heavy lies the crown header

Gender bias may be one of the worst kept secrets in Hollywood.

From the women who write and direct films to those who star in them, actresses tend to be held to a different standard than their male counterparts. Over the years, women have played roles much younger than their real age – sometimes by a decade or more. Yet overall, Actors have been allowed to age gracefully in front of our eyes.

We decided to study this trend across multiple genres and award-winning films to see just how significant the age gap between actors and actresses truly is, and how it impacts their chances of winning an award. Curious to see how the numbers add up? Continue reading to find out.

Don’t Act Your Age

When it comes to acting their age, some actors and actresses may be a bit rusty from lack of practice.

On average, top-grossing film stars play characters that are younger than their real age – sometimes much younger. Men typically play roles where the character is almost three years younger than they are, while women portray characters more than five years younger.

Some examples include 30-year-old Emilia Clarke (“the Mother of Dragons”), who plays 16-year-old Daenerys Targaryen on HBO’s hit TV show “Game of Thrones.” Fellow actress Rachel McAdams broke into Hollywood through the now-cult-classic “Mean Girls” by playing a 16-year-old teenager when she was 26 years old (a 10-year difference between her real age and Regina George). Rachel McAdams isn’t the oldest actress to ever take a trip back in time to play a student, however. Stacey Dash was 28 years old when she played a high school student in the 1995 film “Clueless,” a character approximately 11 years younger.

Women aren’t the only ones playing younger characters on the big screen, though. Men have also been known to depict younger characters. Andrew Garfield, who played Peter Parker in the 2012 remake of “The Amazing Spider-Man,” was 29 years old when he donned the famous blue-and-red tights of a high school superhero.  

Age Trends in Hollywood

As with anything in Hollywood, age trends of film characters ebb and flow.

In examining actors and actresses who play characters younger or older than them, we found men and women have a history of depicting roles younger than themselves.

Between 2011 and 2015, women played characters who were considerably much younger, sometimes averaging twice as young in comparison to the average age of male characters. Notably, in 2013, fictional female characters averaged over eight years younger than the actresses who played them, while men played characters fewer than four years younger.

This trend has adjusted somewhat positively over the years. Still, actresses continue to be asked to play characters nearly three years younger. But men often play characters almost their age – and sometimes, just a bit older.

Serious Age Offenders

Some of the most significant age gaps between famous silver screen stars and the characters they play might surprise you.

In 2013, Sandra Bullock starred in two movies while she was 49 years old. In both films, she portrays a character around 20 years younger than her. In “The Heat,” Bullock played a 28-year-old FBI agent alongside Melissa McCarthy. In her Best Actress–nominated performance for “Gravity,” she played a 32-year-old astronaut. In both instances, Bullock – who turned 52 in 2016 – plays a millennial even though she’s closer to being a baby boomer.

Other significant age discrepancies include Channing Tatum (32 years old), who played a character almost a decade younger than himself in “21 Jump Street.” Vin Diesel similarly seems to be ageless. In two of the latest “Fast & Furious” films (“Fast & Furious 6” and “Furious 7”), there was a nine-year age gap between Diesel and his reprisal as Dom.

A Year of Male Leads

Leading films in 2016 saw similar age gaps between mostly actors and the characters they played in some of the top-grossing films.

Dwayne Johnson (commonly referred to as the “The Rock”) played a 37-year-old CIA officer in the film “Central Intelligence” despite being 44 years old. Chris Pine is just behind Johnson in his reprisal of Captain James Kirk in “Star Trek Beyond.” Kirk, who is supposed to be 30 years old in the film, is played by 36-year-old Pine.

Some male actors, like Tom Hanks in “Sully,” have only minor age differences (two years) between themselves and their characters; others portray characters several years their senior. Both James McAvoy and Henry Cavill were aged over 10 years for their roles in the comic book films “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “X-Men: Apocalypse.”

Only one actress in the 2016 top-grossing films played a character younger than herself. Mila Kunis, 33 years old at the time, played a 31-year-old mother in the comedy “Bad Moms.” Despite the ages of some of the actors in these films, few similarly aged actresses received star roles in 2016.

Perhaps this lends to the criticism that while men can continue to age in Hollywood and receive prime roles, only younger women are typically cast in blockbuster films.

Character Classifications

Certain film genres are more serious age-gap offenders between actors and actresses.

In science fiction movies, women are most likely to play a character over eight years younger than themselves, while men are just over a year older, on average, than the roles they carry. Sci-fi films represent some of the largest age gaps in Hollywood; however, the genre seems to be one of the more accessible film categories for women and minorities.

There is also a three-year age difference, on average, between actors and actresses in comedy and action films. Drama is the only genre where men usually play characters younger than women.

Age in Hollywood

Over the years, Hollywood has notoriously favored men. Women, while they’re young, are often forced into roles of even younger characters. Even in 2016, this trend persisted as few women were cast into leading roles in the year’s top-grossing films.

This pressure to maintain a certain youthfulness and figure isn’t exclusive to the Hollywood elite, though. For women, a hormonal imbalance from menopause can lead to significant bodily alterations, including weight gain, mood swings, low libido, and more. These side effects can make you feel older than you are. Thankfully, through BodyLogicMD, hormonal imbalance is correctable. Our affiliated physicians use bioidentical hormones to create a natural female hormone replacement treatment. Visit us online today to learn more about hormone replacement therapy. The goal is to feel as youthful as you look.


We analyzed http://www.the-numbers.com/market/ for the top 25 grossing films from 2010 to December 2016, as well as award winners from 1995 to 2015 to find out the lead actor’s age at the time of the film’s release. We then compared the ages of their romantic co-stars to find out how many years were between them. We also looked at fan sites and screenplays to determine the ages of the characters they played and noted the difference. We excluded films that did not have a romantic element, animated films, and films based on a fictional world in which age was defined unrealistically.


Lights, Camera, Sharing!

We’d love to hit the small screen of a computer near you. If you’re a publisher interested in sharing our graphics, please do so noncommercially. You should credit the authors of this page with a link and a mention.