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Iconic Stars That Have Aged Gracefully Over the Years

Iconic Stars That Have Aged Gracefully Over the Years June 1, 2022Leave a comment

Once upon a time, every distinguished Hollywood star was a young person. Some older iconic stars have aged very gracefully, and it's fun to remember what they looked like a long time in the past, often before they earned themselves the honor of being household names.

Ian McKellen, Now

Wikipedia / Gage Skidmore / CC 2.0

Hollywood fame came to Ian McKellen relatively late in life, when his double-whammy roles in "Lord of the Rings" and "X-Men" brought him into mainstream vogue during the early '00s. Now in his eighties, McKellen is still working both on stage and in movies.

Ian McKellen, Then

Alamy Stock

McKellen had a prolific career as an actor for decades before making it big in Hollywood, touring the United Kingdom as a common sight in many high-profile theater productions. To this day, McKellen takes every available opportunity to get up on stage.

Helen Mirren, Now

Wikipedia / Harald Krichel / CC 3.0

Most famous for her role as Queen Elizabeth in "The Queen" in 2006, Helen Mirren has enjoyed a long and illustrious career on the big screen. Her biggest role in recent years has involved playing the villainous Queenie in the "Fast and Furious" franchise.

Helen Mirren, Then

Alamy Stock

Helen Mirren's first big break on the silver screen came in 1980, with "The Good Long Friday." Before this, she was a mainstay of London's West End theater district, and was already well established before Hollywood first took notice of her.

Meryl Streep, Now

Flickr / Montclair Film / CC 2.0

One of the most recognizable faces from the past fifty years of Hollywood, Meryl Streep won critical acclaim in the '70s for her role in movies such as "The Deer Hunter" and "Kramer vs. Kramer." She has gone on to play a wide variety of roles, from serious movies such as "Sophie's Choice" to more comedic films such as "The Devil Wears Prada" and, most recently "Don't Look Up."

Meryl Streep, Then

Wikipedia / Jack Mitchell / CC 4.0

Streep was first inspired to be an actor after watching "Taxi Driver" starring Robert De Niro. She attended Yale School of Drama, and performed on Broadway as a young actor before her Hollywood career took off.

Judi Dench, Now

Wikipedia / Caroline Bonarde Ucci / CC 3.0

Judi Dench cemented her position as one of Hollywood's biggest stars after landing the part of M in the James Bond franchise. She won an academy award for playing Queen Elizabeth I in "Shakespeare in Love," and more recently, appeared in "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" and its sequel.

Judi Dench, Then

Getty Images

Before her Hollywood debut, Judi Dench was mostly known as a Shakespearean actor, touring with the Royal Shakespeare Company as well as the National Theater Company. It was only in the '90s that she first began appearing in movies.

Samuel L. Jackson, Now

Wikipedia / Toglenn / CC 4.0

Rocketed to super stardom by his role in "Pulp Fiction," Samuel L. Jackson has had major roles in the Star Wars and Marvel movie franchises, as well as his unforgettable performance in "Snakes on a Plane." He has shown a willingness to embrace almost every role that is offered to him, leading to some incredible movies made all the better by his inclusion.

Samuel L. Jackson, Then

Public Domain

Outside of acting, Jackson has long been a civil rights activist. He had a pronounced stutter as a child and developed ways to hide it (most notably using profanity). His acting career started on the stage before he eventually began appearing in movies.

Angela Lansbury, Now

Wikipedia / Eva Rinaldi / CC 2.0

Angela Lansbury has had a prolific career going back decades. She is famous for her role as the lead of "Murder, She Wrote," appeared in "Bedknobs and Broomsticks," and was the voice of Mrs. Potts in the original "Beauty and the Beast" animated film.

Angela Lansbury, Then

Public Domain

Lansbury started her movie career all the way back in 1944, when, as a teenager, she appeared in the movie "Gaslight," based on the play of the same name. She followed this up with a role in "The Picture of Dorian Gray," and was soon a household name for decades to come.

Bruce Willis, Now

Wikipedia / Gage Skidmore / CC 3.0

Bruce Willis recently announced his retirement from acting, leaving behind a truly spectacular career with some phenomenal movies. Recent films include "Glass," "RED," "Looper," and a slew of others leading up to his retirement.

Bruce Willis, Then

ABC Distribution Company

Willis' big breakout movie role was "Die Hard" in 1988, although the first role to make him famous was the television show "Moonlighting." Before this, Willis acted on stage and worked a collection of jobs including, at one point, security guard for a nuclear power station.

Maggie Smith, Now

Universal Pictures

Best known for her roles in "Harry Potter" and "Downton Abbey," Maggie Smith has earned a reputation as a distinguished, yet sometimes severe, matriarch. She also played Wendy in "Hook" all the way back in 1991, when she had already mastered delivering performances as a wise older woman.

Maggie Smith, Then

Getty Images

In addition to her most famous movie work, Smith has also had an illustrious career on both the small screen and the stage. In fact, she's one of the only actors to achieve the so-called 'triple crown,' having won not just an Academy Award, but also a Tony Award and a Primetime Emmy.

Sigourney Weaver, Now

Wikipedia / Gage Skidmore / CC 3.0

Sigourney Weaver's career has seen her appear in many of the most popular science fiction franchises of all time. Most recently, she is set to star in several of James Cameron's upcoming "Avatar" sequels, reprising her role from the first movie. She's also appeared in "Ghostbusters," "Galaxy Quest," and many other cult classics.

Sigourney Weaver, Then

Reddit / BryanWake | Public Domain

Sigourney Weaver's sci-fi stardom can be traced back to her breakout role in the "Alien" franchise. Before "Alien," she appeared in a Woody Allen film, but was mostly known for roles in plays by Christopher Durang.

Susan Sarandon, Now

Wikipedia / GuillemMedina / CC 4.0

Susan Sarandon is most famous for playing Louise in "Thelma and Louise," and she later won an Academy Award in 1995 for her role in the film "Dead Man Walking." But her career started much earlier, and she has appeared in many major box office successes.

Susan Sarandon, Then

20th Century Fox

After a role in the TV movie "F. Scott Fitzgerald and 'The Last of the Belles,'" Sarandon won cult fame for playing Janet in "The Rocky Horror Picture show," a movie which maintains its popularity among dedicated fans to this day.

Morgan Freeman, Now

Wikipedia / Georges Biard / CC 4.0

One of the most beloved actors in Hollywood, Morgan Freeman is famous for his roles in movies including "The Shawshank Redemption," "Seven," "The Dark Knight" trilogy, and "The LEGO Movie." His iconic voice is often parodied; a tribute to how soothing it is to listen to him speak.

Morgan Freeman, Then

Getty Images

Freeman first came to prominence thanks to his role in the PBS children's television show "The Electric Company." His big breakout role was in "Driving Miss Daisy," for which he earned his first Academy Award nomination.

Glenn Close, Now

Flickr / Mingle Media TV / CC 2.0

Glenn Close is most famous for her role in "Fatal Attraction," as well as for playing Cruella DeVille in the first live-action adaptation of "101 Dalmations." Most recently, he has appeared in "The Guardians of the Galaxy."

Glenn Close, Then

Paramount Pictures

Glenn Close started acting on stage in college before making the transition to movies. Her first big role came when she was in her thirties, when she played the mother of Robin Williams' character in "The World According to Garp" (even though she was only four years older than Williams at the time).

Jane Fonda, Now

Getty Images

Jane Fonda has won two Academy Awards, one for her role in "Klute," and another for "Coming Home." Over the course of a prolific career, she has become a household name not only for her acting, but also for her activism.

Jane Fonda, Then

Wikipedia / Public Domain

Arguable Fonda's biggest early role was the titular character in the '60s science fiction movie "Barbarella." Throughout the '70s, however, her movie appearances were dwarfed in the public consciousness by her activism against the Vietnam war.

Bette Midler, Now

Wikipedia / Library of Congress / CC0

Today, Bette Midler is arguably best known by generations for her role in Disney's "Hocus Pocus." She's also recently appeared in the animated Addams Family reboot and in 2010 she voiced Kitty Galore in a "Cats and Dogs" sequel.

Bette Midler, Then

Wikipedia / Alan Light / CC 2.0

Midler hit the ground running in Hollywood, and was nominated for an Academy Award for her very first movie role in 1979's "The Rose." In 1991 she earned another Academy Award nomination for her role in "For the Boys."

Patrick Stewart, Now

Wikipedia / Gage Skidmore / CC 3.0

Best known by many as Captain Jean Luc Picard, Patrick Stewart was chosen for his role in "Star Trek" due to his already prolific career as a Shakespearean actor, which gave him the ability to inject gravitas into a script that didn't always reflect modern speaking patterns.

Patrick Stewart, Then


Stewart's time on the stage gave him plenty of preparation for his later Hollywood roles, but he has stated that the most useful preparation for "Star Trek" came from wearing costumes for Shakespeare plays. Apparently, this had already taught him what to do with his hands while wearing a costume that didn't have pockets, which many other actors struggled with when beginning to film "The Next Generation."

Michael Caine, Now

Wikipedia / Manfred Werner / Tsui / CC 3.0

Michael Caine's most recent career highlights include his turn as Alfred in "The Dark Knight" trilogy and his role as Arthur in "Kingsman: The Secret Service." This is just the tip of the iceberg for an actor whose movie career goes back decades.

Michael Caine, Then

Alamy Stock

Caine has stated that, before making it big with roles in British films of the 1960s, he was so poor as a struggling actor that he couldn't afford to buy his friends drinks. Before long, they stopped inviting him to nights out.

Martha Stewart, Now

Wikipedia / Gage Skidmore / CC 2.0

In addition to being a well known television personality, Martha Stewart is also a hugely successful businesswoman, overseeing an enormous media empire. Her work has not been without controversy, and she has served time in federal prison for illegal stock market manipulation.

Martha Stewart, Then

Facebook / Martha Stewart

Stewart's career as a stockbroker long predates her success on television. Originally majoring in history and architectural history, she began trading on the stock market at age 26, before being encouraged to write her own book, "Entertaining," which transformed her career.

Julie Andrews, Now

Flickr / Jennie Park / CC 2.0

Julie Andrews has aged particularly gracefully over the years. While she primarily does voice work in recent years, her roles, such as Mrs. Whistledown in "Bridgerton" and Gru's mother in "Despicable Me," are no less memorable than her iconic performances from years past.

Julie Andrews, Then

Alamy Stock

Julie Andrews is, of course, most famous for playing the role of Mary Poppins, but her acting debut came far earlier. One of her most notable early roles came when she was a teenager, playing the girlfriend of a ventriloquist dummy in a BBC radio show called "Educating Archie."

Charles Dance, Now

Flickr / Alan Chang / CC 2.0

Charles Dance is often Hollywood's go-to when looking for a sinister older British actor. Recently, he has played Lord Mountbatten in "The Crown," as well as appearing in "The King's Man," and of course, his memorable performance as Tywin Lannister in "Game of Thrones."

Charles Dance, Then

Anglia Films

Dance originally started out on the stage, and was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company before making the move to British television. His role in films like "For Your Eyes Only" cemented him as a Hollywood star long before his current career boom.

Richard E. Grant, Now

Flickr / Greg2600 / CC 2.0

Another go-to actor for sinister British roles, Richard E. Grant has turned up recently as a villain in "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," and played an older version of Loki in the Disney+ streaming show of the same name.

Richard E. Grant, Then

HandMade Films

Grant was born in Swaziland in the south of Africa, where he says that it was common to speak an older dialect of English that had fallen out of fashion. When he moved to the United Kingdom, he was told that he sounded like he was from the 1950s. Grant then very successfully turned his incredibly fancy accent into a career strength, playing particularly well spoken characters.

Robert Downey Jr., Now

Flickr / nagi usano / CC 2.0

Robert Downey Jr.'s rise to super stardom has been well documented. After falling out of vogue in the '90s, he pulled off an impressive comeback off the back of his role in "Iron Man" and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He also played Doctor Dolittle, to far less fanfare.

Robert Downey Jr., Then

Universal Pictures

As a young actor, Downey appeared in movies such as "Pound" and "Weird Science." His role as Charlie Chaplin in a biopic based on the actor's life won him his first Academy Award nomination, and he would later be nominated again for his role in "Tropic Thunder," where he played a parody of an actor trying to win an Oscar.

William Shatner, Now

Flickr / Super Festivals / CC 2.0

William Shatner has managed to age particularly gracefully, all things considered. While he might be a little fuller in the face than he was in his youth, this can be overlooked considering that he's actually in his 90's. Somehow, despite nearing a hundred years old, Shatner still looks like he's half that age.

William Shatner, Then

Wikipedia / Public Domain

Shatner's big breakout role was Captain Kirk in the cult sci-fi classic "Star Trek." Before this, he played a sheriff on the children's show "The Howdy Doody Show" and played an unforgettable role in an episode of "The Twilight Zone," in which he sees a gremlin on the wing of a plane.

Harrison Ford, Now

Wikipedia / Gage Skidmore / CC 3.0

Harrison Ford is currently benefitting from Hollywood's obsession with continuing iconic movie franchises from decades past. He has appeared in two recent "Star Wars" movies, reprising the role of Han Solo, and is set to appear in a fifth "Indiana Jones" movie.

Harrison Ford, Then

Columbia Pictures

"Star Wars" was not Ford's first movie with director George Lucas. First he appeared in "American Graffiti," one of Lucas' earlier films and first big critical hit. When casting for "Star Wars," Lucas convinced Ford to read for the part of Han Solo, primarily because Ford just happened to be in Lucas' house at the time, working as a carpenter.

Queen Elizabeth II, Now

Wikipedia / Ministry of Defence / OGL

There are few stars quite as iconic as Elizabeth Windsor, better known as Her Royal Highness the Queen. Celebrating seventy years on the throne this year, she has been a public figure for far longer than most of the celebrities on this list have been alive.

Queen Elizabeth II, Then

Wikipedia / Public Domain

This photo, from back when the Queen was a mere princess, was taken during World War II, when she worked driving military trucks as part of the war effort. Her willingness to get her hands dirty for the good of her country was a large part of the reason why she became so popular in anticipation of her ascention to the throne seventy years ago.