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Movies for Grownups Career Achievement Hall of Fame

A look at the honorees of our prestigious award

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A highlight of AARP The Magazine’s annual Movies for Grownups Awards has long been the career achievement award, honoring veteran stars for their continuing pursuit of excellence in filmmaking for the 50-plus audience. And the winners are ...

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2021: Lily Tomlin

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The star of hits from Laugh-In to Grace and Frankie said, “I am honored to receive this award from AARP. There are so few grownups in the world. I am happy to be one.” Using a famous catchphrase from the youngest character in her repertoire, 5½-year-old Edith Ann, Tomlin added, “I feel I am not only a grownup, but I am mature for my age — and that’s the truthhhhh!”

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2020: George Clooney

A master actor and director whose wit and gravitas make him the Cary Grant of our day, Clooney was thrilled to earn the honor from AARP. “It’s just a great group. I’m very proud to be involved in all this. It’s fun.” His career is a slam-dunk argument against ageism, and he said getting older makes his work better. “Experience is the key. It gives you perspective. So experience is the whole game.”

spinner image Annette Bening accepts Career Achievement Award at AARP The Magazine's 19th Annual Movies For Grownups Awards
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2019: Annette Bening

“So much of what we hear in Hollywood is that it’s youth focused,” Bening told AARP. “But, hey, we’re out here, too, right? We’re looking for films that are stimulating, provocative, intelligent.” That’s an apt description of Bening’s work, from The Grifters to Film Stars Don’t Die in LIverpool. Accepting the award, she thanked AARP “for the work that you do and your mission,” and said, “We work in the dark, we do what we can; our doubt is our passion, our passion is our craft and our task, and the rest is the madness of art.”

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2018: Shirley MacLaine

"By golly, because of the long lives people are living,“ MacLaine told AARP, “we’ve got to make more movies that address themselves to people over 60.” Few have done more for grownup filmmaking than MacLaine, who’s averaged one new film or show every six months since turning 80. Just 20 when she broke into the spotlight on Broadway as an understudy — the lead snapped her ankle — she earned three Oscar nominations by 30, and received more Golden Globe honors after 30 than before. Famous for roles from The Apartment to Terms of Endearment to Downton Abbey, she says, “I’m going for the record in old-age working.” Her hits — and best-selling books — just keep on coming. 

spinner image Helen Mirren holding her Movies for Grownups Award

2017: Helen Mirren

"I didn't want to be famous,” Mirren once told AARP The Magazine, “but I wanted to be a really good actress." So she spent years honing her craft in the Royal Shakespeare Company and in art films until the BBC crime show Prime Suspect made her world-famous at 46. Then came $1.5 billion worth of hits that won her three Golden Globes, an Oscar for The Queen, and at last, total artistic respect. Since then, Mirren’s movies have amassed $1.5 billion worldwide, and she has won three Golden Globes, an Oscar for The Queen and, at last, total artistic respect. “It’s good to be queen,” she says. “Everything changes as we get older, and we have to applaud that fact, don't we? I am greatly honored by this award."

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2016: Morgan Freeman

“I started my movie career at 50, and some of the best years happened since then,” says Freeman, a five-time Oscar nominee (and 2005 winner for Million Dollar Baby). Whether he's portraying the president of the United States (Deep Impact), a paternal prison inmate (The Shawshank Redemption) or God himself (Bruce Almighty), Freeman brings instinctive authority to every role thanks to his distinguished demeanor and rolling voice. “At a certain point in life, if you’ve had some success, awards start to fall from the sky. But this one’s more than fun. It’s priceless.”

spinner image Michael Douglas on stage with his Movies for Grownups Awards

2015: Michael Douglas

“I never made a conscious decision to make grownup movies,” Douglas said while accepting his Career Achievement Award. Yet from his earliest days, beginning with the searing drama One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), the two-time Oscar-winning actor/producer has challenged audiences to leave a movie theater with more than gum on their shoes. “I’ve always gone for the script, the story, rather than worrying too much about my part,” he said. “My biggest responsibility…is to try to do films that provide a little food for thought.”

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2014: Kevin Costner

“I don’t run from the things I make,” said career achievement award winner Costner at the Movies for Grownups Film Showcase in Los Angeles in 2013. “Look, man, I’ve had a chance to ride with buffaloes [in Dances With Wolves]. I’ve pitched a perfect game at Yankee Stadium [in For the Love of the Game]. The movies have given me so much, and people around the world have treated me great because of them. These are the things I’ll take with me.”

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2013: Susan Sarandon

“We’re all experiencing the tyranny of time,” said Sarandon, the Oscar-winning star of Dead Man Walking and nominee for Thelma and Louise. “And it’s so fabulous when you can just carve out the present. I’m very grateful. I’m very lucky now to have officially achieved my lifetime.”

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2012: Sharon Stone

“I am so grateful for this day because I have had challenges that made this day a question,” Stone said tearfully after accepting her award from friend and mentor Martin Scorsese, who directed her to an Oscar nomination in Casino. “It is because I have had failures, not just successes, that I have made it to this day.”

spinner image Robert Redford looks down at his Movies for Grownups Award

2011: Robert Redford

“I’m not retiring,” the Oscar-winning star insisted while accepting his award from longtime friend Sally Field. “I may drop, but I’m not gonna retire. There’s too much work to do.” Two years later Redford stunned movie audiences with his explosive one-man movie, All Is Lost.

spinner image Robert Redford on stage with his Movies for Grownups Award

2010: Robert De Niro

“I’ve always made movies for grownups, including the comedies,” the two-time Oscar winner (Raging Bull and The Godfather Part II) insisted. “What are they gonna give me 40 years from now? The ‘He Lived Too Long’ award?” De Niro’s award was presented by his longtime friend Sean Penn.

spinner image Hal Holbrook on stage at AARP's Movies for Grownups Awards

2008: Hal Holbrook

“This is one of the greatest moments of my life!” the veteran star said, ranking it right up there with his Oscar nomination that year — his first — for Into the Wild. Holbrook’s speech included a moving tribute to his wife, Designing Women star Dixie Carter, whom he called “the most beautiful girl in the world.” She died two years later.

spinner image Alan Arkin with his Movies for Grownups Award

2007: Alan Arkin

Accepting his Movies for Grownups Award just weeks before winning his Oscar for Little Miss Sunshine, Arkin said, “My first reaction when hearing about this award was ‘I’m a fraud! I haven’t done anything to earn it.’ It is impossible not to be creative. Creativity is our natural state.”

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