The kids in Steven Spielberg movies are always great, but 7-year-old Drew Barrymore in the breakout role of Gertie in "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" was a standout. Here, as she turns 43, is more on Barrymore and 15 other unforgettable child actors.
It's not easy to steal a movie away from a candy-eating extraterrestrial with eyes the size of flying saucers, but Drew Barrymore managed that impressive feat in "E.T." In a movie populated with memorable child actors, she turned out to be the most versatile and long-lasting, surviving some bumpy teen years and growing into the beloved rom-com star and producer she is today.
The tap-dancing cherub pretty much single-handedly saved 20th Century Fox from bankruptcy and got America through the Great Depression with her endless good cheer. Every adorable dimpled starlet, from Keshia Knight Pulliam to Kirsten Dunst, has Shirley to thank for paving the way.
If Sunny Pawar's performance as Saroo—a 5-year-old boy in India who gets lost thousands of miles from his home and goes on an epic journey to find his family—in 2016's "Lion" doesn't break your heart, then you have no heart. In a movie that stars Oscar nominees Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel, Pawar's is the face you remember.
If Shirley Temple created the template for apple-cheeked sweetness, Jodie Foster smashed that image to pieces with her sharp edges and dark intelligence. From her Oscar-nominated performance as a 12-year-old prostitute in "Taxi Driver" to her sophisticated turn in "Bugsy Malone," she always seemed smarter than the adults around her.
Haley Joel Osment
The eerily intense actor first hit our radar in a brief but memorable scene as Forrest Gump Jr., but it wasn't until "The Sixth Sense" that we truly got to see how gifted the kid was. He really had us believing he could see dead people.
Lisa Loring/Christina Ricci
The original goth girl, Wednesday Addams made black braids, pale skin and Puritan-style dresses the epitome of cool. She was first played by Lisa Loring in the mid-'60s TV series, but Christina Ricci brought an even more disturbing level of macabre to the Addams Family movies in the 1990s. A death fixation never seemed so appealing.
She's getting all the buzz this year for "Lady Bird," but remember, Saoirse Ronan got the first of her three Oscar nominations when she was only 12, playing a manipulative girl who tells a life-changing lie in "Atonement." Fun fact: Ronan tried out for the role of Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter films, but was considered too young at the time.
By the time the future Oscar-winning director played Opie Taylor on "The Andy Griffith Show," he had already appeared on dozens of TV shows and commercials, as one of the most successful child actors of the early '60s. Props to Ronny for making a smooth, scandal-free transition from cute kid to clean-cut teen (as Richie in "Happy Days") to A-list director.
Before she became a two-time Oscar winner and eight-time divorcée, Liz was the unforgettable tween star of "National Velvet." In fact, she was so shockingly beautiful as a child that she was fired from her original film contract because she didn't have the chubby-cheeked, nonthreatening baby face that audiences preferred.
Speaking of freckle-faced, redheaded boy actors of the '60s, who can forget Billy Mumy, who not only played Will Robinson in "Lost in Space," but also appeared in more than 400 other TV shows, including three different episodes of "The Twilight Zone." Just don't cross him—or he'll send you to the cornfield.
Michael Landon called her "Half-Pint," but Melissa Gilbert was a towering presence to little girls in the 1970s. As the bonnet-wearing, buck-toothed Laura Ingalls on "Little House on the Prairie," she anchored the show for 10 seasons, gracefully growing up right before our eyes.
When you become the youngest person ever to win an Oscar (she was 10 when she won for "Paper Moon"), it seems like life can only go downhill from there, and unfortunately, it did for Tatum O'Neal. She showed off her tomboy charm in a few other hits, including "The Bad News Bears" and "Little Darlings," before taking a long breather from the business.
Quvenzhané Wallis was an unknown 5-year-old when she landed the role of Hushpuppy, a little girl surviving the aftermath of a hurricane on the Bayou in 2012's "Beasts of the Southern Wild." Her completely natural performance was like nothing we had ever seen before, and she broke Tatum O'Neal's record as the youngest person ever nominated for an Oscar.
She gave one of the most astonishing child performances of the last few years, playing Moonee in 2017's indie hit "The Florida Project." As a child running wild on the edge of poverty (while living in a seedy hotel near Disney World), 7-year-old Brooklynn Prince is like lightning caught in a bottle—she's so real you feel almost voyeuristic peeking into her private world.
Oh, Mac. You were so funny in "Home Alone" (1 and 2) that kids all over America were slapping their faces with aftershave and screaming, just to be like you. The biggest child star since Shirley Temple, you became so famous that you partied with Michael Jackson and Bubbles the chimp. You made so much money, that you decided you never really had to work again—and haven't done much acting since.
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