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Oct 07 2008

Kids Should Not Act This Well: 10 Great Child Actor Performances in Movies

Published by at 5:15 am under Movies

Child Actors

The Sixth Sense has been on television quite often recently, and I realized how disturbed I was by the movie.  And it wasn’t the fact that the movie is about a little kid who can see dead people.  It was how damned good Haley Joel Osment was in the movie.

I mean quite honestly it’s a little freaky seeing a kid who isn’t even a teenager yet act better than adults.  It’s really not surprising to me that most child actors don’t exactly pan out.   I’m not sure what the exact reason is but maybe acting like an adult when you’re still 10 plus years away from adulthood has something to do with it.

Whatever the case, I decided to do a little research and find 10 acting performances by children that easily matched or exceeded those of their adult counterparts.

Ricky Schroeder, The Champ

Child Actors

“Champ!  Champ!”  Who can ever forget the scene where little Ricky Schroeder’s has been boxing father dies and he cries obsessively?  Schroeder was adorable back then and did a great sob job in this movie.  It’s nearly impossible to not cry when Ricky Cries.  Schroeder went on to have a pretty successful acting career afterwards.  One of the few.

Haley Joel Osment, The Sixth Sense

Child Actors

I said it up top and I’ll say it again.  It’s truly disturbing to see how good Osment was in this movie.  No clue what Osment is up to now.  But he looks very weird as a 20 year old.

Shirley Temple, Bright Eyes

Child Actors

The original premiere child actor, Temple’s ability to draw in just about anyone was unmatched.  Her charm and cute looks were addicting but that she had an uncanny sense of all this at such a young age was even more impressive.  She knew when to use her talents and when to suck the audience in.

Natalie Portman, The Professional

Child Actors

This was an excellent movie and great acting performances by everyone.  Portman was incredible as the young and troubled Matilda.  He interactions with Jean Reno were definitely memorable.  Though some of the stuff was a little disturbing.  I think it’s only because she was so young and seeing her say “I love you” to a grown man gave me the willies.

Salvatore Cascio, Cinema Paradiso

Child Actors

A.  This movie was incredible and B.  This kid couldn’t have been any cuter if he tried.

Justin Henry, Kramer vs. Kramer

Child Actors

I dare you.  I repeat DARE you not to cry in one of the final scenes of the movie where Henry and Hoffman are making French Toast.  I swear to God I just got chills thinking about it.

Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine

Child Actors

I wonder if she got nominated because she did a strip scene in this movie.  I mean Halle Barry got an award for Monster’s Ball.  You think she’d have won if she didn’t do that hardcore sex scene?  No chance.  It filtered onto Breslin.  OK I’m kidding and wrong.  Breslin was definitely solid in this flick.

Mara Hobel, Mommie Dearest

Child Actors

Here’s another “disturbing” performance.  First of all the movie was insane and Faye Dunaway did a great job as Joan Crawford.  However, Mara Hobel did a phenomenal job as little daughter Christina taking abuse and shot after shot.   Must have been a very tough role for a child to play.

Dakota Fanning, Man on Fire

Child Actors

You can’t have a list like this without mentioning Fanning.  And I personally felt of all the movies I’ve seen her in, the chemistry she had with Denzel Washington in this movie was excellent.  It was literally like watching an adult act in a child’s body.

Darsheel Safary, Taare Zameen Par

Child Actors

Is this kid gonna have a career after this movie?  I don’t know man.  Those teeth need to get fixed.  Plus I heard he’s a little priss.  He won “Best Child Actor” award for this movie but was pissed he didn’t win the overall best actor award.  Whatever you little punk.  Nice job though!  P.S. He’s making 7.5MM for his next movie.

* I cannot mention Macauly Culkin or the Olsen Twins, sorry.

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25 responses so far

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  • http://moonwort.wordpress.com Greg

    I also have to add another Natalie Portman role to the list – opposite Timothy Hutton’s mid-life crisis man-girl crush as “Marty” in Beautiful Girls. Very eerie. Maybe the eeriest.

    And although cheesy, Macauly Caulkin’s portrayal in the first Home Alone resonated with kids across the country in epic proportions. So, just for that it deserves an honorable mention for sheer market impact.

  • ben

    Christina Ricci stole the show in “Addams Family Values”.

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  • TP

    Ana Torrent in Cria Cuervos and Spirit of the Beehive
    Anna Paquin in The Piano
    Eamonn Owens in The Butcher Boy
    Catinca Untaru in The Fall
    Charlotte Gainsbourg in L’effrontée
    Andrei Chalimon in Kolya
    Mary Baden as in To Kill a Mockingbird

  • Uncle Massage

    What about the boy in the mist?

  • Greg

    Please rent Paper Moon

  • Adam

    I second that on Paper Moon. Tatum O’Neil was incredible…there’s a reason she won an oscar in that role

  • Brian

    I’m sorry but I’m really disappointed not to see Daeg Faerch on the list. His portrayal of Michael Myers as a child was the most chilling thing I’ve seen. It was utterly creepy the way he just stares. I walked out of that movie believing that kid had some actual real life issues to deal with. Either way Rob Zombie did a great job casting him in my opinion. He also had a small roll in Hancock as the kid that gets thrown into the air by Will Smith.. but it wasn’t nearly as good as his Mike Myers character.

  • jason

    taxi driver….

  • HPetrus

    I’m glad you didn’t include Macaulay Culkin.

    You might also wanna check out the movie “Radio Flyer”. Excellent performances by Elijah Wood and Joseph Mazzello.

  • Ross

    Thank you for including Mara Hobel for Mommie Dearest. I’ve always thought young Christina could out-act the older Christina by a mile.

  • Mike

    What about River Phoenix or the other boys in “Stand By Me” ?

  • Chip

    No “best child actors” list is complete without including Henry Thomas’s performance from “E.T.” on it. I mean, this list is barely credible without him on it.

  • himel

    you are right. but i think there should be more on the list. or make top chart for worlwide. I watched different countries movie. Specialy without Christian Bale (movie: The empire of the sun) top 10 not fulfill. yes henry thomas also great for ET. Jason James Richter for “Free willy” and David Dorfman for “the ring” as well.

    But I am surprised that macualay culkin not the top list. I think u watch only his popular movie “HOME Alone”. But If you see his other movies then you’ll understand his capability. Specialy “THE GOOD SON”. Both macualay and Elijah Wood are febulas.

    You included indian movie, but why not other country movie. Darsheel also a great actor. But there should other child actor in the list. like: 1. Adrian Alonso (under the same moon) Mexico
    2. Vinícius de Oliveira (Central Station) Brazil
    3. Giorgio Cantarini ( Life is beautiful) Itali
    4. Nikolai Burlyayev ( Ivan childhood) Russia
    5. Manuel Lozano ( Butterfly Tongues) Spain
    6. Charlie Trairat ( Dorm) Singapore
    7. Zekeria & Ahmad Khan ( Kite Runner) Afganistan
    8. Kodi Smit-McPhee (Romulus, My Father) Australia I forgot some names, if u want I’ll try.


  • Allan

    I cant believe no one has mentioned Christian Bale in Empire of The Sun…by far the greatest and most accomplished performance by a child i have ever seen.

  • maven

    what about Billy Elliot?

  • Haley

    Jimmy Bennett. Just watch one of his dramatic movies or even Hostage.

  • http://www.internetmasterycenter.com Nelson

    There’s this little French girl named Victoire Thivisol in the film “Ponette”. She won a best actress award at the Venice film festival at the age of 4!

    Yes, I second Christian Bale.

  • Missy

    This list is incomplete without Henry Thomas.

  • jason

    River Phoenix in stand by me, the mosquito coast & running on empty gives an incredible & courageous performances. gone to soon

  • steve

    Pamela Franklin – The Innocents (1961)……Don’t you people watch pre-70′s movies.

    Agree with Tatum O’Neal though.

  • http://www.myspace.com/christow93 Christopher

    Jean-Pierre L̩aud РLes 400 Coups (Francois Truffaut, 1959)

    Judy Garland – The Wizard of Oz (Victor Flemming, 1939)

    Georges Poujouly & Brigitte Fossey РJeux interdits (Ren̩ Cl̩ment, 1952). How anyone could talk about child actors without naming this masterpiece???

    Gaspard Manesse & Raphael Feijț РAu revoir les enfants (Louis Malle, 1987)

  • Chucky Sly

    Christian Bale in Empire of the Sun – one of, if not the, greatest turns by a child actor.

    Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver – to quote the title of this page, “Kids should not act this well!”

  • creoledap

    Two non-Hollywood film performances of kids who should not be able to act this well? I have to include Victoire Thivisol in the film “Ponette” who was 4 years old! Then, there is Lina Leandersson from “Let the Right One In.” With one facial expression, you knew her thoughts. Lists like this should have 50 recognitions to cover the best of the best.



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