Entertainment

The Greatest Old Lady Characters in Film 

Ranker Characters
Updated June 14, 2019 726 votes 241 voters 12.2k views 26 items

Ageism is a long-standing issue in Hollywood. Luckily, that hasn't stopped actresses from bringing some memorable old ladies to life in the movies. Some of these fictional old ladies are cast in the grandmotherly mode and seem optimistic about the future. A few old lady characters, though, are downright resentful of their age and circumstances. These imaginary women are often brought to life by the greatest actresses of all time, and have only gotten better with age.

What memorable roles will you find on this list of the greatest old lady characters in films? Gloria Swanson earned an Academy Award for her portrayal of the aging actress Norma Desmond in the classic film Sunset Boulevard. The film itself mirrors the way that Hollywood disregards its elder actresses in favor of youth. Dina Byrnes, played by Blythe Danner in the Meet the Parents movies, is another great fictional older woman.

Judi Dench is the go-to actress for old women roles. She has played audience-favorite parts including M in the James Bond series and Philomena Lee in Philomena. Other good roles that are featured on this list include Margo Channing from All About Eve and Ninny Threadgoode in Fried Green Tomatoes.

Which fictional old lady do you think is the best? Vote your favorites up to the top of this list and add any roles that are missing.
list ordered by
1
Professor Minerva McGona... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Old Lady Characters in Film
Maggie Smith in Harry Potter Universe
2
Daisy Werthan is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Old Lady Characters in Film
Daisy Werthan Jessica Tandy in Driving Miss Daisy
3
Ninny Threadgoode is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Old Lady Characters in Film
Ninny Threadgoode Jessica Tandy in Fried Green Tomatoes
4
Queen Elizabeth II is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Old Lady Characters in Film
5
M is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Old Lady Characters in Film
6
Dame Marjorie "Maud... is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Old Lady Characters in Film
Dame Marjorie "Maude" Chardin
7
Norma Desmond is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Old Lady Characters in Film
Norma Desmond Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard
8
Ethel Thayer is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Old Lady Characters in Film
RobLein added
9
Veta Louise Simmons is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Old Lady Characters in Film
RobLein added Veta Louise Simmons Josephine Hull in Harvey
10
Minnie Castevet is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Old Lady Characters in Film
RobLein added Ruth Gordon in Rosemary's Baby
11
Mrs. Robinson is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Old Lady Characters in Film
Anne Bancroft in The Graduate
12
Dina Byrnes is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Old Lady Characters in Film
Dina Byrnes Blythe Danner in Meet the Parents
13
Erica Barry is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Old Lady Characters in Film
Erica Barry Diane Keaton in Something's Gotta Give
14
Vivi Abbott Walker is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Old Lady Characters in Film
Vivi Abbott Walker
15
Margo Channing is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Old Lady Characters in Film
Bette Davis in All About Eve
16
Ada Quonsett is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Old Lady Characters in Film
RobLein added Helen Hayes in Airport
17
Magda is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Old Lady Characters in Film
Magda Lin Shaye in There's Something About Mary
18
Mathilde Girard is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Old Lady Characters in Film
Mathilde Girard
19
Rosie is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Old Lady Characters in Film
Rosie Ellen Dow in The Wedding Singer
20
Sarah Morton is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Old Lady Characters in Film
Charlotte Rampling in Swimming Pool
21
Philomena Lee is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Old Lady Characters in Film
22
Landlady is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Old Lady Characters in Film
Landlady Lin Shaye in Kingpin
23
Doris Miller is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Old Lady Characters in Film
Doris Miller
24
Ruth Fowler is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Old Lady Characters in Film
Ruth Fowler Sissy Spacek in In the Bedroom
25
Julia Lambert is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Old Lady Characters in Film
Julia Lambert Annette Bening in Being Julia