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Top 10 Child Actors

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Nick Spake They grow up so fast. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Child Actors. For this list, we're taking a look at stars that broke out into stardom as children. Special thanks to our user Nicole Calleja for submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 Child Actors


They grow up so fast. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Child Actors.

For this list, we’re taking a look at stars that broke out into stardom as children. It doesn’t matter if they grew up to be successful adult actors, as long as they left significant marks before turning 16. We’re focusing on movie child stars as opposed to TV child stars like Joseph Gordon Levitt, however.

#10: Corey Feldman

If you grew up in the ‘80s, chances are you recognize this familiar young face from several nostalgic flicks like “Gremlins.” Of course, you probably never realized that he was the voice of little Copper from “The Fox and the Hound.” With plenty of attitude, charm, and presence, Corey Feldman had a knack for playing wisecracking smartass kids. This made him perfect for roles like Teddy in “Stand By Me” and especially Mouth in “The Goonies.” Feldman’s acting career admittedly isn’t what it used to be, which is acknowledged in “Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star.” Nevertheless, he’ll always be a childhood icon in our books.

#9: Abigail Breslin

At the age of five, Abigail Breslin established herself as a lovable screen presence with her big screen debut in “Signs.” Four years later, Breslin won over the entire world as the adorable Olive in “Little Miss Sunshine.” Following a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination, she headlined a number of family-friendly movies like “Nim’s Island” while also breaking into more adult movies like “Zombieland.” Breslin’s all grown up now, but still as charming as ever. She can currently be seen on “Scream Queens,” starring alongside several other former child stars.

#8: Chloë Grace Moretz

Throughout her adolescence, Chloë Grace Moretz has taken on one mature role after another. In “(500) Days of Summer,” she played a little girl who understands relationships better than her adult brother. In “Let Me In,” she played an ancient vampire trapped inside a little girl’s body. Oh, and do we even need to talk about her foulmouthed role in “Kick-Ass?” Moretz has exemplified unparalleled range as an actress in a short amount of time. Now officially an adult, she continues to take on ambitious roles and we have a feeling audiences will be seeing more great things from her in the years to come.

#7: Haley Joel Osment

In the late ‘90s and early 2000s, Haley Joel Osment was arguably the most impressive young actor in the business. We first saw him when he was REALLY little as Forrest Gump’s son. However, Osment is best known for playing a certain little boy with the ability to see dead people. On the heels of that haunting, Oscar-nominated portrayal, Osment further demonstrated his sophistication in movies such as “Pay It Forward” and “A.I.” Like many gifted child stars, he did start to fall off the grid after hitting puberty. Osment’s career isn’t dead yet, though, as he’s been resurfacing in more and more projects.

#6: Saoirse Ronan

2007 was a breakthrough year for thirteen-year-old Saoirse Ronan. Although she didn’t score the role of Luna Lovegood in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” she did receive an Oscar nomination for her mesmerizing performance in “Atonement.” Commanding every scene she appeared in, it quickly became clear that this was a very promising star in the making. Ronan lived up to that promise with more stellar performances in “The Lovely Bones,” “The Way Back,” and “Hanna.” Lighting up the silver screen in the coming-of-age drama “Brooklyn,” Ronan has blossomed into a lovely woman with unlimited acting potential.

#5: Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster is one of our most prominent and respected veteran actresses. This two time Oscar-winner had to start somewhere, though, and Foster established herself as one of Hollywood’s finest young performers in the ‘70s. She proved to be talented beyond her years in the body switching comedy “Freaky Friday.” Earlier that same year, she took on a very different, yet equally challenging, role as a child prostitute in “Taxi Driver.” While Foster would only get better and better as she grew up, her child star résumé remains one for the ages.

#4: Dakota Fanning

Where most young actresses are marketed as America’s next sweetheart, Dakota Fanning asserted upfront that she wasn’t just another Olsen twin wannabe. At eight-years-old, she became the youngest performer to receive a SAG nomination for her remarkable work in “I Am Sam.” Fanning later held her own against acting giants like Tom Cruise, Robert De Niro, and Denzel Washington. Despite her youthful looks, Fanning has the confidence of a star that’s been at this job for several decades. And Dakota’s younger sister, Elle, could go on to have an even more successful career. Between the two, though, the eldest Fanning was clearly the more iconic child star.

#3: Macaulay Culkin

When any Millennial thinks of child stars, Macaulay Culkin is the name that instantly comes to mind. Culkin exhibited his star power as Kevin McCallister in “Home Alone,” which was the highest-grossing American live-action comedy of all time until 2011. In addition to making us all laugh, Culkin also made us bawl our eyes out as Thomas J. in “My Girl.” Following the success of “Home Alone 2,” Culkin’s career suffered a number of financial flops and eventually he walked away from the spotlight. Alas, we’re still keeping our fingers crossed for a comeback or at the very least a “Home Alone” reunion.

#2: Mickey Rooney

Younger audiences know Mickey Rooney best as the old guy from “Night at the Museum.” Their grandparents, however, might remember a time when this screen legend was a young whippersnapper. Getting his start as a vaudeville performer, Rooney starred in numerous short films throughout the ‘20s and ‘30s. He gained significant praise for his performance as Puck in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” In “A Family Affair,” he stole the show as Andy Hardy, who would appear in several spinoff films. Rooney was notably presented with the Academy’s Juvenile Award in 1938. This was only the beginning for Rooney, as his career would span almost nine decades.

Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
Christina Ricci
Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson & Rupert Grint
Drew Barrymore
Quvenzhané Wallis
Freddie Highmore

#1: Shirley Temple

Shirley Temple is the definition of a child star. Dominating the box office for four straight years, this little lady accomplished more as an actress in her youth than most performers do in a lifetime. To this date, families still revisit her library of perennial classics, which includes titles like “The Little Princess,” “Bright Eyes,” and many others. While Temple starred in fewer and fewer films as she reached adulthood, she still lived an incredibly enriching life as a wife, a mother, a public servant, and an outspoken voice in the fight against breast cancer. Shirley Temple may be gone, but she’ll never be forgotten.

Do you agree with our list? Who’s your favorite child actor? For more entertaining Top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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