recently she starred in 2019's drama The Tomorrow Man alongside John Lithgow, reprised her role of Marilyn Truman on Will & Grace, and in 2020 appeared in an episode of American Gods.
23. Robert Redford
Robert Redford was a Hollywood hunk in the '60s, and continues to be a hunk in 2020 at 83 years old. He appeared alongside Jane Fonda in Netflix's drama Our Souls at Night, starred as the San Quentin escapee Forrest Tucker in The Old Man & the Gun in 2018, and joined the massive blockbuster Avengers: Endgame in 2019.
24. Barbra Streisand
At 78 years old, Barbra Streisand is still touring and making movies. While her film career has hit pause, most recently she joined Seth Rogen in The Guilt Trip in 2012, and appeared in Modern Family in 2016.
25. Julie Andrews
Julie Andrews is 84 years old and still delighting us on the big screen. She lent her voice to the Despicable Me series as Gru's mom, played Karathen in 2018's Aquaman, and played Lady Whistledown in 2020's series Bridgerton. But Andrews hasn't hit pause in 2020: she will be the narrator of the upcoming fantasy movie The King's Daughter, which stars Pierce Brosnan and William Hurt; and is voicing Marlena in 2021's Minions: The Rise of Gru.
26. Margaret Avery
At 76 years old, Margaret Avery is a regular on movie screens and television sets. In recent years she had guest spots in hit shows like Grey's Anatomy and The Librarians, and had a recurring role as Helen Patterson in BET's hit Being Mary Jane.
27. Betty White
At 98 years old, Betty White is still America's sweetheart. In 2017 she appeared in shows like Bones and Young & Hungry, and in 2019 she lent her voice to the animated movies Toy Story 4 and Trouble.
28. Loretta Devine
Loretta Devine is 70 years old, and a staple on the TV screen. In recent years, she has had a slew of recognizable and celebrated roles. She played Adele Webber from 2005 to 2013 in Grey's Anatomy; Georgia Cummings from 2012 to 2013 in The Client List; Cece in Being Mary Jane in 2015; and Lynette in Black-ish. Most recently she has been portraying Amelia 'M'Dear' McKellan in Family Reunion, and has continued her voice role as Hallie McStuffins in Doc McStuffins, which she has been portraying since 2012.
29. Dolly Parton
At 74 years old, Dolly Parton is still touring and giving her fans what they want. On the small screen, she launched a Netflix series called Dolly Parton's Heartstrings in 2019, and has two Christmas movies currently in production.