The worst old age makeup on film certainly wasn't intended to be terrible. In many instances, legendary makeup artists thought they were doing a good job, but instead put jaw-droppingly fake, rubbery foam faces onscreen. Why? Maybe they were having an off day. Or maybe it was because they got paid a ton and it's not like you make Citizen Kane every time (although Orson Welles did that one time, and it's on here).
Bad old age effects are a matter of doing the impossible even if you’re a master makeup designer. Stan Winston and his team couldn’t convince us that 19-year-old Winona Ryder was an old lady at the end of the otherwise wonderful Edward Scissorhands. And if he couldn’t do it, no one could. She's had too much youth in the eyes to fake it.
Many times, directors opt to use an old actor in place of attempting to add years by piling on makeup. See Titanic, Interstellar, etc. Would it have killed Francis Ford Coppola to get an older man to play the aged Michael Corleone in Godfather III, at the very end of the film? Al Pacino's powdery hair and pleather skin were surely an avoidable old age makeup fails.
Of course, some movie goers are fine with what others consider bad old age makeup. Chances are, you may disagree with what is deemed the worst movie makeup ever. But does anyone think Leonardo DiCaprio in J. Edgar isn’t cringeworthy?
Many of these bad old age makeup jobs won awards. So go figure.
Character: Sarah Connor
In Terminator 2, Sarah Connor prevents the apocalypse and settles down on a park bench to survey the happy, ignorant people she saved and record her thoughts. When the roving shot finally lands on her, record scratch. Did she absorb Skynet into her face?
Character: Dixie Leonard
AVERT YOUR EYES. DEAR GOD WHY?!
Even the great Bette Midler can’t escape this overdone old age makeup. But she did earn a Golden Globe for her performance in For the Boys, so she wasn’t weighed down by it (at least not figuratively).
Character: J. Edgar Hoover
The WTF old age makeup on Leonardo DiCaprio in the profoundly pedestrian J. Edgar was so bad it might have hurt director Clint Eastwood’s chances at an Oscar nom. As might have the terrible performances, banal direction, moronic script, and every awful decision that went into this piece of work.
Character: Marty McFly
The makeup here works in as much as it makes the eternally youthful Michael J. Fox look decrepit and creepy, but it’s yuckier than it needs to be. Poor Lea Thompson, Thomas F. Wilson, and Flea get the same business.