Question of the Week: 80s/90s aging movie stars still in action – Love ’em or Hate ’em?

Tonight I’m going to a screening of 3 Days to Kill. Yes the trailer looks ridiculous and the director is McG so the likelihood of this being good is pretty slim. But y’know what, I’m still going to see it for the nostalgia factor as I quite like Kevin Costner as an action hero, whom I first saw in a spy thriller No Way Out in the late 80s. I’m dating myself here, but those who grew up in the 80s like I did likely remember these stars in their prime. Costner’s getting a career resurgence since winning a Golden Globe for his performance in the TV miniseries Hatfields & McCoys. Interestingly, he’s only one of a slew of 80s/90s movie stars who’re still in demand in today’s movies.


In fact, within a week of each other, 59-year-old Costner and 61-year-old Liam Neeson have a new movie coming out with each of them getting top billing. Both are action movies, which seem to be the genre these old, err seasoned movie stars get hired for, strangely enough. I just came across this NY Post article last night where I read about Neeson’s reaction why he took those action roles: “Because they’re dumb enough to offer them to me … It’s like, I’m 61 years of age. I mean, come on. It’s a joke. It’s like [mimes talking into phone], ‘How much? OK, I’ll be there.’” Ahah, you gotta love his honesty!

But hey, there are economic reasons why Hollywood would rather offer action roles to familiar names. That NY Post article also talked about how foreign audiences actually love ‘stars of immediate past’ and the universal appeal of an action adventure is easier to market than a decidedly more culturally-relevant comedy or drama. The Expendables 2 only grossed $85 mil domestically but made well over $200 mil in foreign markets total. Even the relative dud like Escape Plan with Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger which only earned a paltry $25 mil here in the US made over $100 mil in foreign markets. So they may be old but certainly not flat-lined yet at the box office.

There’s practically a new sub-genre of *aging stars in action* movies with a cast that pride themselves of being older, wiser and still very much bad ass. It has spun several successful franchises like Taken (Neeson’s vehicle), RED aka Retired Extremely Dangerous (Bruce Willis’ vehicle) and The Expendables, kick-started by Sly himself, easily one of THE biggest action heroes of all time, and starring the who’s who of 80s & 90s action.


The Expendables‘ strong point is truly in the cast [I’ve seen the first film, it’s definitely NOT the script] and the possibilities seem endless. If you’re somewhat famous in the 90s and can still walk properly without a cane, there’s a chance Sly’d offer you a role [that is if you didn’t demand $1 mil/per day pay check like Bruce Willis]. It turns out he IS expendable after all ahah, though he’s not exactly running out of work. This Summer he’s reprising his role as detective in Sin City 2, which guess what, opens just a week after Expendables 3 😀

So long as the demand is there, I think we can expect relative *young’uns* like Tom Cruise, Keanu Reeves and Johnny Depp, who are in the early 50s or will hit it this year, would be around for at least another decade or so.

So what do you think folks? Do you wish these aging stars would retire already or are you loving the perpetual trend of aging stars in action?

65 thoughts on “Question of the Week: 80s/90s aging movie stars still in action – Love ’em or Hate ’em?

  1. I have no problem w/ aging action heroes in a movie just as long as it’s good and it’s helmed by a director with a good track record. Yet, it can be tiring since we’ve been seeing Tom Cruise in essentially the same movie for the past 5-6 years.

    I like Kevin Costner but I ain’t going to see 3 Days to Kill. It looks stupid and McG is a hack.

    1. I’m with you about Cruise though he’s so all powerful that it’ll be tough to get rid of him.

      Ahah, I wouldn’t have paid to see 3 Days to Kill either, but I do love Costner.

    1. Well hello Liz! Always thrilled to hear from you. Yes No Way Out is awesome indeed, been meaning to rewatch that for ages. I’ll let you know if this one is worth seeing, probably worth a rental at least just for Costner 🙂

  2. I liked these actors when they were young, and by and large I still like them today… although the films themselves don’t always live up to what they once were. But then, that may be a problem with the films and not the stars — a lot of the action movies starring today’s action stars aren’t exactly the pinnacle of the genre either.

    1. You hit the nail in the head Morgan. It’s the script’s problem I think as some of these actors certainly have done great work in the past, their lack of range notwithstanding.

  3. I’m biased because I’ve never liked Stallone, Schwarzenegger or Costner, so to them I say “just retire already!” As for Bruce Willis, he’s good but becoming tiresome, while Liam Neeson is awesome and badass.

    1. Ha..ha.. I suppose if you never liked them before, their roles now aren’t going to change your mind. I read somewhere that today’s action stars at least still try to do different genres whilst people like Van Damme, Sly or Arnie don’t really concern themselves about versatility.

      I agree Neeson is awesome but no love for Costner??

        1. Interesting. I can see people not liking say, Steven Seagal, but Costner seems pretty affable. Ah well, no accounting for taste I suppose. I can’t stand Ryan Gosling and people don’t understand why either, ahah.

        2. jamesb59

          One thing I heard about Costner from guys who were extras during the making of Tin Cup, or whatever that golf movie was called. they were film students and approached Costner and he basically told them to get lost. Don Johnson, however, not only spent time talking to them, but gave them numbers of people who might help their careers get going.

  4. Ted S.

    Since I’m big action movies fan, I don’t mind seeing these guys continue to make films, just wish some would choose good scripts instead of just appear in whatever was offered to them. Mr. John McClane has been doing this for the last few years and I kind of getting sick of him. He looks uninterested in every film I saw him in lately, Red 2, Die Hard 5 and GI Joe 2 are some good examples. Good thing Sly fired him from The Expendables 3.

    Without these aging action stars, Hollywood won’t have any action heroes, well non superhero that is. Like you mentioned, Cruise, Reeves and Depp are getting up in ages and there aren’t any other actors who can take their torch. I know The Rock and Vin Diesel are the two that often been labeled as the next “action” heroes but so far only a few of their movies were hits.

  5. Noooo problem at all with what they’re doing. I grew up on these corn-fests and they still hold a pretty strong place in my heart. What I like about this new wave is that most of them completely understand what they are. They rarely take themselves too seriously which makes them fun.

    It’s hard to see these nostalgia pictures being around for much longer (and not just because of the ages of the stars, haha). But while they are here and while they are still fun, I’m gonna enjoy them.

    Oh and Costner is a favorite of mine. He looks like he is having a blast in 3 Days to Kill. I hope it is a good time.

    1. Corn-fest is a term of endearment then? 😀 I’m generally with you though I wish they’d put a bit of effort in making a good script. I mean the first Expendables was excruciating! It should’ve been called that instead. I think the 2nd one is tolerable thanks to Chuck Norris! 😀

      Oh I think there are a slew of the young’uns that’ll take over, like I mention, Cruise, Reeve and Depp (and many others I forgot) will be around for a while I think.

      I hope it’s at least entertaining Keith, but w/ McG I’m not so sure.

  6. Hey, Ruth. Like most of the people posting, I have no issue with Costner, Stallone, Neeson or anyone else continuing to star in action films. Most of the then each delivers something basically worth seeing, even if it is flawed.

    As Neeson says, if they’re going to keep offering the roles, there is little reason not to take them.

    1. Hi Josh! That’s the key I think, that studios obviously think they’re bankable enough that they still get offers. So win-win for both sides and also for some moviegoers, too 🙂

  7. jamesb59

    Doesn’t bother me in the least. I draw the line, however, at aging rockers playing onstage. Rock is a venue for the young…the old guys look ridiculous. Since I know that any of the older guys in today’s action movies could kick my rear, it seems quite believable to me.

    1. Ha..ha.. I think I’d agree w/ you about aging rock stars, very few can pull it off like say, Mick Jagger. But yeah, Liam Neeson could certainly kick the rears of a lot of young talents like Chris Pine, Liam Hemsworth, etc.

  8. jackdeth72

    Hi, Ruth:

    Willis can still pull off the action hero thing. Looking forward to his Lt. Hatrigan in ‘Sin City 2’.

    Schwarzenegger as well. As long as close ups are kept to a minimum. Never got the hang of Lundgren or Jet Li. Robert Davi can do no wrong in my book. Though Costner has never struck me as an action hero. Still waiting patiently to see if there will ever be a slot open for Billy Dee Williams, Ving Rhames or Joe Mantegna in ‘The Expendables’ franchise.

    Basically, since Hollywood is “Show Business”. With the emphasis on “Business”. As long as these long in the tooth actors can fill seats and deliver equal to their pay. We’ll be seeing them into the next decade.

  9. I actually don’t mind Costner in a grittier role like 3 Days to Kill, I think it could be a good fit for him. But I don’t have any plans on watching it in the theatre. 🙂 I didn’t know Liam Nielson was in his sixties, good for him.

    1. I like Costner too, and he’s still very much believable as a bad ass CIA agent in 3 Days to Kill. Neeson is amazing for a 60+ yrs old, he looks at least 10 yrs younger than that!

  10. I was and have always been a fan of these kinds of movies and these stars in particular. Neeson knows it just action junk but two of those recent films mean a lot to me, “The Grey” goes so much deeper than just the plot, and “Taken” may be the most satisfying revenge film since “Death Wish”. I paid to see the Expendables 1 and 2, I Paid for both Arnold films this last year and both Stallone films. I still love some Bruce Willis, although I think only “Red 2” was worth a damn from the three movies he was in last year. I enjoy Costner in almost everything, he has not been the weak link from my point of view, the movies have been. It was not great but “3000 Miles to Graceland” does set some precedent for him in action films (oh and Waterworld). Neesons comment reminds me of the Michael Caine Story when he was offered one of these kinds of films. He asked “What’s it about” and the producer said, “It’s about a million dollars” and Caine said, “I’ll do it.”

    1. Hi Richard! I agree that Neeson actually elevates the material he’s in, and he knows full well it’s just a high-paying job. I enjoyed Red 2 as well though I’m growing weary of Willis’ schtick to be honest, Die Hard 5 was excruciating!!

      I enjoy Costner in a lot of films though I did avoid Waterworld. Haven’t seen “3000 Miles to Graceland” yet but might give that a rent. Well, can’t blame Caine for selling out I guess, I don’t mind any of these actors doing it so long as they still do quality work in between to balance ’em out.

  11. Good god that Expendables 3 poster makes me drool. Man, I cannot wait to see that.


    No problem with “aging” actors getting their own franchises about still kicking ass…. although it should be pointed out that Harrison Ford went back to do Indiana Jones when Indy should have rightly been pooping into an adult diaper and eating his food through a straw. As long as they don’t try for “realistic” once the star in question hits about sixty five, seventy, then I don’t mind this concept at all!!

    1. Ahah you are THE exact target market for those action flicks eh Rodney!

      Yeah Ford doesn’t seem to do the action stuff as well as some other actors his age. I actually enjoy it more when the actors poke fun at their old age 🙂

  12. I don’t mind them being in action movies although I must admit the movies usually aren’t as good as they used to be….either that or my taste in movies has developed 😉

  13. Interesting point Ruth. I wish they’d all just go away a stop embarrassing themselves. I would have to say that Neeson cuts a surprisingly effective action star, though. As for Sly and Arnie, they should give it up.

    1. I think with some exception, most of these aging actors really should consider hanging it up or at least pick roles that don’t require too much action y’know.

  14. I like the sense of nostalgia. The tongue in cheek self-parody of Stallone’s Expendables was also good but I think the joke is wearing thin now. I haven’t seen Raging Bull Versus Rocky aka Grudge Match yet but again the nostalgia is something I like about it.

  15. I grew up and fell in love with the movies during the 80s, so I’ll never grow tired of them (in fact I get all nostalgic with everything 80s, not just movies). Watching Escape Plan last year, and see Arnie with a machine gun again was pure bliss to me! I’m already looking forward to Expendables 3!

    1. I’m still very nostalgic about the 80s too, esp movies and music. Ha..ha.. pure bliss eh, well then you might be hyperventilating when Expendables 3 comes out!

  16. PrairieGirl

    Hey, keep the “seniors” coming! 60 is the new 50 anyway, right? ;-D. The only ones I can think of who I’d retire is Robert Di Nero and Jack Nicholson, but I don’t think either are doing much these days anyway.

  17. Interesting article Ruth! For me it depends on the actor and the film. It can work well, such as Liam Neeson and Taken or The Grey but they’re starting to churn out these films all too often now. Bruce Willis is one I wish would just retire as he’s becoming really quite objectionable!

    1. Hi Chris! I’m with you on Willis after seeing Die Hard 5. He just phoned it in these days and have become so greedy! I do like Neeson and Costner’s pretty good too in 3 Days To Kill.

  18. Well, it depends on the movie star in question. I like Costner, Neeson, Willis, Ford, Gibson and Statham, but I wouldn’t be bothered if some stars, such as Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Lundgren, retired.

        1. I only saw the parts w/ Chuck Norris, it was hilarious! Didn’t care to see the whole thing but I might give the 3rd movie a shot if there’s a free screening 😀

  19. I don’t mind these aging stars in action. I already know what to expect and its definitely nothing related to a good story but just action, entertainment and ultimately some cheesy dialogue, big guns and all that sort of thing. I like that stuff 🙂 I seriously can’t wait for Expendables 3.

    1. Hi Kim! Lovely to see you stop by. Ha..ha.. very true that this genre is usually quite fun. I might give Expendables 3 a shot as the cast is just nuts!

    1. Hi Nov, long time no *see* 😀 Ha..ha.. so you’ll be watching Non-Stop as soon as it’s out in Jkt then? I agree Neeson seems to get better w/ age, but I think Costner still looks pretty darn good in 3 Days to Kill, too.

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