When Bette Davis coined the phrase “Old age is no place for sissies,” she may as well have been describing the plot of “The Expendables 3.” Written by and starring Sylvester Stallone, the ensemble film features a cast of mature action vets who aren’t about to trade in their bullets for bifocals just yet. As the third entry in the popular franchise explodes into theaters on August 15, here’s a look at 12 films starring some of the toughest seniors in cinema.
Continuing his late-career reinvention as a post-middle aged action hero, Liam Neeson plays a federal air marshal who receives a series of threatening texts during a transatlantic flight. Trapping the 62-year old star in a confined location proved a wise decision as the modestly-budgeted thriller opened at No. 1 in the U.S. and earned over $200 million worldwide.
Arriving on September 26, this feature adaptation of the CBS television series stars 59-year old Denzel Washington as a former commando who specializes in helping victims of violent crime. In the film’s trailer, Washington sets a stopwatch after promising to defeat a group of armed Russian gangsters in 16 seconds. A bit rusty with age, it takes him a full 19 seconds instead.
“The November Man”
12 years after bidding adieu to the James Bond franchise, Pierce Brosnan, age 61, returns to the spy game as an ex-CIA assassin codenamed: The November Man. This adaptation of a novel by Bill Granger pits Brosnan’s seasoned operative against a deadly young recruit he helped train. The former 007 has let it be known that he’s open to a role in a future Expendables film.
“3 Days to Kill”
Hoping to duplicate the success of the wildly popular “Taken” series, action master Luc Besson produced this thriller starring 59-year old Kevin Costner as an ex-CIA agent fighting to reconnect with his estranged daughter. Unfortunately, the generic storyline failed to connect with audiences and the film limped along to a less-than-thrilling $50 million worldwide gross.
Pitting the aging Italian Stallion against the long-retired Raging Bull in a lightweight boxing comedy might have seemed like a champion idea, but nostalgia only gets you so far. Playing over-the-hill fighters coaxed back into the ring for one final match, Stallone, 68, and De Niro, 70, look good for their age, but are let down by a script that’s short on laughs.
Based on a graphic novel, this witty action comedy about an unlikely team of retired government assassins who reunite when a threat from their past resurfaces plays like “The Expendables” without all the muscles. Unlike his role in the recent sequel “A Good Day to Die Hard,” top-billed Bruce Willis is actually one of the younger cast members in this mature charmer.
“No Country for Old Men”
Javier Bardem won an Oscar for his portrayal of an unstoppable assassin in the Coen brothers’ desert-noir, but Tommy Lee Jones’ aging lawman is the true laconic heart of the film. Playing a West Texas sheriff fearful that the world is changing too fast around him, Jones’ introspective performance turns a crackerjack thriller into a moving meditation on mortality.
From “Honkytonk Man” to “Space Cowboys,” the subject of aging is a recurrent theme in Clint Eastwood’s work, and perhaps never more so than in this melancholy melodrama. As a Korean War veteran whose trauma in combat has metastasized into bitter racism, Eastwood confronts the generation gap head-on when his character takes a troubled Hmong teenager under his wing.
Inspired by a real-life viral video, this low-budget exploitation movie stars 70-year old Danny Trejo as a Vietnam War veteran who becomes a folk hero when a video of him beating up two skinheads spreads across the internet. Co-starring action vets Ron Perlman, 64, and Charles S. Dutton, 63, the film spawned a direct-to-video sequel in 2014, with a third on the way.
Michael Caine was 76 when he starred as the title character, a meek ex-serviceman turned vigilante, who takes matters into his own hands following the murder of an elderly friend. Part character study, part revenge thriller, this impressively grim British crime drama is as much about the loneliness of aging as it is about blowing away street thugs.
A bevy of blaxploitation icons headline this amusing homage to the urban action movies of the 70s. Directed by B-movie auteur Larry Cohen, whose “Black Caesar” remains a high-water mark of the genre, the film’s all-star cast includes Pam Grier, Fred Williamson, Jim Brown and Richard Roundtree. Williamson, who also produced, is currently developing a sequel.
Struggling with age and an out-of-control partner 10 years his junior, Danny Glover embodied the quintessential retiring police detective in this action classic. His character eventually became a grandfather during the fourth installment, but not before delivering a catchphrase that’s come to symbolize the entire series: “I’m too old for this shit!”