Movies Top 25 Child stars of all time


Sultan of Swat
Staff member
From Hollywood's earliest days, child stars have proven that you don't have to be grown to rake in grown-up box office grosses -- or give performances that wring laughter and tears out of audiences. Moviefone counts down the top 25 child stars of all time. ---- By Marilyn Beck, Stacy Jenel Smith, Stephanie DuBois and Emily Feimster

25. Kirsten Dunst

She started her career as a model at the age of 3 and made her feature film breakthrough at 12, starring alongside Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise in 'Interview With the Vampire.' These days she's famous for playing Spidey's main squeeze, Mary Jane, in the 'Spider-Man' films and for attending the same rehab facility as Lindsay Lohan.

24.Lindsay Lohan

Before the sex scandals, arrests, cat fights, car crashes, hospitalizations and pantyless pics, LiLo was a brilliant child actress. She convincingly played twins (one of them British) in 1998's 'The Parent Trap' remake and channeled a mother's personality in 'Freaky Friday.' The hit 'Mean Girls' seemed to assure her huge future, but ...

23.Sean Astin

Who didn't want to be a Goonie? When Chunk, Mouth, Data and Mikey (played by Astin) went in search of buried treasure, they launched one of the greatest adventure movies of all time. The son of child star Patty Duke and actor John Astin, Sean played Sam in 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy two decades later, making him a kid favorite all over again.

22.Keisha Castle-Hughes

Playing Paikea in 'Whale Rider' at age 11, the talented New Zealander became the youngest female ever nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. She went on to play the Virgin Mary in 'The Nativity Story' and, ironically, got pregnant in real life at 17.

21.Natalie Wood

A three-time Oscar nominee by 25, Wood first stole the nation's heart at age 9 in 'Miracle on 34th Street.' She repped teen angst beautifully with James Dean in 'Rebel Without a Cause' and made audiences cry as Maria in 'West Side Story.' Remarried to Robert Wagner, she drowned under mysterious circumstances off Catalina Island at 43 in 1981.

20.Christian Bale

Sure, a 12-year-old can play cute, but when Christian Bale starred as a young internment camp prisoner in Steven Spielberg's 'Empire of the Sun,' he proved pre-teens can handle drama, too. Bale has since dropped 63 pounds for a film ('The Machinist'), gone Western ('3:10 to Yuma') and war hero ('Rescue Dawn'), and played Batman, a role he'll reprise in this summer's 'The Dark Knight.'

19.Abigail Breslin

At just 11, the Oscar-nominated 'Little Miss Sunshine' breakout is in hot demand in Hollywood. Though her recent 'Definitely, Maybe' with Ryan Reynolds disappointed at the box office, she's everywhere in '08, with this month's 'Nim's Island' (co-starring Jodie Foster), the big-screen version of 'Kit Kittredge' and 'My Sister's Keeper' (with Cameron Diaz).

18.Elijah Wood

Now this is one child star who's kept it together. Wood began acting at age 8 and was soon winning critical acclaim for films like 'Avalon,' 'Radio Flyer' and 'Forever Young.' Roger Ebert said then, "Elijah Wood has emerged, I believe, as the most talented actor in his age group, in Hollywood history." He's since become our favorite hobbit in the 'Lord of the Rings' films.

17.Jodie Foster

The Oscar-winning actress had a booming career as a kid star -- 'Freaky Friday,' 'Candleshoe,' the 'Paper Moon' TV series -- before her indelible performance, at 14, as an underage hooker in 'Taxi Driver.' That netted her an Academy Award nomination and a deranged fan named John Hinkley Jr., who shot President Ronald Reagan trying to impress her.

16.Hayley Mills

A favorite of Walt Disney in the '60s, Mills was originally cast as Stanley Kubrick's 'Lolita,' but Disney convinced the director the part was inappropriate for his adorable 'Pollyanna' star. Thus, she's identified with frothy fare like 'The Parent Trap.' At 20, she wed her 33-years-older 'Family Way' director Roy Boulting, but divorced him six years later.

15.Freddie Highmore

Hailed as "The 'It' Kid" in the New York Times after his performance in 'Finding Neverland,' Highmore so impressed co-star Johnny Depp that Depp lobbied to get the London-born boy cast in the title role of 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.' Starring roles in 'August Rush' and this year's 'The Spiderwick Chronicles' followed.

14.Freddie Bartholomew

One of the most successful child stars of all time, he held his own alongside such legends as Greta Garbo ('Anna Karenina') and Spencer Tracy ('Captains Courageous'). Bartholomew was abandoned by his parents as a baby and raised in London by his aunt. Of course after he became successful, his birth mother filed suit attempting to get a piece of his earnings.

13.Anna Paquin

At age 11, Paquin became Canada's first Best Supporting Actress Academy Award winner and the second youngest actress to claim an Oscar, thanks to her role as the daughter of (and interpreter for) Holly Hunter's mute pianist in 1993's 'The Piano.' 'Jane Eyre' and 'Fly Away Home' enhanced her rep, but the 'X-Men' trilogy gave her adult stardom.

12.Christina Ricci

Five-foot-one powerhouse Ricci began deftly handling oddball fare at the age of 11, portraying macabre child Wednesday Addams in the hit 'The Addams Family' and its sequel. 'Casper,' 'Now and Then,' 'The Ice Storm,' 'Sleepy Hollow,' 'Pecker' and 'The Opposite of Sex' were all added to her resume before she hit adulthood.

11.Tatum O'Neal

At age 10, O'Neal became the youngest person ever to win an Oscar, taking the trophy for 1973's 'Paper Moon,' in which she starred opposite dad Ryan O'Neal. In her autobiography, 'A Paper Life,' she claimed that being molested by a friend of her father's, as well as physical and emotional abuse by her dad, drove her to heroin addiction.

10.Haley Joel Osment

He saw dead people in the hit 1999 thriller 'The Sixth Sense,' but now Osment isn't seeing much of anything -- he hasn't appeared in a hit film in years. He did, however, make headlines in 2006 when he was busted for a DUI and pot possession. He currently attends New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.

9.Elizabeth Taylor

Taylor became a bona fide child star at 11 in the 1944 classic 'National Velvet.' A true Hollywood legend, she won an Oscar for 'Butterfield 8' in 1960 and commanded the highest price for any actress at the time -- $1 million in 1963 -- for 'Cleopatra.' She's notorious for being married eight times, including twice to the same man.

8.Patty Duke

At 16, Duke won an Oscar for reprising her Broadway role of deaf-blind Helen Keller in 'The Miracle Worker.' Her childhood hijacked by unethical managers, she led a wild life beset by drug abuse and bipolar disorder, but turned it all around as an adult with a long list of impressive credits -- and a successful son in Sean Astin (see No. 23).

7.Jackie Cooper

The title of Jackie Cooper's autobiography, 'Please Don't Shoot My Dog,' was also his plea to director Norman Taurog, who threatened his pet's life if he didn't cry on cue for 'Skippy.' Cry he did, winning an Oscar nom at age 9. The 'Our Gang' cutie also made 'The Champ' and other films with Wallace Beery, whom he later called violent, drunk and abusive.

6.Dakota Fanning

At age 12, Dakota became the youngest person ever nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for 'I Am Sam,' but you'd never know she was a pre-teen by listening to her. "I've wanted to be an actress ever since I was a little girl," she's said. Really? We thought she still was one. Guess that makes her a good role model for little sis and fellow actress, Elle.

5.Drew Barrymore

The daughter of Hollywood royalty starred as the adorable Gertie in 'E.T.' at the age of 7, and was a regular at Studio 54 by age 9, drinking and smoking cigarettes. She was in rehab by 13, with a second stint at 14. Sober for years now, the 'Charlie's Angels' star will make her directorial debut with the roller derby flick 'Whip It,' and has recently been making the PR rounds with new boyfriend Justin Long.

4.Mickey Rooney

With a dizzying array of awards (including Lifetime Achievement honors from the Academy), eight marriages (Ava Gardner for one) and a Guinness Book career longevity listing, Rooney, 87, has lived enough life for a crowd. His juvenile star era included the 'Mickey McGuire' comic strip shorts, 14 'Andy Hardy' comedies and nine films alongside Judy Garland.

3.Judy Garland

Who didn't grow up with Judy Garland "somewhere over the rainbow"? The former Frances Gumm's tragic Hollywood life started with juvenile stardom -- most notably for her iconic portrayal of Dorothy in 'The Wizard of Oz,' where her breasts were taped to hide her maturing form.

2.Macaulay Culkin

Home Alone' (and its sequel) helped make Culkin the most successful child star since Shirley Temple. After a series of flops, including 'The Good Son' and 'Richie Rich,' and an infamous custody battle between his parents, Culkin suddenly dropped out of acting -- only to return with a much more "mature" look in 2003's 'Party Monster.'

1.Shirley Temple

"As long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right," President Franklin Delano Roosevelt reportedly declared during the Great Depression. Temple was the top-grossing box office star in America for four years, the first actor to be hugely merchandised, and had an adult career as a diplomat. Her sunny old films, such as 'Curly Top,' still sell.
Do you agree with the list?


not a plastic bag
By top, I assume it has nothing to do with amount of money the generate. Otherwise the Olsen twins would be on top and Macaulay Culkin and Miley Cyrus and would be in the top 5.

If it is based on talent, I think Macaulay belongs up there instead of Lohan. He was a good actor not only ion Home Alone, but in My Girl and the Good Son.


Staff member
What ever happened to Jonathan Taylor Thomas? He was pretty popular in the 90's and then kind of dropped out of big budget movies completely.

I guess the fact that he didn't move on to more big movies is why he isn't in that list but he definitely was popular in his prime.


Sultan of Swat
Staff member
If it is based on talent, I think Macaulay belongs up there instead of Lohan. He was a good actor not only ion Home Alone, but in My Girl and the Good Son.
Culkin is listed as the second best child star, Lohan is ranked 24th so did you actually read the entire list?

But I have to agree with the top 5 all those actors/actresses were huge child stars especially Shirley Temple.


Trust me, I'm The Doctor.
Astin should have made the list, for sure. I don't see him as number one but he should have been top five IMO.