As the song goes, "Baby it's old outside." (Something like that.) I was just thinking last decade we probably saw the most "great" perfs from actors 80y/o+ than ever before, maybe? And how the damn corona is starting this decade off badly, older actors might be the last to return to set.
Christopher Plummer was a force - Beginners, Remember, and smaller roles but quite charming in Danny Collins, Knives Out, etc.
Clint Eastwood - The Mule , a lifetime-summation perf. Harry Dean Stanton - Lucky , the mariachi singing scene is as beautiful as anything I've seen.
Alan Alda - Horace and Pete , practically filmed live, he's hilariously stubborn as the abrasive bartender.
Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes. Speaking of which...
I also wanted to start this thread to look forward to Hopkins in The Father & Sophia Loren in The Life Ahead (Netflix) - both right now seem like Oscar contenders, and in categories that don't favor the old: no Lead Actor over 80 has ever been nom'd, and only one (Riva) for Actress. I'm going by age duringfilming btw, but we'll be lenient. Also looking forward to Keitel as Meyer Lansky , Sutherland in The Undoing... many more.
I'm missing everyone before the 2010s! So, Who else?
Harder to come up with older examples.... But here's one.
Henrik Malberg was 80 when he filmed Ordet (1955). His perf snuck up on me about halfway thru - after the family tragedy, how the tone of his voice becomes weaker and more deliberate, how he slouches like the weight of reality is pushing on him. There's a deeper suffering and crisis of faith we sense underneath the mourning..... His imposing patriarchy dwindles, and we feel for him. It's a seriously great, sad perf....
The first that came to mind for me was Mildred Natwick in Dangerous Liaisons - her last film, sadly. Charming and vivacious, but also poignant. Her scenes with Pfeiffer were really beautifully acted... she knows exactly who her nephew is.
Maggie Smith - Lady in a Van (2015). I think she turned 80 during production so close enough. She plays the feeble, mentally-off homeless lady with alertness and a surprising quickness in her line-readings and reactions - she’s hilarious here and very affecting too. Golden Globe & BAFTA nodded. She’s just outside my personal 5 for the year, but I would’ve Oscar nom’d her over J-Law or Brie Larson...
Ruth Gordon acted in quite a few films at over 80 and she was a joy to watch until the end. Her best is definitely as the mystery writer (and murderer) Abigail Mitchell in Columbo's Try and Catch Me. She and Falk are a delight together.
Tsai Chin , Lucky Grandma (2020) - an entertaining low-budget action-drama set in Chinatown NYC - the criminal aspects are amateurish but the movie rests on Chin's shoulders - at 85 years old and she's a hilarious, badass lead - nails the comic timing and the later emotional moments.
Quick background on Tsai Chin - a sensation in '59 West End as the star of The World of Suzie Wong, works in the movies with Ingrid Bergman, Antonioni (Blowup), as a Bond girl in You Only Live Twice, and a recurring role in Christopher Lee's Fu Manchu movies. Takes over 20 years off the movies (she was a 'cultural liaison' of post-revolution China, teaching/directing Chekhov, Shakespeare, etc - also appeared in Hopkins' M Butterfly in the late 80s), returns to the movies with The Joy Luck Club, Memoirs of a Geisha, wins an Obie in '97, and so on. What I'm saying is she's a living legend!