Culture / Movies / Oscars

When Do Actors and Actresses Reach Their Oscar-Winning Prime?

By Jack Beckwith Email Icon Twitter Icon LinkedIn Icon
Published: February 23, 2017

With the 89th Academy Awards set to take place on February 26, we figured it was time for a data journey through the movie archives. We've charted the age at which 913 actors and actresses have received an Oscar nomination in one of the four major acting categories. The data stretches all the way back to the first Academy Awards in 1928. Peep the graphic below to see for yourself.

How Old is the Average Oscar Nominee?

We collected data on every Oscar nominee in a major acting category since 1928. Click on a bar for more details.
Source: ages from Wikipedia, photos from IMDB

A closer look at Hollywood's crème de la crème reveals that female Oscar nominees are an average of six years younger than their male counterparts across both the lead and supporting categories. This finding aligns with other studies that have shown that, while male actors can still nab leading roles into their twilight years, women are generally out of contention for the lead by age 40 (except if you're Meryl Streep).

Nominees for best actor tend to be more than three years younger than men nominated for supporting roles. And that trend persists for women too. In 2017, however, we have an anomaly - the nominees in the supporting categories are on average 42 years old, four years younger than the actors and actresses nominated for lead roles. Meryl Streep, Isabelle Huppert, and Denzel Washington all earned nominations in the best actor/actress category at over 60 this year.

We see a wider distribution of ages among supporting nominees, who have ranged in age from eight to 87. The distributions of ages for best actor and actress, meanwhile, are more tightly clustered between 25 and 45. And while we saw more age spread in the highest acting categories in 2017, the winners - Emma Stone (28) and Casey Affleck (41) - fall right in line with tradition.