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Is There An Age Limit For Action Stars?

July 20, 2018

As Harrison Ford gets ready to play Indiana Jones at 80-years-old, we look at whether older action stars are ridiculous or a refreshing image in films.

Last week, Disney Studios announced the fifth Indiana Jones film would be released on July 9, 2021. This new film in the franchise has been talked about for a long time, coming 13 years after the last and poorly received entry. But perhaps even more surprising to people was that Harrison Ford would once again play the iconic titular hero.

For some, there is no replacing Ford in the role as Indiana Jones. They tried to recast another one of his iconic roles with a younger actor recently with the Han Solo movie and audiences seemed largely uninterested. So it stands to reason that the filmmakers, like Steven Spielberg, wouldn’t want to make an Indiana Jones movie without Ford. As soon as Ford stepped on screen with that fedora and whip in 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, a cinematic hero for the ages was born. But that was nearly 40 years ago. By the time this new Indiana Jones adventure hits theatres in 2021, Ford will be just shy of his 80th birthday. Is that too old to be an action star?

Any boomer will tell you, putting an age limit on any position is a mistake. This is a generation who has changed and continues to change the perceptions of aging, especially in the workforce. There is no longer a retirement age. Could an 80-year-old continue working their job as an account? Absolutely. But is there a difference with believing a nearly 80-year-old Indiana Jones beating up bad guys?

Liam Neeson in The Grey – via Open Road Films

In truth, Ford is far from the only action star who is still going at it on film. Sylvester Stallone continues to revive franchises like Rambo and Rocky, depicting him as a much older but still capable tough guy. Liam Neeson found a new career as an action star in his 60s thanks to such hit movies as Taken. Jackie Chan still somehow pulls off amazing stunts in his 60s. Ford himself has recently returned to both the Star Wars franchise and the Blade Runner sequel.

The question is, does it become to silly to see these senior-aged men doing the things that the average 30-year-old would do? The Indiana Jones movies have never really been anchored in realism. But is it stretching the imagination too much to believe that these guys can still be action stars?

In many cases, the movies aren’t asking us to believe these men are 20 years younger than they actually are. In the latest Terminator movie, they came up with some sci-fi nonsense to explain why this robot, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, has aged quite significantly. Even in the last Indiana Jones movie (back when Ford was a fresh-faced 66-year-old) they frequently poked fun at his age while still showing him to be capable of his old adventures.

Instead of being an issue of being unbelievable, maybe it’s more about our perception of “being too old”. We’ve talked about ageism a lot and how to is a growing problem in the workplace. There is a feeling that seniors offer little to society and their ambition is gone. Could it be that these aging action stars are growing in popularity because it’s refreshing to see people of this age in roles of value. Yes, there are probably not a lot of seniors going around saving the day with a bazooka, but the trend of the aging action star could be seen as another example of how age doesn’t have to hold you back.


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