12 Movies With Great Special Effects But Terrible Old-Age Makeup

List Rules
Vote up the movies that miss the mark when making actors look older.

After 100+ years of Hollywood filmmaking, there was bound to be some awful old-age makeup lurking in some famous movies. What you don't see every day, however, is a film that features state-of-the-art special effects and terrible old-age makeup at the same time. There is a sort of cognitive dissonance there. How can a movie feature the best movie magic money can buy and fumble facial prosthetics, as well? Well, filmmaking is a collaborative art with hundreds - if not thousands - of people working on any given project.

Prometheus may have some visual effects that leave you speechless, but it also houses Guy Pearce completely failing to convincingly play a man in his hundreds. Marvel Studios movies generally have amazing CGI, but Captain America: The Winter Soldier also features a pretty shoddily aged-up Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter. And how about the entire cast of Back to the Future Part II? Need we say more? If you're in the mood to gawk at some next-level blockbusters with shockingly bad old-age makeup, go ahead and scroll down.


  • 2012's Cloud Atlas has to be one of the most experimental blockbuster films ever made. With that in mind, it's unsurprising that it was made outside of the Hollywood ecosystem. This let the writing/directing team of the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer go buck-wild with their sci-fi epic, and they certainly did. Cloud Atlas features numerous actors playing various roles in a story that takes place over nearly 500 years.

    While much of the main cast ends up in facial prosthetics at one point or another, poor Halle Berry gets the weird old-age treatment multiple times in Cloud Atlas. And when she plays the surgeon Ovid in the futuristic city of Neo Seoul circa 2144, it is a sight to behold. Like, can you even tell that's Halle Berry under there? All things considered, it doesn't look like Halle Berry, but it also doesn't look like a real person, either. You could tell us that is one of Madame Tussauds' wax figures, and we'd believe you wholeheartedly. 

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  • Does it still count if the bad aging makeup only appears in a deleted epilogue? Yes, yes it does. In some ways, the Terminator franchise would be much better off if James Cameron's original ending for T2 was kept in the theatrical cut. It serves as a button on the series, saying the apocalypse was averted and a peaceful future comes to pass. No need for all the crummy Terminator sequels! But let's talk about that future for a second, shall we?

    In classic late-'80s/early-'90s style, this future is quite amusing to behold. An elderly Sarah Connor is still using what appears to be a tape recorder to record a voice memo on a day out at the park? Okay, that's fine. But what is everyone wearing? If you thought the fashions in Back to the Future Part II were out there, you've got to watch this cut epilogue. Oh, and the prosthetics on Linda Hamilton aren't convincing in the least. Terminator 2: Judgment Day's special effects were truly groundbreaking, and that legacy might've been altered a bit if this scene were kept.

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  • The aging effects done on the primary cast of Back to the Future, while nothing groundbreaking, were serviceable at the time. Until the 25th-anniversary Blu-ray conversions came out and upped the resolution, they looked pretty good! Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Thomas F. Wilson, and Crispin Glover come out mostly unscathed. And then it was time to make the sequels, and Robert Zemeckis decided they had to go big or go home. 

    We've got Michael J. Fox aged up as Marty McFly. We've got Lea Thompson aged up as Lorraine Baines-McFly. We've got Thomas F. Wilson aged up as Biff Tannen. We've got Elisabeth Shue aged up as Jennifer Parker. We've got Jeffrey Weissman aged up to look like Crispin Glover as George McFly. Even Flea, the bassist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, is put into facial prosthetics to play a middle-aged Douglas J. Needles. The scenes featuring these characters are always played for laughs, so it isn't a huge deal, but none of these look very good at all. And the kicker is getting Michael J. Fox in drag as Marlene McFly. That one works better than any of the others!

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    Kier Dullea In '2010: The Year We Make Contact'

    Be honest: Did you even know there is an official sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey? We'd bet dollars to doughnuts that you had no idea 2010: The Year We Make Contact even exists. While 2001 remains a beloved masterpiece to this very day, 2010 has mostly been forgotten to the annals of time. That being said, 2010 is a direct continuation of the first movie and, surprisingly, it isn't all that bad!

    Critical reception to the movie upon release was actually pretty positive, as it continued 2001's penchant for beautiful special effects. Imagine that. The cast is no joke either with Roy Scheider, John Lithgow, Helen Mirren, and Bob Balaban all playing important roles. Douglas Rain even returns as the voice of HAL 9000! But, when Keir Dullea's Dave Bowman is completely covered in prosthetics to be aged up decades, it clearly doesn't look good. It didn't look great in 1984, and it certainly doesn't look good now.

  • Turning a teenage Hollywood star into a feeble grandmother is a thankless task for any production team. And, to be fair, the job that was done on Winona Ryder in 1990's Edward Scissorhands doesn't look all that bad in the medium and wide shots. Alas, when they push in for the glamour shot, everything comes undone. Human skin is famously hard to get right - a lot of what's known as the "uncanny valley" effect in CGI comes down to this - and in the close-up, the viewer can just see that Ryder is covered in fake skin.

    Her neck isn't moving, her face is weirdly still, and the eyes are weirdly sunken in. Perhaps Tim Burton should've used some of his trademark whimsy to spice up the shots of the aged-up Ryder a bit? It's not as if he makes straightforward movies in the first place. Give us some off-kilter charm, Burton!

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  • The Matrix franchise is known for resetting expectations when it comes to special effects in big-budget filmmaking. Seriously, you can count the number of movies that have had the same level of impact on one hand. When The Matrix was released in 1999, it raised the bar for the rest of Hollywood. The fact that an effects-heavy action movie from over 20 years ago holds up today is no small feat. So, when Matrix Resurrections was eventually announced, anticipation was high to see what mind-melting madness Lana Wachowski had in store for audiences. 

    Whether the film managed to fulfill what fans wanted is up for debate, although some scenes certainly fared better than others. And though the hair and makeup crew spent five hours each day of shooting on prosthetics to age Jada Pinkett Smith up 60 years so she could play a much older version of Niobe, something feels a bit off about it. It really does look pretty good until Pinkett Smith's mouth starts moving, and then the illusion wears off.

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