Watching a movie or TV show from your childhood can be a joyful, nostalgic experience. Whether it's an animated favorite, a teenybopper classic, or a comedy that transcends age, jumping back into that familiar territory may have a strange sort of comfort associated with it. But sometimes, with the healthy gift of hindsight, looking again at the movies and shows you enjoyed years - or decades - ago can make you say, “Wow, that has not held up.”
The stars of some of those productions have the same reactions. As times change, sensibilities adjust, and social and political climates shift, so what was once acceptable on the screen may not be anymore. In fact, what once passed for “OK” might just be straight-up wrong.
As a result, many flicks and shows haven't aged well. While this doesn't mean we'll stop watching them, it does mean reassessments have taken place. When it comes to the actors in those properties, they have often come forward and made statements about their projects from the past that haven't aged well.
- Photo: Paramount Pictures
On the whole, Tom Hanks finds the process of movie-making to be “a miracle.” Despite being “amazed at how films come together," Hanks has been involved in more than six dozen.
He earned Best Actor Oscars for both Philadelphia and Forrest Gump, but acknowledges problems exist with both from a contemporary vantage point. When asked about the former in June 2022, Hanks took on the issue of whether or not a “straight man” could - or should - play the role of Andrew Beckett, the HIV-positive lawyer who sued his former employer for discrimination.
Hanks stated clearly that “No, and rightly so” - it wouldn't happen. He continued:
The whole point of Philadelphia was don’t be afraid. One of the reasons people weren’t afraid of that movie is that I was playing a gay man. We’re beyond that now, and I don’t think people would accept the inauthenticity of a straight guy playing a gay guy. It’s not a crime, it’s not boohoo, that someone would say we are going to demand more of a movie in the modern realm of authenticity.
He admitted Philadelphia hasn't aged well in some ways, but also acknowledged its place in history. The same equivocation can be seen in how he talks about Forrest Gump. Because the film won the Best Picture Oscar in 1995, fans of Pulp Fiction - the other top contender for the award - have cried foul and denounced the movie as “boomer" nostalgia. Hanks addressed the criticism:
The problem with Forrest Gump is it made a billion dollars. If we’d just made a successful movie, Bob and I would have been geniuses. But because we made a wildly successful movie, we were diabolical geniuses. Is it a bad problem to have? No, but there’s books of the greatest movies of all time, and Forrest Gump doesn’t appear because, oh, it’s this sappy nostalgia fest.
He expanded on the topic of nostalgia:
There is a moment of undeniable heartbreaking humanity in Forrest Gump when Gary Sinise - he’s playing Lieutenant Dan - and his Asian wife walk up to our house on the day that Forrest and Jenny get married… Forrest and Lieutenant Dan in those four words - “magic legs”; “Lieutenant Dan” - understand all they had been through and feel gratitude for every ounce of pain and tragedy that they survived. That’s some intangible [expletive] right there.
- Photo: Universal Pictures
As one of the stars of numerous John Hughes movies from the 1980s, Molly Ringwald readily admits that some scenes from them have not aged well. In an essay penned for The New Yorker in 2018, Ringwald focused specifically on The Breakfast Club.
Ringwald played Claire Standish, the popular girl forced to spend her Saturday morning in detention with a group of misfits. After watching The Breakfast Club with her daughter, Ringwald had thoughts about how her character was treated:
At one point in the film, the bad-boy character, John Bender, ducks under the table where my character, Claire, is sitting, to hide from a teacher. While there, he takes the opportunity to peek under Claire’s skirt and, though the audience doesn’t see, it is implied that he touches her inappropriately. I was quick to point out to my daughter that the person in the underwear wasn’t really me, though that clarification seemed inconsequential. We kept watching, and, despite my best intentions to give context to the uncomfortable bits, I didn’t elaborate on what might have gone on under the table.
Ringwald's daughter seemed unfazed, but the actress found the scene to be “troubling.” It got her thinking about Claire, in general:
I can see now, Bender sexually harasses Claire throughout the film. When he’s not sexualizing her, he takes out his rage on her with vicious contempt, calling her “pathetic,” mocking her as “Queenie.” It’s rejection that inspires his vitriol…. He never apologizes for any of it.
It also made her think about other her roles, specifically Sam Baker in Sixteen Candles. On the whole, Ringwald could only say she was proud of making the movies and admitted that,
John’s movies convey the anger and fear of isolation that adolescents feel, and seeing that others might feel the same way is a balm for the trauma that teen-agers experience. Whether that’s enough to make up for the impropriety of the films is hard to say - even criticizing them makes me feel like I’m divesting a generation of some of its fondest memories, or being ungrateful since they helped to establish my career. And yet embracing them entirely feels hypocritical.
Ultimately, Ringwald found value in the conversations those movies sparked, and hoped they would continue to do so.
- Photo: Universal Pictures3501 VOTES
Seann William Scott was part of an ensemble cast in American Pie, but stood out in the role of Steve Stifler - perhaps the raunchiest character in the flick. In 2022, Scott opined about the place of American Pie in the contemporary film-making environment:
You know, I was having a conversation with a friend the other day, I was like, “You could never make American Pie these days.” Some of the stuff in that movie, you would get arrested and probably go to jail for a long time if you did it.
He was aware that movies like American Pie launched his career, but also admitted “I don't see there ever being an appetite for those sort of movies again.”
Several of Scott's co-stars have agreed the film has its problems from a modern lens. When looking back specifically at the webcam scene, Jason Biggs (Jim, in the movie) said:
It would be unacceptable what that represents, but at the time I remember reading the script and reading that part and being shocked that there was cameras on computers. That’s what I took away from it originally.
Shannon Elizabeth (who played Nadia, the victim of the webcam voyeurism) also noted in 2019, “If this had come out after the #MeToo movement, there would definitely be a problem. I think that it would have gone down differently.”
- Photo: Paramount Pictures
Pretty Baby, a 1978 movie about a pre-teen prostitute, created a stir before and during its initial release. This was, in part, due to concerns that 11-year-old Brooke Shields was being exploited in her portrayal of Violet, the main character.
Shields's mother Teri Shields was by her side on-set. As Teri admitted to People magazine in a May 1978 interview, “The press has referred to me as a stage mother, a frustrated actress living through Brooke and even a one-woman film-wrecking crew.” She did not care, however, as she said she was there to “fight” on behalf of her daughter.
This same mindset carried over to Brooke, who went on to have two daughters of her own. The actress remains proud of Pretty Baby, with the full support of her mother, but reveals she wouldn't let her daughters make a movie like it:
In this environment and with social media and with the dangers on that level and just being a mom now, looking at my 11-year-old, I would not facilitate it.
When a documentary about Pretty Baby came out in 2023, Shields served as one of many producers on the project. In the documentary, she also talked extensively about her early career, how movies like Pretty Baby affected her life, and revealed her own past experience of sexual violence.
Shields talked about nude scenes in the documentary and recounted her first kiss - with Keith Carradine in Pretty Baby. She recalled what Carradine told her at the time:
This doesn’t count. It’s pretend. It’s all make believe.
Shields added, “I think I learned how to compartmentalize at an early age… It was a survival technique.”
- Photo: Buena Vista Pictures
As a movie about a prostitute who finds her Prince Charming, Pretty Woman was one of the flicks that helped pave the way for Julia Roberts to become one of the biggest stars of the 1990s. But, in the words of Roberts, “I don’t really think you could make that movie now, right?”
In an interview with The Guardian in 2019, Roberts said that Pretty Woman contains “so many things you could poke a hole in.” She qualified her statement by noting, “I don’t think it takes away from people being able to enjoy it.”
Those holes may be why she was (at least) the ninth actress approached for the role. After numerous Hollywood stars, including Diane Lane and Daryl Hannah, turned it down, Roberts benefitted from what she called “a measure of good fortune.”
Hannah, however, commented in 2007 that she was glad she passed on Pretty Woman:
One of the things I'm most proud of is refusing to take Julia's role. Every time I see it I like it less and less. They sold it as a romantic fairytale when in fact it's a story about a prostitute who becomes a lady by being kept by a rich and powerful man. I think that film is degrading for the whole of womankind.
Richard Gere, who played Edward Lewis, did not have kind things to say about his character when asked about him in 2012:
[He] helped contribute to the global financial crisis, as he glorified greedy and selfish Wall Street types… [Prety Woman] made those guys seem dashing, which was so wrong… thankfully, today, we are all more skeptical of those guys.
- Photo: 20th Century Fox
There's no explicit sex scene in Big, but the implication that Josh Baskin (Tom Hanks) and Susan Lawrence (Elizabeth Perkins) get intimate is clear. As a pre-teenaged boy who wished himself into the body of an adult, the scene has continued to raise eyebrows.
In a 2021 article in The Guardian, Perkins said, “Oh, I know. I’ve been called a pedophile.” She continued:
The only thing I can say is it was a different time. It was the '80s; it was not viewed through that lens and I get that it is being viewed through that lens now.
In a similar conversation with People, she clarified:
We don't see them having sex but he does take my shirt off. Actually, I take my shirt off and he touches my breast, then we cut to the elevator door opening and he's got a big smile on his face. We never say, “Oh they slept together,” but they definitely fooled around.
Perkins also noted that the appropriateness of the scene wasn't really an issue while making Big. She feels such a scene wouldn't be shown today, but during the '80s, “we're in a different time.”