20 Best Performances By Child Actors

Among artists of the industry, child artists probably pack the most veracity in their performances. Their age definitely plays a part, wherein all the emotions come from heart. Usually, a film not only improves by their acting, but also their screen presence. I mean who doesn’t love kids, right? Their innocent faces and pristine souls often move audiences and evokes the most gentlest of emotions. Over the years, as the industry has come to terms with many things, transcending boundaries of color, cast, religion and gender, there also has been a meteoric rise in the number of coming-of age films, often resting squarely on the shoulders of child artists. Not only have the performances been absolutely magnificent, the films have seen critical and commercial success as well.

A number of those children have gone on to become established entities in the industry, and now enjoy the status of superstars. With age, they have gotten better. Stars like Chloe Moretz, Hailee Steinfeld, Anna Paquin, and Freddie Highmore have gradually but surely, have cemented their place in the heart of the industry. The following list catalogs some of the best performances by child artists on screen. Enjoy the list and leave names that I missed out on!

(NOTE: The maximum age to have qualified for the list is 18. All the performances have been by actors under the age of 18.)


20. Corey Haim (‘Lucas’)

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Corey Haim makes it to the list owing to his moving performance in ‘Lucas’. The tragic-comedy saw a plethora of child artists take to the screen, but none could match this guy’s level. Playing the titular character Lucas Bly, an intelligent and nerdy 14-year-old high school student, Haim was able to encapsulate one of the most original teenager character essence on screen. His infuriating and often lovable moments on the screen, filigree by his authenticity made the film a realistic experience. The one scene in the hospital, where he lies know-pined for Maggie, stands out. His unfortunate demise at 39 robbed us off more scintillating performances like this one.


19. Kirsten Dunst (‘Interview with The Vampire’)

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Sharing screen space with Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise can be an intimidating task for any actor. And for a 10 year old, making her film debut, it can be a living nightmare. But fortunately, that wasn’t the case with Kirsten Dunst’s first performance in a morion picture in Neil Jordan’s ‘Interview with The Vampire’. Showing nerves of steel, Dunst not only managed to deliver a tangible sense of world-weariness in her character, but out shined her superstar compatriots with much aplomb in majority of her scenes. The shadow of the two greats didn’t loom over her as a burgeoning cloud, but inspired her to deliver a once in a life-time performance.


18. Macaulay Culkin (‘Home Alone’)

It is very difficult to shoulder a film all alone. The task augments in become daunting and downright petrifying when you are a mere 10 years old. Well, tell that to this guy! Culkin starred as one of the most iconic movies and roles in child acting history portraying Kevin McCallister as the beleaguered home alone kid. Even though the critics took the film apart for its shoddy plot and implausible story-line, Culkin shined like a night star and sucked all the highlights. His nuanced and adorable performance earned plaudits left and right, and also spring boarded him into the global limelight.


17. River Phoenix (‘Stand by Me’)

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‘Stand by Me’ is one of the most prominent coming-of age dramas of the 20th Century. Only  fledgling concept back then, Rob Reiner gambled with an all-children cast with an unconventional plot, and boy did it pay off. A 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t do enough justice to the thought-provoking tenet of the film, and to that of its talented cast, led by the shining River Phoenix. Though already a teen idol owing to ‘Seven Brides to Seven Brother’, he reoriented his career trend with this adult-formulated concept film. His matured portrayal not only made us stand and take notice, but also made us rethink our upbringing and behavior towards our children. The scene where he bids adieu to his obsequious group of trouble-makers, reminisces nostalgic memories of our youthful shenanigans and the camaraderie with our friends.


16. Chloe Grace Moretz (‘Kick-Ass’)

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Such is the ferocity of the performances in the list, that Chloe Moretz’s best career performance finds itself at sixteen. Only 14 at the time, Moretz’s career changing role came in this 2010 R-Rated comedy, which saw her play a brazen assassin and ruthless vigilante hit-girl. The film has a cult following today and has developed into a franchise. It managed to conjure up jaw-dropping numbers at the box-office, almost doing a $100 mil globally. The film launched the career of the blond actress, though she had done some good work prior to the flick.

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