50 Best Child Actor Performances Of All Time

Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge lists his 50 favourite child actor performances of all-time.

50) Alex Hibbert (Moonlight)


Alex Hibbert helps produce some of the most moving moments of Barry Jenkins’ film alongside the excellent Mahershala Ali.

49) John Adames (Gloria)


Young John Adames teams with the legendary Gena Rowlands for this crime thriller about an unlikely duo on the run from gangsters.

45) MacCaulay Culkin (Home Alone)


Although Home Alone was written off by critics, there is no doubting the magnetic charm and fun of Culkin helped turn this film into a classic.

47) Christian Bale (Empire Of The Sun)


Decades before he became Batman, a 13-year-old Christian Bale worked with Steven Spielberg and John Malkovich in this coming-of-age war tale.

46) Rony Clanton (The Cool World)


Ronny Clanton is tremendous as a 14-year-old boy who finds himself caught up in Harlem warfare.

47) Ed Oxenbould (Wildlife)


Ed Oxenbould subtly captures the confusing struggles of an young adolescent helplessly witnessing the collapse of his parent’s marriage.

46) Angourie Rice (The Nice Guys)


It is no mean feat to steal scenes from Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, but that is exactly what Australian-born actress Angourie Rice does in Shane Black’s comedy.

45) River Phoenix (Stand By Me)


River Phoenix shines as part of a beloved young cast in this 1986 classic.

44) Mackenzie Foy (Interstellar)


Mackenzie Foy helped bring a powerful emotional punch to the first half of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar.

43) Sophia Lillis (IT)


In a film filled with talented child actors and frequent clown scares, Sophia Lillis’ role as Beverley leaves a bigger mark than most other things going on.

42) Linda Blair (The Exorcist)


Linda Blair has scared generations of movie-watchers with her portrayal of possessed youngster Regan MacNeil.

41) Rory Culkin (You Can Count on Me)


10 years after his brother terrorised home invaders in Home Alone, Rory Culkin won praise for his dramatic performance as the son of a single mother (played by Laura Linney).

40) Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense)


Haley Joel Osment delivered an unnerving performance and one of cinema’s most iconic lines in M. Night Shyamalan’s 1999 horror.

39) Koji Shitara and Masahiko Shimazu (Good Morning)


Yasujiro Ozu’s 1959 comedy features musings on inter­generational relationships, a lot farts and two talented child actors.

38) Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot)


Jamie Bell won hearts with his dancing and acting in Stephen Daldry’s 2000 film.

37) Dafne Keen (Logan)


Dafne Keen shows herself to be a gifted actress by outshining Hugh Jackman for much of his Wolverine swansong.

36) Ivana Baquero (Pan’s Labyrinth)


Guillermo del Toro’s dark fairy-tale owes much to Ivana Baquero’s enchanting central performance.

35) AnnaSophia Robb and Josh Hutcherson (Bridge To Terabithia)


These two authentic lead performances make the deep emotional beats of Bridge To Terabithia all the more heart-wrenching and unforgettable.

32) Chloë Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass)


Chloë Grace Moretz’s head-turning performance defines the twisted humour and audacious flair of Matthew Vaughn’s superhero comedy.

31) Sandrine Bonnaire (À Nos Amours)


16-year-old Sandrine Bonnaire was given a César Award for Most Promising Actress after her eye-catching role in this Maurice Pialat drama.

30) Angourie Rice (These Final Hours)

These Final Hours

A tremendous and endearing performance from Angourie Rice provides much needed emotional investment to the apocalyptic anarchy of Zak Hilditch’s film.

29) Jackie Coogan (The Kid)


Jackie Coogan plays an important sidekick role in one of Charlie Chaplin’s best films.

28) Güneş Nezihe Şensoy (Mustang)


Güneş Nezihe Şensoy, Doğa Zeynep Doğuşlu, Elit Işcan, Tuğba Sunguroğlu and Ilayda Akdoğan were all captivating in their portrayals of young women trapped in a misogynistic part of rural Turkey.

27)Henry Thomas (E.T)


Recently returning to our screens in Netflix horror The Haunting of Hill House, Henry Thomas will always be remembered for his performance alongside a finger-glowing alien. Critic Roger Ebert called it ‘the best little boy performance I’ve ever seen in an American film.’

26) Noah Wiseman (The Babadook)


The mother-son relationship captured by Essie Davis and 6-year-old Noah Wiseman brings heart to this terrifying horror.

25) Edmund Moeschke (Germany Year Zero)


Roberto Rossellini’s neorealist film follows a lonely young boy (Moeschke) as he makes his way through post-war Germany.

24) Tye Sheridan (Mud)


Following up from his role in Terrance Malick’s Tree Of Life, Tye Sheridan confirmed his talent with a subtle performance opposite Matthew McConaughey.

23) Kolya Spiridonov (The Italian)


Kolya Spiridonov brings spirit to this tale of a six-year-old Russian boy searching for his mother.

22) Tom Holland (The Impossible)


Before he was thrust into mega-stardom as Spider-Man, 14-year-old Holland delivered a touching performance in this devastating true-life story.

21) Mina Mohammad Khani (The Mirror)


Jafar Panahi’s 1997 film follows Mina Mohammad Khani’s character as she makes her way home through chaos of Tehran.

20) Catherine Demongeot (Zazie dans le Métro)


Louis Malle’s anarchic comedy features a fun and mature performance from Catherine Demongeot.

19) Enzo Staiola (Bicycle Thieves)


Vittorio De Sica’s 1948 classic follows young Enzo Staiola as he searches for his father’s stolen bicycle in Rome.

18) Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)


Hailee Steinfeld filled Kim Darby’s shoes with loveable courage in the Coen Brothers’ 2010 remake. Steinfeld is now delivering on her early promise with a fantastic recent performance in Bumblebee.

17) Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road)


Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee made a moving combination in this post-apocalyptic drama.

16) Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine)


Abigail Breslin was up for a host of awards following her portrayal of a young beauty pageant contestant in a dysfunctional family.

15) Subir Banerjee (Pather Panchali)


Satyajit Ray’s humanistic portrait of rural India features an iconic performance from Subir Banerjee as youngest sibling Apu. In 2013, director Kaushik Ganguly made Apur Panchali, a film about Banerjee’s life and its incredible parallels with Apu’s.

14) Tatum O’Neal (Paper Moon)


An outstanding performance alongside father Ryan O’Neal earnt Tatum O’Neil an Oscar at age 10.

13) Brooklynn Prince (The Florida Project)


Brooklynn Prince is the loveable and colourful heartbeat of Sean Baker’s 2017 film.

12) Jonathan Chang (Yi Yi)


Jonathan Chang plays a perceptive and curious young boy in Edward Yang’s 2000 masterpiece.

11) Jodie Foster (Taxi Driver)


A 12-year-old Jodie Foster showed incredible maturity to take on a particularly dark role in Martin Scorsese’s thriller.

10) Jacob Tremblay (Room)


Lenny Abrahamson’s drama was define by transcendent performances from Oscar-winner Brie Larson and young Jacob Tremblay.

9) Anna Paquin (The Piano)


At just 11 years old, Anna Paquin collected an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress after wowing audiences and critics in Jane Campion’s drama.

8) Saoirse Ronan (Atonement)


A 12-year-old Saoirse Ronan gave us a glimpse of her incredible talent in a role that earned her a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Oscars.

7) Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider)


13-year-old Keisha Castle-Hughes received an Oscar nomination for her role as a young Maori girl pushing back against prejudice to fulfil her destiny.

6) Elle Fanning (Somewhere)


A delicate and affecting performance showed there was more than one talented child actor in the Fanning family. Elle would reunite with director Sofia Coppola seven years later for another fantastic performance in The Beguiled.

5) Brigitte Fossey and Georges Poujouly (Forbidden Games)


Georges Poujouly (11 years old) and the exceptional Brigette Fossey (5 years old) produce unforgettable performances in René Clément’s deeply moving 1952 drama.

4) Natalie Portman (Leon: The Professional)


An incredibly charismatic breakout performance from Portman was a sign of the remarkable work to come over the next few decades.

3) Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)


6-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis became the youngest Best Actress nominee in Oscar history for captivating role as Hushpuppy.

2) Jean-Pierre Léaud (The 400 Blows)


This iconic role kick-started Jean-Pierre Léaud’s young career and saw him form a special bond with director François Truffaut.

1) Victoire Thivisol (Ponette)


A miraculous performance from four-year-old Victoire Thivisol as she plays a girl trying to comprehend the death of her mother.


  1. Some great choices. The Spirit of the Beehive may contain my favourite child performances, and it’s a big influence on Pan’s Labyrinth. Well worth seeking out if you haven’t caught it yet.

  2. I’ve seen a few of these but I’m going to try and watch what I haven’t seen. Was quite surprised that Ricky Schroder in The Champ wasn’t listed in there?? That film gets to me, so sad.

  3. Ricky Schroeder – The Champ, Anna Chlumsky – My Girl, and Kirsten Dunst – Interview With a Vampire…these performances are very much missing here.

  4. No Kirsten Dunst – Interview With a Vampire????!!!
    and aley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense) in 40th place???

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