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Actresses Over 40

Updated on September 27, 2014

Beauty and Talent Beyond 40

For decades it seemed like there was no work for actresses in Hollywood who were beyond the age of 35 -- at least not in a lead role. Actresses who once found themselves the lead female were either finding few performances or smaller roles.

In the last five years it seems like more and more of Hollywood's talent above 40 are gaining recognition for their talent beyond their years. And I have to say it is about time.

Male actors have never had the same amount of restrictions and have continued to make big bucks alongside young little hotties. Frankly I have always thought they looked ridiculous. A notable exception is the movie Rob Roy (1995) starring Liam Neeson and Jessica Lange as the power couple.

What follows is my top ten list of some of the hottest and most talented female actors in the industry who just happen to be over 40.

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Diane Lane - The Model Actress

The first movie I saw Diane Lane in was Streets of Fire (1984). I didn't like her. Apparently I had seen her a few years earlier in The Outsiders but I have no recollection. I have followed her through the years in various films but it was not until Judge Dredd (1995) that I really started to get into her. I enjoyed her in Murder at 1600, A Walk on the Moon, The Glass House, Unfaithful, Must Have Dogs, Untraceable and Nights in Rodanthe. I even enjoy her in the cosmetic ads on TV.

Diane has gotten more beautiful and more talented with age. There is a sincerity about her eyes that is touching and always hooks me. It also does not hurt that she has starred with some of my favorite leading men -- Viggo Mortensen, Richard Gere, John Cusack, and Liev Schreiber. But Diane does not need a "leading" man to make great movies. She is definitely one of the under accessed actresses over 40.

Julianne Moore - The Redhead

I think the first time I saw Julianne Moore and she made impression on me was in the film Short Cuts; specifically when she carried on an argument with Matthew Modine while wearing nothing on her bottom half. It was the most nonsexual scene I had seen a half naked woman play.

Julianne Moore always commands attention in every scene she is in. She is one of the most beautiful redheads in the movies who can switch from serious dramatic roles to comedic roles with little effort and she just gets better with age. She has a surprising quality of being able to have on-screen chemistry with just about anyone -- recently I watched Assassins again and was surprised by her chemistry with Sylvester Stallone -- an odd match.

Some of my favorite movies with Julianne Moore include Blindness, Laws of Attraction, The Shipping News, Hannibal, The Hours, The End of the Affair, Nine Months, and Children of Men.

Julianna Margulies - "The Good Wife"

Most people fell in love with Julianna when she played Nurse Carol Hathaway in ER. I always thought George Clooney's character could do better. I did not fall in like with Julianna until she played Morgaine in the The Mists of Avalon miniseries. But she really came into her own in the series Canterbury's Law as the lead character, a defense attorney, which was awesome but enjoyed a short shelf life. It warmed her up for her award winning performance on the highly acclaimed, The Good Wife.

I am a loyal fan of The Good Wife which is simply phenomenal. It has been amazing to watch Julianna and her character Alicia metamorphosis with each season. She truly gets more lovely and talented with age. It is also nice to see strong, successful, feminine characters on television.

I have also enjoyed Julianna in The Lost Room, Ghost Ship, and yes, even Snakes on a Plane.

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Women Oriented Films

Helen Mirren - The Grey Fox

The first time I remember seeing Helen Mirren was in Calendar Girls. I thought the whole cast was brilliant but she stuck out for me. Unlike many of the other women on my list I fell in love with her as an older women and did not watch her mature. Helen had been making movies for almost forty years before she landed on my fave actress radar. It has given me an interesting perspective as I go back and continue to enjoy her earlier work (which I highly recommend).

Helen seems to have become the "It Girl" so to speak for actresses over 50 and while I am not complaining I hope they start to spread the love around as there many older actresses who are just as talented as this grey fox.

Some of my favorite movies include: Cymbeline, White Nights, Greenfingers, Teaching Mrs. Tingle, The Queen, State of Play, and the Last Station.

Kathy Bates - "Towanda!"

In the first movie I saw Kathy Bates in she was a very scary psychopath who had kidnapped an author and held him captive in her home, Misery (1990). The following year she was in four films including one of my all time favorites, Fried Green Tomatoes.

From then on she has played small but important roles throughout her career, all leave a lasting impression on the viewers. She has also acted as the lead in independent character driven films like A Home of Their Own -- one of my top favorites -- she gives an excellent performance as the distraught mother of six looking to secure a home for her family.

Hollywood has not only been for the young, it has most notably been a skinny girl's world, even with advancing age. Kathy Bates has managed to carve out a niche for herself that has not centered around making fun of the fat girl. She is a strong actress with a lasting impression that she will carry into her senior years.

Other films with Kathy Bates that I have enjoyed: The Stand, Dolores Claiborne, Titanic, My Sister's Keeper, About Schmidt, and The Blind Side,

Emma Thompson - The Charmer

I adore Emma Thompson. Adore her, I tell you! I first developed a deep love for Emma after seeing the movie Dead Again with her then beau Kenneth Brannaugh who I was also in love with. But it was not until two years later when I saw her in Much to Do About Nothing that I fell absolutely in love with her. And do not get me started on Sense and Sensibility -- which I have seen over 40 times and still break down and cry, when she does, in the end scene when she realizes Edward has not married.

When ever I find out a film has a wee part with Emma I get a warm feeling inside; like I said, I adore her. Some of my favorite films not already mentioned are: The Remains of the Day, Primary Colors, Wit (which she also wrote), Love Actually, Nanny McPhee, Harry Potter films, Stranger than Fiction, Brideshead Revisited, Brave (voice), and Beautiful Creatures.

Wendy Crewson - The Canadian

Surprisingly, Wendy Crewson is the only Canadian Actress on my list. I have seen her many times in supporting roles for big movies like the mom in The Good Son or the wife of Harrison Ford in What Lies Beneath. But for the most part she was kind of lost in the background -- for me at least, for I had no clue I had been watching her for decades in her prolific TV movie/series career. As far as I am concerned she is one of the most under-appreciated actresses.

It wasn't until I watched the Joanne Kilbourn Mysteries based on a book series by Gail Bowen that I really fell in love with this actress and made a point of finding out her name -- then it was like she was every where and in everything.

One of my favorite movies with her is Better Than Chocolate where she is hilarious as the prude, controlling mother of a lesbian daughter. Most recently she had a yummy role on the hit Sunday night drama Revenge but other TV/movies favorites are: The Robber Bride, ReGenesis, Perfect Pie, and of course all the Kilbourn movies.

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Women Oriented Films

Sandra Bullock - The Good Girl

I first fell in love with the witty and beautiful Sandra Bullock when she starred along side Sylvester Stallone in Demolition Man. That love was cemented a few years later when she starred with Keanu Reeves in Speed. She just kept making what I consider to be fantastic films with hot leading men and stealing the limelight: The Net (1995), While You Were Sleeping, A Time to Kill. And then came Hope Floats, one of my all time favorite movies that I have seen more than twenty times and still bawl my eyes out.

Sandra has an incredibly ability to make me laugh and cry within a matter of minutes and it is one of the reasons I love her. She is quickly approaching 50 and is still one of the most talented and beautiful women on the big screen. The success of both The Heat and Gravity this year are more than proof that a woman in her forties can be the main feature and still entertain the public and bring in the bucks.

Other movie favorites starring Sandra Bullock: Practical Magic, Two If By Sea, 28 Days, Murder By Numbers, Miss Congeniality, Two Weeks Notice, Premonition, All About Steve (I think I am the only one who loved this movie), The Proposal, and The Blind Side. The Heat and Gravity are high on my list of films to watch next.

Jessica Lange - The Starlet

As a child I remember first seeing Jessica Lange in the film King Kong (long after it appeared on the big screen and was appearing on the movie channel). I immediately thought she was a stunning beauty but it wasn't until the movie Frances that I really took note of her other talents and put her on my list of favorites.

Over the years she has popped on and off my radar, she was still making movies of course but nothing that really captured me. Then in 1995 she was cast opposite Liam Neeson in Rob Roy -- first I was shocked that they cast someone of comparable age opposite him, even then it was common place for a young beauty to be twenty five years the leading man's senior. Jessica was perfectly cast and the costuming was amazing on her. I loved her in this role. I think she was one of the underused female talents in Hollywood -- she's funny, endearing, and at times she can be down right scary.

Most recently she has appeared as a lead in American Horror Story (on FX), a serial that changes story line and characters every season -- she has been in all three and it has been an incredible showcase for her talent -- I feel like I have fallen in love with her all over again. Other favorites include: Tootsie, Cape Fear, Crimes of the Heart, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Hush.

Susan Sarandon - The Activist

Susan Sarandon has a strong presence both on screen and off. And I guess like the majority of her fans I fell in love with her because of her role in Thelma and Louise. Even though she had been making movies since 1970.

She is probably one of the busiest older actresses still bringing home a pay check today. I think that is in part because of her personality, her talent, and her ability to transcend her age. She pulls off sexy without even trying (or at least it looks that way). When she acts it doesn't have anything to do with the age of the character but the heart of the character. She has quick wit, sting, and profound love that comes across year after year, better and better.

In Stepmom, Sarandon is inspirational as the grief stricken mom trying to drink up every blessed moment she has left with her children while leaving them with fond memories of their mother. This film is a roller coaster of emotions: love, jealousy, hate, anger, regret, loss and so much more is portrayed within a few hours.

Susan can be funny, she can be dramatic, and she can even be musical. Over the years there have been many films that I have enjoyed because of the addition of Susan Sarandon: The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Tempest, The Hunger, the Witches of Eastwick, White Palace, Lorenzo's Oil, The Client, Little Women, Safe Passage, Anywhere But Here, Dead Man Walking, The Banger Sisters, and Shall We Dance to name a few.

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Actresses Over 40

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      Moe Wood 2 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      I agree. There is definitely no reason for lack of equal and fair employment. I think in some areas the acting profession is improving, more keys roles for women, but the stress of always looking your best is so extreme. They must always have to be "on" which must be extremely tiring. I have never had inspiration to be an actor.

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      Giovanna Sanguinetti 2 years ago from London UK

      I think women should be equally and fairly employed in all walks of life. The acting profession is very difficult for women because it relied so heavily on being beautiful -and as we all know older people are not considered to be beautiful by the likes of Hollywood. It's interesting that most of the women listed here don't look a day over 30! What a job -would you be an actor!!