On Dec. 31, 1964, the Dow Jones hit 874, and on Dec. 31, 1981, it closed at 875. Unless you did dollar cost averaging you would have gained nothing in 17 years. But investment in individual stocks could have been profitable.
There are many well known equity mutual funds, such as, Legg Mason Value Trust (FUND: LMVTX), which have beaten S&P 500 over last 13 years.
See the following fool article: You can beat the market