6 Actresses Who've Sustained Film Careers for Three Decades — And They're Still Going Strong

There's been an ongoing conversation in the media for a while now about how women over 40 become "invisible." Not in a Wonder Woman's airplane kind of way, but in the sense that they're no longer attractive, viable or useful.

The Huffington Post points out that women of a certain age might feel this way because they aren't seeing themselves represented on-screen, with older actresses being phased out.

But many veteran actresses are having none of it.

One such actress, 61-year-old Linda Hamilton, is making her return to The Terminator franchise, starring in the 2019 sequel to 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

She kicked off her career in 1979, in the little-known film Night-Flowers. Not long after, in 1984, she landed the role of Sarah Connor — the part that would see her catapulted to Hollywood lead actress status. From there, she starred in memorable projects like the TV series Beauty and the Beast (1987-1989) and 1997's Dante's Peak. More recently, we've enjoyed the actress in the futuristic sci-fi series Defiance (2014-2015).

Hamilton's return to moviemaking made us think of all the other actresses whose careers have lasted the test of time, despite some tangible hurdles:

1. Sissy Spacek


Who can forget the bucket of pig's blood that drenched a young Sissy Spacek in Stephen King's 1976 horror-thriller Carrie? Following this groundbreaking role, Spacek starred in many memorable films, including Coal Miner's Daughter (1980), Crimes of the Heart (1986), and In the Bedroom (2001).

In 2012, Spacek revealed why she thinks her career has been so long-lasting, telling The Wrap, "Hollywood gobbles up young actresses now," meaning the industry doesn't allow any room for breaks. She explained, "I had plenty of time to breathe. Years, sometimes."

While being in between jobs could be unsettling for some, Spacek was confident in her staying power. She took a risk by stepping out of the spotlight, but it paid off.

Coming up, we can look for her in 2018's The Old Man & the Gun, alongside Robert Redford in his final role.

2. Glenn Close


While some women feel obsolete when they hit a certain age, Glenn Close didn't let a number deter her. She took on her first film role aged 35, starring in 1982's The World According to Garp. From there, she was a major force, taking on leading roles in The Big Chill (1983), The Natural (1984) and Jagged Edge (1985). And in one of our favorite Close roles of all time, she was the intense femme fatale Alex Forrest in 1987's Fatal Attraction.

In 2017, she talked to AARP about Hollywood turning its back on aging actresses, saying, "It's kind of ironic, because we're at the peak of our power. We really are."

Close not only talks the talk; she walks the walk. In 2017, aged 70, the actress completed five films — and she's showing no sign of slowing down. From August 17, we can look for her in The Wife, starring opposite Jonathan Pryce.

3. Dame Helen Mirren


We're all very familiar with Anglo fan favorite Dame Helen Mirren, who's starred in famed films such as Gosford Park (2001), The Queen (2006) and The Last Station (2009).

But are you across that time she stood up for herself in a 1975 interview with British chat show host Michael Parkinson? "I'd like you to explain what you mean by my 'equipment,'" she retorted when Parkinson made reference to her body. The host said he was referring to her, "Physical attributes," but she didn't let him off easy: "Oh, like, "My fingers??" Nope, that's not what he meant.

This was Mirren's first ever TV interview, but the young actress was unfazed in the face of sexism and cemented her reputation as someone not to be messed with.

She took that badass bravado to the screen in 2017, when she played the villain in The Fate of the Furious. We can also look for her in 2018's The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, alongside Matthew Macfadyen and Keira Knightley.

4. Dame Judi Dench


Of course, we can't leave off Mirren's fellow Dame, Judi Dench, whose first film role was in 1964's The Third Secret. But she's tackled a number of genres during her career, including musicals with the 1968's Cabaret, action thrillers with the James Bond franchise (she played M from 1995-2015), period dramas like 1998's Shakespeare in Love and also comedy with the 2011's The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, plus its sequel in 2015.

Just last year, she portrayed Queen Victoria in Victoria & Abdul — the second time she's played the British monarch, having also portrayed her in 1997's Mrs. Brown.

In 2017, Dench talked to the Radio Times about getting older and what comes with it (or, to be more exact, what doesn't go away), saying, "Of course you still feel desire."

She went on to say, "Does that ever go? To the older reader, I would say, 'Don't give up!'" That's good advice at any age, actually.

We enjoyed Dench in last year's adaptation of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. She's completed filming on Six Minutes to Midnight, starring opposite James D'Arcy and Jim Broadbent. A release date is still to come (Yay! More Dench in the future).

5. Sigourney Weaver


Just three years after her first ever on-screen performance, Sigourney Weaver was cast as Ripley in 1979's Alien, marking her breakthrough moment.

She went on to star in other blockbusters like 1984's Ghostbusters, 1988's Working Girls and the biopic Gorillas in the Mist, also in 1988. We enjoyed watching Weaver as Ripley three more times in 1986's Aliens, 1992's Alien³ and 1997's Alien: Resurrection. And, now, she's signed on to bring the character to the big screen once again in the forthcoming Alien project, spearheaded by director Neill Blomkamp.

In 2008, we really enjoyed Weaver as a fertility specialist in Tina Fey's Baby Mama, then in 2009, she starred in the original Avatar. Weaver is currently filming the sequel, set for a 2020 release. And that's not all; there are four new Avatar movies coming out in all. That's a commitment through 2025.

In 2016, at the age of 67, Weaver talked to The Guardian about how her filming schedule is as busy as ever. She said she didn't worry about her looks changing with age, because,"The thing is, I was never… I played a few pretty people, but that wasn’t what I was about.

"Of course, there’s this perspective that when you turn 40, you won’t get as much work," she elaborated, before adding, "There aren’t as many women’s roles as men’s, but I’ve never envied men their roles. Women’s are more interesting."


6. Meryl Streep


And, finally, there's the inimitable and prolific Meryl Streep. She may not be a Dame per se, but she is Hollywood royalty. Streep kicked off her film career in 1977, appearing in the TV movie The Deadliest Season. In 1978, she starred opposite Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken in The Deer Hunter.

Everyone has their own personal favorite Meryl Streep role — there are so many to choose from — but indisputably, some of her finest work includes Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), Sophie's Choice (1982) and Silkwood (1983). She found her funny bone too, starring in the 1992 dark comedy Death Becomes Her, opposite Goldie Hawn and Bruce Willis.

More recently, she starred in 2006's The Devil Wears Prada as intimidating fashion magazine editor, Miranda Priestly. Then in 2009, she took on the role of the beloved TV chef Julia Childs in Julie & Julia. Streep portrayed British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in 2011's The Iron Lady. We really enjoyed her in the musical Into the Woods (2014), opposite some other Anglo favorites like Emily Blunt and James Corden.

Last year, Streep starred as Kay Graham, the first female publisher of an American newspaper in Steven Spielberg's The Post, opposite Tom Hanks.

And just this year, she popped up in the sequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, 10 years after the original film came out. We can also look forward to seeing Streep in this year's Mary Poppins Returns (December 19), and she's confirmed to star in the film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women as Aunt May, in theaters on December 25, 2019.

But even Meryl Streep wasn't immune from the fear of aging and how it would impact her work, telling the Wall Street Journal in 2016, "I remember as I was hovering around 40, I thought each movie would be my last, really. And all the evidence of other 40-year-old women at that time – this is 27 years ago – would lead you to believe it was over."

And yet, she's still killing it at 69-years-old.

Are there any other actresses you'd like to add to the list?