Typhoons are having an increasingly severe and widespread impact on forest ecosystems around the world due to climate change. However, few studies have examined the impacts of strong typhoons on subtropical evergreen broadleaved forests, particularly in rare old-growth forests. Here, using a 20 ha permanent subtropical forest plot in Guangdong Province, southern China, the impact of super Typhoon Mangkhut on secondary and old-growth subtropical evergreen broadleaved forests was quantitatively investigated and compared. The old-growth forest was damaged more than twice as much as the secondary forest, as measured by the proportion of the basal area of damaged trees. Forest structure and composition played a significant role in determining the vulnerability of forests to powerful typhoons. This study advances knowledge about how old-growth forests respond to global climate change.